Heritage Paper - Cultural Diversity

This blog entry is a test of Google Docs blog publish feature. I thought some might be interested in this paper I wrote for my Cultural Diversity class that I’m currently attending at Baker College of Auburn Hills, MI.

    My name is Caleb William Cushing, born Caleb Lee Rogers. I was born on October 21, 1984 in Lansing, Michigan, USA. I’m German / Norwegian by birth and German / English by law. I consider myself a full blooded American, and pay little heed to my lineage. Due in part to the fact of my culture, and in part to the fact that I am adopted and am not truly able to associate with either my biological family or my adopted one, as far as lineage goes.

    I consider myself a part of the ‘Hacker Culture’.  A Hacker is commonly defined as “A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence password hacker, network hacker. The correct term for this sense is cracker.”1 . Our definition, however, is a bit different, an acceptable version is “A person who delights in having an intimate understanding of the internal workings of a system, computers and computer networks in particular.”2. I myself have never broken into a system illegally, nor have I have ever maliciously attacked another system.
We hackers are a sort of counter culture. We tend to exist on the fringe of what society expects, and we explicitly seek not to conform to society, but to make up our own minds. This means that we conform to society only when societies view are the same as ours.

    The hacker culture is generally a meritocracy, meaning the person with the most skill, talent, or experience leads, although often there are other concerns as well, but this is quite common. If a person ceases to satisfy with leadership, Hackers tend to just move on. I myself have gone from the very bottom ranks of knowing almost nothing, to my own little peak in the mountain range of leaders and followings we have. Even though I myself am becoming a respected member of my community, I still look up to those who have much more knowledge than me. This is not to say I agree with them unconditionally. The merit of ones claims, like in science, is only good so long as no one can disprove it. It is the duty of all to attempt to debunk a claim. Some claims are not debunk-able  as they are based entirely on opinion and there is no scientifically correct answer for all cases. This is why there are so many ‘similar mountains’ in the community, no correct answer was realized and so both parties went their own way. This is the reason why I now have my own mountain.

    “Hackers dress for comfort, function, and minimal maintenance hassles rather than for appearance (some, perhaps unfortunately, take this to extremes and neglect personal hygiene). They have a very low tolerance of suits and other ‘business’ attire; in fact, it is not uncommon for hackers to quit a job rather than conform to a dress code.”3 I find that I generally fit this stereotype, I can be found where my pajamas and a t-shirt or jeans and a t-shirt more often than anything else. I only dress up when it’s required, although counter to many of my hacker comrades I do not completely abhor dressing up, I simply prefer not to.

    “Many (perhaps even most) hackers don’t follow or do sports at all and are determinedly anti-physical. Among those who do, interest in spectator sports is low to non-existent; sports are something one does, not something one watches on TV.”4 I whole-heartily agree with this sentiment, and although I’ve tried sports in the past I’ve never stuck with them. Many members of my family enjoy watching varying sporting events such as football, I’ve never understood this. The major exception in sports with hackers is martial arts, I’ve partaken in them and enjoyed them when I did, I hope to start practicing again soon.

    “Nearly all hackers past their teens are either college-degreed or self-educated to an equivalent level. The self-taught hacker is often considered (at least by other hackers) to be better-motivated, and may be more respected, than his school-shaped counterpart.”5  I personally work towards a college degree only because it is required by many employers. I tend to avoid working on my school work as much as possible to focus on more important things such as practical education through doing. Academia has become a largely commercialized institution that seeks not to teach but to make a profit, and in my opinion it charges more for its product than it is worth.

    Hackers tend to detest “All the works of Microsoft. Smurfs, Ewoks, and other forms of offensive cuteness. Bureaucracies. Stupid people. Easy listening music. Television (with occasional exceptions for cartoons, movies, and good SF like Star Trek classic or Babylon 5). Business suits. Dishonesty. Incompetence. Boredom. COBOL. BASIC. Character-based menu interfaces.6 Although some of these dislikes are harmless, such as Ewoks, others are not. I have found that many times my culture clashes with that of the rest of the world, because of my contempt for things like bureaucracy,  incompetence, and dishonesty. The rest of society seems to find these ineffective behaviors acceptable to the point of expected. I do not like the idea that I am expected to lie, so that other people may feel good about there own incompetence rather than improving themselves.

    “For those all-night hacks, pizza and microwaved burritos are big. Interestingly, though the mainstream culture has tended to think of hackers as incorrigible junk-food junkies, many have at least mildly health-foodist attitudes and are fairly discriminating about what they eat. This may be generational; anecdotal evidence suggests that the stereotype was more on the mark before the early 1980s.7 We hackers actually tend to be slight gourmets, preferring the finer, and more exotic foods in life. I myself enjoy going out for sushi on a regular basis. It is not uncommon for hackers to enjoy strongly ethnic foods of other cultures. We are very discriminating and many of us can probably tell the difference between good ethnic food, and cheap knockoffs almost as well as people who are native to that ethnicity. I have a strict policy of “don’t knock it ‘till you try it”, this applies to many things including food.

    “Hackerdom is still predominantly male. However, the percentage of women is clearly higher than the low-single-digit range typical for technical professions, and female hackers are generally respected and dealt with as equals.”8 I generally concur with this, we tend to be quite blind to gender, although this may have something to do with the fact that rarely we know the gender of who we are working with. On the note of ‘equals’ I should clarify in saying that a male would be treated the same as a female in the same scenario. Remember, we are a meritocracy, and a moron is still that.

    “In the U.S., Hackerdom is predominantly Caucasian with strong minorities of Jews (East Coast) and Orientals (West Coast).”9 “The ethnic distribution of hackers is understood by them to be a function of which ethnic groups tend to seek and value education. Racial and ethnic prejudice is notably uncommon and tends to be met with freezing contempt.”10 I personally recall that my High School seemed to have a fairly high number of racists in it, and I suspect that St. Johns, MI is quite racist, which is why there is a very low number of non-whites in the community. I find this behavior beyond contempt. I admit to having some personal contempt for the Indians (India) this is caused not so much by any true racism and more of a contempt for Help Desks being outsourced to their country. There incompetence and inability to be an effective tool at what they’ve been tasked is the source of my disdain. I also disdain the US Companies that have made this unpatriotic, greedy, and unquality decision.

    Religiously Hackers tend to be “Agnostic. Atheist. Non-observant Jewish. Neo-pagan. Very commonly, three or more of these are combined in the same person. Conventional faith-holding Christianity is rare though not unknown.“1 I was raised to be a Protestant Christian, and sometimes it comes through as it was very much ingrained as a child. I am actually an agnostic, wit slight leanings towards Buddhism and the occult, neither of which are uncommon in the hacker community.

    I was not raised a Hacker, at least not in my opinion, although there were things that were slightly Hackish in my upbringing. My adoptive mother makes all her food from scratch, and for a “home cooked” meal it is by far the best I have ever had, restaurants such as Bob Evans can’t hold a candle to what she makes. My adoptive father could be described as a wood turning hacker. He turns wood on a lathe to make things such as bowls and vases, his work is unique, and among some of the best, he has even created his own tools and methods for doing so, this is definitely of the hacker nature. They are both conservative Christians, and a bit less open to new things than most hackers, they have a profound inability to learn new things, or try new things, I’ve found that in recent years I have been able to somewhat broaden there horizons, but this is quite limited.

    Both of my adopted parents were born in 1936 around Lansing, Michigan, Grand Ledge and Dewitt, respectively. They grew up at the end of the depression, and in fact my mothers earliest memory is that of getting electricity. She summarized her childhood as, “If you didn’t need it, you didn’t buy it”. This was a 5050 way in my childhood years, as I was a bit spoiled because she was unable to bear children herself. At the same time I didn’t really get my first computer until I was 16, even though I’d been clamoring for something for years. I believe this was a two-fold cheapness they carried from the depression and a fear of new technology given there age. I had trouble acquiring things like cd players as well in the 90s. I’ve brought some of this with me into my adult years, although I prefer to be called frugal, as I don’t buy what I don’t need, but if I do need something I’m not cheap, you get what you pay for in my opinion. This was demonstrated by a cheap Apex dvd player they bought for me on my b-day, it died a year later, 2 weeks before it’s warranty was up, circuit city replaced it with a newer Sony (I picked it) plus 3 year warranty and money back. These days I do my research on what I’m buying before I buy it, but I never pick the cheapest and rarely the most expensive, as neither end of the spectrum is a wise purchase.

    I find that my current mindset is one much more that of genetics than upbringing. Two of my three half sisters were straight A students in school and although I wouldn’t call them Hackers they obviously have a high IQ, although they seem to be quite good at not putting there brains to use. I’m sure that they share a mutual opinion of me though.

    I share many of the same attributes as my biological parents, including my intelligence and stubbornness. Both of which I believe are considered ‘German’ traits. I lack many of there negative traits, except for the fact that I’m not the most pleasant person and I may get some of that from them. I feel as if I have actually picked the best attributes from both my upbringing and my genes and combined them.

    My grandparents on my adopted side were born around the turn of the century between 1897 and 1908. They’d gone from horse and buggy to men on the moon, color tv, and personal computers; I’m not entirely sure they actually had experience with the latter.  All of them had passed before I was born. They were all natives to this country all though my Mothers Grandmother came from germany to flee the war, one that predated world war 1.

    The celebration of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter has been in our family 3, or more, generations although I do not truly celebrate them as holidays, I merely attend  to be with family. The commercialization of these holidays is perverse, and the religious meaning holds no weight for me.

    My biological family seems to celebrate these holidays as well. However, my biological family is not close, to me or each other, the family on both sides is highly segmented into clicks even among immediate family. My biological grandparents are still alive but truthfully I don’t know how to reach one of them at all, another I might have an email for, yet another I’m not on good terms with, and the last I do talk to occasionally but they are very sick.
    In general I now associate less with my family, and heritage than I do with the Hacker Culture.

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