Quora question: Is the book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ a satire of the current world? How?

November 14, 2017

My response:

With all due respect to the respondent Michael Masiello, I disagree with his contention that George Orwell’s 1984 was not a satire and solely a prophecy. 1984 was, in fact, both.

In a letter Orwell penned to critics of the book, he stated, “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it could arrive.”[1]

1984 extends the theme of centralized control—as seen in Britain of the late 1940s, as well as in Stalinist Russia—to its extreme in order to shed light upon the body politic as an unassailable aggregate. This plays well today with an obtuse American president who bemoans the fact that he cannot influence the judicial and legislative branches of government, except through implicit tweets of retribution.

Orwell did see the rubric of state policy as a conflation of rigid politics and the degradation of language—this was emblematic of the state of post-War Britain and is certainly the extant theme in the United States in 2017. Today’s sanctimonious overseers of public speak had their Orwellian antecedents in his “Thought Police.”

The overarching themes of fascism and communism have become less prominent on the world stage with the dissolution of the Soviet empire and China’s cross-pollination of communism with Western capitalism. But their underlying principles still exist, having morphed into an elected demagogue who stands atop a totem of political illiteracy and rabid xenophobia.



Quora question: What are some ugly truths of life?

October 20, 2017

My response:

  • Your elliptical trainer will get more use as a coat hanger.
  • Canadian bacon is just a thick slab from the fat rump of a pig bred in New Jersey.
  • Pigeons that are referred to as “flying rats” are actually descendants of doves defeated in the last election.
  • New York-style pizza gets its unique taste from New York City water, where the minerals produced by decomposing bodies add a distinctive flavor.
  • A red stop sign is a suggestion.
  • Prison pants—those worn far below the waist—are not intended for anyone who has gone commando.
  • Candlepin bowling does not involve wax candles.
  • Maximum effort is the quickest way to a hernia.
  • The roadway sign “Drawbridge” is not a command.
  • You will take a taxi that has a credit card reader but, at the end of your trip, be told by the cabbie that you have to fork over the cash because the machine doesn’t work.

Quora question: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

October 17, 2017

My response:  Driving across the country with a 10-year-old who just learned to whistle.

Quora question: How do I convince my father to stop being racist? He refuses evidence with fallacies or saying it’s fake news or liberals and believes I don’t know what I’m talking about. He now believes in Prenology and believes everything Trump says. Please help

October 17, 2017

My response:

You may not like my answer but I am going to tell you not to try to convince him of anything. There is no easy step-by-step method of ridding someone of racism.

As obdurate as your father is, employing logic and exposing the underbelly of his racist ideology only hardens his intolerant stance. His core values are far too weak to withstand any assault of common sense, thus he becomes the zealot, more fanatically narrow-minded with each threat to his false sense of the truth.

That indelible stain you see on your father’s psyche is his own fragile sense of self. Who he is and what it means to be a White person today are questions he cannot easily answer.

In the past, successful or intellectual minorities were considered that odd flick of the flame, easily dismissed as an aberration. A facile mind was a threat because the presumption was that non-Whites were a blank intellectual canvas onto which one “uppity” individual might paint a picture of nascent equality.

This fear has grown exponentially as the myth of an intellectual gap has faded. And with the election of Barack Obama, a Black man, as president, there could no longer be any support for your father’s deigning of minorities as inferior.

So, rather than expend your energy on a man wallowing in his own pitiable shallowness, I ask that you focus on what you can do to further racial tolerance.

As the saying goes, if you see something, say something. This does not mean putting yourself in harm’s way. It means when a conversation turns on a derogatory racial remark, walk away; that gesture alone makes it clear you will not be party to bigotry.

As you have already recognized, the real battlefront is people’s minds. If one considers the idea that racial harmony is in the public’s best interest, it is easier to embrace diversity. Promoting the inimitable beauty of racial diversity doesn’t necessarily mean organizing protests against racial injustice; it can start with a seemingly insignificant gesture, such as treating an individual of a different race with fairness.

Once you decide that racial equality as inviolable right afforded all human beings, your own actions will follow. And you will become that example by which others seek to follow.

Quora question: I haven’t been on a date in 3 years. Now have one next week. What am I supposed to do?

October 16, 2017

My response:

First, relax. You’re not emerging from hibernation; the world has not changed that dramatically since the last time you enjoyed someone else’s company.

Don’t assume you have to prepare a list of things to say or do. The only preparation necessary is one of hygiene.

Lastly, be yourself. Regardless of how you got the date, the point now is for the two of you—yes, not just you—to enjoy the occasion. A date that involves an activity in a shared setting—a movie, a concert, bowling (yes, bowling!), etc.—is a great way to ease into a conversation and learn about one another.

But remember, this is not a session on the psychiatrist’s couch. Do not feel a need to reveal every minute detail of your life in the midst of discussing a film plot.

Have fun.

Quora question: What was your weirdest, scariest, or funniest Halloween moment?

October 16, 2017

My response:

While living in New York City, I was in the Village watching the Halloween Parade. This annual event always brings out the eccentricity as well as the creativity of its participants.

On this occasion, a fellow strutted up Sixth Avenue dressed as the Statue of Liberty, including a trellis of scaffolding, as the real statue was undergoing renovation at the time.

Ah, Greenwich Village…

Quora question: Why do some people try to “sound black” when talking to black people in the States? I’m not black myself but I have enough sense to realize how ridiculous and embarrassing they’re acting.

October 16, 2017

My response:

When I hear the speech patterns of a person from the south- or southwestern United States, it connotes a regional feeling. For others it may stir ridicule of the speaker, identifying the person with cornpone humor. But it does not define the person’s race.

When I was in England, a Cockney accent defined one as working class. Race was never invoked, as Black Britishers speak with English dialects as varied as their White counterparts.

It seems that only in America can an accent not only define one’s station but also one’s race. And in this instance, too many people presume that a Black accent associates one’s street vernacular with ignorance.

James Carville, a White man and one of the architects of President Bill Clinton’s campaign, speaks with a deep, southern U.S. accent, and the occasional idiosyncratic phrase or two. Yet, few would argue that he is one of the best and brightest political strategists of our time. No mention is made of his race.

Would he still rank as a political genius were he a Black man? I would hope so, yet experience tells me that this is not the case. When Whites at the high school and university I attended chose to demean Black people, they would switch to their exaggerated, barely intelligible version of Black-accented English.

Worse, in my adult life, I have heard Black people themselves speak of other People of Color who speak with a neutral accent and cadenced diction as being akin to an Uncle Tom—a stereotype of the excessively servile, Black houseboy to a White household.

These oversimplified takes on one’s accent overlap in one area: they traduce and marginalize the object of their hatred.

If there is but one thing I wish the reader would understand from this response, it is this: The normative in America is not a diction spoken by Whites in the northern half of the country.

There are differences in diction that are regional, cultural and, yes, race-based. The answer to the real question of why some Whites exhibit such aversive racism to Black-accented English lies in the reasons Whites fear People of Color.

Answer this and you will understand why some Whites try to “sound Black,” and why some People of Color fear losing that capability.

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