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« The Virtual Exhibition | Main | World Heritage: Purloined or Preserved? »

May 19, 2006


I'm a librarian, and we librarians have always nervously admired our own alphabet-soup-laden jargon: ALA, DDC, IFLA, Z39.50, etc. Nervously, I say, because we are less adept than pols and spies at behaving as if this cryptic mess signifies genuine arcana.

But, hey, if you're into a fun romp through the mind games of CIA oneupmanship, Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost is essential reading.

All professions are given to esoteric insider lingo. Nothing wrong with that as long as they are doing useful work. I am sure the librarians put their alphabet soup to good use for the benefit of the community. I am not so sure about the bombastic senators.

Not a single pointed question was asked as to why the NSA was conducting eavesdropping of breathtaking scope in order to catch a handful of suspected terrorists. Do they even have the time or the manpower to process all the info culled from this data mining? I suspect that it may be one of two things. Either the Bush administration was spying on its political enemies and the rest of us are in the mix to provide cover. Or they have no intention of doing "anything" and this is just a way to award a huge defense contract to buddies in the electronic snooping business. I wonder if those MOL /WB even want to find out.

Well in all fairness to our dear senators, they were far too busy making English our official national language--twice!--to worry about little things like illegal domestic surveillance, let alone worry about something as insignificant as whether or not any of these government absurdities will be the least bit effective.

A friend of mine calls me a grumpy old woman. Mind you, I am still in my 30s and I hardly feel old, and I probably have a few more jokes in my quiver, a few more laughs in my belly, and a few more paper umbrellas than most people because I am rather a positive, upbeat, happy, glass overflowing kind of person. But I am deeply concerned about the future of OUR country. Not Mexico. Not Zimbabwe. Not Cuba. Or even France. I am concerned about the United States of America. Yes, I am grumpy about a lot of things. I write this with PhD, 15 years international development experience and author of 7 books of which two are adpated in over 70 countries.

MANNERS. I grump when six under 30 types revel on a balcony at three on a Wednesday morning and wake up an entire condominium unit of over 500 people. My friend says I should have just joined the party. But I remain incredulous that most people don't send thank you notes, RSVP, or bring flowers or wine to a party. Most people dump friendships as easily as losing interest in a sitcom. Most people almost find it demeaning to hold open a door for someone or feel their personal space is invaded if some dares smile or talk to someone in an elevator. Is it just me or are we interrupting each other more? Putting each other on hold at the hint of another call coming in? Do you read your e-mail while someone is talking to you? If you don't want to respond to someone, you don't, right? You increasingly don't care what another person thinks about you, do you? Do you say things that hurt others and you really don't care? What happened to the promise?

CELL PHONES. If you're in a public place, don't use your cell phone. Period. Not while standing in line or on line, not while sitting in front of a computer at an Internet cafe, not while waiting to board a plane, not while sitting in a plane, not anywhere near a train unless you are in a crowded car where they cram all of you together in one room to talk on your cell phone, not while waiting for your gynecologist, not while waiting for a movie to begin, and certainly not while waiting for a friend in a restaurant. It is rude. We can hear you. Put the phone DOWN. Didn't you hear? Congress just passed a law that you are allowed to use your cell phone only when in a grocery store, while parked or driving with a hands-free device, or walking down the street. Oh, that's right. You missed that. You were too busy talking on your cell phone to read a newspaper.

CULTURE. We worship youth and ignore the wisdom of our elders. We are drawn to faux reality shows to learn how others act in completely unreal situations. We would never see someone over 30 on American Idol because anyone over 30 has no talent left, right? We think Oprah is a new religion and I have a lot of respect for Oprah but she's just what most of us were like 30 years ago - caring, polite, warm, and wanting to help others.

YOUNG WHITE MALES. Why are they still living with their parents well into their 20s and 30s? Do they care that GenY women are buying homes and adopting children in droves? Their college graduation rates have plummeted. They are being surpassed by girls not only in terms of college enrollment but also in academic performance. And yet they continue to wander listlessly with a straw stuck in their mouth and Razr cell phone in one ear and an iPod in another as they head toward home to plop in front of a violent video game or watch some vapid "reality" show.

YOUNG WHITE FEMALES. Put some clothes on.

VIOLENCE. Do you remember less violent, less corrupt times? Do you think there is a connection between the violence we see and the violence that is committed? I sure do. When are we going to step up and demand that the media stop producing television, movies, and music that is so very violent, and most of it directed at women? I've stopped reading articles about the latest person who was found murdered or dismembered. Of course it is tragic but it is not news. It is gruesome and should not be "reported" outside of a local community. Because the more murder and mayhem that is reported as "news", the more we become accustomed to the violence, the more "normal" it becomes.

GENOCIDE. I grump when our complete lack of interest in genocidal wars allows governments around the world to abuse their people under the guise of sovereign rights, and there is nothing the United Nations can or will do top stop it from happening.

ECONOMY. Our savings rate is the lowest ever since the year before the Great Depression. Gas prices hit an all-time high a few weeks back and yet we have the technology to make alternative fuels - just as we have the technology to make runless nylons and chipless nail polish but what's the incentive? There is genuine concern about how we are going to pay for the retirement of millions of baby boomers when the Social Security accounts don't have enough in them. And we had a record budget surplus in 2000, and we are now facing an annual deficit of $368 billion this year and a 10-year projected deficit on $1.35 trillion.

LIBERTIES. I'm grumpy that my e-mails are being read at work and home. I'm grumpy that a stranger could have listened to any number of my phone conversations. I'm grumpy that some low level clerk in the alumni office of where I went to any number of colleges is selling my social security number, mother's maiden name, and my date of birth. I'm grumpy that three times last year someone tried to steal my identity. I'm grumpy that some cyber-thief in Russia can quietly go into my bank account and take a few hundred bucks without my realizing it.

POLITICS. I'm grumpy that you never hear about how computer-based elections are stolen because techno-wizards go into a database on election night to silent and anonymously change a few votes in a few hotly contested counties to declare the winner of their choice. Not our choice. I'm grumpy that it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, and yet the media won't touch this story with gloves and a gas mask because it stinks and our very democracy is at stake on this one. Best not to think about it.

LEADERSHIP. And I'm grumpy that the Democrats haven't a clue about how to do anything about it, and I am fascinated how the Republicans and religious right will continue to dominate politics until this country is brought to its knees. And I'm grumpy that I'd love to step up but I didn't go to an Ivy League school, don't keep company at the right clubs, and God forbid that I have an opinion.

THIRD PARTY. It is appalling that we're all sick of the Democrats and Republicans but not one of us has the courage, creativity, and conviction to start a viable third party. Someone with courage, creativity, conviction, and about ten thousand bucks could start a third party. With the Internet, blogs, social networks, Podcasts, SMS, RSS, and AdWords, it wouldn't be difficult to up-end the two-party system. But oh. That's right. We're too busy watching American Idol and talking on our cell phones at Starbucks to give a hoot about this.

RELIGION. Speaking of God, I am grumpy that we have become so intolerant of someone's particular brand of religion. I call them "brands" because, really, all religions teach the basic tenets of good behavior. Where are the religious leaders to help solve these problems? And who in their right mind would produce a movie that leads unknowing masses to believe that Mary and Jesus were more than Son and Mother? People are going to start believing the fiction they read and see because the DaVinci Code is just too close to promoting it as fact.

GAY RIGHTS. Am I the only one of the planet who believes that being gay is as genetically-based as being male or female? I believe every day babies are born heterosexual, bi-sexual, or gay. Simple as that for me. So can we please conduct some sound scientific research into this so that we can allow people to live in peace and love, no matter their genetic makeup?

HEALTH. Cancer rates at all age levels are the highest ever. Why? The food we eat, the air we breathe, and the junk we drink. One in three people will get cancer because we are drinking chemical-laden sodas, water, and coffee; eating anti-biotic laden chickens and cows; and do we even LOOK at the ingredient list of most of the things we eat? It is so sad but eating a strawberry is like eating a dollop of Draino. Don't do it, no matter how delicious it looks. All organic all the time.

ENVIRONMENT. Tsunamis, earthquakes, massive rainfall, hurricanes, more tornadoes than usual, warmer winters, cooler summers, huge spikes in skin cancer. Hey hey! Global warming's here to stay!

COMMUNICATION. It is increasingly impossible to communicate with immigrants. I don't sense many seeming to care that they can't communicate with us, and I don't sense native-born Americans seeming to care to communicate with them. What is wrong with requiring that English and Spanish be required languages in school? When my brother-in-law speaks English with a heavy accent and is called a French Pig and should return to his home country, we have some serious problems.

And our biggest problem is that not enough of us care to demand that our leaders address these issues. Oh now here's something really important - cappucino or latte, anyone?

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