3.30.2006

RANT: Enslaved by our carry-on items and independence

via WashingtonPost - Slogging around with a backpack, a notebook and a bottle of water, you stop for a while and stare at the historic black-and-white photographs in the National Museum of American History. You know, the ones depicting Americans going about their everyday lives: folks waiting for District trolley cars circa 1900, for instance, or people crisscrossing Pennsylvania Avenue in 1905. Notice something missing? That's right: stuff.

The people -- all ages, all colors, all genders -- are not carrying any backpacks or water bottles. They are not schlepping cell phones, cradling coffee cups or lugging laptops. They have no bags -- shopping, tote or diaper. Besides a small purse here or a walking cane or umbrella there, they are unburdened: footloose and fingers free. Now walk outside and take a look around. People on the same city streets are loaded down. They are laden with books, newspapers, Gatorade jugs, personal stereos, knapsacks, briefcases and canvas totes with high-heel shoes inside. They have iPods strapped to upper arms, fanny packs buckled around waists and house keys Velcroed to shoelaces.

Perhaps it's because we are multitaskers. Or because we're insecure. Maybe we are becoming more independent. Whatever the reasons, we are more and more burdened by our belongings...

Contemporary life is so fluid. Work bleeds into leisure activity, which oozes over into family time. We never know what we are going to need or when we are going to need it. A book when we get mired on the Metro; a juice box when we are trapped in traffic; cookies for low blood sugar moments; a flashlight in case we have a flat tire at night. "It's sort of like a safety net," Douglass says of the things we carry... The increased quantity of carry-on items for our flight through life, he says, reflects "the tendency of our society to dispense with sources of shared stability -- the long-term job, neighborhoods, unions, family dinners -- and transform us into autonomous free agents."

The Walkman, introduced in 1979, Hine says in an e-mail, "probably set the precedent; it allowed people to be physically in a space, but mentally detached. The plethora of 'communications' devices we carry are also tools of isolation from the immediate environment. And, in the words of the recruiting ad, we each become 'an army of one' carrying all our tools of survival through a presumably hostile world." It's the perfect posture for the Age of Insecurity. We fret about our jobs, families, country, manhood or womanhood, ability to be a good parent. We believe someone is out to get us. And to get our things. So, like the homeless, we carry our stuff with us. Just in case something, or anything, happens.

If wealth is judged by freedom and freedom is the state of being unencumbered, then we are a poor and burdened people...

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Strength vs Weakness

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