If we’re ever to truly deal with the legacy of racism in America, white people—especially white men—are going to have to step out of their comfort zone and learn a little more about history and the trappings of power, which lie at the root of our racist past . . . and present. One of the best ways to do this is to listen to Black people; listen to their stories; listen to their description of how the world works, because it doesn’t work the same for them as it does for us white folk. It just doesn’t, and it really needs to for all of us to enjoy peace and a modicum of safety and security. This Medium essay is a wonderful example of a piece from which we can glean some incredibly important lessons. Check it out . . .
White men who shoot up schools and workplaces are not murderous monsters, or mindless thugs. They are “lovesick” or “misunderstood” or “tragic.” Hundreds of thousands of words are dedicated to finding the reasons why someone with so much promise could have fallen so far.
But how much promise was there really?
How much promise is there in a life where you are told that all you have to do is exist in order to inherit a kingdom. How much promise is there in a life where your mediocrity is constantly applauded and every hero looks like you and every love interest is a supermodel, but at the end of the day you will be working in a cubicle with everyone else and your only consolation is that you will be making $1.50 an hour more than the women and people of color in your office?
This is one of many photos I found addressing this issue. Clearly, I’m not alone.
This post was the second in my “Cranky Curmudgeon” period. 😉 It represents a behavior I have long been irritated by, mostly because of what it says to me about the nature of so many people. It’s not as dangerous as similar behavior on the road while driving, but it’s still mildly disturbing and it happens far too often to be seen as a mere aberration. In fact, while looking for a suitable graphic to accompany this post, I was surprised at how many people have registered their anger at those who do this.
Originally Posted 24 February 2006
I think there are numerous ways in which our country’s celebration of the individual is unhealthy and counter-productive. One of them is clear to me whenever I go grocery shopping. There are two behaviors of many shoppers who demonstrate this. The first is those lazy jerks who, having either picked something up they no longer wish to purchase, or whose children have grabbed something from the shelf, leave it wherever they are when they change their minds or discover their little darlin’s behavior.
Now, if it’s a bag of rice or a can of soup, the only damage is it creates extra work for the folks working in the store. I suppose I shouldn’t say “only damage” as even the creation of extra work translates into greater cost and, eventually, higher prices. Even worse, though, is the tendency of those who decide they no longer wish to purchase something which needs refrigeration, to leave it next to the potato chips, where they happen to find themselves when their befuddled minds finally comprehend the shallowness of their culinary desires.
Add to that the folks who buy things they don’t really want, but wish to “try out”, and then return it after they’ve given it a go, and you’ve got some large ancillary costs that have to be passed on in order for expected profits to be realized. This “trying out” behavior isn’t limited to grocery stores, btw, but we’ll stick to that option for now.
There’s another thing that truly irks me. I’m not saying I lose any sleep over it. In fact, generally by the time I’ve left the parking lot I’ve forgotten about it. That may be why it’s taken me years to reach the point where I can remember to say something about it. But it does make my blood boil a little when I see it happening. It’s not as egregious, but it’s somewhat related to the practice of perfectly healthy people parking in handicapped spots (even if they’ve managed to con their Doctor into helping them get a handicapped placard).
What I refer to is those who, having transferred their groceries from the shopping cart into their vehicle, now feel it is their right to leave that shopping cart in the parking space next to them. Most of these people are actually thoughtful enough to place the front wheels onto the median strip that divides the parking lot, but some will even leave their carts just sitting next to them, right in the middle of a spot. I suppose this wouldn’t matter much in an area which saw little traffic, but in a busy store it can be a bit of a problem.
What bothers me about this is the message, which is “My time is more important than yours. My convenience is more important than yours.” I can’t figure out how much of this is sheer laziness, outright stupidity, or semi-pathological sociopathy. I’m inclined to think it comes from a culture which is increasingly slanted toward the “me-first, you never” mentality; a belief that life is a zero sum game and you have to grab all you can get or someone else will take it and you’ll be left holding the bag.
This is, undoubtedly, a theme I will continue to harp on as I touch on other subjects in my curmudgeonly quest, not to right all wrongs, but merely to anger those who commit these wrongs and – perhaps – spur others to action in calling people to task when they exhibit these piggish qualities.
This was written nearly nine and a half years ago. Unfortunately, not only hasn’t this issue gone away, I’m pretty sure it’s actually worsened, with the me first, you never attitude it displays spreading to other activities and behaviors. I console myself with the belief the darkest hour is just before the dawn, though I can’t help wonder just how much darker it can get.
I started blogging in July of 2004. My first blog was called “A muse me” and I was planning on using it to chronicle our adoption of Aimee, which had occurred in September of 2002. I wrote a few entries, then thought better of it, deciding it wasn’t for me to share the details of my daughter’s life when she had no say in it at all. At the time I just couldn’t figure out a way to share my feelings that made me feel comfortable I wasn’t invading her privacy. I ended up deleting those posts but the site remains as part of my Blogger account, which still exists.
On Thursday, February 23, 2006 I began writing again, posting to a blog I called “The Cranky Curmudgeon”, and I posted to that site on and off until 2014. Since I started this WordPress blog on January 7, 2008 there’s been some overlap, especially when I was using Amplify to post and share my content. So I have some content that’s on my curmudgeonly site and nowhere else and I have some that’s on both. What I propose to do is move the stuff that only exists there, and post it with a bit of explanation, if I feel it’s necessary.
I introduced “The Cranky Curmudgeon” with the following description:
Ever notice how many assholes there are in this world? I mean besides you? Chances are you’re a selfish jerk; there’s so damn many of them around wherever you go. OK. Maybe not you. After all, here you are reading my humble little mini-screeds. But, you have to admit, there are tons of ’em out there. Right? I just want to point ’em out and give ’em the verbal thrashing they deserve. I’ve pretty much given up on people becoming more thoughtful, so I figured I might as well just vent.
As you might be able to tell, I had a few “observations” I wished to make and had decided blogging would be a wonderful way to get them off my chest. In retrospect, I often wonder if I really cared that much or if I was misguided or, most likely, I’m just a garden variety asshole who doesn’t give people enough leeway and respect to be human. Regardless, the writings are mine and I’m pretty sure they were heartfelt and genuine when written. In fact, I’m pretty sure the majority of them still represent my feelings about life.
This first one came about because it really did happen often and what bothered me most was the continuous display of thoughtlessness and apparent total disregard for courtesy and decency, which is somewhat of a recurring theme from my curmudgeonly side. I have chosen not to edit these posts, though I may soon write a book which could include some parts that I will no doubt edit. Here’s numero uno.
Originally Posted 23 February 2006
My Old Personal Logo – Yinning & Yangging
Here’s one of my pet peeves though, truth to tell, I’ve got a lot of them. I’m no longer the pedal to the metal kind of driver I used to be. Sometimes I get back the urge and take advantage of the fact that the freeway I use to get to and from work generally travels (in the fast lane) at speed in excess of 80 mph. Most of the time, however, I like to hang back in the slow lane and just accept the fact I’ll be a minute or two later than if I jammed for the ten miles I need to get to my offramp.
So, here’s what really pisses me off. Why is it folks who have been content to drive along behind a truck for the last mile or so, suddenly decide to pull out in front of me, even though there is no one behind me and they have to know they’re going to cause me to slow down?
I don’t expect them to put together the fact that we’re going uphill and I don’t exactly have a muscle car, so they’re definitely impacting my world. But there’s nobody behind me! Why the fuck can’t they wait that extra moment for me to pass? This is especially egregious when I’m using my cruise control to conserve a little gas and make my drive even less stressful, because I then have to change lanes (if there’s nobody coming up on us), step on the brake, or hold the coast button down. Either way, it’s an unnecessary pain in the ass caused by a rude, thoughtless asshole who obviously was the only freaking person on the road.
I find a lot of people are incredibly thoughtless and inconsiderate; frequently rude, selfish, and amazingly unconcerned for the people they share the road (or the planet, for that matter) with. There are no laws against it, of course, though it seems all of our social and religious philosophies decry this kind of behavior. Yet the world is filled with pigs and dickheads. I don’t get it. Maybe I never will. I also don’t like it and I will never, ever get over it.
I’m going to try and figure out how to better understand why it’s so and how to counter it. I hope there are folks out there who can contribute to this effort. Regardless, I want to fight against, and marginalize this kind of behavior, especially when it comes from people who think they are thoughtful and respectful. I’m also going to point it out in every way I see it, whether it’s some jerk throwing trash out of his car, or a shopper leaving their cart in the middle of a parking space. More to come.
I have often said I spent over two decades – the entire length of my career at Rocketdyne – trying to get Engineering to talk to Information Technology; two different groups of geeks, each of which thought they were superior to the other.
I didn’t work on it full time, and it wasn’t my job to get them talking, but had I been successful it would have made my job a lot easier. I worked at being a voice of reconciliation between them. It’s in my nature. I was not successful; at least not overall.
Now, the difficulty in getting these two organizations (we called them “Processes”, as opposed to “Functions” or “Departments”) to talk to each other, was deeply ingrained in the culture of that enterprise. Part of the problem stemmed from the way we, as an enterprise, were organized. When I first arrived there in 1987, we were heavily command-and-control and pathologically hierarchical. There were kingdoms; fiefdoms, if you will and very few people thought further ahead than their own careers and organizations.
I’m happy to say things improved pretty dramatically over the years. One reason was the tireless efforts of a group of people, led by Dr. Bill Bellows, to apply the concepts and tools of thought leaders like W. Edwards Deming, Russell Ackoff, Edward de Bono, and many others to the way we did business. The term Dr. Bellows used for many years was Enterprise Thinking.
What made this way of thinking stand out, in my opinion, was its recognition of the systemic nature of an organization, an enterprise. It was clearly understood that all things – all processes or departments – were interconnected. Nothing in an enterprise exists by itself, outside the system(s) with which it interacts.
When you can clearly see this, suddenly you recognize how counter-productive it can be to blame people for things that go wrong, as well as expect individuals to make things work properly, which brings me back to the Engineering and IT departments I so futilely attempted to arbitrate for, as well as the title of this post.
Civility in Argument
Although I am guilty of it myself at times . . . I’m working on it . . . I don’t believe it is productive to blame others and, especially, to completely alienate them by using labels like “Idiot” or “Moron”. This is true whether you’re working together at an enterprise and – ostensibly – you share the same basic vision and goals, or you are on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum when it comes to how you think the country and the economy should be run.
I started writing this to make a point about the level of incivility I find at times on the Internet, especially in the comments of non-moderated news sites. Even the moderated ones contain some really argumentative and, at times, nasty comments. As I worked on what I was trying to say, the tragedy in Aurora played out and, true to form, the arguments between those who believe the second amendment is sacrosanct and those who wish to see access to guns more regulated are heating up.
My original intention was to point out how I have been able to get along with many very conservative people in my life, especially when we live and work together and see each other face-to-face on a fairly regular basis. I have long said that locally, in terms of how our cities and neighborhoods are run, we all want essentially the same things, e.g. safe neighborhoods, good schools, jobs, access to health care, etc.
I seldom have anyone disagree with this and it doesn’t surprise me. The problems seem to arise when we start talking about more abstract affairs; the economy, foreign relations, use of the military. Yet, I find with the people I know best we’re able to disagree without labeling each other as morons or idiots. We disagree but, somehow, we manage to continue getting things done together and not getting into actual fights over who’s right or how best to accomplish something.
I suppose this is one of our biggest problems in this country. Many of us have the tendency to ascribe the worst of motives to those they disagree with. I’m inclined to think that’s not a very good way to work together and achieve anything other than a continuous standoff. It seems that’s precisely how our government is now being run and it does not portend well for us as a nation. I’d like to see it stop.
A Taste of the Future
I have seldom written about politics or civic affairs here, but they weigh heavily on me. I have two young girls my wife and I adopted from China. I worry about the future they face here, where everything seems to be falling apart. I want to leave them a better world than I found as I was growing up and it sure as hell looks like that’s going to be a tall order.
I’ll leave this particular post with one thought and I will no doubt have more to say in the future . . . especially now that I’ve sort of broken the ice (not very well). Ironically, given I live in Simi Valley – still notorious for its role in the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police Officers who beat Rodney King, the thought that comes most readily to mind is, “Can’t we all just get along?” I know it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it is something to wonder about. It happens quite frequently in real-life, on the ground . . . as they say.
Listening to only minor excerpts (and some exceptional analysis on KPFK Pacifica Radio) I find myself absolutely incensed at the arrogance of the people who caused the financial meltdown and who gladly took our tax dollars, ostensibly to keep the economy afloat, and are now proceeding to pay themselves handsomely for their indiscretions.
Listen . . . I’m doing OK. I didn’t get caught up – at least not directly – in the mortgage fiasco and I’m lucky enough to have a job that probably isn’t going anywhere, but what about all the people who’ve lost so much? Even if they were a bit greedy (or where they just reacting logically to a society that preaches the ethos of looking out for oneself and the hell with everyone else?), I don’t think they deserve this kind of disrespect and the uncertainty that so many face right now . . . with no end in sight.
But I have to ask, where’s the anger? Why aren’t people really paying attention to how we’re being played. Though I think Phil Angelides probably has the best of intentions, I think his commission is going to end up toothless and, once again, the high-rollers of Wall Street are going to scoop their ill-gained winnings off the table and we’re going to be left wondering what happened? Where are the pitchforks? Why aren’t more people demanding accountability? Where’s the call for bringing back the guillotine?
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.