"And when we were fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." Acts 26:14, The Interpreter's Bible (1954)
Florence Nightingale referred to Acts 26:14 in her March 6, 1856 letter to Samuel Smith, which I quoted in full in an essay I composed explaining why she, a well-bred Englishwoman, took up professional nursing and went off to the Crimean War to save thousands of lives and personally comfort over a thousand as they died, when so many obstacles were thrown up against her:
As a result, I was slandered by a well-meaning bureaucrat: he suddenly swooped down on me and threatened to call the police and have me arrested for the serious crime of viewing pornography on a public computer. I hope this little article in response will cause him to prick up his ears and prick his conscience sufficiently to acknowledge his mistake to whomsoever he has suggested that I am a lecher simply because of my innocent reference to the Holy Bible that the sainted Lady With the Lamp took to heart.
Ironically, I had the public interest in mind when I wrote the article about my hero's motivation. Florence Nightingale was an excellent nurse but she was an even better administrator. As we can see from her letter about the maltreatment she was receiving from certain bureaucratic hands while fighting the monster, Red Tape, she was obviously aggrieved by the pricking she mentioned. Yet she did not - unlike me and others I know - crave praise: despite the maxim to the contrary, praise was not a prick to success as far as she was concerned. What gave her grief is that she was not, like Saul, kicking against the Lord's pricks; she was fighting the antithesis of good - incompetence, egotism, vanity, selfishness, filth, disease, death.
Wherefore I intended to send my essay off to the bureaucracy by means of the public computer I was using, together with a few suggestions for the improvement of the bureaucracy based upon observations I had made during the course of my visits - one thing sorely needed is a grievance procedure set forth in an employee manual.
I was astonished indeed when the gentleman rushed directly towards me just after I posted my essay on the Internet for easy access by members of the bureaucracy. He is a fine fellow with a great deal of sales experience. I had conversed with him on several occasions - small talk and shop talk - and considered him to be a potential friend. Therefore when he announced that someone had seen "pornography" being used on the computers, a "serious crime" for which the "police could be called", I thought he was asking for my help with the situation.
Naive as I was in my innocence, it was only later that I realize that someone from the central computer control had alerted him that someone, namely me, was viewing "pornography" on the computer I was using, wherefore he had rushed over to catch me in the act. I thought perhaps a lady had passed behind us and seen something prurient. Maybe the guilty party was the man to my right, an S.S.I. recipient who comes in all the time to watch video games; or maybe it was the man on my left: he was viewing a page that included photographs of scantily clad pop singers - but that was not pornography, and no doubt he was interested in the music.
Wanting to be helpful as usual, I recommended orally and in writing that certain steps be taken. Require users to present valid identification and register in order to log onto the computers. Some of the users are illegal immigrants; some are persons whose privileges have been revoked by the public library system for abuse; others are wanted criminals; terrorists might also get easy access. As for "pornography", usage could be examined for violations and privileges revoked or suspended. I also asked my potential friend to alert the IT department about the inefficient system they are using, which often makes the computers difficult if not impossible to use - one witness to the charges of "pornography" laughed, and said, "How are we going to view pornography when we can't even pull up our email?"
Before I go to sleep I think about the day's events; that night I dwelled on the little crisis over the bureaucracy's computers. British English speakers have an expression for such a critical moment, or when something importnat happens: "the prick of the day." It then dawned on me that the good man had rushed me at the computer in order to apprehend me and charge me with a crime and moral turpitude, simply because IT had called him and identified the computer I was using.
I was appalled and could not fall asleep. My pride was punctured. I was innocent! I had not viewed graphic images of sexual organs and intercourse - that is just not my thing - I am a realist in that regard. The bureaucracy's technical department must be incompetent. I had never heard of such a mistake being made. Pornography filters can be installed. Maybe that won't get it all, but.... I started wondering what Florence Nightingale would do in my situation.
Egad! It dawned on me what had happened - I recalled previous events at a now defunct site called Themestream.com. The bureaucracy’s computers were being screened for obscene language. By Gum! it hit me - one of the words in the scripture I had referred to has an obscene meaning; in fact, it is the 17th definition in the 1961 unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. Even that usage was not considered low or obscene in the 17th century, when a wife might call her husband by the endearing term; he might respond, in turn, with "My Sweetheart."
It had not occurred to me that pornography means not only obscene images but obscene writing as well. I had no obscene intentions. Yet I had been pricked by a thorn of politically correct, moral-majority procedure. Without any investigation whatsoever, I was adjudged to be some sort of pornographic pervert. No doubt the word is being spread all over the only bureaucracy I have ever tried to help - I can, like Kafka, imagine the way the bureaucrats are going to look at me and the red tape they will treat me with from here on out. But maybe not if they bother to read my little essay. In any case, I would ask them not to be an (expletive deleted) about it.
Florence Nightingale Knew What She Was Up Against