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Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'...
I recently got the Bill Gates High School speech email. It suprises me how people will forward things without really thinking about them, and thinking about this particular email - just a teeeny bit - brought the cognitive dissonace into high relief. Here's the text:

"Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this! To anyone with kids of any age, here's some advice.
Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.
Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. Theygot that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
If you agree, pass it on.
If you can read this - Thank a teacher!
If you are reading it in English -
Thank a soldier!!"

Now, one must realize that this was intended to bolster the conservative dog-eat-dog, liberal-are-bad, capitalizm-all-the-way-baby, Social-Darwinism-even-though-we-don't-believe-in-Darwin approach to the world and to life. Just a little bit of thinking illuminates the fatal internal inherently contradictory aspects of this philosophy. In short, this was just a bad piece of writing, from the example, to the "quotation" to the use, to the mode of thinking it was trying to espouse. And so, this is my response:

What do the conservatives who quoted Mr. Gates say about his 30 billion dollar foundation that helps the poor, cures the sick, and works toward the social wellfare? Nice of them to quote the part where they rag on the poor high school kids, but interestingly enough, this says more about the folks who ARE the bosses, who MAKE the rules, and who KEEP the little guy down. Perhaps THEY ought to hear this speech and take a look at the bleak world they're creating for the high school kids. The world is what you make it; if you MAKE it unfair, it will BE unfair, and it only IS unfair because peole have MADE it that way. Personally, I think Bill is one of the ONLY businessmen out there that is willing to try to make the world a better place for everyone, not only for him or herself, and though he might have made this speech, he seems in actuality to be trying to contradict it, judging by his actions. How many 30 billion dollar donations to the betterment of the world do YOU know about? That's about as liberal as you get.
AND, "Thank a soldier?" EXCUSE ME? I do hope you meant that sarcastically, because that's just about the only way it works on any cognitive level. Should I also thank a soldier for all the dead bodies this world has seen? Should I also thank a soldier for "the horror of war?" Should I thank a soldier for all the hatred, blood, violence, fire, and death that has plagued the world through the ages? Why don't we thank a statesman who avoided the wars? Why don't we thank a leader who has ruled with intelligence instead of force? Why should we thank a soldier? Soldiers have one purpose in this world: killing. If YOU want to thank a soldier, cool, but do you think JESUS whould have thanked any soldier ever? The prince of peace? THINK before you forward. And if you've thought about it and still agree with it, why don't you forward this on down to the Passamaquoddy tribal elders and tell THEM to thank a soldier for the English language?

(And WHY, you might ask, do I refer to Jesus? Simple. For a conservative, Jesus is like, well, Jesus. Always keep your audience in mind...)

posted by Clint Phipps on Jul 01, 2006 06:47PM

And here's your soundtrack
posted by Clint Phipps on Jul 01, 2006 06:49PM

Heh heh, the hackers are gonna love me for this one...
posted by Clint Phipps on Jul 01, 2006 07:20PM

You're not making a whole lot of sense there. What? :-/ And here I thought it was just spam...
posted by Krill Fishy on Jul 05, 2006 01:13PM

For what it's worth, Bill Gates isn't the author of the quoted portion.
posted by Zach Beane on Jul 05, 2006 04:36PM

When you're right you're right, zach. Bill didn't write the speech. Which begs the question: why would someone quote (or perhaps misquote would be the proper term) something and attribute it to someone when the authorship could be easily disproven. ( for instance) It would seem to harm the underlying position more than help it. How's THAT for not making sense? (Perhaps it would help if they'd used an emoticon...)
posted by Clint Phipps on Jul 17, 2006 09:21PM

Maybe because most people won't bother to verify authorship (you didn't) before using it as a springboard to some point they want to make, either pro or con. And the statement attached to some powerful or famous person is much more useful than attached to some no-name...l
posted by Zach Beane on Jul 17, 2006 09:40PM

You're quite right that I didn't verify the authorship of the quoted portion. But then, if you go back and read what I wrote, my original comment was precisely that the appropriation of a figure like Bill Gates for a political view was problematic to say the least, a view that your recent post echoes. In that regard, I didn't need to verify the author of the quoted section, only the forwarder who, by proxy, became the appropriator. One more reason to think before you forward. In retrospect, however, it might have made for a more interesting comment if I had included the authorship information, though the secondary point about soldiers and the English Language (that was the part that really set me off, being an English Major after all) would have remained unaffected.
There is a point, also, to be made about the differences between discredit by technicality as opposed to discredit of the actual substance. Regardless of who wrote or spoke the piece, the substance of the underlying philosophy remains. The surrounding events and the authorship may go a long way toward persuading people that care about those things (perhaps those are the people who'd verify authorship right off the bat, perhaps not), but then there are the people who examine a concept or a point of view on it's own merits. The misquote embodies a particular perspective and simply because authorship may be questionable, it doesn't mean that the ideas contained therein should not be addressed. The "Nah, he didn't write that," approach only works if you believe that a person must be a rich and powerful person to have an opinion. (I think this may have some relevance to a prior discussion on about the Dixie Chicks and how Clear Channel and others attempted to, and still attempt to devalue their speech because they are lowly musicians and shouldn't be able to think in a broader context...) Contrary to popular belief, ideas can come from places other than the top eschelon of society... Marx might agree. But I digress. The point is that the ideas still exist and proliferate (sometimes with the help of such misinformation) and to ignore them because of an error or an intentional misdirection is, in my opinion, only going to exacerbate the problem because the ideas don't go away. We should examine the concepts for what they're worth, because they exist regardless of authorship. (Brings to mind the Jefferson quote on ideas being analagous to a candle, "... no one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives [it] without lessening [me], as he who lights his [candle] at mine receives light without darkening me." Does it really matter, then, in terms of overall effect on society and humanity, who came up with it first? Who came up with the wheel, after all? Or better yet, beer...)
And so, the underlying questions: yes, I have a problem with the idea that soldiers are responsible for the English language, and the idea that the spread of English by military campaign has been a good thing worthy of thanks. I dissent. And yes, I think that the conception embodied in the "rules the real world" misquote leave much to be desired, are problematic, and embody a less-than-ideal world view. It is unfortunate that people forward this email around attempting to indoctrinate people young and old to the mindset that "this is how the world is, it aint gonna change, get used to it." Bill Gates doesn't see the world that way...
(Gotta say it: Told ya that hackers would love me for this one...)
posted by Clint Phipps on Jul 19, 2006 12:03PM