Bootlegger Blues

article image

Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website

Hi Tim,
I am a middle-aged graduate student who often downloads a bootleg textbook, music, movies, and software. To help out others, I sometimes copy and share them to help others. In this day and age, is it really wrong if the stuff is so readily available? I have a lot of guilt but I think because I am a recovering Catholic it is just left over junk. I still can’t help feeling as if I am wrong. It’s odd, music used to mean the world to me but now I don’t even enjoy it anymore. People I tell this to just laugh and tell me it is the 21st century, information is free and everything is fair game. What’s your call? 

– Digital Bandit

Hi Digital Bandit,
You answered your own question when you chose a nickname. If your catechism had to kick in in order for you to own it, then it sounds like it was not entirely time wasted. I know that the current social climate can blur the ethics with regard to digital data, wireless service and cable among other things, but the truth is that illegal downloading and supporting those that do it is, at least currently, just plain wrong. I will spare you a lecture about robbing artists, authors and developers and the very real civil and criminal consequences. An open market is a proposal at this stage. Copyright is law.

Another factor that may be contributing to your cognitive dissonance is nostalgia, at least about the emotional rewards of discovering new music, as with this writer. Simply clicking and instantly gorging on whatever sound bite tickles a neuron can become tiresome, and result in billion-plus track playlists that we scroll through with a jaded thumb, unaroused. We come from a different time, when kids listened to the radio for hours to hear a special song and agonized over the decision of which music to buy with limited funds. We rewound and re-rewound 8-tracks and cassettes until they wore out and listened to entire albums, quivering with anticipation at each scratch and crackle on the vinyl. Simply hearing the song decades later can reproduce the emotions linked to these rich experiences. Substitute getting to the last page of that paperback or the highest level of that video game, etc.

These are different times, and mostly I think change is good but I cannot help thinking about all the poor artists around today. They are going to be even poorer, or maintain an endless loop of marathon tour dates for the rest of their professional lives. I have personally known people who are struggling: musicians, filmmakers, and writers of textbooks and fiction and software. None of them have been on bestseller lists, featured in vodka ads or guests on MTV’s Cribs. When there is a recession, those artists are in it, too. If readers and listeners keep stealing their work, they may not be able to keep making it and that is tragic. People still do work and toil and do without because they are passionate about creating, and when they succeed I hope they are compensated generously and I plan to continue to pay full price for their work or wait for it to go on sale. If I deem it to be overvalued in my humble opinion, then I do not purchase it. I do without it.

Sorry, my response is not hip or “outlaw sexy,” but it also is not riddled with lame justifications born of a warped sense of entitlement and masquerading as reason. I have a feeling you already know the right thing to do. But even if we all continue to knowingly take part in perpetuating online piracy which is still illegal, we can at least be adults and own up to it. 


Hi Tim, 
I don’t participate in summer. At 16, most of the people I know and even the very few I call friends are out in the sun, going on vacation, and living their lives but I don’t have one. I stay in my room, write a lot or get online and reach out, but I never get a response. I’m boring, at least I have been told that, but I like to read and write and I get lost in books and that is where I stay. Why do people think that is weird or unhealthy? I am not depressed or suicidal, but I like being sad and a geeky loner. I am just an introvert and writer and a nerd. I don’t have any interest in parties or dating or any other “fluff stuff” in life. This is my reality, and it happens to be alone where I belong forever.
– Lonerd

Hi Lonerd,
So, what is your question? Some of the sweetest human beings, and the most thoughtful and creative minds I know of have been crushed under loneliness. You say you are not depressed. You are happy this way. But you mailed your declaration to an advice column and methinks you doth protest too much. Online friends are great, but I do not believe they have completely replaced intimate human contact. I feel uneasy when someone tells me all of their friends are online and they have never met a single one of them! You did not give me much detail about your circumstances, but you clearly need and are searching for something more.

There is nothing wrong with being an introverted, lonely book nerd. It is just infinitely more rewarding when you can find one or two others like you and help each other not be so lonely. No matter where you go to school, they are waiting, probably in the back of the library, for someone they can talk to, have fun with and co-navigate the social landscape with a generous supply of knowledge, wit and sarcasm. It is common for nerds to be extraordinarily demonstrative of these traits. You are probably smarter than a lot of your peers and if so, you should be proud. But you do not have to be serious about it, and you certainly do not have to be alone. Look around you carefully, and you will see someone as lonely as you are, who needs a friend. Volunteering is a great way to meet people. Other kids out there are desperate to compare notes on books they have read, go to a museum or a foreign movie and would be thrilled to receive such an invitation. Go ahead and make someone’s day.

Or, if you are not ready yet then at least read those books on a park bench or poolside or in a food court from a safe and comfortable perch. Sometimes just being around people in a different environment, and perhaps doing a little people-watching which is invaluable to writers, can help you soak up some social energy while you wait for that friend to arrive.

Brotherly Fear

Hi Tim, 
I have a dilemma and I hope you can help shed some light on it. I believe my sister has an eating disorder. I am 19 male and still at home, she is 23 and an hour away at college. She has always been private, never shared a lot with me but we get along great. She’s also always been athletic and still runs and works out so she never puts on weight, but I notice that she hardly eats anything with company. Then, last Christmas we were at home and I got up in the middle of the night and saw her devour an entire plate of cookies sitting on the couch. She never saw me. Other times, she insists on cleaning the kitchen and I peek in and see her gorging huge amounts of food in a hurry, and eating the leftovers on our plates! She will leave for a little while and I swear when she comes back she has had a binge, you can just tell. I don’t think she is vomiting, though.

She has always been a superstar, the oldest and a star athlete, now she is doing pre-law and my parents are blinded by her accomplishments. I tried to talk to my mother about this and she thought I was jealous, etc. My father says I was overreacting and that she eats a lot because she works out so hard. I am ready to confront her but is that the right thing to do or am I out of line?
– Brotherly Fear

Hi Brotherly,
How lucky for her that she has such a caring brother. Try not to jump to conclusions, as the events you describe could just be random coincidences. We have all had reactions to disappointments, losses and break-ups in life that could easily be quieted by an entire lasagna, tub of ice cream or a whole cake in one sitting. You may already know that eating disorders are not about food and weight as much as they are expressions of some other struggles in life.

Please do not “confront” your sister, rather say, “Sis, I am concerned about you,” and make it a general inquiry about her health without mentioning weight! She may be more willing to talk about other things that are really bothering her like stress or anger, a relationship, etc. that may be actual triggers for the eating behavior.If needed, you can gently mention what you saw, or if she had an exceptionally stressful workout or seems to be driving herself too hard with exercise mention that, but stick to behaviors and omit the diagnoses and speculation.

In any case this may go over awkwardly at first, and she may even become defensive and angry, so then back off and remind her that if she does decide to talk, you will be there for her. If she does come back and confirm there is a problem, be ready with a referral to a good therapist connectionor at least an information resource.

Feminist Wannabe

Hi Tim,
I am a 53 years old father of two teenage girls, 13 and 18. My oldest has become somewhat of a feminist, and enlisted the other and my wife. I have always been liberal and open to these ideas and I want to be feminist as much as possible, but any time I try to contribute I get sidelined and reminded, “Dad, you’re a guy so you can never really be a feminist!” as if I have offended women by trying to show my support. I will march wherever they tell me to march, I love the cause and think women should be treated equally and paid equally, but I get giggled at when I try to share my experience, and the girls all tell me I can never understand. I mean, what do I have that they don’t have? Sorry, couldn’t resist.
– Feminist Wannabe

Hi Wannabe,
Next time, go ahead and resist. Your silly humor, however innocent, is not helping your development, or your case. You want to think harder before speaking since you are clearly outnumbered in your household. But, I understand your enthusiasm to connect with your family about an issue for which they have a passion. Good for you! I know all too well the tippy-toe dance we have to do nowadays with regard to cultural nomenclature. Here is a solution. You have the good fortune to have written to a raging male profeminist for advice. Inside, I am all fire and brimstone for the cause, a card-carrying feminist forever. However, outside I need to be sensitive about “owning” a movement that essentially is for and about women, and perpetuating the patriarchal status quo. Therefore, the preferred term is profeminist. That means I support feminism without question, and align myself with their cause without any confusion that I want to take charge of it. Check out the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS)and Institute for Human Education to get started.

What a great father: you want to join in the movement your daughters have taken up, so do just that! But, you do not need to be talking to the ladies, no sir. They already know how awful they have it, and the last thing they need is a man validating it. Instead, get out there and educate the real propagators of ignorance … other men! Women are not responsible for educating men. Why would they bother anyway if men do not listen to them? So this is something we can do. Educate your drinking/bowling/fishing buddies, your male relatives (at holiday get-togethers in front of the girls if you like for bonus points). Make a difference where it counts, be a living example and the women in your family will see your effort and appreciate you for it. 

Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

Photo courtesy Heath Alseike, licensed under Creative Commons

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.