Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Pocket Office
If you have to flit about from one computer to another, you might consider the following clever idea:
For people on the go, who may find themselves [u]sing a variety of different computers, a thumb drive offers more than just portable storage. With very little work and no money aside from the original expense of the drive itself, you can easily turn a thumb drive into your primary workspace -- complete with the software and settings, reference material, and documents you uses the most. [bold added]This happens to be very close to the way I work already, minus having the software itself on the pen drive. Of course, the software described is for Windows and I work mostly on Linux -- but those machines already have what I need. Slick!
"Passing" as "Hero" -- or "Cad"
Via Arts and Letters Daily is an interesting book review that touches on a difficult personal decision that many people of minimal African ancestry have had to make in America thanks to Jim Crow, which is now dead, and widespread white racism, which is dying -- whether to "pass" as white.
Reviewer Jonathan Yardley, discusses the late Anatole Broyard's decision to pass as white so he could pursue a writing career.
[I]t's not really surprising that Anatole Broyard chose to live as he did. He didn't look in the least bit "black," and he wanted to enter the world of literature, which in the 1940s and '50s in this country was patently "white." He placed personal ambition ahead of racial identity or racial solidarity or whatever one cares to call it, and his daughter makes a pretty solid argument for him: "My father truly believed that there wasn't any essential difference between blacks and whites and that the only person responsible for who he was supposed to be was himself." To be sure, a black friend had a point when he "sniped that my dad was black when he entered the subway in Brooklyn and white when he got out at West Fourth Street in Manhattan," but that's the choice he made, and he managed to live with it.The phenomenon of passing is not just a historical oddity. It strikes close to the heart of the meaning of the civil rights struggle and where it ultimately went wrong.
His daughter asks: "Was my father's choice rooted in self-preservation or in self-hatred? Did it strike a blow for individualism or for discrimination? Was he a hero or a cad?" Those are good questions, and as Bliss Broyard well understands, they can never be definitively answered, though my own hunch is that "All of the above" gets somewhere close to the truth. [bold added]
The American dream is for all individuals to live freely, their rights protected by law. But for a long time, blacks, identified mainly by appearance as a group, were forced to live otherwise. The battle for equal protection of their rights became, in large part because of that circumstance, an experience strongly shared with others in their group.
Along with a cultural identity apart from most of America, some notion of "racial solidarity" can be legitimate (and benign, if not beneficial) on some levels. Unfortunately, because Americans generally, including blacks, have never fully grasped the egoistic basis of individualism or individual rights, the idea of racial solidarity has always been confounded with collectivism.
And so a decision such as Broyard's, probably difficult to begin with, becomes tinged with unearned guilt. Any great cause, such as racial equality under the law, will pose some danger and make great demands of its advocates, but it is up to an individual to decide whether these demands are bearable as part of a difficult circumstance of life -- or self-sacrificial -- on balance. It is up to each individual to decide how he will confront such difficulties. There is a difference in fighting for a cause to live and living (merely) to fight for a cause.
(Having said that, I should note that in a case such as Broyard's one need not even live as a black man to advocate for the protection of individual rights. However, it can be perfectly moral not to do so if this is not why one wants to write. One's support for a just cause can take many forms.)
It is an obscenity made possible only by altruism that a man can be faulted for choosing to live his own life rather than to sacrifice oneself, needlessly in his own judgement, for a cause. I don't know the details of Broyard's decision, but I would think long and hard before calling him a "cad" because he chose to pass.
Has he seen these chicks?
Heh. John Kass closes a column about "freegans" with this:
"Freegans? It's all about getting dates," said my trusty assistant, the Polish Spartacus, 25, dismissing the Freegan movement with a derisive sneer.Has this man actually seen any of these "prospects"? (Scroll down.)
That's a horrible thing to say about the gentle Freegans.
"Yeah, when you old guys were young, you protested and marched and got involved so you could get dates," he said. "This is the same thing."
I never protested in my life. But I did have a Leonard Cohen album, just in case I felt compelled to advertise my sensitive side to young women from the University of Wisconsin.
"Same thing. It's about finding a date. That's why those guys are diving into Dumpsters," Spartacus said. "For the Freegan dates."
In any event, I'd say that his theory gives "scraping the bottom" a whole new meaning!
Today: (1) Corrected time stamp. (2) Oneminor edit.