Anyway, since Patrick White saw fit to publish his name, face, and contact information alongside a racist cartoon in a newspaper, I dropped him a line suggesting that something might be amiss, and he wrote back saying that no, he was proud to stand by his cartoon, so I shared my own feelings with him:
It is good to cheer on your sports team, but I suspect that if the sports team mascot when you were growing up had been a buck-toothed, squint-eyed Chinaman in a big peasant hat, that you might think twice about printing a Chinaman cartoon in the newspaper. If you were to have such respect for Chinese people and culture, perhaps Indians merit the same sort of respect.
When I was younger my school had an Indian Chief for a mascot. The dozens of our Native American students found it upsetting and it took a few decades of protesting before it was finally removed. While one side found it upsetting that their culture was caricatured to cheer on a sports team, fans of The Chief took offense that Liberal Elites wanted to destroy their culture by imposing Political Correctness on their Hallowed Tradition. So, you had folks insisting that they had to insult another culture in order to properly honor their own culture.
Anyway, some years after I graduated, The Chief got to retire. Alumni kept contributing money and people kept cheering on their team as they had before. Nothing positive was lost, and our school has since regained some respect it had lost during its years of overt racism.
You can make fun of me and rationalize printing racially offensive cartoons in the newspaper all you like, but somewhere deep down, you know it is not right, and you know that you are offending people and scaring away potential clients. Most people are too polite to raise a fuss. But this topic means something to me, so I thought I’d drop you a line and encourage you to think things through.
I don’t need to change Pat White’s mind, and I surely don’t need him to manage my wealth. On the whole, the world seems to be taking a step or two forward for each step back. But it sure is weird to see a racist cartoon published in a newspaper is 2012, 40 years after Stanford managed to figure out that American Indians deserve a little more respect.
Yesterday I got Dr Sick Wife to drop me off at the Santa Clara Convention Center so Mr Sicker Light-Headed Husband wouldn’t miss any PYCON. After an awkward twenty minutes of asking people there for the lighting and LED conference where the Python was, I checked my smart phone and noted that … PYCON is *MARCH* 7th.
So I took the light rail home and told $BOSS I was on PTO (well, I call it MLK day due to Puppet Training) I then slept a lot, and did other things sick people do that don’t bear repeating in a professional context, and watched Dr Who save the Earth on TV, slept some more, and I am feeling way better today, which means I feel regular sick, not super sick.
So, I’ll be WFH today. Trust me, whatever this is, you’re lucky to miss out! I don’t normally get sick so this is a novel experience … I’ll likely be seen in the office next week, though if I’m coughy or sneezy I’ll keep that train wreck at home, because, as you might gather, you don’t want a piece of this!
If you’re attending PyCon, I look forward to seeing you there … next month! Hopefully I won’t be light-headed!
My home town, Chicago, the city of broad shoulders and ambition, is where the wealthy have pushed the workers and the workers have pushed back. Jane Addams, as my memory serves, founded the Hull House back in the 19th century, to look after the needs of working people: meals, health care, education, general community services. At a time when class divisions were sharper than they are getting to be today, Jane Addams bucked the conventions of her time to push for the American ideal: that we all, regardless of class or wealth, merit a helping hand, a warm place to sleep, and nourishment for our bodies and our minds.
Growing up in Chicago, getting educated in the Chicago Public Schools, the sense of perpetual struggle for a better, more equitable future, I think it gets in to your blood. People come looking for a better life, and they find that sometimes they have to push a bit to realize that better life, if not for themselves then at least to give their children a shot. We’re all passing through those gates, at our respective levels of society, and the struggle never dies and the struggle must never be forgotten.
Now I live in the Silicon Valley, where people struggle and strive, and while the ultimate aim is to make the world more comfortable and efficient, the focus is pretty far removed from the front lines of class warfare. Even so, I ride the train every day past miles of walled mobile home parks, and I wonder if there’s more going on beneath the surface than us privileged IT folk know.
“In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her. That is class warfare. Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top 1 percent is not.”
Arguing over the margins, in the grand scheme of things, describes my day job.
and we need heroes
who stand up to giants
who carry a big bat to home plate
though the pitcher is throwing money
balls and the umps are in on the fix.
I’m no hero and my bat is nothing to brag about, but I relish those occasions when I do get to step up to the bat and swing, however ineffectually, at a ball I’m not allowed to hit. Its the Chicago in me. I owe more.
Last week I dug through several menus to try and unsubscribe from all the spam LinkedIn sends me. Today I got another email and at the bottom was an “unsubscribe” link that I clicked on. Here’s what I got:
Not only is this not an unsubscribe feature, LinkedIn gets bonus points for trying to sign you up for MORE e-mail.
Instead of screwing around with the half-dozen sub-menus again, I dropped them a feedback saying that this burns up good will, damages the brand, discourages me from engaging, and may in time lead me to delete my profile. There’s more than one way to search for resumes online.
Above all science was becoming religion; psychology was reducing metaphysics to experiment and a sociology of human action was planned. Fighting the vast concept of evolution, religion went into its heresy trials, its struggle with “higher criticism,” its discomfort at the “revised version” of the New Testament which was published the year I entered college. Wealth was God. Everywhere men sought wealth and especially in America there was extravagant living; everywhere the poor planned to be rich and the rich planned to be richer; everywhere wider, bigger, higher, better things were set down as inevitable.
— W. E. B. Du Bois
… who entered college in 1885
Actually, Chapter 3 of “Dusk of Dawn” describes a transition from the world Du Bois was born into of the latter 19th century:
“(As) a young man, so far as I conceived, the foundations of present culture were laid, the way was charted, the progress toward certain great goals was undoubted and inevitable. There was room for argument concerning details and methods and possible detours in the onsweep of civilization; but the fundamental facts were clear, unquestioned and unquestionable.”
In contrast with the “today” of 1940:
“TODAY both youth and age look upon a world whose foundations seem to be tottering. They are not sure what the morrow will bring; perhaps the complete overthrow of European civilization, of that great enveloping mass of culture into which they were born. Everything in their environment is a meet subject for criticism. They can dispassionately evaluate the past and speculate upon the future. It is a day of fundamental change.”
I feel my heart and mind whipsawing between a world culture which is on the cusp of some fundamental, unimaginable change, and a world in which we will pretty much keep doing what we have done, just bigger, bolder, better, faster, with nanites and a higher rate of return . . . I get dizzy thinking about this world I try to live in.
And Religionists and Conservatives keep shouting their objections to a changing world ever louder, ever more viciously. They’re still attacking Evolution, so the concept and theological implications of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption are even more of a leap . . .
But the today of 2012, when the big revolutions appear to be how the European Union will manage debt among member states, and whether Arab countries can successfully democratize, whether there will be regional wars on either side of Asia, and the capacity of fundamentalists to kill civilians . . . today’s world isn’t tottering as obviously as 1940’s “today.”
But it is the Big Things you don’t hear in the news every day; When will climate change trigger famine and mass migration? Will China’s rise be sustained to the point it becomes a world power or will it implode? When are we going to be hit by that asteroid that superheats the atmosphere? Just after the devastating global pandemic that trained against antibiotics and traveled everywhere on jet planes before we noticed it? Will nanofabrication make industry and perhaps agriculture obsolete? Will the Singularity bring upon us a supra-individualist world consciousness? Will medical science and DNA repeal the eternal inevitabilities of aging and death? Is that when we will feel comfortable encapsulating our bodies on centuries-long trips to distant star systems? The new Magellans will refer to centuries as we refer to decades. My thinking is so early 21st . . .
These are the things I tend to wonder about between meetings at work.
Remember pets.com? Back in the Dot Com Bubble, they had this awesome business plan to sell pet food … using the Internet! They had a Superbowl commercial, than they died like so many other startups when the Dot Com Bubble imploded on itself.
So, my Bubbledar pinged when I saw this headline this morning:
Yes! A billion dollars for an iPhone app that takes pictures that look like Polaroids. But you don’t just get the app, you get the iPhone users who have been uploading their photos to social networking sites, because that is a key demographic that Facebook has yet to crack!
A few years ago, Zuckerberg thought $500 million would be a lot of money to acquire Twitter. Fun story here:
Even as America’s race problem has evolved since Du Bois published Dusk of Dawn in 1940, his perspective is valuable. A fuller excerpt from Chapter 6, wherein he conducts a Socratic dialogue with a pair of composite “White Man” colleagues, and delivers an excellent perspective on world history, and modesty: (more…)