Category: Miscommunication

danger + opportunity ≠ crisis

We’ve all heard the New Age-y proverb about the Chinese word for “crisis” being a combination of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” (I just ran across the canard in the 2001 CLCV Scorecard [good luck finding it online; it seems to be long gone] and my skepticism was immediately piqued.)

According to a Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, it’s pretty much bullshit.

On his web page entitled “danger + opportunity ≠ crisis,” Professor Victor H. Mair writes:

The explication of the Chinese word for crisis as made up of two components signifying danger and opportunity is due partly to wishful thinking, but mainly to a fundamental misunderstanding about how terms are formed in Mandarin and other Sinitic languages. For example, one of the most popular websites centered on this mistaken notion about the Chinese word for crisis explains: “The top part of the Chinese Ideogram for ‘Crisis’ is the symbol for ‘Danger’: The bottom symbol represents ‘Opportunity’.”

He goes on to explain the three fatal errors in this misconception:

Compare and contrast…

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.”

– George Washington, 1796

“I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I’m sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn’t yet…. I don’t want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I’m confident I have. I just haven’t — you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.”

– George W. Bush, 2004

The similarities and differences between the two quotations are striking, especially considering the more than 200 years between them.

I just read Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796, and it’s a little fatuous of me to say that I found it pretty amazing. He was truly wise, and I wish that we would have listened to him more.

I’m reading it because I’m in the process of writing a blog entry (or at least was — the draft is gone since I foolishly updated Firefox without saving the draft in Drupal) encouraging members of the Green Party to stop railing against CLCV for leaving their gubernatorial candidate off our “GreenGov2010” site (to help the next governor become a better governor in protecting the environment than the one we have now). So far we have only posted info about the major candidates — the ones with any viability to win, the ones we all know about — though we will post all the candidates after the California Secretary of State’s office releases the certified list of candidates on April 1st.

I couldn’t remember which of our founding fathers had warned against the evils of political parties. A quick search revealed that at minimum George Washington had done so. In his eloquent (and verbose) farewell address, written and delivered at a time in which people wrote and orated amazingly complex sentences, he announced his decision not to seek a third term and warned against several things, including entanglements with permanent foreign alliances, government without religion and morality, and, yes, the establishment of political parties on geographical or other bases.

It’s amazing, and sad, how the near-total domination of parties in our political system have given rise to many of our first president’s fears. Read his speech (because I just don’t have time to list them at the moment… though I plan to).

The point is, for some reason Greens are pissed off at CLCV for leaving their candidate off the site, but it’s not our fault that the Greens have zero chance to win. It’s a classic case of looking everywhere except yourself for the source of your problems.

Luckily, WordPress is smarter than Drupal in the sense that it auto-saves what you write when you create a page or a post, so at least this blog entry is still around. I also really, really needed to not have that silly German U.S. Census ad up at the top of the homepage anymore.

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

Apparently I’ve never posted a link to this essay by George Orwell. Now I’m rectifying that situation. Read it now.

From George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946:

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, white papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

Jason Gohlke is getting married

Well, folks, Jason Gohlke is getting married today. That’s right—you heard it here first. Tying the knot. Gettin’ hitched. Ye olde ball and chain.

Before you get upset, let me clarify:

Life in the Bay Area

Life in the Bay Area

A series of 3 vignettes

Life in the Bay Area, Part I

Thursday, I showed up to work on time.

a sine wave

I pick the strangest times to stay up all night.

I also pick the strangest times to update this site. It’s somewhat foolish for me to attempt to document my emotions here, since they change constantly. (You’ve seen a sine wave, right?)

I also know that sometimes people that I actually know visit this site. That was the idea. However, there have been probably hundreds of times I’ve wanted to post something a little more personal, or something about a friend, or something about work, or something about someone I liked—but I haven’t, because I was worried about how people would respond to it. I’ve been very careful. Being careful, though, means being incomplete. It means hiding my thoughts and feelings.

I guess that means I need another outlet of expression, because I’m just not willing to fully trust myself to the Web. In recent weeks, I’ve been looking far more seriously into the idea of learning to play guitar (since anyone can, according to Radiohead). Even if I never write songs and perform them for people, I really feel the desire to have some ability to express myself musically. I may in fact get a guitar on Sunday.

Today I’m going to Richmond to staff CLCV’s table at an Earth Day celebration, after which I will go to a work party. I wish I’d slept.

suffer this vagueness

As always, I didn’t want a whole month to go by without at least updating at least once. It’s been a surprisingly difficult and stimulating month. Birth. Death. Closure. Anticipation. Nights that have been entirely too late, unsurprisingly.

I can’t really explain why I’m feeling dark at this point. I have been cruising at a satisfying altitude the last couple months; it’s only natural I should hit a more contemplative spell. I really should spend more time contemplating, though.

The joyous news of the recent past is that my brother and his wife had their baby: I’m an uncle! Nora Ruth was born Tuesday, April 8th in North Carolina. I wonder when I’ll get a chance to meet my new niece.

The next day, unfortunately, brought a loss to our family. My mom’s cat—Macintosh Xavier Gohlke Ream—died last Wednesday.

Macintosh had a really long and wonderful life. He was the most intelligent and affectionate cat I’ve ever met. I was 10, still living in Milwaukee, when the neighbor kids offered him door to door on our block. He was just a little kitten, and they put him in Mom’s arms, and that was pretty much it — he was our cat from that point on. 1985-2003. Macky was always there when I came back home, and next time, he won’t be. I’m going to miss him.

ornamental divider

I like California. I like working at CLCV. The people are really interesting. The weather is generally quite good. And there are many, many things to do. I just need to get out there and do them. Before I do them, though, I have some work hanging over my head. Things have been crazy around here, what with some upheaval at work, and some interesting developments (if, at times, slow to develop) in my personal life. I fear you must suffer this vagueness for the moment.

I will say that the trip to the Midwest was really fun and rewarding (despite the massively nasty cold virus I brought back home—sorry, Bay Area). That’s just the kind of month I’ve had.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén