from a different time

After my Grandmother's passing in January, my parents found the following in her house, and shared them with me, since it seemed interesting and relevant.  The sterling she is picking out in the society page picture was passed to my parents and will be passed to Nathaniel and me--it's nice when objects have a rich history.  It's also nice to see the way things were done then, with newspaper announcements and everything.



In reading David Brooks' NYT op-ed column on The Power Elite, I was struck by his candor. His thesis: Despite our society becoming more meritocratic, the public standing of the power elite has plummeted.

A paraphrasing of his five reasons as to why:
1.  Our definition of merit or talent is too narrow; specifically, that technical ability and knowledge are valued, and sensitivity to context is often ignored.
2. Meritocracy has created new social chasms; the elites now live near and marry other elites, and share fewer social attitudes and lifestyle patterns with the other classes.
3. The leadership-class solidarity is weaker as they vie against each other instead of working together.
4. Time horizons have shrunk: elites think less on passing their mantle to their clan and more on getting as much done as soon as possible.  This can encourage recklessness.
5.  Society is too transparent; the more we know about the inner-workings of the government and corporations, the less we trust them.

This analysis is very insightful, but I am compelled to question whether all of these reasons are bad.  And if any of them are, what can be done?

Personally, I think society isn't too transparent.  There's nothing wrong with a little scepticism to keep the elite in check.  Throwing out number five.  The other four, however, have merit.  Heh heh.

Being sensitive to context, connected with other classes, cooperative, and responsible come with better training of the elite, which could simply come with time.  As society becomes more aware of these problems, the nature of merit will change, diminishing all of these problems.  I think any call for more extreme action might fall into the trap of number four.

I'm a believer in personal change and impacting the society immediately surrounding an individual.  You know, the whole think globally, act locally maxim.


what to call our dear queers

I just read a blog entry on using the terms "homosexual" vs. "gay men and lesbians." The results indicated that Americans are more supportive of the rights of "gay men and lesbians" than of "homosexuals." Curious, but not terribly surprising.

And at the end of the article, the author rallies for the extermination of the term "homosexual":
"Any time you hear or read someone using the word homosexual, correct them on the spot. If it's a reporter or a politician or a TV personality, send them an email or a letter. Treat it like it's a slur. Because it is."

I personally don't think "homosexual" is a slur. You might see similar variance in response in taking polls using the terms "female" vs. "women." Technical words, like "homosexual" and "female" allow people to remove themselves more from the situation. Frankly, I think the term "homosexual" is specific and scientific, and there should be a time and place for technical terminology.

I don't think we should start treating words like "parents" as slurs in favor "moms and dads" just because the latter will elicit a more positive emotional response. I admit that gender and sexuality issues are more charged, and everyone should be careful with their rhetoric, but it's still not a slur; slurs are disparaging and "homosexual" is just emotionally removed.

Despite all this, where is the place for transsexuals or people outside the gender binary in our current rhetoric? I feel like neither of the aforementioned terms is all-inclusive. Oof. Gender and sexuality are complicated.


two-handed week

I'm always pretty rough to my hands, which is pretty usual for a tactile/kinesthetic learner.  Pair that with being a little klutzy, and we get all sorts of fun.  This week is really racking up the points for my hands, though.

On Saturday I got a good fifteen thorn-splinters from grabbing a blackberry bush while sliding down an exceedingly muddy slope in Tilden.  I was in a pair of well-loved Burks too, so the slipping wasn't my fault.  Except for the whole I decided to try and go down that slope in those shoes thing.  Anyway, I've still got half of them in there.

Next, I got two cuts while doing ceramic work.  The first one came to me as a red blotch on grey muddy hands--I don't remember what caused it.  The second was a papercut-style with a thin metal tool.

Lastly, at least I hope, this morning I tripped on the escalator at the 16th/Mission BART station and caught myself by placing my palm on the corner of the escalator stair, which the observant may note is pointy.  From that, blood blister.  Fun times.