Jimmy Buffett, philosopher

Thanks to all who responded to my last column - “Is anybody out there?” - both on the Northwest Citizen website and personally by email. From you, I have received great encouragement and

Thanks to all who responded to my last column - “Is anybody out there?” - both on the Northwest Citizen website and personally by email. From you, I have received great encouragement and

Thanks to all who responded to my last column - “Is anybody out there?” - both on the Northwest Citizen website and personally by email. From you, I have received great encouragement and have learned a few things. For example, I have learned that several readers perceive NWCitizen writers as “experts” on issues surrounding Bellingham and Whatcom County and find that NWCitizen provides information not available elsewhere, while others appreciate the high quality and thoughtfulness of the articles, even if they do not always agree.

I have also learned several reasons why most readers do not add their own comments, including:
1) Some prefer to remain below the radar for a variety of mostly personal reasons;
2) Some feel that it takes too much time to draft an intelligent remark;
3) Some believe that commenting on a blog may be fruitless because many key issues are decided in court by expensive attorneys representing developers and corporations, an arena in which they cannot compete financially;
4) Some don’t feel informed enough to make a real contribution;
5) Some feel helpless, hopeless, powerless, frustrated, or fed-up; they don’t believe their comments would make any difference, and they have become apathetic.

While these reasons are all valid, I’d like to address the last one. But first I digress.

As a Duke University undergrad, one of my many jobs was as a waiter in the restaurant of a Durham, NC hotel. During that time, Jimmy Buffett performed a concert at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and, although many of my friends had purchased tickets, I was scheduled to work and couldn’t find anyone to take my place. The waiters took turns delivering room service, and, as luck would have it, Jimmy was booked in our hotel, had ordered room service, and it was my turn! To make a long story short, Jimmy was incredibly friendly, offered to leave tickets for me at will call, and I got off in time to see the last half of his concert.

I mention this story because it’s fun to remember and because Jimmy’s songs and perspectives have a certain philosophical logic to them. Returning to reason # 5, I believe that this Jimmy Buffett quote accurately summarizes the challenge we now face, “Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Do we care about, are we informed about, and can we influence the future of our community? What is the most effective way? If not by communicating with each other (either online or face-to-face), then how?

This entire discussion reminds me of an oft-repeated, but inaccurate, quote from English philosopher Edmund Burke, “All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” It turns out that Burke actually said, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” (From "Thoughts on the cause of the present discontents".)

Of course, this is not necessarily a battle between good and evil; however, the lesson is clear. If we hope to oppose with united strength that with which we disagree, we had better link together. Is there a better way to link together than through the internet? Are we using it effectively? If not, what should we do differently?

Before I go, I’d like to offer a few more relevant quotes (since I know how much you love them):

Plato: “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

Robert Hutchins: “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

Jimmy Buffett:
“Indecision may or may not be my problem.”

“We are the people our parents warned us about.”

“Fun is about as good a habit as there is.”

“If we weren’t all crazy, we’d just go insane.”

(And, in response to John Servais’ advice, “What we can do is our best. We cannot expect miracles.”)
“Count your blessings, but remember your dreams.”

Larry Horowitz:
“Expect miracles.”
“Please add your comment now.”

About Larry Horowitz

Commenting member • Member since Jan 16, 2008

Comments by Readers

John Servais

Aug 16, 2008

Buffett is a genius.


David Marshak

Aug 16, 2008


I didn’t get there in time to respond to your previous comment, so I’ll do it here.

I find this site both interesting and very informative. Folks who contribute here are consistently thoughtful and knowledgeable, and they offer insights and perspectives that don’t seem to be available elsewhere.

I’m a regular reader, and as a relatively new citizen of Bellingham I’m very appreciative of everything I’ve learned here, including your comments.

I have not posted before because I have not yet had anything I wanted to add to the discourse.

My only suggestion to John is that I’d like to encourage him to recruit some women to add their voices to this site, not for any reasons of sentimental equity?but because I know that there are certainly women activists in Bellingham and I know that women often have perspectives and insights that vary from the ones that men have. So having women’s voices along with mens’ would enrich the dialogue.


David Marshak


John Servais

Aug 16, 2008

Dave - Well put.  There are two women who have considerable expertise in two different but important areas that I’m been trying to convince to write for here.  Both are very busy.  For months I’ve refused to add any more men until I have better balance.  Wendy Harris is our one woman writer now.

There are some other people who have unique perspectives because of who they are as well as for what they know.  I see my job now to not be a writer so much as to bring in good writers.  We have nine writers and I’ve a list of about 20 more people who could contribute well written posts.

Incidentally, the two women I’m talking to have incredible expertise in areas that have nothing to do with their being women.  They are the best in their fields.  Lets hope they will join us.


John Lesow

Aug 17, 2008


Gore Vidal was once asked why there were no more great writers.  He replied, “because there are no more great readers”.

Exactly.  Whatcom County my pride itself as “A County of Readers”, but I would prefer “A County of Advocates”.

NW Citizen provides a forum for advocacy.  We need more advocates, but the few that do win my respect.

On advantage of blog entries is their ease of copying and archiving.  I save commentary from you, Greg Kirsch, Tom Pratum, Wendy Harris, Tip Johnson, Dr. John McLaughlin, Dave Pros and a few others for authoritative reference on any given subject.  I would include our elected officials in that pantheon if they posted their opinions online.

Lawsuits and Hearings Board challenges are the true test of advocacy.  Opinions are fine, but putting your money and reputation on the line truly separates the men from the boys. 

The fact that you and a few select others have done so is commendable and I encourage you to continue.

John Lesow


Larry Horowitz

Aug 18, 2008

Dear Dick, John P., Wendy, Greg, Rick, John S., Laura K., Laura D., Jill, David and John L.,

A heartfelt thank you for taking time to add your comments, for your general encouragement, and for adding clarity to this topic.

I hope each of you - as well as those who have not commented - will continue to engage in a community?wide conversation about the important issues that affect our quality of life.  We will need to link together if we hope to preserve what we have been fortunate enough to inherit. 

I?d like to encourage the other contributors, as you continue to write columns for NWCitizen, to consider what action we might take together as a community to achieve our common goals.  I suggest that we brainstorm as a team to identify and prioritize what we hope to accomplish, thereby increasing our effectiveness and reducing our frustration.

And, I?d like to encourage those who read these columns to help develop a common and balanced platform so that we remain focused and enhance our influence on the decision-making process.

Again, thanks to all who have posted here and who have emailed me directly.  Let?s continue to work together so that we may pass on the unique quality of life we are so fortunate to enjoy.

Best regards,

Note: This message has been posted on my Aug 15 and Aug 16 columns - ?Is anybody out there? and ?Jimmy Buffett, philosopher?.

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