Michael Jackson and 5 Other Things I Do Not Care About

I love the man’s music. I have deepest sympathies for the family, especially his kids. But that’s where it ends for me. Michael Jackson’s death is a personal matter for those close to him. I really wish the media and all his so-called ‘fans’ would butt out — like one of the characters in Gates of Heaven (one of my favorite movies) says, “Death is for the Living.”

People appear to want to draw attention to so many things that I believe should be low on the totem pole of attention.   We have such short lives, why is it that we want to spend large quantities of it worrying about what Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears are wearing (or not wearing)?   It all makes me want to be more concious about what matters and in turn, to be concious about what does not matter.   Here is my list of things I am conciously deciding not to worry about.

Domestic Poverty

Domestic poverty is off my list for two reasons:   1)  I’d rather focus my attention on World Poverty and 2) Domestic Poverty is really a symptom of other equity issues such as support for mental health, access to child care, and equity, especially for those with disabilities.   In my view, Canada is a country with tonnes of opportunity, and sufficient infrastructure to ensure that a population will not starve.   This does not mean I will not donate to organizations like Feed Nova Scotia, but it does mean that my ears will shut off if you are trying to lobby on a platform of poverty.

Preserving Heritage

The key to this statement is preserving heritage.   I think heritage is important, but because it represents a living, breathing entity – not because it is old and needs to be protected.    What I value about my elders is not that they old, but that they have a story to tell.   Some things are historically valuable and need to be preserved, sure – but certainly not everything, and absolutely not everything at the expense of a living, breathing city environment.   Librarians know all too well that an old rusty copy of War and Peace will do nothing to protect the value of Leo Tolstoy’s work.    A new, fresh, exciting-looking copy will have people reading and re-reading the book —  that’s the way you protect heritage, by helping people re-live the past.    That means you weed the old and replace it with new.

Privacy

Don’t get me wrong.  I would never spy or harrass others or want to be spied or harrassed.   Nor would I ever breach a confidentiality policy of any employer I may work for past, present or future.   But, I feel that the wholesale protection of privacy is costing us immensely in terms of service, and therefore I am just not going to pay much attention to this issue.   The lack of progress in a wide range of services in the name of privacy is astounding, and I’m sure that an audit of government would show a huge amount of time and money wasted to prevent that one case where someone discovers prematurely that their wife or husband wants a divorce, or that their young daughter or son is using birth control.   So much of this information is already available on the web if someone wants to look for it anyway – I do not think we can pretend we have private lives for much longer.

Funding for Elite Sports

OMG!   Another country might have more medals than us at the olympics!  How will the next Sydney Crosby thrive if we do not put ourselves into massive debt to provide special facilities for sports?   “Who cares?” is what I say.

What I see in a good amount of even semi-elite sports is not pretty.   The level of single-minded “win at all costs and blame the ref when you don’t” attitude in many sports is astounding.   The things that mattered to the originators of the Olympic Games concept have been pushed aside.   Remember words and phrases like “sportsmanship?” “sound mind, sound body?” and how sports was tied to education?   That seems all out the window in favor of money-making.   I don’t believe in sports anymore.  It used to be an opportunity to think about myself as a better person, now it is a crass illusion that parallels rather than promotes “success.”    There are exceptions, where sports figures are respected for both mind and body (Steve Nash comes to mind), but that’s the exception and not the rule in my view.

“We Need More Funding For. . .”

Just the general premise that we will only solve problem x if our governments make problem x a priority and provide it with funds is just not going to resonate strongly for me.   I believe in some of the work that John McKnight has done around asset-based community development, and agree with the general position that professionals invent problems and issues inside communities that they can solve and then use the community’s funds to solve those problems when the community had the ability to cope with those issues all along.

Here is a librarian example.  A librarian does a study on university students searching only to discover what is the most obvious thing:  university students are not the same as librarians!   That is, students do not automatically use boolean operators or advanced searches to find materials for their research.   Said librarian then uses this information to justify training sessions (ie. hire more librarians) so university students can become more like librarians.   The thing the librarian does not ponder is whether university students need to behave like librarians to be successful at their research; nor does he/she consider the impact of increase education costs (caused in part through funds spent on librarians) on that student’s capacity to learn how to research more effectively.

In short, I really dislike any movement  that blindly asks governments to give organizations more money.   I do not think professionals do it on purpose, but it is a really bad habit that I see over and over again.      Communities need resourcefulness from their not-for-profits, not funding.    And most importantly, communities need not-for-profits that shine the light on what communities already do well, so they can encourage these behaviors.

Well, that’s my list of things I am going to conciously not spend anymore attention on.     What is your list of non-issues in your view?    Am I unfairly representing any of these issues?

11 thoughts on “Michael Jackson and 5 Other Things I Do Not Care About

  1. Michael Jackson is the best entertainer ever. For the life of me I don’t know why people can’t see that this man was thirsty 4 lov, he had no child hood and no one 2 realy love him 4 him. all his life he amid 2 please everyone. So if you don’t no anything about this man don’t judge this man…..OK !

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    • I don’t think I am judging Michael – I just think that people spend too much time thinking about Hollywood Who’s Who.

      People can be a Michael fanboy all they want – but is worrying about / praying for / crying over him going to make one tiny difference to the things that matter to me (eg. my family, World Poverty, atrocities in Darfur, fair elections in Iran …)? Nope. Not one iota.

      It does make the difference to greedy media folks who want to dupe the dull-minded into viewing the ads of their clients though. Who do I want to support?

      Yup – you got it. Time to forget about the hype and get down to business.

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  2. Ryan,

    I’m with you on the elite sports thing. The Olympics is already acting as an excuse for all sorts of dodgy notions here.

    As for the library example- yes, to a point. I think we should be looking to help students be better searchers and *sometimes* that might mean acting like librarians- as part of a range of strategies. But we can all spend what we have more efficiently and make sure our systems work better.

    On poverty- why can’t you care about both domestic and world poverty? That one is less scarifying that another- does that mean it is less worthy of attention? And are they nor often linked by similar causes?

    On heritage- carrier and carried I guess. For ‘information’ such as the Tolstoy absoluetly- preserve the story. But sometimes the carrier is the carried- buildings and what not. This is not the same as saying that all new buildings should be like the old, or that all old buildings (artefacts in general) need to be preserved. Just that sometimes there is a need to preserve ‘things.’

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    • For me, the problem with the “OMG students are not librarians” is not that students cannot benefit from some of the skills that librarians have, but that we start with the premise that “we are professionals” and forget to consider the value that our clients/customers/patrons bring to the table. The default action is always to look for weaknesses and try to “fix” them.

      There are other approaches that begin from the opposite – what strengths do patrons have? For instance, I bet that students are really good at talking to each other about assignments and finding effective research. From that standpoint, information literacy could try to use strategies that build on that strength – making the student the master of his own destiny (using a Moses Coady reference) instead of using the students’ resources to force them into strategies that likely play to their weaknesses.

      Again, I’m not saying that boolean won’t help a student, but that the default professional attitude is that students should be more like professionals – which will always highlight “weaknesses” (that could simply be “differences”) to be fixed and take resources away from the “weak” in favor of the powerful.

      Also, this trend is common throughout all professions. Health professionals (in Canada in particular) have a similar bent to the extent that Healthcare takes up almost 1/2 of any province’s budget. I also think about how our education system uses tonnes of taxpayers money trying to get students to “follow the rules” when in fact, thinking beyond the rules and questioning authority are equally important strengths in a person’s education.

      Seen in this light, professionalism can be likened to a kind of thuggery despite our good intentions. We need to get beyond the “we need more funding” idea if we want to avoid this trend.

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      • Ah, all professions are a conspiracy against the laity…

        Here we do try to begin from where the students are, building on what they know.

        Also, many students are not that good at finding effective research via collaboration with peers. We can just as effectively disenfranchise students by assuming a high level of ability. That is not to say that systems themselves do not need fixing and user views (including ours) can help in making them better.

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      • Hey – not to say that “all professions are. . .” just to say that they often are not and a default claim for “we need more funding” is not going to get much of a response from me.

        A wide range of strategies are effective for building on what people know. I am not saying that students are always effective at particular things (generalizations are always problematic anyway), my point relates more toward understanding what they do know well and building. Alot of library research I’ve seen does seem to focus on the standard “there is a problem – libraries solve this problem – give libraries more money!” syllogism.

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      • Ryan,

        I don’t think you are saying that. I just like (though do not agree with) the quote (George Bernard Shaw iirc.)- the quote reflects one view of professional ‘power’.

        I agree that more money is not always the answer- indeed it rarely is. Better use of what we have- including ourselves and our knowledge of our students- is a better way.

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    • Ha. That reminds me of a similar quote attributed to Kissenger- along the lines of ‘academic squabbles are so fierce because the stakes are so small.’

      At last, meta…

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  3. re: “I do not think we can pretend we have private lives for much longer.”

    Agreed.

    I’ve had this conversation – what is (or was) privacy? – with people a number of times this past year, and I think we need to understand that privacy is more of a concept than it is right or natural way of being.

    I’ve got no way to back this up, since it’s been distilled from those conversations, but I’d contend that privacy is something we can define socially and temporally. What you or I – somewhere over the age of 30 and holding steady – believe should be private may be vastly different from people who are five to ten years younger than us believe. Will that cause problems for them in the next few years? Yes, it might. But for the most part, since privacy and that which is private is a social construct, many of these problems will whither away in time. It won’t matter so much to a person if one’s facebook profile is made public, because s/he lives in a state where they already know that everyone has a camera and every one has as many bad photos as they have good…

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