"Dad only knows how to talk about things that interest him."

My dad only knows how to talk about things that interest him.

If you tried to talk about something unique to you, he'll listen, but he is casting hooks, looking for things that would bring the conversation back to his list of topics.

It sounds horrible?  But wait.  Among the things that interest my dad were Greek logic, Roman history, mid-20th century psychology research, Russian literature, Dickens, John Jacob Niles, and 20th century India.  To name a few.

He has no email address, no Facebook presence.  For someone who taught "mass communications" (MassComm), he's uniquely unplugged.  But as his kid, growing up in the '60s and '70s, I would say I was exposed to more things than the kids across the street.

I confess I'm a lot like my dad in regard to listening.   The things that interest me are less historical, more future oriented.  Sustainability.

Some of us who are agents of conscience find ourselves less interested in other peoples mundane problems, or in discussions about the weather.   I don't share my mundane problems either.  Nor does my dad, so much, except to fit in with other people talking about their mundane personal problems.  He'd rather be speaking about his personal heroes, the people who shaped him, than about his ills and setbacks.  We'd be better communicators if we split our time equally with everyone else in society, worrying at least half the time about things that worry other people in the conversation.

Worry comes from cognitive risk, and if you are talking to other people who want to spend half the time talking about "shark attacks", rare and unlikely fears, turned into obsessions, you are supposed to compromise.  The likelihood that a sea container exported by a Nigerian from the UK is going to be burned by kids at dumps is pretty low.   But if that fear, that message of export impropriety, has been marketed everywhere to everyone, a polite conversationalist will want to give it equal time... But there I go again.

Dad was really good at watching cartoons with me.

Growing up, Saturday mornings were for watching Bugs Bunny / Looney Tunes with dad.  You're next.  You're so next.   Dad was a college professor (Ph.D History and Journalism), but he loved watching Bugs and Daffy reruns, over and over with us, every Saturday morning.

We are all so next.  Us, our egos, and the topics we care passionately for.

I'm quite serious about how un/important "e-waste" is, compared to barber shops, laundromats, and gas stations.  I'm very passionate about my career and business.  But psych research, Dostoyevsky, History, Greek Philosophy, Dickens, etc. are what my Dad leaves me in orbit of.  His mother, aunt, grandmother and grandfather (who raised him) wrote weekly editorials, on typewriters, laid on typeset printers for Ozark readers.  They didn't raise me to be popular, they rolled their eyes at references to Dale Carnegie ("How to Win Friends and Influence People").  I was taught to look for themes of truth in my lifetime, and to take literary lessons... well, literally.

Determine the career you can feel passionately for.   "Take your cause seriously.  But don't take yourself too seriously."  So dad says.  You're so next.

Sustainability is important, but a very "general" term.   Any particular branch - like recycling Starbucks paper coffee cups, or creating rules for reuse of cell phones - increases the risk of declining interest and relevance.   Just how important is it?  The more boring the subject (R2 Standards for used ink cartridges?), the greater the risk of policy by "last man standing"... only people with vested interest in ink cartridges remain in the room.

What's important about "e-waste" policy isn't what happens to ink cartridges, nor even the toxics, nor the sustainability.  It has been the arrest of men who are good fathers, like Hurricane Hamdy, Hurricane Benson, Hurricane Chiu, and Hurricane Fung.  It's about assigning them labels like "primitive" and "informal".  Listen, if I was growing up in Africa, I cannot think of a job I'd rather have my dad do than importing and repairing used computers.

This conversation about my father is no more interesting than your conversation about your father.  With my close friends and family, we talk about people we love, and we learn to care about the people others love.  Agents of conscience have empathy.  We care so much it never stops, it never turns off.  We are willing to be vulnerable, willing to be disliked, willing to be humiliated.  But it impacts our families when we are accused of awful things, like dumping toxic waste on children, caring only about money, not caring about the safety of our employees...  The only hope is to be brutally honest about your own true shortcomings.

Hillbilly Hare, set in the Ozarks
The Ozarks. Mom, Dad, all my grandparents... all hillbilly.  All "redneck".  Grandparents fought for the north, ran to make Kansas vote a free state, but little to zero exposure to minorities, and redneck throughout.  In Vermont, they call me a "flatlander".   More irony.

Look up this guy, at the Hitler rally.  Mr. August Landmesser was accused of dating a jew.  Like I'm accused of trading with geeks of color.  My topic.  Welcome in.   As far as I know, Landmesser wasn't recognized for pushing back against the Nazi state during his lifetime.  But one of his kids recognized him in the photo, when it went viral on the web.

A man singled out by the state for dishonor, imprisoned for marrying a Jew.  In the Loving v. Virginia theme of my blog, it doesn't matter much whether he was a good conversationalist, or preferred talking about things that interested him.  Or maybe, had he played along better, he could have kept his family.  Read the excerpt from the article about the Landmesser family below.

I bet he would have been a cool dad.

Washington Post:   

"It was not until 1991 that the man was identified as August Landmesser, a worker at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, by one of his children, after she saw the photo in a German newspaper.

"While he is believed to have been a member of the Nazi Party from 1931 to 1935, he was later expelled from the party for marrying a Jewish woman, Irma Eckler, according to Fasena, an educational site on the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz."

"After Landmesser fathered two daughters with Irma, he was sent to jail for “dishonoring the race.” Irma is believed to have been detained by the Gestapo in the Fuhlsb├╝ttel police prison in Hamburg. Their children were separated.

"Landmesser was discharged from prison in 1941 but was soon drafted to serve in the war. He was later declared missing in action and believed dead."

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