Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reading to Write, Writing to Read, Wearing a Black Hat

You probably knew I couldn't stay away. I wasn't so sure. I have other more compelling writing projects now, some of which I actually hope to get paid for. Am desperate to get paid for, if you want to know the truth. Because any moment now I'm likely to hear if I got this or that job which I've applied for. Earnestly and in good faith, but I dread as much as long for the chance again to renew my upstanding ability to pay my bills.

I'm sure you care a bit less than I do for the kind of integrity which bedevils my every decision. I'm trying for a word here which implies nothing about a moral better or worse. Just integrity. I feel split apart by jobs. I feel split apart by love affairs. I feel split apart by having to follow protocols or directions or etiquette of any sort now that I think about it. I want and need and even sometimes demand to be the exception to every rule. I am not, ultimately, a believer in rules. I believe in slack. So do you. You want to be considered special too. Despite your shortcomings. I've learned to stay away from things which split me apart, or to find some way to stay apart.

As in, if even I, as well capitalized socially as I manifestly am (or at least "could be if I wanted to"), cannot stand up for slack, then what chance does anybody have? I think there's integrity in that. But you may not want to get near me, just like those "black hat" hackers who now have conventions all over the world but are not always savory types themselves. I mean you have to wonder where they got their skills if not by breaking into places all over the place. You have to wonder where the thrill changes over into wanting money for what they're good at. You have to wonder if they'd ever be honest behind your back, given enough temptation.

You have to wonder, if you're me, if the only distinction between a black hat hacker on the side of the good guys and a black hat hacker on the side of the bad guys is which side of what boundary he (I think it's still mostly "he") finds himself on. If you live in Eastern Europe, then nobody's going to give you the time of day about what it is you've learned how to do, so you might as well steal as much as you can from the evil oppressor capitalist pigs you so much want just to like you. To be like.

If you're inside the NSA, you might as well do what the boss tells you to do, since to question that will get you ejected out of rank. And if you're living to some reasonable standard inside the boundaries of these United States - if you have a reasonably respectable "day job" - then you can call out your hacks and expect someone to both trust that you meant well by them, and expect them to do something about closing the gaping hole.

The one you wouldn't close before the hacker demonstrated that it was open. You wouldn't listen to him until he just popped right through it, showed you what he could have done, and then hopped right back out.

What do you do, what should you do, if you think the ones you're helping are in fact themselves oppressors? You could rationalize that you're really helping the hapless victims of the corporate slackers. The customers whose identity is getting stolen. And your expectation of getting paid by the corporations, against the cost to expose them to their customers, is extortion by some other name. What if you really think that these corporations are evil, not just by their omissions, but by all sorts of facts about them. What would be the right thing then? To stay out of the game entirely? Who do you call that out to?

So now there's a body of hackers, just like there's a body of authors, all wanting to be paid attention for the terrible things they can do with and to your trust. I bow out, I bow in, I read authors who compel me, and know I could never write as well as they do, I read authors who compel me, but don't compel so many others, and I think I can tell the readers how to read, I read myself and think I should learn to write, but I have no way at all to get anyone's attention. At least not by writing.

And in the world of writing, there's no way to be a hacker!!??? Isn't that where the word got started? I've driven a taxi. I'll do it again if I have to. Now tell me, what do you want me to act like I believe? How much does it pay? Who's the audience?

Well, I'm just not that good, or sleazy, or whatever. I mean I think that if I could write a potboiler, or whatever they're called, I really would. It would still beat having to take another day job. Now can I please take your day job?

I've blown it in the world of power-networking, having forsaken all the friends who could exercise some clout on my behalf. I seem to keep only friends who don't quite believe in me any more than I believe in myself, or who have so much integrity themselves that they'd never exericise influence on my or anybody else's behalf for that matter. Is there integrity in that? Which??? Has nobody ever helped you, then? Must you claim yourself for yourself alone?

Well, I think that's what family is, those who would cut you slack, except that to do so would be to betray their responsibility to you. I'm not like good Catholics, for instance, who will sacrifice their own life for the betterment of some family member's life. I rationalize - I don't even believe, in the end, that my sacrifice would lead to the betterment of anyone else's life. Ever. At all. If they don't learn to do it themselves, then it's not worth doing. I'm not reliable enough to depend on. Although I'm happy to use my connections shamelessly on your behalf if I find that I ever have any. Which might explain my apparent strategy not to.

And yet I do allow - have allowed - what I consider to be the inhuman abuse of me rather than to contest it. Other people can't know what they're asking of you when they demand that you get a job, or risk jail in the case of child support. Risk accusations of abandonment. But they can't know that for you this is precisely the same as being consigned to a galley, pulling oars day in and day out and sometimes even sustaining the stripes down your back, just because there's no-one who believes it can be as bad as that. Who are you to know what goes on in someone else's heart?

We are, each and every one of us, quite fully capable to demand of others things which if we were to know what it felt like "inside" we would realize that we had just made of that person something lower than an object, but we exercise some "right" and objectively, what we're asking is no real sacrifice at all. It's what we would want if we were that person. We impose our dreams on others, never considering that it might hurt to be imposed on that way. Keep your own fucking dreams, I've got my own. Now what was it you thought that I should do for my own good? Please, don't leave me on my own. I need a teacher.

The pivotal line in that great film Precious, where she looks at the social worker and realizes that the social worker wouldn't have nearly enough strength to live her life, Precious' own life. And social workers - I've known a few in my day - are almost never those who've lived lives of privilege themselves. These are often enough people who've had to pick themselves up, though probably no one of them has had so far to go as Precious did.

I resist your dreams for me, you resist mine for you. Nothing makes me more livid inside than when my own mother says how she'll pray for me that I will get this or that job. She's praying for my death sentence because it means so much for her is all. To see me safe and upstanding and recognized for what she knows to be my talents and skills and what I have to offer. If she knew what it felt like inside me to face yet another round of up the hill to roll back down, she would never wish for me something to make her feel that easy. But I have no way to say that. I wouldn't say it if I did. Well, OK, I do say it all the time, and it doesn't make me very nice.

OK, so I've gotta go now, to meet Mom at the day care center for memory challenged elders. To check it out for Dad. They're popping up all over the place, and just like day-care for infants if you want to get a job, likely cost way more than the most tony private prep school. And the working class stands for that? Or do they all just get family to help. As it was in the beginning. Amen.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying. You don't know me. You can't, no matter how much I write, nor how well, you will never know me. Now cut me some slack. I don't even know myself. Not even close.

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