Saturday, July 30, 2011

Again, Done and Learned

Larry’s Number One Rule For Life and Business:
Do what you said you would do,
When you said you would do it,
The way you said you would do it.
Larry Winget

My last posting to “take stock” of this essay site, Done and Learned, back in March 2011, was nearly 30 essays ago.

You ask: What’s new? Well, I’ve had the honor of having an essay translated into French. And not for France or Canada: For the US. This I know because I was translated over 75 times, while my statistics feature shows very few hits from France. So I know the translations are being done in the US, probably by a French class, while using the Google translation feature… To have a machine capable of translating languages is an old dream of science fiction, a dream especially poignant in Canada where we have not one but two official languages. I didn’t know the dream had been achieved: Isn’t anyone shouting it from the rooftops? Machines aren’t perfect; it translated the noun “mundanes,” a slang term I used, as being capitalized. But still, an amazing translation.

The translated essay was one that would appeal to young students, Japanese Anime Cartoons. I explained to the mundanes that not all cultures view cartoons as being for laughter or solely for children. It was one of my less artsy, straightforward essays, and maybe that’s a lesson for me: be less artsy. I could have helped the kids by immediately posting another teen oriented essay, such as Man and Girl, from my life before the age of tricky on-line predators, about me and young love… But, and it’s a big but, none of the hypothetical students, nor their teacher(s) could be bothered to write a comment on my essay-blog about what was going on. So then I couldn’t be bothered either. (Maybe in October I’ll post)

Over the last few days I’ve had at least 10 translations into yet another language, for yet another piece, one that touches on citizenship and why our friends from non-democracies, including visible minorities, don’t “get it,” and how they don’t join the volunteers in the National Guard.  That’s New Citizens and Soldiers from June 2013.

Such reservists, like many anime lovers, tend to be in their late teens and early twenties. When I was that age, before the web, I had a network of young ladies I would call up to socialize with. Ah, those long telephone calls of youth, remember? If I called and got an answering machine, and if I hadn’t called for any particular reason, then I would be embarrassed and just hang up. Not anymore. One day a young woman let me know she just dies of curiosity if she doesn’t know who called. I decided right then and there that my embarrassment was not more important than some one “just dying.”

Today, it seems to me, the same principle applies to translations. Even if there are only a few of you, about 10, in a community center learning about good citizenship, and you feel embarrassed about it, then you could still say “hello” to the writer in his comment section… Because I would at least like to know what language it is!

So what else is new? Since I write in English, you would expect that I would get more hits from the US, with its bigger population, than from Canada. And I do. But only since about the time of my last “taking stock” (Done and Learned) essay. (Before that I had more Canadians) What’s happened? Did Google change an algorithm? I suspect the web is not as level, nor as anonymous, as Google would like to pretend. I first began to suspect information was being kept on web users when I began to see how the advertisements that popped up were suspiciously local. Since then I’ve seen a newspaper article confirming this Orwellian spying.

I’ve noticed now that I always get a few hits from the US very soon after each new posting. Perhaps I am on some RSS feeds (The feed is like an e-mailed Google search page)

Also new is attracting a few people like me: Since my last taking stock essay, judging by my stats, a few people have been motivated to go through my archives to read old essays. I do that too, for my favorite essayists. (Who are listed in Surfing Essays in Feb 2011) It’s nice to think that a few others are  "keeners,"enthusiasts for essays, too.

At work I enjoy hanging out with the keeners. In our personal lives, of course, we choose different hobbies; we are all keen about different things. Same with our lives as citizens. Except for… going to war… If the nation doesn’t all get keen, if a war is not taken seriously, then, whether people at home realize it or not, they are being damaged. Why aren’t Americans together? And why aren’t they doing what they said they would do? Perhaps their trumpet blew a soft uncertain note. Perhaps the people did not think enough, or get “grounded” before their declaration of war.

They shouldn’t blame their government. As an executive said when planning a revolution, in my own words, “We have enough work to do trying to organize the underground, we can’t be worrying about propaganda as well. Let that be done by others. Besides, if the people don’t already know why we are rebelling, then there’s no good reason for us to revolt.” (See footnote)

So where is the US American’s sense of propaganda, urgency or interest? I have sympathy for them: In my lifetime, starting with the war on poverty, which was declared in congress one day in the1960’s, I have seen the US lose more wars than in all the previous generations combined. I can understand Americans not wanting to see themselves, yet again, as quitters or losers. But still, they need to step up and take responsibility, not leave the issue hanging. Perhaps they could “save face” by re-framing their war on terror, even if all they did was change the label to being a “campaign against terror.” As it is, after a certain essay of mine in April, I don’t know if the US people are all wimping out, or if blogosphere folks are abnormally apathetic. (I don’t have enough Internet experience yet to know)

According to several newspaper reports, President Obama may be hoping the issue will quietly die out: He has never uttered the phrase “war on terror.” Well, let’s hope he never takes up playing the trumpet… Here is a quote from my essay in April:
By this point I can imagine some U.S. reader sputtering indignantly, “Drinking water! (sputter) plausible denia—(sputter)… Are you crazy? Listen, Americans are really smart and really responsible—so there!”

At which I can only reply, as gently as I can, “All of my readers are responsible. And you, dear reader, may well prove me wrong. Go ahead: try the “citizen thing.” Go to your downtown library, or bookstore, and ask them to include a war on terror section. Tell them how your fellow citizens want to seek out new information, new concepts, and boldly put their actions where their commitment is… I am sorry to say I think you will fail… Then you may write a comment here to tell the rest of us what happened.”

Since April I have referred my readers to that page from several other essays. The response? Nothing. At. All.

What’s new for me is learning something I regret to say: Perhaps Americans… don’t deserve my support. Perhaps I’m foolish to have spend my time composing some essays at the intersection of democracy and terror. It’s too bad. I still have deep sympathy for those who have lost loved ones. (When a boy I knew was killed in action I took time off work) As for me, at the risk of losing my spirit… perhaps I will declare a separate peace.

Sean Crawford
Wiser but sadder
July 30, 2011
The “in my own words” part is based on a book, central to my December 2010 essay The Brass Cannon, entitled The Moon in a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. 

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