Is the noise too loud?

Business World - - OPINION - A. R. SAM­SON A low hum of con­flict­ing ideas is man­age­able.

There was a time not too long ago when ex­ple­tives is­su­ing from cer­tain high places used to “shake our nerves and rat­tle our brains” al­most to the point of telling some­one at the top of the food chain to please keep the noise down.

Is it pos­si­ble that po­lit­i­cal noise can be sooth­ing after a while?

Noise can be taken as a sign of life.

In a party, rowdy laugh­ter, loud con­ver­sa­tions, or a group break­ing into song (we stand on a hill) in­di­cate de­light in each other’s com­pany ( how about that one-point win?), even if neigh­bors may find it ir­ri­tat­ing. What can be more wor­ry­ing for a host than a party where the only noise is the buzzing of mos­qui­toes and the mas­ti­ca­tion of food? (How’s the pork rind?)

Pub­licly ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion with politi­cians, in­clud­ing their at­tempts to fill up un-va­cated po­si­tions and re­lease of du­bi­ous sta­tis­tics, is at­tacked by trolls with govern­ment po­si­tions. (These are just her per­sonal opin­ions.)

“Po­lit­i­cal noise” is rou­tinely treated with the same de­gree of ir­ri­ta­tion ac­corded to mis­be­hav­ing chil­dren dis­tract­ing adults from car­ry­ing on a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion. Such char­ac­ter­i­za­tion con­sid­ers noise as just part of the am­bi­ence.

Tim­ing of any public con­dem­na­tion ( just be­fore a sur­vey pe­riod) is con­sid­ered sus­pi­cious, as if bad news of any kind should wait for the right time, if that is pos­si­ble. The source of at­tacks (or who ben­e­fits from them) is hinted at to im­ply de­vi­ous­ness, though not the in­va­lid­ity, of any crit­i­cism. The crit­ics are even color-coded, yel­low be­ing the most com­mon source of bile, which in fact hap­pens to be a lit­tle greener.

Po­lit­i­cal noise seems to re­fer only to neg­a­tive clat­ter. Loud shows of sup­port from cer­tain or­ga­nized groups, while per­haps even more ir­rel­e­vant, are not con­sid­ered real noise, no mat­ter how loud. Rau­cous en­dorse­ments are more ac­cept­able than quiet nag­ging.

Mak­ing noises is a healthy cop­ing mech­a­nism for stress.

Any­one tee­ter­ing on the verge of road rage un­der­stands that shout­ing and scream­ing at an of­fend­ing mo­torist who cuts you or drives to­wards you in a counter-flow are health­ier op­tions when done in­side the car with the win­dows closed than out­side by ac­tu­ally stop­ping and step­ping out to phys­i­cally ac­cost the of­fender. The lat­ter op­tion of ac­tual con­fronta­tion can re­sult in the use of weapons. Let­ting off steam nois­ily and pri­vately is a more ac­cept­able sub­sti­tute for vi­o­lent al­ter­na­tives. Of course, rants can be ag­gra­vat­ing for fel­low pas­sen­gers who get stressed them­selves.

Cof­fee shop talk on the state of the na­tion does not re­ally dis­tract from at­tend­ing to reg­u­lar func­tions like eat­ing out and buy­ing stocks. The mul­ti­task­ing Filipino can sound off and then at­tend to his busi­ness e-mail af­ter­wards. The ver­bal rat­tling im­proves his dis­po­si­tion.

Is po­lit­i­cal noise no longer no­tice­able like air­plane take­offs and land­ings for peo­ple liv­ing be­side the air­port? The econ­omy no longer seems to re­quire si­lence or a cho­rus of voices singing praises to carry on with mov­ing the econ­omy with in­fra plans and tax re­form. Noise has be­come acous­tic wall­pa­per that we are get­ting ac­cus­tomed to, like sooth­ing sounds of crick­ets and sway­ing bam­boos in the wind at the dentist’s of­fice. Of course, the drilling of a cav­ity can be both noisy and painful.

Dis­sent­ing voices and the or­ga­nized trolls that at­tack them can seem to sig­nal volatil­ity that turns off in­vestors. Noise is ir­ri­tat­ing only when it per­sists in its stri­dent tone and em­braces a sin­gle fix­a­tion. A low hum of con­flict­ing ideas is man­age­able. It helps if the top­ics of con­tro­versy change now and then.

Voices which are raised to pro­mote a healthy busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and wel­come in­vest­ments can be en­hanced. The law of rel­e­vance still ap­plies. Non­sense and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to op­pose any­thing com­ing from a par­tic­u­lar place can be dis­rup­tive, if it isn’t al­ready bor­ing and repet­i­tive.

What can be more in­vig­o­rat­ing than the noise of po­lit­i­cal de­bate and ver­bal clashes? It is more wel­come than the still­ness of corpses after a mas­sacre with only the growl of a back­hoe’s en­gine to break the si­lence. When ev­ery­thing is sub­dued, and ev­ery­body seems to be singing in a cho­rus, it may be time to open the win­dows… and wel­come back the noise.

A. R. SAM­SON is chair and CEO of Touch DDB. ar.sam­son @ya­

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