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Re: All I want is a simple image!


	I think it is time for a repost. I posted the following to
 debian-devel i March 1998. Very little seems to have changed. The one
 thing I don't like about Toms story is the characterization of
 gypsies, with which I disagree. I have since vastly reduced my
 presence on debian-user and debian-devel.



	The following article was intially written to describe the
 state of USENET, but I think Debian lists too are beginning to
 warrant this. Especially now that lusers are posting demands and
 claiming to be a part of this community that has the right to make
 demands from the developer community.

	I have reduced my presence on USENET; and I think the writing
 is on the wall here too.


>From: Tom Christiansen <tchrist@mox.perl.com>
Newsgroups: comp.lang.perl.misc
Subject: The Young Man and the Beach
Date: 12 Feb 1998 18:53:23 GMT
Organization: Perl Consulting and Training
Lines: 142
Message-ID: <6bvgf3$rfp$1@csnews.cs.colorado.edu>

Once upon a time, a sharp young man opens the window from his cottage and
contemplates a morning stroll.  The day is clear and crisp, and the sea
air comes wafting up to town, inviting dalliance instead of work.  So he
chooses a route that will take him down to the beach.  It's been some time
since he's visited the beach, but as a child, he and his friends used to
cavort amongst waves and sand every day, delighting in the sea spume.
He wonders whether his boyhood friends still frequent their old haunt.

As he takes the path down to the water, he comes across a gypsy woman in
dirty but colorful rags, accompanied by her similarly attired children.
Crying out in plaintive supplication, she beseeches, "Young sir, I have
no job from which I might garner wages to feed my two hungry children.
You who are so fortunate and fine, can you not find it in your heart
to spare some of what you so obviously have in abundance to help us
who have nothing?  It will mean so little to you, but so much to us.
Surely you can do something."

Touched by her plight, the man astounds the desperate woman by doling
out a few shillings.  She thanks him profusely, nearly tearfully, and
she gives him a tiny, hand-crafted toy to eventually pass on to his
own children.  He continues on his way, happy to have brought the woman
tears of relief and joy.

After no more than a score of yards further down the path, the young
man is stopped by a barefoot boy, who makes a request similar to the
one just heard.  However, as he has no more shillings to spare, nor
even pennies, the man breaks in two the loaf of bread he was carrying for
his own repast, and he gives the bright-eyed youngster fully half of
what he has.  The boy's eyes widen in surprise, and with a brief thank
you and good day, the lad scampers off to gnaw upon the crust.

Not more than a few minute pass by, when from behind him, the young
man hears something running up to him very quickly.  He turns about
just in time to be knocked from his feet by an impish knave who was
unable to stop in time.  As they pick themselves up and regard each
other, it strikes the young man that this underfed urchin must be none
other than the brother or cousin of other boy whom he just gave half a
loaf of bread.  Without so much as an apology, though, this second boy
bursts out, "They said you have bread.  I'm hungry.  Give it to me."
The young man doesn't know what to do, but decides that today isn't the
day to deny charity to those in greater need than himself.

But as he reaches into his rucksack to withdraw the remaining half-loaf,
the impetuous beggar quickly jumps up and seizes the bread, then dashes
off along the sand.  There's not even time to point out that the tidal
pools hold a veritable bounty of food if the boy would but look there.
The young man would even have demonstrated which cockles were the
tastiest, but now it's too late.  So more than a bit miffed by this
ungrateful event, the young man sets off to complete his interrupted
jaunt, no longer sure the beach is what it used to be.

As he begins his trek back up from the shore, an able-bodied young gypsy,
proclaiming himself the father of seven suckling babes, implores the
distracted stroller to render unto him help such as was given to those
who preceded.  Now lacking both coins and bread, the young man wonders
what to do, but then he remembers handbills he'd read posted all
about the town.

"Go to the lumberyard near the edge of town.  They need many more strong
hands to help build the new coach station scheduled to begin within the
fortnight.  Perchance there you will find work to feed your desperate
family.  The station might even need a porter."  Outwardly displeased
by this answer, the gypsy replies, "But I am hungry now.  I need
money now.  I do not have the leisure of waiting a fortnight before I
can eat.  Can you not you give anything to me as you gave to my sons?"

The young man says that he is sorry, but that he has done the very best
he can, and suggests checking the lumberyard anyway.  Obviously not
very happy by advice instead of tangibles, the gypsy makes disparaging
class-related remarks behind him as the increasingly flustered young
man hurries off the beach.

But he does not escape unscathed; no fewer than thirteen more similar
mendicants accost him before he reaches the comparative sanctuary of the
town proper.  To each he suggests work at the lumberyard or station,
but his tone is no longer so cordial as when he began his journey.
In fact, it has soured into a brusque and impatient tone after so many
identical request.

Wholly unsatisfied with his instructions on how to put themselves to
work, they instead demand ephemeral but immediate remedies to their
squalid condition.  In return for his increasingly gruff directions to the
lumberyard, they begin to assault the young man with rocks and branches,
leaving him with not only shattered spectacles, but welts and bruises
as well.  His shillings and bread are gone, as his good will.

Later that day in the high street pub next to the apothecary shop which
he owns and manages, the young man nurses his unhappiness with a pint
of the local brew and recounts his matinal tribulations to his mates,
who appear perplexed by their friend's naïveté.  "You actually went down
to the beach?" they inquire incredulously. "How could you not know that
it's been overrun by dozens of worthless gypsies?  The beach is a total
wreck now.  Might as well condemn her, burn out the shrubbery, and put
up a wire fence.  Maybe even get some hounds to guard it."

This seems like a harsh response to the young man, but no one provides an
alternative.  He explains his ignorance, "I've been sequestered away in
my shop, developing new unctions and philtres these past winter months.
I had no idea that our quaint hamlet had been invaded by such vagabonds!
But why must we burn down or fence off the beach, just on their account?
After all, "help wanted" signs are posted everywhere, with complete
information about building and manning the new coach station.  Why can't
they just come into town, get a proper job, and toil for their bread
as the rest of us do?  Why must we keep providing them facile handouts

Overhearing these remarks, the vicar sets down his own pint and shakes his
head sadly as he tries to explain the gypsies' behaviour.  "Although the
Travelling People may well speak English, they are not from our culture.
If you folk continue to judge them by your own standards, they will always
come up lacking.  That's not their fault; it's yours.  Don't you realise
that most can't even read these placards you're talking about?  Even
if they could, it wouldn't help.  In their culture, you never sign up for
long-term jobs.  They don't hold still long enough to actually learn a
trade or profession.  They'd rather be tinkerers, and move on, letting
the next troop come in to replace them.  We can't change their natures."

"But we don't have to let them ruin our beach, do we, Vicar?" retorts
the barman.  "No," says the cleric, "we don't.  But if that means driving
them out, all you do is anger them and force them on to the next town
down the coast, and this time, with chips on their shoulders."

The young man is disturbed now, perhaps even depressed.  It's beginning
to sound as though no tenable solution exists to these otiose beggars
taking over his idyllic beach of so many golden childhood memories
with his friends.  Its current denizens can't read, they won't work,
and driving them out might be a solution that's worse than the problem.
The vicar helped see the situation without cultural bias, but not to
see feasible solution.

The chemist, dour now from the exchange, finishes his pint and goes back
to mixing his arcane powders and potions, hoping that they at least might
someday help the sick and the needy.  Perhaps he won't return to the beach
after all.  When a simple morning stroll becomes so arduous an event as
he has recently experienced, it really doesn't seem worth the trouble.

	Tom Christiansen        tchrist@perl.com

    "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy 
     is about telescopes." 			--E.W. Dijkstra

 The Hollywood tradition I like best is called "sucking up to the
 stars." Johnny Carson
Manoj Srivastava   <srivasta@debian.org>  <http://www.debian.org/%7Esrivasta/>
1024R/C7261095 print CB D9 F4 12 68 07 E4 05  CC 2D 27 12 1D F5 E8 6E
1024D/BF24424C print 4966 F272 D093 B493 410B  924B 21BA DABB BF24 424C

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