These days, managing constant change is a challenge that faces anyone whose life and livelihood involves the use of intelligent electronic devices. The conflicting headlines from two stories I read this week exemplify the situation. One reported: “Designer guru Nielsen: Windows 8 UI ‘smothers usability.'” The other protested: “Why Jakob Nielsen’s Windows 8 critique is old school thinking.” The latter began with the following trenchant observation “Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was once asked what market research went into the creation of the iPad. ‘None,’ Jobs replied, in one of his most celebrated quotes. ‘It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.'”
Given the accessible pricing of Windows 8, I’ve been wondering whether an upgrade would be worth the learning curve. I decided against it when I read the following observation in Nielsen’s review: “One of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users is that the product’s very name has become a misnomer. ‘Windows’ no longer supports multiple windows on the screen. Win8 does have an option to temporarily show a second area in a small part of the screen, but none of our test users were [sic] able to make this work. Also, the main UI restricts users to a single window, so the product ought to be renamed ‘Microsoft Window.'”
Like many other people whose work requires writing, research and communication, I make use of a tablet (iPad2), a smartphone (Android) and a desktop PC. On the road, or at home when using a device to stream content (music, video, a TV program) as accompaniment to some other task, the smartphone and the iPad are portable and convenient. But when it comes to my writing, and the research and communication needed to back it up, neither device matches the expansive ease of use that my Windows desktop setup allows. I not only use multiple windows, but multiple screens with multiple windows. The draft I’m working on usually has the central position. On one screen, I often have multiple browser windows open that let me compare information from multiple sources on the Internet. On another screen, I may have the Logos Bible Software program open, with several biblical passages showing, or e-book versions of a book or books I’m referencing in the draft. Multiple windows and screens allow me to look for, read and make notes from the information I find, using Windows’ ubiquitous cut and paste functionality to highlight, store, transfer and format text or images as needed.
In my work, I find the more portable devices wonderfully convenient because they give me the ability to perform specific tasks even though I’m on the move (traveling to attend a meeting or give a speech), or at any time when the main focus of my activity is elsewhere. But the expansive multiplicity and interoperability of my desktop set-up has now become part of what it means to be “home” – i.e., working in an environment where I have arranged things to suit the idiosyncratic preferences that give “ease of use” the very particular meaning it has for me. I would reject the change from “Windows7” to “Window8” because my mind, work and life have many facets that reflect the different views and resources derived from my experiences in life, views and resources I must integrate continually to express myself. Windows uniquely extends and amplifies my ability to do so. I won’t reject a change that complicates or eliminates this aspect of its functionality because I’m “old school.” I’ll reject it because the need to express myself in an integrated way that is nonetheless true to the distinctive aspects of my thinking and experience is a permanent aspect of my life. The genius of Microsoft’s main operating system has been to provide the working room, replete with simultaneously mirroring windows, that virtually fulfills this need.
Not inexplicably (given the main focus of my life’s vocation), this excursion of thought about the implications of ongoing technological change reminds me of the way the mantra of “change” is being used and abused in our politics. Jakob Nielsen’s quote from Steve Jobs (“It’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want”) smacks of the self-satisfied arrogance that now characterizes the sham elections being served up by the elitist faction’s so-called “two-party system.” “It’s not the citizens’ job to know what represents them,” I can hear them saying. “Voters who prefer a government operating system based on God-acknowledging principles and unalienable rights are just ‘old-school thinkers.”
But what if the Christian premise of responsible individual liberty – and the concomitant respect for conscientious diversity that gives rise to the federalist form of self-government – aren’t just disposable old habits of thought and action? What if they are, as Solzhenitsyn said of nations, “facets of God’s design,” indispensable features of a way of life that allows America to benefit from the participation and contribution of sundry “tribes and nations” in an integrated way, but one that, nonetheless, does not disrespect the essential, organically individual distinctions that are facets of our God-endowed human nature and, therefore, a permanent feature of any truly human community?
The Christian, federalist understanding informed the views and actions of the founders responsible for America’s successful assertion of Independence. It was the standard, as well, for the framing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution, which was undeniably instrumental in propelling the United States to the pinnacle of success in the history of nations. Now America declines precipitously because the elitist faction in control of both the Democratic and Republican Parties are dismissive or ashamed of the nation’s Christian, federalist origins. They have surrendered to elitist forces determined to overthrow government constrained by respect for right, and constructed to represent, in federal (not consolidated) union, the sovereign, conscientious goodwill of the people as a whole. They mean to construct in its place an elitist, consolidated, totalitarian government that will suppress both the diversity of human nature and the common moral sense that is the basis for its true community.
Do we have no choice but to support these self-serving elitists as they abandon America’s founding creed? In the series of essays I am now sharing on Loyal to Liberty, I am trying to think through the reasons for withdrawing our support from them. I hope by doing so to encourage people still loyal to the nation’s founding principles to rediscover and further explore the understanding that animated the Christian Federalists prevalent when America began. Perhaps, by doing so, we can act as they did, not just for ourselves but on behalf of all humanity – to renew America’s window for the world on the foundations of decent liberty and true human greatness.