Similar promises

19 09 2008

Okay, here’s a link to the Judith Thomson piece I mentioned earlier:,Fall02/thomson.htm

I haven’t re-read the piece, but there it is. You could probably find it in other formats—the piece was originally published in 1971—simply by searching ‘Judith Jarvis Thomson’ or ‘A Defense of Abortion’. Anyway. Have at it.

The computer is now 4 days old, and I’m mostly happy with it. I did have to ditch my old WordPerfect software: too old. So I’ve downloaded a 30-day trial version of WPX4 (just released!) while waiting for the software to arrive.

I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I regularly opine that ‘brand loyalty is for suckers’, but here I am chasing after this software (and, for that matter, after a particular pair of Doc Martens, which I CANNOT find in my size) when Microsoft Word is snugly installed in my operating system. Why bother?

Well, I guess I’ll have to nuance my way past my snark. See, I really do think brand loyalty makes no sense: corporations don’t care about you, they care about money. If they can make money by creating things you want, fine. If they can make more money creating other things, that’s what they’ll do. This isn’t personal, ; this is capitalism. So the appropriate response to the self-interested behavior of corporations is one’s own self-interest: I will buy your product if it suits me, or another corporation’s product if it suits me better.

Thus, I ended up with my third Dell not because I’m wild about ‘Dell, The Brand!’, but because after a months-long search of reading reviews, checking out different computers’ websites, trekking to stores to test keyboards, and much to-ing and fro-ing about my finances and do-I-REALLY-need-this, I decided Dell suited me best. That had nothing to do with loyalty, and everything to do with my wants.

But WordPerfect, hmmm, I do have a soft spot for it. I started with it in grad school, when the computers in the pol sci computer lab still had the blue screens with the off-white text. I pirated a copy from that lab, then later bought my own upgrade. I like how it works, and what I can do with it. C. pointed out that a couple of the features I mentioned I like I could also get with Word, but it always seemed like more of a hassle.

Yeah, it’s an habitual preference (which, admittedly, may have a not-minor role in loyalty) as opposed to obvious WP superiority, but it’s not only that. I wrote my dissertation and two novels using WP, and NOT ONCE did it crash or lose my work. NEVER. And I was paranoid about losing work: chapters of my dissertation are scattered repeatedly across numerous floppy disks, and I bought an external hard drive years ago as a sop to my fear. But my trusty word processor hung on to my every word, and never booted me out of my thoughts with a pop-up stating ‘WP has encountered a difficulty and must close. We are sorry for the inconvenience.’

Unlike, say, Word. And WP never froze, unlike, say, Word.

So, based on track record, I’m a-goin’ with WP. And if it becomes as unreliable as its ubiquitous counterpart, I’ll look for another word processor.

Is that a kind of loyalty, or just extreme customer diligence? Pfft, maybe a bit of both. Maybe I am a sucker.

Coda to: This woman’s work

15 09 2008

I noted in the previous post my, mm, strong opinions on the legality of abortion. But I didn’t say anything about the morality of abortion.

Is abortion moral? Yeah, I think it is. But I also have a lot more sympathy for the position that it is not moral than I do for the position that it shouldn’t be legal.

I think it’s moral because of the status of the woman. When unexpectedly pregnant, a woman has to decide whether to end or to continue the pregnancy (and if she continues with it, to keep the baby or give her up for adoption). It is a real dilemma, one which requires some hard thinking about her own life, her relationship to the man involved, her relationships to other people in her life, and her understanding of the fetus. Is it a baby? A person? Or just a conceptus, a potential person, but not one yet? It requires moral work to make one’s way through these questions, and to consider how to act amidst uncertainty.

Yeah, I know, there are girls and women who act unthinkingly in terminating their pregnancies, but arguably just as many act unthinkingly in continuing them. That some women (and the people around them) don’t do the moral work doesn’t mean it’s not there to be done.

But what of the fetus? Absent a miscarriage or abortion, it will someday push itself out of the woman to enter the world as a baby. Even in its embryonic stage it is arguably human—if only human tissue rather than human being. What about its. . . rights isn’t the right word. . . what about its status? What of the possibility that it is already a human being?

Judith Thompson had one reply to this question, in her famous example of the violinist whose life would end were he not attached to another person. (It’s been a long time since I read the piece—sorry I can’t remember the particulars. And I’ll see if I can find a link to the piece online.) She concluded that even if the violinist would die if you detached him from you, you still had the right to do so.

It’s an interesting piece, but I don’t know that it gets at all the complexities of abortion. Hm. What I mean is, I don’t think that all those who talk about a ‘right to life’ are really into rights talk. I think it’s about something deeper, or at least other, than rights. I think, for many, it is about a protectiveness toward the fetus/baby, and about a belief that one ought to sacrifice oneself on behalf of another vulnerable being.

These are not unworthy sentiments (and I’ll skip for the moment any legislative ramifications—we’re talking about morality, not politics—as well as those worms who are afraid of and want to control or punish women’s sexuality), and ought not be dismissed without deeper consideration.

Abortion is a moral issue. Those of us who believe such a choice ought to be left to the woman need to do a better job of articulating that morality.