Category Archives: Social comment

Facebook Slacktivism

If you’re on Facepalm, you’ve seen them:  profile posts pressuring you to change your status to something.  And yes, it is pressure, often coupled with a guilt trip.  To gather these, I had to go unhide a whole bunch of people who have done them so often I finally just tuned them out:

Put this dog on
.//^ ^\\ your status
(/(_•_)\) to show
._/”*”\_ that you are
(,,,)^(,,,) Against Animal Cruelty

If I don’t, does that mean I’m for animal cruelty?

Who says Facebook friends aren’t real friends? They enjoy seeing you on line everyday, miss you when you aren’t, send condolences if you’ve lost someone, give you wishes on your Birthday, enjoy the photos & videos you post, put a smile on your face when you’re down, make you laugh when you feel like crying. Re-post if you love your Facebook friends. ?

And if I don’t, does that mean I don’t care for them?

Tell me if this makes any sense. I’m still scratching my head at this one. Homeless go without eating. Elderly go without needed medicines. Mentally ill go without treatment. Troops go without proper equipment. Veterans go without benefits they were promised. Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our… own first. Have the guts to re-post this. 1% will re-post and 99% won’t

So if I don’t accept your premise and parrot what you say, I’m gutless?

Doesn’t make sense, does it? Homeless in the US go without eating. Elderly in the US go without needed medicines. Mentally ill in the US go without treatment. American troops go without proper equipment. American veterans go without benefits that were promised. Yet we donate billions to other countries before helping our own first. 1% will re-post and 99% won’t. Have the guts to re-post this. I KNOW I’M IN THE 1%

For this one, evidently, I’m gutless again, plus unkind to our needy?

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL! MY GENERATION GREW UP RECITING THIS EVERY MORNING IN SCHOOL WITH MY HAND ON MY HEART WITH RESPECT. THEY NO LONGER DO THAT FOR FEAR OF OFFENDING SOMEONE! LET’S SEE HOW MANY AMERICANS WILL RE-POST THIS & NOT CARE ABOUT OFFENDING SOMEONE

So if I don’t make a mindless repetition in ALL CAPS, it’s because I’m afraid of offending someone?

Very sadly, most of you probably won’t copy and paste this. Will you do it and leave it on your status for at least an hour??? It’s Special Education week, and this is in HONOR of all the children who need a little extra help, patience & understanding. Proudly, I will! …Thanks!! ….’Here’s to all the kids who need just a little bit…… more

This one switched message a bit, leading with the guilt trip.  So now I don’t like learning-disabled kids?

Now you see why I just block anyone who does too much of this.  Maybe some people can be insulted into making a show for others, but the idea has no appeal for me.

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Why I don’t wear green on March 17

It’s something I get every year, especially with a last name that’s more Irish than a spraypainted sheep.  It’s easier to just explain it this way.

  • St. Patrick’s Day is not merely a Christian holiday; it celebrates a Christian victory over paganism. I’m not a druid (though some of my dear friends are), but I am a Germanic Heathen–thus more akin than not. I don’t think it’s anti-Christian to say I can hardly cheer for its vanquishing of indigenous beliefs. For me to celebrate this would be like UCLA fans getting together to remember and celebrate all the times USC beat them. In what universe would I be glad for this?
  • It’s more an Irish-American holiday than an Irish holiday. I have that on good authority from the Irish themselves, who surely are greater authorities on Irishness than Irish-Americans. One Irishwoman told me about her horror at an Irish festival in California, watching people collect money for ‘the struggle.’ She called them ‘the shamrock people.’ Remember, these are her words, not mine. Her further comment:  “Either the shamrock people are Irish, or I am, but we both can’t be.”
  • Because of that, what you get is millions of people going as overboard as possible on what they see as Irishness: leprechauns, green beer, green stripes on roads, green clothing, red hair, freckles, alcoholism, and so on. There are bits of truth in that, sure, but it’s not how I see Ireland. I see Irishness as hospitality after a brief period of caution, eagerness to talk to strangers, a passion for all arts (musical, literary, visual), and yes, a history of suffering and in some cases terrible violence. Leon Uris got it right: a terrible beauty. To me, St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t look very Irish.
  • Speaking of alcoholism, do we really need to push that stereotype harder? In the past, it was part and parcel of oppressive stereotyping by the British occupiers (and the Americans who looked down upon Irish immigrants: the drunken Mick, face shaped in simian fashion, feckless, slumped in an alley, presented as proof that Irish were a lower form of life. Here’s one for you: alcoholism in Ireland has all the same consequences it has in the United States. Shortened lives, failed commitments, bad decisions, battered wives, beaten kids, damaged families, avoidable road fatalities, cirrhosis, addiction battles, stupid sayings, and so on. It might seem funny from here, maybe not so much so if you think about the families it harms. If a foreign country celebrated July 4 with parodies of random school shootings, would that amuse us? I should think not. It’s not funny at all.
  • What of the Irish whom the orange bar on the flag represents? They are Protestants. They too are Irish; their relatives also emigrated here. How can they be left out? How can one think this will help promote unity in the old country? If you care about Ireland, how can you not want its differing faiths and ethnicities to get along, united in Irishness? St. Patrick’s Day claims to represent all things supposedly Irish, and all the Irish groups make a big deal of non-sectarianism. Ask an Ulster Protestant how really part of it she feels. When she does feel like part of it, it’ll be a win.
  • Finally, I’m not much moved by part-time Irishness. Therefore I am prone to say: “Tell you what. I understand some Irish (Gaelic). If you can lecture me in Irish as to why I should wear green, I may not do it, but I will hear you out. If you want to get down with your bad Irish self, study the Irish language in all its complexity and beauty. And when you do, and you want to pressure me about this, we will have that discussion. In Irish.  Until then, I’ll pass, thanks.”

Not to be a stick in the mud, though. If you’re observing the holiday, have a happy one. Honestly.

Kvass and socks

Today I was out taking my wife’s ride in for an oil change.  We have a mechanic that actually fixes things (Ralph Blair of Tri-City Battery (509-783-9000)), in a shop that gives him the tools to do so, so it’s not nearly as painful or fearful for me as for many.  On the way, I saw a sign by the street in Cyrillic:  ‘Russki magazin.’  Russian store? I love little specialty ethnic grocery stores, so I swung in and muddled through in my broken Russian.  One thing I bought was a 2l bottle of Kvass, which I’d always wanted to try.

Kvass, at least in the form I had it, was sort of like a carbonated, sweet, tamarindy black tea.  It wasn’t overly sugary.  Frankly, this stuff is delicious.  I never want to drink Coke again if I can get this.  If you get a chance to try some, by all means give it a shot.  If you’re in Tri-Cities, it’s on Clearwater (north side) between Kellogg and Edison.

Had a real adventure making the notes to go with the socks.  Jason would like a note for each pair, which isn’t difficult.  Translating it into Japanese, that’s the hard part.  I felt most comfortable feeding the English to Google Translate, then feeding the Japanese back to GT and seeing what I actually said.  Anyway, a large number of people decided they liked Jason’s idea and are following suit.  Some days, you find out that you know a lot of really wonderful people.

Socks for Japan

Jason Kelly, a fellow author (financial writing, with the advantage of a liberal arts background) lives in Japan.  He is close enough to the earthquake/tsunami disaster to have felt both, and to be able to triage aid, but far enough that he is not himself a disaster victim (except for one hell of a scare).  We’ve corresponded a bit, enough that I think of him as a kindred spirit.

Living in Japan, of course, it’s quite logical for Jason to call upon the resources of his U.S. (Colorado) upbringing to help his nation of residence.  His solution:  socks, a simple comfort item and so important for cleanliness.  Japan might be the world’s most passionate country with regard to cleanliness.  If Jason thinks sending the Japanese socks will improve their comfort and spirits, I’m going to do it.

If you want to follow suit, please follow the instructions on Socks for Japan.  His reasoning makes great sense to me.  Every time there’s a major world disaster, Japan whips out its checkbook.  The world knows Japan for many good things; Japan has been a staunch ally of the United States my whole life.  The point of Jason’s plan is that we’ll do more good if we send comfort items along with notes of caring, rather than just donating money.  Socks one may buy; a kind, honest note isn’t for sale in any store.

Sounds to me like little enough to ask.  I hope you’ll join me in supporting Jason’s project.

Japan

Satisfying as it would be to cuss our news media’s coverage of the disaster, it would really miss the point.  The point is that the event is harmful to another people, and if it matters, a people we call allies.  My condolences, Japan.

Microsoft = IBM

Today John Dvorak wrote a pretty good article on why Microsoft’s stock is, in his words, dead money.  Yeah, I know it’s on Murdoch’s news service, but Dvorak’s old school and knows his stuff.

It is so odd how things cycle.  When I was hustling machines about five miles from the Redmond campus, I hated the IBM reps.  Every one of them.  They were not merely arrogant (though nothing like the Apple reps, the very snottiest of all), they were stupid (which the Apple reps were not).  We were making 5% margin on IBM machines.  We made 20% on others.  Also, no one wanted IBM.  Why should we sell it? Well, because it’s IBM.  In reality, we were selling them at cost to keep our dealership.  We couldn’t get to a profitable discount level with IBM unless we sold more.  However, when we had a line on a big account and were willing to go out at cost just to advance our business with IBM, IBM would go direct and undercut us (and we were to understand and accept this, that ‘business was business’).

Their attitude was that everyone should want IBM and we should push everyone to IBM, even when a retarded goblin could see that IBM was the very worst deal going.  Even when they came out with a good product, people didn’t want IBM’s MCA (‘MicroChannel’) architecture.  They had a great portable and I had a client interested in two.  He asked about the architecture, and I said ‘MCA’.  His words, quoted exactly as I recall:  “Not that f***ing MicroChannel.”

Microsoft, by contrast, was swift and slick and witty and inventive.  It was eating Lotus’s lunch, WordPerfect’s lunch and just about everyone else’s.  It was the smartest kids in the room.  Some of its stuff was dumb (remember ‘Bob’?) but a lot of it took hold.  Even IBM used Microsoft’s DOS (which M$ didn’t actually invent, but bought in desperation early on).  And when IBM tried to make everyone buy OS/2, the market said ‘meh.’  You could tell the Microserfs when they came into the store.  They looked like hippies gone full geek, total slobs.  You didn’t make judgments.  They were often FYIFV (‘f*** you, I’m fully vested’) tycoons and they might well write you a check for two brand new laser printers.

Now M$ is the dinosaur rather than the juggernaut.  It invents nothing.  It follows and tries to appropriate the market, and the market increasingly sneers.  In the process of its rise, its ruthlessness made it many, many enemies who yearned for the day M$ would become irrelevant.  I was one, as I labored on supporting M$ products in the workplace as an IT jock, basically forced to deal with them as the world was once forced to deal with IBM whether it liked IBM or not.

Dvorak’s right.  MSFT is a lousy buy, even though its price has been flat for years while the market has risen.  They’re not going to invent anything.  If they weren’t sitting on so much cash, and if they didn’t have so much inertia due to the past with regard to installed base, they’d collapse.  They are in much the same situation as IBM once was.  They can say what they want, but people no longer care.

Fred Phelps and the anti-Vietnam War movement

Today I was reading that the Supreme Court upheld Fred Phelps’ right to picket and harass military funerals, part of their KKK-esque anti-gay crusade.  I don’t have a firm opinion about what the Supreme Court should have done, partly because I don’t have J.D. after my name and I understand my limits of understanding, partly because I don’t have any respect for the SC to begin with, and partly because I have zero faith in law and the rule of law anyway.  But having seen Team Fred in action from 40′ away myself, and being nearer fifty years old than forty, it did bring to mind one thing.

In our time, the military is openly, publicly and loudly glorified and adored; even a hint of anti-military scorn would get one a lot of angry reactions.  If you are young today, you never knew a time when the military was unfashionable.  I assure you that there was such a time:  my own youth.  Numerous reliable sources relate experiencing verbal abuse and degradation just for being in uniform, and especially for getting off the plane from Vietnam.  Evidently it was so common it came to be expected, coped with by service people, and socially accepted to a degree.  Which is not to say that the soldiers suffering it were unhurt by it; oh, no.  It did at least tip them off to the kind of reaction society had in store for them.  I was too young to have a view on this, but old enough to know of the social current.  It lasted into the early 1980s, when I did put on a uniform a few times and get some small tastes of it myself.  Imagine a ROTC unit that tended to de-emphasize uniformed presence on campus just to avoid stirring stuff up? I was in one.

Now, I am not sure that anti-Vietnam protesters ever picketed or disrupted an actual military funeral.  We have general consensus that disrupting anyone’s funeral is disgusting, at any time for any reason.  A lot of people found ways to oppose the Vietnam War without insulting Special Forces guys as “baby killer” in airports; fair enough.  (Some people are uncomfortable with homosexuality, too, yet don’t approve of Phelps on any level.)  But how different were the two extremes, really? How different were the fanatics in the airports, heaping scorn on some poor sod who got drafted and sent to the 1st Cav, survived and graduated, and then wanted to come home and get back to normal, from the Phelpsites I saw in a vacant lot in Pasco holding up signs advocating more military casualties? Fred Phelps and the airport harassers had more in common than I’ve heard anyone attest.  Motivated by pure hate, both asserted the right to pour verbal abuse on targets who could not effectively fight back.  The only difference today is that it’s no longer fashionable to abuse the military.  Sadly, if Phelps had stuck to just disrupting funerals of AIDS deceased, there would be nowhere near the backlash against him, even though his conduct would be just as contemptible.

I sit, and I watch, and I marvel how social currents change people’s ethical compasses without most people noticing.

© 2011, J.K. Kelley