Truly random thoughts about computer dictation, poverty, race relations, and women hurting women for cultural reasons, and an open thread.
I’m trying something new today. After years of avoiding the technology, a series of conference calls in which I need to participate precipitated my buying a headset with a microphone. Then, just today, Windows 10 automatically updated itself and one of the tips it gave me was to tell me that I could use my microphone to dictate in any program. This sounded good to me because I have been a bit dilatory about typing of late. Part of this is because I’m struggling with ideas, and part of it has been that I am having some (temporary) pain in my hand which makes typing difficult. Articulating the ideas without going through the labor of typing seemed very tempting.
This, therefore, is my first fully dictated post. I’m wondering if it has a different “voice” then all of my previous posts, which are typed. I’d love to hear from you about this question. I also wanted to throw out some random thoughts that have been running around in my head lately.
The first random thing I want to talk about is the Tenement Museum in New York, a place I have talked about before. I first (and last) visited it around a decade ago, maybe more, and was absolutely blown away by it. I’m thinking about it now because I’ll be visiting again next month.
In my travels over the years, I have seen so many amazing homes throughout America, Europe And Southeast Asia. Except for the pretty farm houses relocated to various open air museums, these homes are almost invariably where the rich lived. Indeed, the only “ordinary” person’s home I can remember seeing is Mozart’s apartment in Vienna.
The Tenement Museum, however, is something completely different: it is where the poorest of the poor lived. It gives you a visceral sense of the abysmal poverty that immigrants to America faced at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Even though the tenement is clean, deodorized, and empty, and sits on a clean, modern, relatively empty street, it punches you in the gut. The hallways are dark, the stairs are steep, the apartments are microscopically small and held both huge families and functioning sweatshops, and the running water and plumbing are not only primitive, but only existed during the second half of the tenement building’s useful life.
In terms of creature comforts, there were none. Contrast this with poverty in America today. I am not trying to say that there’s anything pretty or comfortable about poverty, whether today or yesterday. But the fact remains that today’s poor people have plumbing (often dirty and poorly functioning, but it’s still there), electricity, smart phones, clothes, and an adequate, if not healthy, food supply. The abysmal situations in which they live are less from material poverty — although they are definitely materially poor compared to other Americans — but from spiritual poverty.
America’s poor live in worlds compounded of failure, fear, substance abuse, welfare dependency, crime, economic despair, and mental illness that leaves no room for optimism or social mobility. What I wonder is whether it’s harder to fight spiritual poverty than it is to fight economic/material poverty. [Read more…]