ORAL SEX, LINUX, AND SMASHING THE THIRD WORLD
I’m back. Italy was beautiful, but then again, that’s what it’s there for. I planned on coming back tanned, rested and ready. Instead, I’m paler, jetlagged, and even fatter. But I am back.
First, my apologies for the lack of filing. Italy is woefully behind on traffic lights and modern phone lines. I couldn’t get a workable connection the entire time I was there — I swear. But don’t worry: It’s not frustrating at all to carry the most important, expensive, and irreplaceable piece of equipment in your life all over a foreign country, running it through a half-dozen X-ray machines — some of which have Enrico Fermi’s original signature on them — for absolutely no reason whatsoever. You’d think in a country so smart that even the kids can speak Italian by the age of five or six would be able to figure out a phone system where I don’t need to insert one end of the tin-can string into my laptop.
Anyway, I want to thank you for your patience as I had my first real vacation in a long, long time. Now the question is whether I can get my readers back. Web traffic has been down in my absence (and mopery has shot through the roof in Cleveland). This is no small thing. I get paid one piece of kibble and half a salt lick for every hit to the site. After spending more money than I have in Italy — literally millions of Lire — I can’t afford for you guys to split.
Fortunately, there was an interesting piece in yesterday’s New York Times on the topic of web magazine statistics. Apparently I am not the only one who can’t think straight until he’s gotten his morning dose of page impressions, user sessions, and the like. Apparently the gang at Salon, Slate, and the Industry Standard spend as much time as I do walking around bus stations in fishnet stockings and I’ll-work-for-Bill-Clinton-pumps in order to satisfy their page-impression cravings. Michael Kinsley, the editor of Slate, calls web stats “insidious” because of their baleful effect on journalistic standards — or something like that.
Regardless, in the piece the pros from the “big” web mags offer some hints about what kinds of stories and headlines generate serious traffic. A headline relation to “oral sex” always seems to grab the attention more than, say, an article on Orrin Hatch’s views on judicial review. And — get this — the editors at Salon have found reasons to include “Oral Sex” in a number of headlines. Funny how that works.
More interesting is the fact that articles relating to “Linux” — the name the Peanuts character assumes when he stars in Roman Empire-motif porn movies (like The Erotic Adventures of Hercules with Norman Fell as Zeus) — get huge hits. No, actually Linux is a programming language. But coincidentally, its boosters do tend to think they live in Ancient Rome and they are Christians trying to topple the world with their selfless philosophy of open, free software as opposed to the imperial tyranny of, say, Microsoft. Apparently there’s this thing called the “Slashdot Effect” (it sounds better if you say it like it’s a preview for a new Bruce Willis movie: “Bruce Willis is Arliss McKinkledorp. When others go on dates, he writes code. See why in: The Slashdot Effect. It seems if you mention the LINUX OPERATING SYSTEM, millions upon millions of people see the link on the Slashdot.com website and come on over, because Slashdot.com monitors all mentions of LINUX SOFTWARE and links to them. Who would have thought that so many people were interested in Linux software? Maybe if Linux software told us something about Oral Sex? Oh well, never mind.
Now, in the past I have admitted that I am not above debasing myself for cheap high-traffic thrills. In fact if you search for “Lesbian Love Goats” on google.com the first couple of results should be the Goldberg File.
But G-File readers are a breed apart. They have both the intelligence of Slate readers (“ahem, at least,” quoth the couch) as well as the prurient interest of Salon devotees (the couch is unavailable for comment as he is currently trying to fix my VCR). They want their chaos theory and their Simpsons quotes.
So in recognition of the fact that this space has been dark for nearly two weeks (the equivalent of almost two months for a weekly columnist — though somebody who cares should check that math) in addition to the fact that I have been out of the news loop, eating cured meats and pasta, I herewith offer an extra long G-file for your consideration (though readers inclined to read more about the Linux operating system, or who are interested in gratuitous mentions of oral sex, should leave now because I’m done with the shameless prostitution until at least Monday).
DOING IN THE THIRD WORLD
“Oral Sex,” wrote Pamela Anderson, “is the key to understanding Linux software.” Just kidding. Actually, I just want to talk about how we should seek the eradication of Third World Cultures. Well, maybe not their total eradication; but some serious smiting and stomping is certainly in order. Because we’ve established a pretty jocular tone, I want to be careful not to sound disrespectful. There is no racism in what I am saying. In fact I think that racism is what has largely kept so many millions of people in disgusting poverty. It is a racism of the Left and the Right. For the last decade or so, people in Sierra Leone, taking one sad example, have been cutting off the arms of other people, many of them children. I bring up Sierra Leone only because pictures from there have recently made their way into the newspapers.
The reason the papers decided to run these pictures of small children holding their food bowls with their elbows and old women walking on their knees is interesting. It’s not the barbarism that got the press’s attention, it’s the fact that barbarism might have stopped. “Hey, this is interesting. They might have stopped butchering each other in this sliver of Africa. Well, that’s a dog bites man story.”
The simple truth is that everyone thinks that much of the Third World is a write-off. Many conservatives just don’t care. And, many Leftists — especially when it comes to South America — think that saying we should “preserve unique cultures” is somehow different than saying “keep these people in poverty.”
In America if you say that women shouldn’t be in infantry combat units or that gays shouldn’t adopt children, you’re pretty much a bigot. But if you say that maybe the women of South American Indian tribes shouldn’t be forced to spend their entire lives weaving baskets, you’re an imperialist. In America the Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger crowd think using rats and rabbits for medical experiments is barbaric (Baldwin recently wrote Al Gore, “I and other Democrats feel the need to advise you that, for us, animals suffering and dying senselessly is something that overrides political affiliation”). Okay, fine. But when some shaman guts a goat to read its entrails or some tribe harpoons a magnificent whale because it’s their version of an Iron-John ritual, why are we supposed to clap at the splendor of their cultural uniqueness?
Of course if you harnessed all of the intellectual energy of the Baldwinites you’d have enough power to toast bread — lightly. I’ve got news for these people: We all come from cultures that were dependent on basket-weaving and hunter-gathering. This funny thing changed that for some of us; it’s called civilization.
A week doesn’t go by when PBS or the Discovery Channel don’t run some documentary on the myriad customs and cultures of the Third World. Oh, how wonderful, this tribe lives off of tree sap and wild squirrels! Golly, these people have the most lovely dance for bringing on a good harvest. And looky here, these people have the most wonderful herbal remedy for toothaches. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody that the reason they have to treat so many toothaches is that their teeth start dropping like French guns in the face of light German advances.
Now, I’m a conservative. I like the past. I love tradition. In fact I want to conserve these things, hence the word conservatism. Conservatives are opposed to the bleaching of culture or the erasure of history. Conservatism, the saying goes, is dedicated to the wisdom of the ancients. But that wisdom believes in progress, determined by reason and tempered by tradition. That’s why none of us believes white people would be better off living like Vikings, Goths, or Huns. Why should we think that Africans or Indians should?
I was just in Italy. Now, anybody who has spent five minutes in Italy knows that it is a very — oh gosh what’s that word? — right: Italian country. The food, the language, the traditions, the very air itself is Italian. If you can be an Italian with a cell phone, a full set of teeth and an apartment, why can’t the same hold true for Zulus? Is there something about being a Zulu that’s antithetical to being modern? (I know there are plenty of Zulus with cellphones and the like already, but the point is that I think many liberals find this disappointing).
And don’t tell me it’s a question of religion. Is there something about being an Amazonian tribesman which says you can’t perform your sacred rituals on the weekends or at your daughter’s wedding, while you also live in an air-conditioned home and buy safe food from a supermarket? That’s how Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians the world over do it. By the way, Judaism is pretty old and it has lots of traditions, but you don’t see many Greenbergs working as shepherds and you don’t see many Goldfarbs living in sheepskin tents.
It is time we stopped making excuses for the backward and fetishizing the stagnant. We need to help these people. If that means smashing a few cultures which are little more than 20th century, Southern Hemisphere versions of Vikings, so be it. How we smash them is the subject of another column.
NOTE TO READERS
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