Virtual Bourgeois

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Random Stuff

Posted by Gerald on July 30, 2008

This was one of those days when I had real doubts about the reported high and heat index.  It was supposedly only 87 with a heat index of 90, but it felt worse.  The air was dead.  My grass was cut at about 11:00 am and when I got back from the office at nearly 6 pm the smell of gas fumes was still thick enough to choke on.  It was a day when it felt like my skin was burning each time I went out and the normally frosty AC in my car couldn’t keep pace.  In other words, it was icky.

I’ve been re-experiencing some old favorites even though I don’t have enough time to read all of the new books I have.  I’m not sure if that is just my version of American consumerism or if there is some profound insight about the human condition there.

I’ve gone from an almost instinctive rejection of the movie “Fight Club” when it first came out to thinking it is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.  Again, here I am finding insight into the human condition.  Or not.

I saw “The Dark Knight” this weekend.  I was again impressed by Nolan’s take on this “franchise”.  He isn’t afraid to leave behind the standard palette of the superhero film.  Ledger’s Joker is more outrageous than Nicholson’s without being anywhere near as self-indulgent or immature.  He is a trickster.  He is Iago.  A friend who was with me felt the film was too long, and I’m struggling with that.  I felt like I’d seen two very good movies with the same basic themes – transformation and moral ambiguity.  The success of this movie gives me some hope that audiences might be ready for a faithful adaptation of “Watchmen.”

My friend Steve at “Semeotikos” has started a multi-part blog post on a mutual obsession of ours – “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  No, this isn’t about my being pervy or nerdy – not that I’m not both at times.  Check it out here.

Posted in Movies, Personal, thoughts | 1 Comment »

Removing the “Guy Time” Post

Posted by Gerald on April 20, 2008

Some have argued that rational thought makes us human, others that it is the capacity to feel love, or to use tools, or to exist in a world of meaning.  All of these have some validity.  However, I’d like to make another contribution to that list.

The desire, need, and ability to occasionally edit makes us human.

For the first time in the year – roughly – that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve decided to remove a post.  I removed “Guy Time” because after reading Bridgett’s comment I started to realize that it was a bad piece of writing.  It didn’t really capture the events I was relating or my ideas about them so much as the generally foul mood I was in as I wrote the post.  The foul mood was mostly a result of a bad night’s sleep combined with hay fever and an end-of-the-semester case of ennui.

In the post I tried to tell about something that was actually quite funny at the time.  As I’ve mentioned before, all of my colleagues in the social science department are women.  One of those women had a birthday this week.  We are a pretty tight group and we always do departmental lunches to celebrate such things.

The location for this lunch was suddenly changed on Friday morning to “Miss Rose’s Tea Room” – and not at the request, or even with the knowledge of, the guest of honor.  I began theatrically, and loudly, complaining about this as an assault on my manhood.  My colleagues found this hysterical, so it became the running joke of the morning.

I work with a group of strong and confident women who trust me enough to be pretty open and relaxed around me.  They also constantly rib me about this stuff – everything from talking about how “Gerald’s gone to his ‘happy place'” when the conversation turns to birth complication horror stories to calling me the “pimp daddy” of the department and referring to “Gerald and his Ho’s”

Just as an aside: I NEVER say any of the stuff about “pimps” and “ho’s”.  To this I attribute the continuing good will of my co-workers and, indeed, my ongoing survival.  A little lesson to some of my white male brethren who might not have figured this out – history being what it has been, there are some jokes we do not get to make.

Pressing onward with the story – we went to lunch.  The venue was very “Steel Magnolias” and the owner laughed loudly when she heard me tell the others that I might forgive them eventually for bringing me here.  That got a solid laugh, but I judged that at that point the joke was wearing out, so I just dropped it.  Lunch was fine, if a bit pricey.

Afterwards we went back to campus and immediately into our division’s annual program review session – powerpoints, enrollment levels, what did we accomplish this year, what should we do next year, etc…  It was in the course of this that the grandmother of the division, an elderly English instructor with the kind of wicked sense of humor you only develop by successfully living a life, inadvertently referred to the “history ladies”.  Almost immediately she caught that and started to offer an apology.  I had immediately crossed gazes with Allison, my history colleague, and we were both already snickering since this fit so well into the morning’s jokes.  Even those who didn’t know about that caught the minor faux pas and the room started erupting in laughter.  I loudly protested, “See – ONE trip to the tea room and look what happens!!!”  Everyone laughed and then we finished the meeting.

As one would expect, I kept hearing about this all afternoon.  I think that was where the trouble began.

I was tired and increasingly uncomfortable (sinus headache) as the day went on.  With each mention by someone who wasn’t there, what had been funny started to seem irritating.  Still, I knew it was just me feeling out of sorts, so I dutifully chuckled and kept my mouth shut.  Right up until the blog post, when what started as a story turned into a rant.

In the course of that rant, I said something about the culture wanting me to be ashamed of being male.  Bridgett rightly called me on this, asking if I really thought there was an “attack on maleness” in the dominant culture.  I don’t.  What I was thinking about at that moment was the nearly universal depiction of men in sitcoms as horny sports-obsessed morons and how that doesn’t fit me, my late father, or any of my male friends.  Still, I don’t really see an attack on “maleness” there.  If anything, this probably serves to excuse bad behavior as a kind of cultural reinforcement of “boy will be boys.”

I think that, like a lot of men with my level of education and set of beliefs about gender, I am sometimes caught between being comfortable enough with WHO I am but somewhat ambivalent about what it means to be WHAT I am.  Call it white male liberal guilt if you are feeling dismissive.  I’ve learned there is patriarchy and, wittingly or not, I’ve benefited from it.  I’ve learned there is a racial hierarchy and, wittingly or not, I’ve benefited from it.  I cannot divorce myself from the historical context any more than anyone else can.  That is what I am.  Integrating that awareness into who I am and being able to live with the result is an ongoing issue for me, and I’d be willing to bet I’m not alone in that.

So, in a supreme moment of “crotchetiness” I got into the written equivalent of that point in a verbal argument where you stop trying to be reasonable and you just start venting.  My purpose in writing this blog is mostly selfish.  It is a modernist journal.  When inspired to write, I write.  Then I do minor copy-editing and I hit “publish”.  This is as close as I get to an act of spontaneous creativity.  I had to think all night before pulling the “Guy Time” post because it seems to violate that.  On the other hand, I’ve not written another post that I looked at later and really felt didn’t represent me, even my flaws, in an accurate way.  It was intellectually sloppy.  I don’t think that is me.

So I pulled it and I’m still not sure I did the right thing.

Posted in Personal, thoughts | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Fall Opening Session

Posted by Gerald on August 10, 2007

We’ve had three straight days of record breaking high temperatures here.  Given that we are talking about NC in August, record-breaking has meant three days with triple-digit highs and high humidity to boot.  This the major reason why I’ve been a bit quiet these days.

Today was our big opening session.  As always we had a big assembly of faculty and staff.  Our president gave us a motivational and informational talk.  Then all the new employees were introduced to the group – including the two very cool women who have joined my department.

Then we recognized a truly remarkable member of our staff who is beginning her well-earned retirement.  As Faculty Senate President it was my job to present her with one of a series of limited edition prints of the main art and sciences classroom building on campus and then to say a little something.  I totally bungled and forgot to get the print, but luckily for me there are people around me who pick up my fumbles – and I like to think I occasionally pick up some of theirs (my use of a football metaphor here is incredibly strange for me and requires some reflection on my part.)  This is one of the things I like about the place I work.  We have our problems but there is a real sense of community.  In any case I had the print and didn’t spoil the moment and managed to think of something to say when the microphone was passed to me.  We also passed out certificates for everyone who was nominated for our excellence in teaching award.  Again, this was partly my job.  Since I’m really loud I was calling people’s names and helping hand them the certificates as they came up.  That went fine.  Then we had another informational thing (we’re making plans just in case we have our own version of the shootings at Va. Tech. – I have a theory that all such plans are in vain but I still see the need for them.)

Then it was time for the main event.  Two older white guys (and I’m entering my mid-40s) were going to tell us how to become “Totally Responsible Persons” (TRP).  They have trademarked that.  I’m not kidding.  This went on for the next four hours – until 2:30 with a rigidly enforced 30-minute lunch break.

My good friend over at Semiotikos was also in attendance.  You can read his reactions here.

The gist of this thing was that we all need to take total responsibility for our actions and our emotional state.  The whole thing was presented via numerous homilies worthy of Dr. Phil.  The thing is there were several ideas I agreed with.

It is certainly common to place agency about one’s emotional state elsewhere – “She made me angry” – and then use that to justify actions – “so I smacked her a good one.”   That is wrong.  You cannot control your emotional reaction to something, but you can almost always exert control over what you then do to express the emotion.  Fine.  My grandmother taught me that.  My father used to frequently say “engage brain before starting mouth” – and to himself as often as to others.  His point was to think before acting. 

Our attitudes are reflected back by the people around us.  Again one of Dad’s little aphorisms – “if you look around and see nothing but assholes, you are probably looking in a mirror” – sprang immediately to mind.

Every single thing these guys said that I agreed had some validity was also something I learned as a child.  I do not think I am unusual in this.  Why in the hell did I need two corporate rah-rah types to waste four hours of my life telling me this?  I became very angry as this drew on (actually, to be “totally responsible”, I was rather ticked going in.)  First, I had perfectly serviceable parents.  They taught me things.  Second, I am quite capable of a certain amount of self-awareness and self-criticism.  Third, it is NOT the place of my EMPLOYERS to interfere in my personal moral and spiritual development.  Fourth, why in the hell should I give credence to “personal” advice given to a group of 150 people?  Advice given by two guys who hawk “no whining” watches and signs on their website?

A few people from our faculty and staff had attended the full six-hour version of the workshop and raved about it.  Hence the college ponied up the money to pay these guys (but will not fund the Scholar’s Program).  I wonder if this is what they LIKED so much about it.  They had already heard all of this before so it just confirmed what they already thought.  Different wording makes it seem all new – like a discovery that tells you you were right all along.  It works in writing best-selling books and national politics, so why not here?

I was also repeatedly struck by certain things about the rhetoric being used in this presentation.  One of my colleagues summed it up well when she wrote me a note saying “Subtle racism and sexism is alive and well.”

I agree with her summation…

… except, maybe, the subtle part.

In talking about choosing one’s reaction to emotional stimuli these guys kept going back to a “straw girl” they built starting out.  They talked about a mythical teenage girl who argues with her parents and gets very emotional but then immediately switches states when she gets a call from “the cute boy she likes.”  They then “validated” this with an appeal to the vox populi infomercial-style – “Parents, am I right?”

Hmmm… Using a teen-aged girl as an example of false emotional reactions.  Repeatedly.

In fact any time these guys wanted to illustrate a person “letting their emotions take control”, it was a woman.

Then there was the story about the Latina woman who wanted to slam the door in her house to show how angry she was but couldn’t because it was a sliding door (point – her physical manifestation of emotion was simply a “victim ploy”).  This was told by a 60s-ish white guy doing her dialog with an assumed accent.

Let us not pass unnoticed the “skit” they performed where the shorter one wrapped a piece of plastic around his head like a scarf and they then had a “domestic spat.”  The gender stereotypes were flying thick and fast.  The three women I was sitting with became quiet and stone-faced during this and I felt moved to proffer an apology on behalf of my gender – which they were nice enough to accept.

One of the presenters told a story about how Colin Powell was told he was the “best Black lieutenant in the Army. ”  He responded by saying nothing and striving to be the best lieutenant in the Army period.  I have no right to judge whether that was an appropriate response to subtle racism (for the time) or not – neither do those two white guys.  They argued, however, that another response – such as direct confrontation – would have been succumbing to a “victim mentality”

They wrapped things up be talking about Jackie Robinson.  The same point was being made as in the Powell section – direct and angry confrontation in response to injustice would have been “being a victim” whereas accepting abuse with grace is not.

Oh, and a little rhetorical point for my fellow white guys.  We do NOT get to repeatedly use the phrase “keeping his eyes on the prize” while praising how black people handle our racism.

I’m not arguing that the Powell or Robinson response was “wrong.”  I’m arguing it is A response and that there are other ones just as valid – including an immediate confrontation.  My real point is that there was a constant suggestion that those facing injustice and oppression in our society should respond by continuing to obey the rules.  Don’t challenge the system but change how you choose to react to it.

Their fawning praise of the parasitical Warren Buffet also fit into this.

As my friend points out in his blog this whole thing was a celebration of the mythologies of the American Dream.  You are an autonomous individual.  You can free yourself from any outside control by deciding that those things don’t control you (they used Viktor Frankl talking about how the Nazis could never take away the freedom of his own mind in support of this.)  Add this to their quotes about how complaining about being poor is just buying into victim mentality and you have a psychobabble justification for economic inequality.  It isn’t that the system is unfair – that is just taking the victim role.  Grab them bootstraps and pull yourself up boy!  (you can do the cooking, little lady.)

Finally, we also had a long thing about “victim language” – like “you hurt my feelings”.  Then there were the enablers and the rescuers.  The enabler responds with sympathy and the rescuer tries to fix the problem for the victim.

Again, there is some truth here.  Too much sympathy or support can be an attempt to rob a person of their own agency.  They can be about the power of the enabler or rescuer rather than the problem of the victim.

Still, the ham-fisted presentation basically said that any offer of empathy that wasn’t based in individualized problem-solving is victimization.

Today’s Lessons:

The response to everyone else’s problems should be “Cowboy up and deal with it yourself.”

and

Compassion is for the weak.

I was struck shortly after escaping this place by the idea that this all seemed very familiar.  Then I realized where I had seen this played out recently – I watched the dvd of 300 a few nights ago.

Anyone for a Totally Responsible Spartan?

I could simply go on for hours – but I’m sure we will all be doing that around the office next week.

Posted in autobiographical, community colleges, Personal, thoughts | 2 Comments »

My Real Addiction

Posted by Gerald on August 5, 2007

This has been the last real weekend off before the semester and I have been vegging above and beyond the norm.  Of course next weekend I’ll probably come up with another reason for doing nothing productive.  Until then I shall let tomorrows rationalizations rationalize tomorrow – or something like that.

Yesterday was mostly reading and playing some Civ 4.  I hadn’t been playing any computer games for several months, but I have started again over the last few days.  I must stop.  If there is an area of my life where I’ve displayed addictive tendencies it has been with these sorts of games.  I first noticed this when I was little.

When I was a kid we used to go “camping” in the summer.  My parent’s (and extended family’s) version of camping was to haul a travel trailer to a campground not far from where we lived and live in them for a few weeks.  My parents and I and some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would all do this together.  Who had the biggest and nicest trailer became a version of intra-family social warfare.  During the week the adults (including both of my parents – mom always worked) would go into work and if there were non-working adults to supervise we kids could spend the day at the park (if not I would spend the day where I usually did the rest of the time – with my grandparents).  The first place we did this in was called Pioneer State Park and it was right on the shore of Lake Michigan.  This area was somewhat unusual because it had sand dunes.  After a few years, and for reasons that were not explained to me – I think I was seven or so – we stopped going there and started going to a place called White River Campground.  Therein lies the tale.

I used to enjoy playing on the beach at Pioneer, but there was no beach at White River.  There was a swimming pool but I never really learned to swim.  Dad tried to teach me that first summer – an experience that left him frustrated and angry and me absolutely terrified.  This was about 1969 or 1970 and the idea that you should teach children to swim BEFORE they develop a fear of the water had not been communicated to dad.  Still, I could ride my bike – which I lived on at that age – and my cousins and I found this little wading pool near the eponymous White River that was full of plants and crayfish but also had the benefit of being far from prying parental eyes.  We weren’t actually doing anything they couldn’t see, but that wasn’t the point.  We had fun, until during our second summer there the wading pool was discovered and the parental group jointly decided to ban it as “too dangerous.”  A few punishments for trying to sneak down there later, we were back to just riding bikes, which is fun, but can get old after awhile.

This takes us to the game shack.

There was a small outbuilding with three or four pinball machines.  At that point I couldn’t have cared less.  I didn’t really start playing pinball until I lived in Iowa City.  What caught me was a game called “Desert Fox”.  Before I describe this, remember that this is around 1971.  “Pong” was about to be released but I wouldn’t actually see a working version of it for about five years.  This was an arcade game, but not a computer game.  In “Desert Fox” you put in a quarter, a light projected through a painting of a desert with tanks on it.  The painting scrolled down the screen and you used a joystick to move a gun-sight back and forth while firing at the tanks.  The sight only moved along the x-y axis and when you “fired” a little red light would depict gun-flashes and a machine gun noise would sound.  When you hit a tank the whole thing flashed red and there was a bang.  If you hit enough tanks, you got a free game.

After awhile I could – and did – play for three hours on a single quarter.

Then mom found out and I was banned from the game hut as well.

The story doesn’t really pick up again until I moved to Iowa City.  It was there that I purchased my first PC.  Then I discovered Harpoon (a modern naval warfare simulator), then Doom, then the original Civilization… and way too many other to count.  The big ones recently have been Civ 4, the Medal of Honor games, and Oblivion.

I think this is a real addiction.

When I am in these I can lose days of my life.  I will keep playing late when I know I’ve got to get up in the morning.  I will play when I have significant work to do.  In the past, I had even begged out on social occasions just to keep playing.

This isn’t as bad as it used to be, but I can still get lost in these games.  The thing that really makes me think that this is a problem for me is that I KNOW that I feel better after a day of – say – reading, listening to music, and even blogging – but I will still light the damned game up.  I will tell myself I’m only going to play for awhile – and sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don’t.  I’ve taken them off of my computer.  I’ve thrown them away.  But then I hear about another cool game and I buy it.

I don’t think this is really damaging my life but I do not think it is helping either.  I wrote this to try to head off a lost evening and it seems to be doing the trick.  I do not feel the urge I did earlier to play the game.

If I start jonesing again tonight I’ll write a review of the Bourne Ultimatum.  I saw it with some friends this afternoon.  If not, I’ll probably write the review tomorrow.

Posted in autobiographical, Personal, thoughts | 3 Comments »

Being Responsible

Posted by Gerald on July 31, 2007

I made it in to the office today.  I was a bit later than I had intended, but I spent the morning getting all the bills paid that I could (today is payday and since I have automatic deposit my money appears in my account at around midnight – go to bed broke and wake up flush).  All in all, I’m having a very responsible day.  I went out to lunch with three of my colleagues in the Social Science department, including my new fellow history teacher.  She is going to fit in with our weird little family just fine.  The new joke is that I have a “harem” now since I am the only man left in the department – a joke I am careful NOT to make.  I wonder if women make up a larger percentage of community college faculties than they do university faculties?  Maybe a reflection of the gender disparaties between elementary and secondary education?  Certainly there is a preponderance of women on the faculty here – not just in my department.

Today I’m working on some fairly radical changes to how I’ve taught my western civ courses over the last few years, and I am drafting lesson plans to reflect them.  At the same time, I’m also trying to draft a new constitution for our Faculty Senate.  I am trying to decide whether I should try to float the idea of some sort of “faculty association fee” that might give the Senate some money to use for social stuff and to help finance the honors program here – one of my other present concerns.  The study of history has taught me many things, but at the top of the list are a) the power of humans to engage in self-serving rationalization is staggering (not significant here, but it is the greatest truth I’ve discovered in studying history) and b) no one EVER likes paying taxes (much more to the point).  There are other things I’ve learned, but I’d put these as my top two.  Having a budget would be cool.  Getting royally reamed for daring suggest it would not be cool.  I’m on the fence, but I need to crawl off in the next couple of weeks.

All of this means I’m doing a lot of coffee sipping and making notes on a legal pad while listening to The Decemberists.  I’m not sure if any of this qualifies as progress, but at least I’m working.

Which is good, right?

Posted in community colleges, Personal, thoughts | Leave a Comment »

Boston

Posted by Gerald on July 20, 2007

Some friends of mine just got back from a trip to Boston.  Today my friend and colleague Julie is packing up her kids and driving up there to visit family for a couple of weeks.  I’ve never been anywhere in the Northeast since going to Niagara Falls when I was five.  As a full-bore history nerd, there are all kinds of places up there I’d love to see.  I haven’t taken a vacation longer than over a Labor Day weekend in ten years.

I think I’m going to take a vacation next summer and I think I’m going to go to Boston.

Posted in thoughts | 3 Comments »

George Bush Augustus

Posted by Gerald on July 20, 2007

This has got to be the most astonishing thing I’ve heard from this White House, and damn that is saying something.  The administration will not allow the US Attorney to pursue contempt charges in any case where the President has invoked executive privilege – because that is the end of the argument as far as the executive is concerned.  In essence, the President gets to define his own powers.

Read about it here.

I particularly like the rationale of a “unitary executive” in which the US Attorneys are “emanations of the President’s Will.”  Why is it that these so called “strict-constructionist” Neo-Cons are so enamored with autocracy.  Even if the American Presidency is supposed to have been modeled on the British Monarchy (or so they claim), the 18th C. British kings were LIMITED monarchs.

I always knew these guys think George Bush is LIKE a Roman Emperor – I didn’t realize they think he IS a Roman Emperor.

Posted in America, Bush administration, Congress, Constitution, Federal Courts, law, news, opinion, politics, thoughts, United States | Leave a Comment »

I Saw Sicko

Posted by Gerald on July 18, 2007

Rather than my usual Wednesday evening at home, I joined some good friends for dinner and a movie.  The film was Sicko.  I liked the movie.  Being one of the godless, America-hating, treasonous liberal hordes I’ve enjoyed Michael Moore’s films, although I do feel that at times he lets himself get in the way of the message.  I didn’t see so much of that here.  The themes have been well-explored elsewhere – this is an examination of the problems with the American health care system.  Like Moore’s other efforts, though, there is also an examination of what America is.

Two themes really emerged.  The first, and the one that is really still echoing inside me, is disillusionment.  The people he looked at in this film were folks that worked hard, played by the rules, payed for insurance because they were told that was how you protect yourself and your family, and were well and truly screwed by HMOs and the medical industry.  It is easy to criticize these people for being naive when they talk about how they thought “insurance companies were there to help people.”  Then again, that is exactly what the companies say, and that is the only option any of us are given to deal with health crises.  The disillusionment grows as Moore compares our system with those in Canada, Britain, France, and – ultimately – Cuba.  It is true that Moore tend to gloss over some of the difficulties associated with those systems, but still one cannot but feel disappointed in our country by comparison.

The other theme is the glory and the poison of this society – individualism.  Moore keeps asking how we can have a system where people are denied life-saving treatments, where inadequate effort is given to preventing people from getting sick to begin with, and where hospitals send indigent patients in cabs to “skid row” medical clinics because they cannot pay.  The answers point at corporations and government, but ultimately they point at us.  We have swallowed the American Delusion of individual success.  We have rejected the idea that we have any duties to other people just because they are in our community.  We ask “why should I have to pay for her problems.”  The Conservatives have sold most of this country on the idea that no one should have to do anything for anyone else as a matter of duty – only of choice.  They did so by playing on the core values of Americans – individual rights, freedom, and success (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)

Moore’s final conclusion isn’t original but it is no less true for that – we won’t solve the health care problem, or any other of our problems, until we start thinking of “us” rather than “me.”

Posted in American culture, film, Movies, opinion, politics, thoughts | 2 Comments »

Another Ongoing Crime

Posted by Gerald on July 17, 2007

The Swiss government is going to return $6.6 million in frozen assets to The Democratic Republic of Congo.  This is money from accounts held by the late Joseph Mobutu (or Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga.)

This number might be impressive if most estimates didn’t place Mobutu’s assets at over $1 billion or more (perhaps considerably more.)  Mobutu has become the poster-boy of corrupt authoritarian leaders in Africa.  Some critics maintain that he was stealing more from Zaire on an annual basis than the west was supplying in aid.  Unofficial numbers have placed his wealth at $5 billion.  In 1997, the Kabila government claimed he had $7.7 billion dollars in Swiss banks.  After his death that year, Swiss banking authorities claimed he only had $3.4 million in the country.  Today’s story doesn’t explain where they found the other $3.2 million – maybe in the back of Eichmann’s old safety deposit box.  Even at the time, Socialist politicians in Switzerland accused the banks and government regulators of hiding funds for their old client.

Whatever the true figure of the money Mobutu stole from his country, this whole thing demonstrates a wider problem.  If the Swiss were complicit in Mobutu’s crimes, well, so was everyone else.  The western democracies and media will shake their heads and piously condemn the “tragedy” in Africa – but will never own up to their own complicity in that tragedy.  Mobutu got support from the U.S. because of the Cold War, he got support from European governments because of regional power maneuvers.  All of the above were willing to turn a blind eye toward his government’s action if it meant their nation’s corporations would get access to Congolese natural resources.  Even while complaining of the instability of leaders like Mobutu, western business has been ready to work with them as long as there was a good chance of extracting wealth and as long as the African government was willing to help out with access to labor and to keep that labor in line.

Even with the increasing gap between the rich and everyone else here in the US, every American except the poorest of the poor is substantially benefiting from living in a society that consumes the majority of the world’s raw resources in a given year.  Many of those resources – especially minerals that help make the computer I’m writing this on right now – come from places not that much different from Mobutu’s Congo.  Not all of the blame for Africa’s problems can be laid at the feet of the west, but we certainly have our fair share to own, and we have certainly allowed economic and political expediency to stand in the way of doing what is right in many cases.

What I’m saying here is not new.  Others have said it before, in more detail, and more capably.  Still, so long as it remains true, it needs to be said again, and again, and again…

Posted in Africa, Congo, History, news, opinion, thoughts | Leave a Comment »

Teacher Guy

Posted by Gerald on July 17, 2007

The running joke around the office of late has been that I am “teacher guy.”

We are having some reorganization and some new administrative positions opening at the college.  Some of this is just natural attrition through retirement and some is due to growth and change.  As various folks have been looking at this or that position, there has been a lot of discussion about goals and priorities and internal politicking.

Me, I’m “teacher guy.”

I have no ambition beyond being a really good history teacher.  I am considering picking up enough hours to be dual credentialed so I can teach in another field (maybe political science, maybe anthropology, maybe none of the above…), but that is it.  I have no desire to move into administration.  The classroom is my whole thing, and it is all I’m interested in.  As various changes and reorganization ideas are being discussed, all I really care about is if it is going to impact my classroom.  If not, God Bless!  See, I’m “teacher guy.”

Now, for the next year, I’m going to be Faculty Senate “President Guy” which requires my attention and energy to help with these wider changes.  I don’t see that as violating my identity as “teacher guy” though.  Part of my responsibility to the college is to take on both supportive and leadership roles outside of my classroom on occasion.  I’m going to pitch-in and help out.  Still, that isn’t because I see this as some stepping-stone to a higher position – I just see it as a duty, like voting or serving on a jury.  I’m really hoping that after this next year, I can hand various things I’ve been doing on to interested and motivated colleagues so that they can have some of the interesting experiences this sort of service has brought, and is still bringing, to me.  I’m looking forward to putting a greater share of my focus back into my own classrooms for awhile.

Because I’m “teacher guy.”

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