Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Furious China

Comments made by Dr. Phil Fraundorf are responsible for my thinking along these lines, but the point he made is a good one. Is it not ridiculous to have a news title of “China is furious over...”? What information does that convey? I suppose it lets us know that at least some one in China is upset. They certainly don't mean the entire country. The title reads as if the country of China, not the people within it, have the emotion of anger. It assigns an individual feeling to a land mass and government. It might help us identify with an emotion in a knee-jerk kind of way, but is this not misleading? By merely accepting the title, we've accepted a huge simplification. It seems to me that this is somewhat dangerous. It is not as simple as “do A and China is happy, do B and China is furious.”

What harm could come from such absurd, though commonly accepted statements? Perhaps most immediately, it might discourage the reader to ask certain questions. It seems to appeal to the emotions first without being processed by the brain. For instance, if there were a similar news title about Iran being furious, we might never consider what that actually means in terms of consequences if we don't know specifically who is furious. Is it crazy old Ahmadinejad, the Ayatollah, or some portion of the population? The difference would be rather significant!

By glossing over these details and wording a title in an absurd, but easy-to-sympathize-with way, it might actually be more harmful than helpful to the person's understanding. To accept the wording is to deny the complexity of the power structure and it's relevance to the situation. I'm not suggesting that the title should be so in-depth that it become the article, but something as minor, but significant as, “Some Chinese leaders are furious over...” adds only two words. The reader might immediately wonder who and why, which eliminates the simplification and also adds the question of “who?” to the reader's mind. Once that is answered perhaps, “And what might that mean for the rest of the world?” will come next. A subtle change in phrasing may have the power to encourage the audience to read the article from a vantage point that nurtures the complexity of the world instead of disregarding it. And in an era where information is disseminated at the speed of light through a huge network of inter-connected minds, nurturing complexity may be our only hope of satisfying the vast needs of the network's members.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Observations on Homes

Why are they the way they are? Economic reasons? Blind adherence to traditional ideas? A reflection of our values?

The rooms are isolated from one another and subdivide a bigger space. Walls give the illusion of privacy and trick us into believing we are alone. If we are in a room by ourselves, we are alone, but if we knock down the walls, then we are exposed and among company. People say they need "my space". A space to call their own. A space which when outsiders are inside, they realize their wishes are secondary. A house within a house.

The most well-off among us tend to have individual bedrooms for each inhabitant, except the male-female heads of household that bed together. Each child has a room and then a separate room for particular activities: an office for working; a dining room; a sun room; a laundry room. We arrange our rooms with regard to our priorities, conscious or not. Our living rooms are arranged around the TV, giving everyone as good a view as possible. The television is the glowing star of the room and we all give it our complete and undivided attention. This is no place for small talk, unless it's during commercials. Our dining rooms hold a big platform that presents us with our feast and we circle around like a pack of animals. A meal prepared with such care and made to look so appealing, it warrants a prayer in thanks. The office has a large desk with a computer atop. We surround ourselves with books, reminding us of the work we've done in the past and can do again. A desktop lamp is present in preparation of working until the wee hours of the evening. A paper shredder for our mistakes. The kitchen is large enough for two people to cook, but rarely used as such. There are pots and pans of every size. Only 4 people live in the house, but there's 15 plates each of 2 different sizes. 10 bowls. 25 forks, spoons, and intentionally dull knives. A block of steak knives that have a couple butcher knives, a pair of large scissors, and something I cannot identify. This is only half of the kitchenware since the good China isn't used. There's usually a basement that has a storage area. A place to put a bunch of stuff you'd rather not throw away but can't find a place for: trophies, photo albums, old clothes, outdated electronics. Proof you lived in an earlier time with something tangible to show for it. Then there's the stuff that you'd sell if you had the chance, but no body wants it. But it's worth
something, you can't just toss it out.

Your old stuff cannot be among your new stuff, however. This would be cluttered and tacky. In order to not be obligated to apologize to guests before they enter, we must have vacuumed, dusted, wiped up, scrubbed down, washed, dried, polished, plunged, disinfected, and deodorized. Things must be put away. Trash goes in the trash can. Dirty clothes go into the dirty clothes hamper. Plates go into the plate cabinet and silver wear into the silver wear drawer. The magazines in the magazine rack and the coffee table book on the coffee table. Everything has its place and it's up to us to put it there. Complete control and knowledge of our surroundings. We are the Gods of our homes and impart our own divine plan of which only the inhabitants know the code. It is our decision where the forks belong. This is what makes it
our home. It is our material possessions that hold proof that we were successful in our lives. These possessions are validation of our memories. They assure us that our interpretations of the past are correct, no matter how distorted they become. The memories that are attached to our belongings whither and decay with them, as do we. Inanimate objects are alive in this way; in their ability to die and lose all meaning and value. Therefore we cherish them and store them and build rooms for them and organize them. We define them and in turn they define us.

New Blog

I'd like this to be a space where I can highlight thoughts or articles that I find interesting as a catalyst to start a discussion. I would be more than happy to make any interested reader a contributor.