"Cui Bono?" means "who benefits?" Before giving advice consider whose interests are being served. Especially when talking to 20-somethings. Try to determine if the listener is going to benefit from your guidance. As always, consideration of time, place, and occasion are useful guides. Lastly, make every effort to consider whether or not the listener gives a shit.
Frantic 911 Caller: Help! Help! There's a bomb! Dispatcher: Try to remain calm. Where are you? Frantic 911 Caller: What does it matter where I am? Do you know whom will be effected if this bomb explodes?
Dispatcher: No. You meant to say, "who." "Whom" is incorrect. Frantic 911 Caller:  "Who?" No, you are mistaken. "Know" is a verb. "Whom" is the object of the verb "know."
Dispatcher: Verbs take objects, yes. But not in this case. Here "who" is the subject of the verb "will," not the object of the verb "know." So "who" is actually correct. Frantic 911 Caller: Oh, subjects are nominative case. I should have said, "Do you know who will be affected by this bomb!" Dispatcher: That's right. You got it. Now let's talk about "affect" and "effect" and then I'll notify the first responders... BOOM!
Now the Frantic 911 Caller is significantly less frantic, what with having been blown to bits and all. The dispatcher can move on to showing off for someone else. The dispatcher wasn't concerned with teaching in the first place. Impressing anyone who would listen was his only agenda. Had he been more focused on the needs of the caller, he might have overlooked his need to demonstrate his command of pronouns. He might have observed that there was another, more pressing agenda. There usually is.
Equally dangerous and destructive is giving career guidance to young people who didn't explicitly solicit your opinion. In writing. In triplicate. Notarized. Twenty-somethings living independently are doubtless intimately aware of their choices and their salaries. Telling them that they would make more money if they went to go to medical school is as offensive as it is obvious. Again, the issue is "who benefits?" An established plastic surgeon telling a social worker that she would make more money if she went to medical school is as effective as suggesting to an overweight person that she would be healthier if she lost some weight. And as polite. Wouldn't the plastic surgeon just save time by saying, "Look at me; I'm a plastic surgeon! I make a lot of money"? Interrogating young people about their future plans is just wrong. It's not okay. Young people don't ask their elders how many times the got up last night to pee. My generation shouldn't ask young folks about their remuneration, their plans, or their prospects. These questions are not helpful and loving. To the contrary, these interrogatories are invariably over reaching and condescending.
Think back a generation. Did YOU want to be fixed up? Did YOU appreciate your parents' opinion regarding whom you should date? Did YOU appreciate unsolicited help in finding meaningful employment? Neither did anyone else.
The irony of my giving advice about not giving advice is not lost on this poor author. Of course, I am writing an advice column, not cornering you at a wedding. I will just point out that I have noticed plastic surgeons grilling 20-somethings for years. Never once did the 20-something say, "Medical school? So that's where doctors come from! And they make more money than social workers? I had no idea! Thank you so much! I'll start practicing medicine first thing this afternoon!" To the contrary, 20-somethings walk away from the conversation thinking one or more of the following: "What a show off." "That dialogue wasn't helpful at all." "What an asshole."
Who benefits? If the plastic surgeon had empathy and affection for the 20-something, the plastic surgeon would respect the autonomy and agency of the young, working person. If the plastic surgeon just wants to talk about how great he is and how all of his life choices have been great, he is less likely to have a positive relationship with the young person. Severed connections between strangers at a party are not the end of the world. But when the plastic surgeon is the father of the 20-something, the split and subsequent lack of communication can be a damn shame.
"Trust is a bucket that is filled drop by drop but can be emptied all at once." So is connection. Accepting our kids for who they are rather than what they do is invariably the way to go. Ask anyone who has every lost a child. "I would have loved her more if she had been a plastic surgeon rather than a social worker." Words no one ever spoke.

4 thoughts on “Whom

  1. Julie Simon

    As always, LOVE your blogs! I excerpted and triple underlined the piece about giving 20 somethings career advice and sent it to Gary. However, I wonder if perhaps your BOOM analogy hit a bit too close to home for this week. Too soon?

  2. James McGhee II Home

    Dear David:

    I recommend your website and emails all the time. You are a fine writer, entertaining, but it is the wisdom that keeps me opening and reading your content.

    You really made me laugh today – and think.

    Keep it up!

    James McGhee II, Alexander Montessori School

  3. Richard A. Freeman, Esq.

    David: Having read your blogs for several years (or so it seems), there seems to be a common thread that runs through your philosophy of child-mentoring, viz., “Stop trying to steer your kids towards your idea of the “best” colleges, majors, extra-curricular civic activities, sports, courses, or teachers; your kids will find their own passions, and their own levels of development by themselves without their parents’ constant, annoying prodding.” You may be right; however, what about those kids who have low self-esteem (that’s about 70-90% of them, no?), or those kids who haven’t yet developed their own life passions? Don’t those kids need some encouragement, some prodding, some help? Kids often short-change themselves in evaluating their own talents. When they do so, they stop developing those talents. To my mind, the best of all possible worlds for a kid is to help them develop a love and passion for at least one of their talents. Too often, I have seen kids belittle their own talents, and develop a love for something as to which they have little talent. Ouch! So, wouldn’t it be best to encourage one’s kids to move in a direction that maximizes their god-given talents? Or should we just let them flounder about by themselves as they enter dead end streets? This is a question, and not just a polemic or a rant.


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