Last evening I was plodding through some technical magazines which were getting mouldy in a tray of mine labeled 'See me later, alligator'. I did not get far because, after reading for about the millionth time
'Why do you need to know about ...,'
my stomach went acid.
Mind you, I find it nice when a person wants to share a piece of knowledge with me because he/she finds it personally pleasing to do so. I also don't get particularly irritated when a professional person such as a teacher finds a gaping hole in my instruction and suggests that I bone up on a topic.
What raises my hydrochloric acid levels is when complete strangers pretend to tell me not just what I need to know but even WHY I need to know it, taking it for granted that
a) I have no ideas of my own in that department,
b) even if I had them, they would sure be befuddled or plain wrong and
c) in any case, they know better what's good for me than I do.
Some of the busybodies who invent statements as the one above even have the guts to propose that I purchase a brochure containing the Enlightenment. Fortunately, most of them are generous enough to throw the pearls away for FREE (wow!).
Maybe my problem is that I grew up in a communist state.
Back in the fifties, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia always knew better what was best for the citizens and it made sure that the message would reach everybody a few times a day.
Every day! For years!
So, I guess, I got allergic to it.
It's funny how things, be they good or bad, continue to pop up randomly throughout one's life, assuming the weirdest forms and yet remaining the same, making sure you know they are still there, no matter how hard you try and run away from them. On the other hand, my wife Lucia is convinced that nothing is really random. She thinks there is a Big Book where it's all written. I should give it a thought. After all, can I prove her wrong? Given the evidence, I can't.
Post Scriptum, a few days later:
The December 1996 issue of Byte magazine I intended to leaf through today opened on page 160, right in the middle of Chaos Manor, a Jerry Pournell's column. The first thing I saw, set aside from the rest of the text and typeset in a dark-violet boldface, was the question
Don't we all love smart programs that
know what you want better than you do?
I exclaimed 'No!', assumed a fetal position and started sucking on my thumb in frustration. Jesus Christ, can't they see it? I mean, Jerry usually writes reasonable things. And he is not even trying to sell me something specific, he is just being sincere!
Suppose that what I really want is to find the courage to ask the girl next door for a date. Do you think it likely that I want to be told so by a fucking computer, running (and crashing) under Windows 2000 or something?
Still sucking on my thumb, I took a decision. I am no mouse-clicking accessory for computer programs, be they dumb or smart! Humanity may be selling out to The Enemy, but I will defend The Fortress!
The way it is posed, Jerry's rhetoric question remains FALSE as long as even a single person keeps answering NO. Ok, World, that person is ME and I am obstinate enough to withstand the onslaught!
Having given a new meaning to my life made me feel great.
I took my thumb out and switched on my computer to write it down.