Flattening pyramids

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.  I forgot to note the episode number.

There is a very real tendency for young and niche communities to go to war with, and amongst, each other. Linux versus BSD, FreeBSD versus OpenBSD, GNOME versus KDE, Ruby versus the world, not to mention globalization internationalization versus sterilization localization.

(But everybody knows that if you want to get anything done, you use C)

The ferocity of these wars abates only when the community matures, which is to say that mostly counter-productive bickering is replaced by wholly non-productive apathy and/or the bane of (de-facto) standards. The L in LAMP is generally uncontested these days, or it doesn’t really matter so much as the P, or whether that P should be an R, or E, or something.

When it comes to moving pictures, maybe I’m the worst kind of viewer in that unless there’s some extreme abuse, I can’t be bothered to get riled up. Screen clutter? You should see my desk, the most recent addition being an empty pack of gum, a half-used pack of gum, and the contents of my wallet as if I had tipped it upside down and given it a good shake. I can spot a partially buried headset, an unopened pack of playing cards, and newsletters dating back to last fall (or last summer? I can’t see the date).

So no, clutter and information overload don’t really bother me. I don’t strictly approve of mismanaged real estate, screen or desk, although my indifference does amount to tacit approval. My way of dealing with distractions is probably a common one: tune them out. I suspect that most people around my age are quite good at tuning out, to the extent that it takes a monumental effort to get them to tune back in, but that’s what enormous marketing budgets and hype machines are for.

There are some things that I don’t tune out, though. They could be incredibly useful bits of information, or ultimately frivolous ones. But for what they’re worth, I can’t tune out honorifics. In a sense, you could leave them in subtitles or take them out and I wouldn’t care, because I care. I can’t not hear them; they can’t be unheard. Why?

Part of it is a uniqueness factor associated with honorifics. More often than not, they’re preceded by a name and that’s just not how we roll over here. Surely the person we’re speaking to knows their own name, and even though people like to hear their name when addressed, I find that there’s a line between personal touch and discomfort, the kind experienced as if being addressed with a number instead of “you” when being spoken to. For whatever reason, this difference in mindset continues to be interesting instead of — I don’t know — repulsive.

By and large though, I think that I’m just interested in systems. I suppose that should have been obvious from the get-go, since a fair number of courses in the syllabus have the word, but honorifics as a system? It’s an efficient way of compressing and delivering relationship graphs, compacting the social hierarchy and letting everyone know where they stand on the ladder of life. And by constantly reminding others of their own status, perhaps it went some way towards maintaining social harmony.

I don’t pay much attention to pronouns, but should I? I see them as one part protocol, and one part loopback mechanism. After all, your relationship with yourself kind of falls into a special case. Self-esteem is essential to scaling any height, but at the end of the day how far you get is measured in the eyes of others. As they should be. Autobiographies excepted.