On the insanity of many things

I was sent a link today by a colleague. He was a little worried because it was Jezebel, both by the idea of him being on Jezebel (way to be welcoming to allies) and by what it might say that he was sending me a link. The video was funny-ish, if you like laughing at people and their insanity, but the part that was weirdest to me were the YouTube video adverts preceding the actual content. The first was startling by both the level to which I was offended and the distance from the mark; thinking I would be a good prospect.

Its possible I was more surprised after a week at Dreamforce learning about the tools that currently exist for truly world-class targeting of content and prospecting. But the first link was for a breast enhancement cream, and the second for some ridiculous new form of face-paint. Not that I don’t care about my own presentation (albeit admittedly much less than many of my peers), but SO many things about me say that the ad is both unlikely to be successful in getting my money and likely to make me very very angry.

I also noticed the number of things they did with marketing to try to fix what seems to me to be a product based on so many flawed ideas and damaging assumptions. Using an RSA style to ‘teach’ as an introduction into a way to further the message of superficiality seems oxymoronic (emphasis on the moron). The juxtaposition of insight to shallowness is startling. Furthermore, how they got to a place through my activities or history thinking I would be a good prospect is currently boggling my mind.

enhancement add

I went to try to complain to YouTube but of course that is almost impossible. Lots of ways to complain about the video, none to complain about the advert.

I don’t totally know how to react other than to dismiss it as a product of modern life. But I find it strange that shaking it off is the only solution to something this totally screwed up on so many levels. I guess ranting to a twitterverse of total strangers is a close second to actually trying to fix any of the myriad inherent problems in the situation. Talk about a radical view of power and total disenfranchisement…

My own in- and out- group ambivalence


To my friends, Willamette Heights neighbors, and loved ones,

I’m writing because I know no other way to express my sadness clearly and even if it’s only one voice, I would like to be heard.

I was dismayed about the potential loss to our neighborhood and community of a space that contains so many pieces of my childhood. I saw the threat to community, and to a rare and precious building block of what we cherish so dearly. I signed the petition, hoping that an intervention might change the direction of history, that the weight of our voices would be enough to help a young couple change their minds.
Immediately, I also wondered how directly we had been able to communicate with them. The more I researched the more I realized how similar they were to myself, and other children of our community. We inhabited the same space in time, even if not the same location. I’m sure I can relate to many of their experiences and memories, and I hoped that there was the possibility of reconciliation. That instead of being a threat, they could be welcomed into the community.

Our neighborhood has a history of accepting new people- waves of immigrants have come at different periods seeking similar things from the place they choose to live. I was the child of speculators, and remodelers, and yet I was welcome, as were my parents.

I understand that modifying the status quo is not the same as destroying and rebuilding, and I felt the same fear that the place of my memories would no longer be available. Many of you know how my childhood home no longer resembles the place I grew up, and the distress it has caused. But there is a new family there now, and they love the place as it is now as much as I loved it as it was before.

For me, Willamette Heights has always been about the people who live there. The architecture and the landscape are important, but what makes it a home is the community-the faces that grow and age but remain smiling and happy to see you. The houses have been the backdrop, but the real magic is in the events in those homes, and the continuity of connection year after year.

This is what I have found most distressing this week. For a place that claims community as a differentiator we have not been very community minded. Kevin and Darya are a young couple who had no way of knowing the expectations that came with the house they purchased, how could they? We don’t list neighborhood Easter Egg hunts on a spec sheet, and there is no written statute that says they must participate. I too would hope they would want that, but after their treatment this week I understand why that choice would be unthinkable.

People must choose to be a part of a community. A measured response from us might have engendered that choice. It might not. I freely admit that, but I also believe that either way it needed to be for them to decide.
Early on I hoped that they just didn’t realize how people felt, that a natural unawareness of this context led to choices that others were unhappy about. Optimistically I thought that perhaps they didn’t realize that community was on the table. That in return for modifying plans for their individual space they would be offered a precious alternative- a welcome to a community that I have been proud of. But watching as this story became increasingly sensational, as people tangentially related became involved and used our small drama as a soapbox for other issues I became both disheartened and ashamed.

I don’t think they came off in this story nearly as badly as we did. We had the opportunity to be transformative, to attempt some form of reconciliation or mediation. To truly practice the sense of community we espouse. We failed.

Many of you knew my mother. Many of you attended her memorial where we passed out cards of her most important philosophy ‘both/and’. I have seen many of the cards still in your homes years later. This was an opportunity for us to try to inhabit that and make choices allowing space for both perspectives. To keep thinking that we could find a solution that wouldn’t end with lawyers and media storms.

We vilified a young couple internationally, and for what? To save a house? To ‘protect’ our community? Did we really think they were so deaf, or so willful that they would choose to live in a space after knowing the neighbors felt so negatively? Did we think they would destroy the house for spite?

Many have been silent, many have said things that upon reflection they would take back or modify. We had the opportunity to have a truly civil discourse, and we missed. There are lots of reasons for that; emotions run high over community, history, in- and out- groups and, above all, money.

I don’t hope for any specific outcome from this- after all, it really has little to do with me and I trust that those people actually involved will come to some resolution, most likely with everyone walking away unhappy. I walk away sad, ashamed of how we treated people who could just as easily have become one of us, might have been if not for a number of accidents or coincidences that took us in different directions.

I needed to speak because it is important to have different voices in any functional community. Many have spoken for me this week, some I know and some I’ll never meet. I wanted to speak for myself and offer an alternative perspective.

Thank you for reading.

House Sitting But Dancing

Authors Notes:

Screen shot 2010-10-20 at 21.04.21

I am sorry for the delay, but it seems that moving and then Portland took much more time than I thought. Tobe honest, it wasn’t really the moving so much as that thedetails involved made it much more difficult to be

analytical. I’ve had lots of thoughts in the meantime, but not enough clarity for it to make it possible/ fruitful to write it down. I know that it’s a pretty serious lapse, but back now and hopefully less crap in future.

Also, and I know this is a really sucky excuse I’ve been having difficulty accessing iWeb from my laptop…


I was reading an article today in the Oregonian (actually it was an op-ed) piece about the suicide of a supporting character on a reality TV program. The gist of the article was that we, as watchers, should be ashamed of ourselves for trafficking in and being entertained by this man’s (and other’s) difficulties in life. I was interesting because there was a report on the BBC news last week that researchers have found a difference in the choices children profess about intended employment/ dream careers. Previously children often chose to go into caring professions (doctor, nurse, policeman) while today they mostly want to be famous with careers that match (football/ movie/ popstar. The researcher blames the media endorsement of the glamorous lifestyle and exciting events in these peoples lives for the shift.

The two are, of course, related. At least I think so. But there are more pervasive and problematic correlations as well.

The op-ed blames us for watching, while the media industry blames them for signing up while simultaneously telling them they should. But the real issue comes from the individual shift in perception and the accompanying societal impacts. It seems we are failing to connect the dots between these things and that’s the mentality of blaming someone else. True, we could choose not to watch, true also those stars could attempt to anticipate and choose not to participate. At this point I don’t think its possible for them to say they had no idea what it might be like (although I think no one can ever really know what it would be like). But I think that’s somewhat the point. Although they couldn’t know exactly what it would be like, its possible to attempt to understand based on historical evidence of what its been like before.

This also seems linked to the riots. People’s inability to future the consequences of their actions. There has been a lot of talk, almost since the beginning of the riots of the culture and context that created the conditions conducive to their happening (sorry for the excessive alliteration). But based on the evidence in court many of the individuals were already members who had chosen to take criminal action before. This is not to say that there is not widening disparity in society (there is) or that it need not be addressed (it does), but to say that individual’s themselves still must bear responsibility for their actions.  I know that this is easier for me to say sitting in the privileged position that I do, but it is the same sentiment expressed by many people in the same communities from which the rioters hale.

Upholding the rule of law is about more than simple protection of property (although many think that’s its basis). From my perspective law is about organization of large groups in densely populated areas to allow people structure to understand how they can expect their neighbours to behave and give them codes of behaviour as well. The real crime is not the taking of things, but the unconscious thought that an individual’s desire for something is more important than the codes themselves. My father asked about the difference between the Arab Spring and the London riots and my answer is simple- in the former the long-term consequences and the collective were the point and in the latter they were not. The professed goals of all demonstrators in the Middle East is the introduction of democracy, a system that allows for the establishment and orderly maintenance of codes of conduct, allowing individuals within that society to make choices as to the balance between their freedoms and responsibilities. To be fair, once established those codes will favour those in power at the time of establishment and this undermines the premise of total equality. Democracy is not totally fair and not totally equal but it is an attempt at fairness and equality while maintaining the malleability for society to adapt to changing social conditions. At the point when individuals decide that system isn’t working for them to the extent they must ignore it it does raise questions. The question is, as many people have said ‘why did they do it?’. Many already have various politically charged answers, largely based on their ideological positions.

Rights/ Privileges/ Responsibilities


There is something wrong with the statement ‘they work for us’ when applied to government. The reality is that they work on behalf of us, as a public good, codifying, overseeing and enforcing the codes we all choose to support. Even if we don’t agree with each thing, we agree with the system that has currently approved whatever it is they are codifying/overseeing/ enforcing and thus, in maintaining that system they are still working on our behalf. I say that because we are not their boss, just like they are not ours. They are from among us, self-chosen to be sure, and with myriad personal motives to make that choice, but still. The point of democracy is that expectation that everyone has a chance (although some have a greater chance) to make the choice and work on behalf of society and because it is a choice, and they are a member, we believe their work will be more reflective of our experience. But part of that work is to be informed about the consequences of their choices for all the people. Much of the disquiet with Washington is the perception (real or not) that those we have chosen to govern for us are making their choices either uninformed or unwilling to see the consequences of their actions.