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OPINION | PHILIP MARTIN: Ch-ch-changes

by Philip Martin | June 12, 2022 at 1:49 a.m.

I find myself talking--and thinking--a lot about change these days.

Some people are really resistant to it. It's not hard to understand why. It feels difficult because it causes us to have to think about things we don't usually think about.

And we tend to identify personal comfort with well-being. If we're not stressed, if we're a little bit bored, maybe we feel secure. We establish routines and protocols for handling unusual circumstances. We want our operations to basically run themselves. It's exciting, though stressful, to have to constantly improvise or to learn new skills.

Most people my age don't like change. We don't want to keep up, and the rules seem to shift every few days. I tend to say and write "Indian" when I'm talking about the Indigenous tribes of North America; I think that's OK now, but for a while it wasn't, though every Indian I've ever interviewed either prefers the term or thinks it's silly to engage in that particular semantic debate.

While everyone probably has words they don't want to be called, it's not difficult to discern whether someone is acting in respectful good faith or being a jerk.

I have a good friend who calls me "Movieboi." I'll take that from him; anyone else I'd at least look at sideways.

When I was a kid, the word we were supposed to use for an American of Mexican descent was "Chicano." Now, seeing how I'm no longer 12 years old and, I hope, capable of more discernment than I was at that age, I realize that the term, while not necessarily offensive (so far as I know), has a long and complicated history, and that it started out as a slur before it was reclaimed as a term of empowerment in the 1960s. Specifically, "Chicano" was adopted by young Mexican Americans who were skeptical of cultural assimilation.

I haven't used "Chicano" as a general-purpose synonym for Mexican American for more than 40 years, though it still pops up in my head occasionally. I'm all for calling people what they'd prefer to be called, and my experience leads me to believe that most people don't mind being referred to by name rather than ethnic identity. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can lobby all she wants for "Latinx," and maybe over time that will come to be the preferred term.

But right now, "Latinx" strikes me as one of those words people use when they want to signal how advanced and evolved and virtuous they are.

The world changes, and we have to change with it or go extinct. It's no good looking back at some mythical golden time (that never existed anyway) and wishing it's like that now. Because it's not and isn't going to be.

Mayberry never existed. Andy Griffith was a liberal Democrat who supported Barack Obama in 2008.

Some of y'all aren't going to believe that because it doesn't fit in with your perfect vision of how the world ought to be, but that's the way it was. And while I'm at it: John Wayne wasn't a war hero who went on secret spy missions and was dissuaded from signing up to beat Hitler by a government who thought his highest and best use was to make movies to stoke the patriotic fervor or whatever other theory the apologists are offering nowadays. He was just a guy who decided his family and career were more important than potentially risking his life on a foreign battlefield.

I can't say I blame him for that. But understanding Wayne doesn't stop me from admiring the people who set aside their own lives to try to make the world safe for democracy. I'm not sure that if I'd been in Wayne's position I wouldn't have played it exactly the way he played it. I hope I would have done better, but understand I'm just lucky to never have had the opportunity to declare one way or the other.

But I am talking about change, which is something we all have to do to stay in step with the world. If you're reading this on an iPad, well, you know what I'm talking about. Technology keeps moving along, and if you're not ready to learn how to use new devices and ways of thinking about the world, you run the risk of being obsoleted.

This newspaper is way different than it was 10 or 12 years ago; your job is probably way different than it was 10 or 12 years ago. I spend a portion of my week making little movies now. That's not something that I ever thought would fit under my job description. You probably do things you'd never imagine you'd be doing as well.

I bet a lot of those men and women who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, never gave a thought to the idea that their Samsung Galaxies might be snitching on them, that there was such a thing called metadata attached to their Instagram posts and TikTok videos. I bet Josh Duggar was surprised at what the nerds could make of his laptop.

The whole idea of the expectation of privacy has changed--whenever you're online you're essentially in a public square and you probably ought not pull down your pants and do the hokey pokey if you don't want to be notorious as the pantless hokey pokey-er. (Right, Jeffrey Toobin?)

I don't have a think tank white paper or a publicist's email to point to, but I bet criminals-- successful criminals, anyway--are among the best at adapting to rapid change. They have figured out how to use all these digital tools too; it's way less dangerous to break into a PayPal account than a bank, and if you find someone who hasn't adapted to the new rules of how we live now, you might be able to get them to give you their money by pretending you're a Nigerian prince in distress or their cousins who are inexplicably trapped in Thailand after losing credit cards and passports.

Or that you've discovered gold on a Pacific Island and you just need a stranger's help to smuggle it out.

People fall for these schemes, though probably not the sort of people who are hip to the joys of reading their Sunday newspaper on an iPad. Congratulations, the good news is you've evolved.

The bad news is you've got to get up every day and do it again.

pmartin@adgnewsroom.com


Print Headline: Ch-ch-changes

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