We didn’t start the fire

I don’t normally link to these types of things, but I thought this Flash animation of We Didn’t Start the Fire was extremely well done.

I like Billy Joel, and have always liked this song. Hearing it now, though, I find myself nostalgic for the days when all we were worried about was the Soviet Union. Whatever happened to our world, between the joy we felt when the Berlin Wall came down and now?


Yours in dissension

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

JF Cates writes at Blog Sisters:

Do you expect to always have only positive feedback in your comments? Are you upset when someone disagrees with you, or questions your argument? Is blogging about patting those “just like us” on the back, and blocking those who aren’t? Is tolerance analogous to stupidity?

To demonstrate the premise behind her questions, JF links to a couple of what looks to be warbloggers who are having a vehement disagreement with each other about delinking and personal censorship.

I responded, in part, with the following:

As Jeneane will attest, I was ‘delinked’, if this is what we’re calling it now, several months ago and labeled a terrorist sympathizer at the same time. I didn’t care about the link, but wasn’t comfortable being labeled a terrorist sympathizer, considering the country’s mood at the time. I expressed my unhappiness and we had some interesting conversations here and there.

That was then, this is now. Now, if people want to delink me, say nasty things, I could care less. All I ask is that they use a little style. I’ll tolerate being slammed, but I really hate being bored.

Though my comment is rather flippant, the questions JF asks are good ones, and ones that have been on my mind recently. In these virtual communities we build, is there room for disagreement? And the only answer possible is: yes.

How bland to only read those we agree with, and how dull to spend our time only in exchanges of verbal kisses and hugs. Disagreement is, in its way, the ultimate compliment: the person was interested enough in what you’ve written to take the time and energy to write in disagreement. It takes little effort to say “I like what you wrote”, but a great deal to say, “I didn’t like what you wrote, and here’s why…”.

Of course, this presupposes that a person takes the time to write out a thoughtful, indepth, even passionate disagreement. Little effort, or wit or style or intelligence, is expended with comments such as “u sound gay” linked to a photo of feces (in comments made in response to a posting Jonathon wrote).

However, no matter how skilled the argument, it’s for naught if all disagreements are seen as personal attacks. A week ago, Mark Pilgrim listed out various “logical fallacies” that can creep into our discussions with each other, such as that old favorite, argument ad hominem: attacking the person rather than the argument itself. If you’ve been around weblogging for some time, chances are you’ve seen this phrase, as it is used quite loosely in many exchanges. Too loosely at times.

Lately it seems that the phrase argument ad hominen is being used when one person disagrees with another regardless of the argument — it is the fact that the person disagrees at all that is seen as an argument ad hominen, rather than the actual argument. Using this phrase in this context is just as limiting and censoring as more overt forms of weblogging censorship, such as IP blocking or delinking.

As for delinking: if we’re no longer interested in what a person says, generally, then we shouldn’t read them or link to them and no harm is done. But so-called ‘delinking ceremonies”, and making a huge production of removing people from a blogroll is, I think, a ludicrous act of virtual Godhood — as if removing the weblogger from one’s blogroll diminishes them.

(When I talk about public delinking, I’m not including the person, mentioned earlier, who publicly removed the link to my weblog from his blogroll months ago. I personally feel this weblogger has been beat about the head enough for his past action. Time to call the dogs home.)

Children go through a phase when they’re very young of believing that when the television is turned off, the broadcast and the story stops at the point. However, we grow up and realize that, except for a few, our actions have little impact outside of our immediate surroundings. Turning off the television doesn’t stop your neighbors from continuing to enjoy the show without your participation.

Removing a person from your blogroll does not result in a big *POOF* and resulting vacancy where the person previously stood or sat. If that were true, I’d be a cinder and you wouldn’t be reading this. No, the delinked will keep blogging right along, writing what they want, and you’ll most likely end up sneaking back again and again to see what you’re missing.

What’s been hardest for me when it comes to debate and disagreement, especially in weblogging, is knowing when to walk away. As important as disagreement is, there are times when one’s best course is to not reply, to not engage. We aren’t all going to connect with each other, or be able to convince each other of the rightness of our cause; sometimes the participants should agree to disagree and either move on to other topics, or learn to ignore each other and focus energies elsewhere. A mental delinking as it were.

Just Shelley

Honor be not proud

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I watched the movie A Few Good Men tonight. If you haven’t seen it, it features Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore in a story about the Marine Corps, murder, and, ultimately, the question of honor. Honor and the Corps. Honor and service to one’s country. Honor and pride.

Honor. What is the true nature of honor? Honor is not based on blind service to God or country. Nor is it based on pride; if anything, pride is the antithesis of honor. Instead, honor is based on knowing, deep down inside oneself, what is fundamentally right and following that rightness, regardless of the consequences. That is honor.

I inherited much from my father besides my name. I inherited his Celtic coloring as well as his Celtic temper. We’re both tall, though age has reduced his frame so that we now see eye to eye. He has a sweet tooth and so do I, and we both consider it a rare treat to indulge our love for fine pastry with a really good cup of tea (loose good quality tea, pre-heated china pot, boiling, not hot water). He’ll be 92 years old next week, and I can only hope that I inherit his longevity, though I am not so sure I would want to pay the price he has paid to live as long as he has.

I inherited one other thing from my father: his sense of honor. Sometimes unbending, frequently unyielding and unforgiving, but always there, deep down inside. At times I’m not sure if its a blessing or a curse.

Yesterday as I watched discussions unfold about the issue of “girlism”, I was so impressed by the many different responses in my comments and elsewhere. Steve provided a wonderful discussion about ‘new’ feminism meeting old within his class. Dorothea continued the discussion, adding her own important points, which are reflected and refined at Baldur, and enriched by Tom. Ruzz also joins the discussion:real power has nothing to do with sex.

I was disappointed, though, with my own writing. It didn’t convey why I reacted so strongly. It left the impression that the discussion was about gender equality, when it wasn’t. At least, not for me. Or that the discussion was about feminism and stereotypes, and, on reflection, I realized that wasn’t why I was so unhappy. Tonight I finally realized why I was so deeply bothered about this “girlism” — it was a question of honor.

We’ve long known that sex sells, which is why ads always feature beautiful women and studly men. I don’t fight this because I see the world of marketing to be an artificial one; one that lives over there but not in my neighborhood. But when people matter of factly discuss women using sex — flirting, winking, tight clothes — as a way to get power, I cringe, not because I know this behavior doesn’t exist, but because I know that some people will see this behavior in one woman and generalize it to other women. Other women such as myself.

Regardless of how much I want to change the world, burn a trail, get power, I cannot do so at the cost of ‘honor’. Even something as trivial as a wink, standing too close to a man, or a little “harmless” dissembling is using my sexuality to deliberately manipulate a man at work in order to achieve a professional goal. This is so foreign to me that my reaction is a physical stiffening of my arms, pushing away that which I find to be anathema.

Using sexuality would be a declaration that I have no ability to get power from this man regardless of what I do, therefore I’m going to yield to his superior position; the she-wolf baring her belly, breasts, and neck to the alpha male. You say it’s just a harmless wink, a little cleavage — what’s the harm? I say the harm is that I achieved the power based on something other than my ability, and at the cost of always being the she-wolf with neck bared.

Am I too serious? Too rigid and foolish? Out of step with modern times? Most likely all of the above. And don’t forget inflexible and unyielding, too. Tempermental. And tall.

Honor. Honor and gender. Honor and vocation. Honor to one’s country. Honor to one’s friends. Honor and truth. I have a feeling that ‘honor’ is something that will be lost and found and then lost again in the next few years. Particularly when we consider that sometimes honor, and the lack thereof, is based as much on silence and inaction, as it is on voice and action.

I’ve been told I take all this too seriously. Sometimes I do. I really do.