I love this country of Austria. But mine is not of the kind that makes you blind… On the contrary I can safely say, I see patterns, in politics just as much as everywhere else. Mine is surely not the definitive position on this matter. Just one among many…
In general, there are a few ‘inalienable truths‘ about politics as well.
Politicians need networks in order to get somewhere – and stay there for a while. Once they have proven their ‘staying power’, things can and usually will change:
Others are craving the place in the limelight; or the possibility to wield the power, as in: Have influence and a position in society, more or less respected…
Look into recent and older history of the world: Some politicians are and were extremely ruthless, some are corrupt, some are even cruel.
Some are ‘just’ using the age-old instruments that can be smaller or larger kinds of ‘buddies’ to build a network and sustain support.
To always be white-headed and innocent in such a system, where everyone else encourages one to take advantage – apparently is impossible. Not one single country in this beautiful part of the world – or anywhere else – can say that such things never happened to them.
And power, alas, also has the ‘power’ to corrupt people who weren’t in the first place… I still think that modern democracies that have a working system of exchanging their governments at regular intervals by some kind of voting system, are the best possible solution.
Politics are – human, therefore not perfect. One should make sure to control as far as possible the weak points – point out failures in order they can be put right. But also not expect too much, in view of the facts above.
This is a peaceful country, beautiful, with many, many kind and responsible people around, let’s not forget that!
I see it happen all the time: People look at someone and with almost deathly certainty they ‘diagnose’ their (apparent) problem – and also have a solution ready right away. Strangely enough such people almost never are doctors themselves.
Because good doctors know that one size does not fit all.
A person appearing slightly ‘overweight’ – by today’s public standards – of course just must be in need of a new and completely changed sports and dieting plan.
A person who likes their home, sometimes stays there for a certain amount of time at a stretch just cannot possibly be happy – or healthy, for that matter – unless a new plan of being out in the open is devised and put into action.
What such ‘diagnosers’ usually ignore completely is the fact that really and truly one size does not fit all.
That is true for health, food and sports alike.
A famous food chemist put it along these lines one day :
Many such rules about what is best for you or your health are made and conducted on the following principle:
They look at who has the healthiest feet, find that those with healthy feet wear 32-size shoes – and thereafter prescribe them for everyone.
But would you wear them if you happened to have a 43-size foot?
And there is also something else to consider: What motive do such reformers have, trying to make everyone the same….?
Even the bible has a fine saying on it:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? (Matthew, 7.3)
Perhaps it ‘behoves’ all of us to be a little more careful before ‘diagnosing’ a person by a very few symptoms alone – where there may be no problem at all in the first place – and without knowing the whole story or history.
Since World War II, after dreadful events had taken place and crimes had been committed – as well as endured – by millions all around the globe, a general question arose:
How can this be prevented to happen again?
Education by ‘perfect parents’ raising ‘perfect children’ so it seems to this day…
The subject is not new to my blog but it presents itself in different shapes, repeatedly…
First Research on Best Educational Practices
The research done with fervour and some very valuable findings made it clear what was needed: Education as a self-determined and free-thinking individual enabled to resist dumb orders was being defined as an important aspect.
Educational best practices were formulated and are to this day:
What do parents and especially mothers do and what should they avoid in order to raise children that are prepared?
Business Aspects Taking Over
Yet, another aspect crept in a little while later, basically throughout the 1980s, when more people wanted more jobs and at the same time business limits seemed to fall, profits sky-rocketing in certain areas.
It appeared clear at the time that not just any education but only the very best would ensure a profitable job.
The result was an even more intense, not to say feverish, search for the rules of behaviour in parents that would create ‘perfectly prepared children’.
Modern Psychology Roots
Ever since Sigmund Freud had published his research on the power of mothers, and eventually parents, ideas also flourished that adjusting parents would do the trick:
Prevent mental disorders, fears and insecurities or even suppressed urges.
His research to this day stands tall. No doubt about it.
Humans Like So Many Devices…?
But the idea that humans are ‘adjustable’ and ‘tunable’ to the point of representing a perfect model or ideal, is not Freud’s.
It is the result of the above-mentioned developments and history in a modern Western world that believes in – some parts of it – the feasibility of anything.
Like putting a car into the ‘shop’ to be repaired, soul as well as body are often treated like so many parts that can just be replaced or ‘repaired’.
Well-adjusted, ‘successful’, wealthy and always top-of everything and everyone or -where, these children are also always happy.
Or are they?
Conclusion: Don’t Force Them Into a Mould
Forcing people into ‘moulds’, into ideals, can end like the famous children’s story of the piglet a farmer wanted to raise as a cube:
He put it into a large wooden box and fed it. And lo and behold the piglet became a square pig… But one day the farmer opened the box.
And nature took its course: The pig rounded out again, as pigs usually are shaped.
Forcing children into a mould in the best case ends a little like that piglet: They will find their true nature again, one day.
In the worst case they will be warped and become seriously unhappy or even sick of body and soul.
“Children are guests asking the way.”
Super-models are and have been hotly discussed as a concept for decades, at least.
Why? First and foremost, because, they sell:
They sell an idea, glamour, the unattainable, a dream…and the latest fashion. Last but not least, the idea of sublime love…
They seem to be the living image of all those childhood fairy tales, the princess of the piece; again the almost unattainable, the ‘lady in distress’ to be saved.
The prize a man would win and thus suddenly be shot to the top of society from wherever he came, originally.
The woman apparently being a ‘princess’ or ‘queen’ in her own right:
Adored, looked-up to – and earning money by the bucketload…
But the downside of this is also very true and thus this post: Too many people take these images still too seriously and especially young ladies and girls tend to try and follow that example – far too often and far too much.
We should remember this, as a well-known TV-personality put it one day, (translated from German):
He spends lots of times behind the scenes in the makeup artists’ domain and what they do to the models’ faces there would get any used-car dealer into prison…
Since the advent of digital image editing this is even more pronounced, try using a search engine online for terms such as ‘digital makeup’ or ‘digital face lifting’: Just one such search comes up with 5.3 million results.
In our modern digital age the spread of such images is fast and almost global: Far too many people every day doubt themselves and their looks and suspect they might not look fashionable, that is ‘beautiful’, enough.
A big mistake. Because, what happens to people who choose a partner simply for looks is a complete disillusionment as soon as the person becomes known to them in real life.
It is part of that fairy-tale ending we so often presume when not aware (yet) of the image as opposed to reality. I’ve posted about that too, elsewhere.
Love starts with ourselves. Not with ‘eternal, perfect’ beauty. But with the friendship we can develop inside for ourselves, a liking, the ‘love your neighbour as you love thyself‘ concept.
I implore anyone who is in doubt about their features:
Think again! Watch, learn, I am sure you will find I am right: ‘Winning’ someone’s love starts with liking / accepting ourselves for what we are.
In recent years some campaigns have been launched for ‘real beauty realization’.
But the reverse is there still: TV-Shows about model challenges and searches where young women and increasingly men are cruelly put down in front of audiences for ‘not fitting the bill’.
The dream of face-swapping
When I dreamt what I am about to tell you,
thousands were rushing through that house.
And as if some one commanded it
and their own faces tormenting everyone,
they all took off their faces.
Like taking pictures off the walls for moving
we took our faces away.
And then we held them in our hands,
as masks are held at the end of festivities.
But it was not festive, the place.
Without mouth or eyes, bare as shadows,
each one reached for the other’s hand,
until they had faces again.
Quickly and silently the exchange was made.
Each took what he found in the other’s hand.
Men suddenly wore children’s features.
Women wore beards on their faces.
Old men smiled like concubines.
And then they all rushed, me along with them,
towards the mirror but I couldn’t see myself.
The crowd grew wilder and wilder.
One of them had discovered his face!
Shouting, he forced his way through the crowd.
And he cornered his face.
But he did not find it. It remained hidden.
Was I that child with long braids?
Was I that woman with red hair?
Was I one of the bald heads?
Among the mixed-up creatures
I saw none that was myself.
Then I woke up in shock. I felt cold.
Someone was pulling my hair.
Fingers tugged at my mouth and ear.
I realised, as the fear faded,
that the hands were my own.
Of course, I was not completely reassured.
Was I wearing features that did not concern me?
I jumped up hastily and turned on the light,
I ran to the mirror, looked at my face,
put out the light and went to sleep, reassured.
Almost as long as patriarchal society exists hearsay about the male conquest of women exists as well.
‘Get her’, ‘make her’, ‘have her’, and similar, some far ruder expressions are used by a certain type of male: The ones who believe in fairy stories, the adult kind – that are actually based in so much swaggering.
The numbers of conquests some men pretend to have made. And the ways and means they purportedly use to reach the ‘goal’…
I’ve posted about similar aspects before – yet this seems so present all around me, in marketing, online messages, some movies, ‘social networks’ – especially hearsay and hidden misunderstandings, I feel like putting it here again.
There are those who ‘prove’ their ‘masculinity’ by taking photos and showing them around. In former times they might have collected them in albums like stamps… These days it’s probably mostly the smartphone.
Some even install devices to watch their next-door neighbours with telescopes or even more sophisticated tools these digital days.
Another breach of privacy, crude and cruel in some cases, too.
The Breach of Privacy
The strange thing about this is that the watchers and ‘collectors’ ignore ‘magnanimously’ that is not only a breach of privacy but is a crime by the Human Rights Declaration. There exist countries who have laws that punish this kind of behaviour if it becomes known.
The Damage to Mind and Body
Even sadder are the long-term effects of such behaviour: It damages mind and soul. Of the ‘actors’. Simply put.
The mistake is in the premise:
Ever since Charles Darwin published his theories about the evolution it seemed to be clear that human beings are not far from animals themselves. The consequence seemed to present itself smoothly: They therefore would or even should behave the same way.
People who believe it in these simple terms tend to overlook that human beings are in possession of complex feelings, basic emotions and a mind.
Such people also tend to believe the stories and images and movies that have existed ever so long as well, from Zeus to Don Juan, over Casanova to the average ‘erotic’ story.
These stories are make-believe of a society that creates them to ultimately ‘market an image’.
It’s been proven by this time that the ‘mindless banging’ will end in depression and often even drug-addiction, alcohol or worse.
Because anyone practising this, men or increasingly women too, will have to consciously detach their mind from their ‘heart’, the outer sign of (passionate) emotions.
This amounts to schizophrenic behaviour in the true sense of the word and just as the actual condition is a sickness of the mind, so is the effect of such ‘banging’ over the course of time.
King Henry VIII.
A very famous example of many is king Henry VIII. of England: Shortly after the love of his life was abandoned for reasons of family lineage (male prince and successor), partly by the advice of his counsellors at court, he started doing just that: He not only seduced as many women as he could get hold of; he also drank and smoked without restraint or real joy…
During the past 10 years or so in historical research the diaries his doctors and his servants kept were revealed: All the ailments – and there were quite a number! – are easily attributed by modern doctors to his lifestyle.
A BBC documentary summarizes these findings nicely.
What Women Do (Not) Admire…
There are cases, alas, among men, who are or will be lost to this kind of realization.
Because they have been raised that way. Because they are too much afraid to not belong – ‘belong’ to the apparently large number of ‘real men’.
One thing is true, too: Smart women will not take this kind of behaviour seriously into account. Ask them, if you will…
They tell you these days that certain types of people are predestined to be victims… Apparently explaining something… Victimized as the geeky kid, the odd one in the group…
But look closely, because: How large is the group, really?
How many make a lot of noise and ‘chase’, and how many don’t say anything, at all?
You will find the numbers at odds, too:
The majority – or rather the ‘loud’ ones – often are only those that fit into the ‘official picture’ that is prominent at a point in time.
During the 1960s and 1970s in Europe a new generation had raised an idea and made part of popular culture, what now has become part of marketing:
Dare to think different.
The previous generations had – often just by not caring – allowed millions of people be killed in two world wars that were actually ‘good’ for a few only, the rich, the wealthy – and the conglomerates.
Later, as I mentioned, until well into the 1980s, being careful, considerate and kind was actually ‘en vogue’.
These days it seems, it is ‘en vogue’ again, to be rich and famous…This in turn seems to call for a certain type of thinking, behaviour and mindset. As homogenous as possible. Any deviations from the ‘typecast’ creating irritation. Being different apparently allowing the apparent ‘majority’ to blame, chase or make victims of those that seem not to ‘fit’ what is called ‘mainstream’…
But, and here comes the ‘but’: Is it really?
Are all those people who do no agree with these ideas but keep quiet, perhaps the ‘silent majority’?
If that is true, we should rethink the currently prominent idea of the ‘victim type’, the ‘natural target’, as it is cruelly put sometimes, because that concept is the ‘devil an’ all’:
It blames the victims for being victims!
It aquits the real culprits from all responsibility: “I couldn’t help doing it, they are that type…”
It is important to have rules in a community to prevent harm, or even crime done!
In that respect we need to observe such rules, each and everyone.
Other than that, the call for conformity to an ‘ideal’ of behaviour or appearance can create mindless and even heartless human beings who live ‘exclusively’, instead of ‘inclusively’.
Perhaps people teasing and torturing others are the culprits, after all?
Women have been subdued in patriarchal society for generations, even thousands of years. It’s been discussed and now almost common knowledge, and high time too.
But what about the secret life of men?
Aren’t they being used too, in many situations?
Of course, one might argue, as the ‘reigning’ part, not to say sex, they have all the ‘fun’: they are considered superior, always prepared, always the last to leave a sinking ship, saving everybody else first…They make the rules and the laws, they vote (used to vote solely).
Women have fought for that privilege:
In the famous movie about Danish writer Karen Blixen’s life in Africa “Out of Africa”, a lieutenant when WW I is about to start, tells the main character that they, the soldiers have come to rescue women and children.
Her curt reply:
“Is that one category, Lieutenant, or two?”
It tells you something about the feeling a person has when constantly forced to a stature of obedience and inferiority. Many women also for generations believed actually that woman is inferior to man. Less smart, less capable of looking after business…less able to learn about science or technology.
In this day and age almost no one around here ‘dares’ to argue this anymore.
Yet, the sandbox and its castle of male ‘games’ are very much alive… To some extent, being superior and always cool, calm and collected has become part of men’s biological setup, so it seems: To feel as a man properly, certain situations and emotions are crucial. Some even have imbibed the spirit to the extent that they become furious in situations that question their stature.
It is a sad story, too, though.
Men are not allowed to feel sorrowful. They are supposed to provide for the family, protect everyone except themselves and be ‘successful’, which usually means some kind of wealth and the means to build a house, have a car – and pay for the children’s education.
They are not supposed to grumble about it. On the contrary, with cheerfulness – or at least something amounting to it, calm in dangerous situations – and smartness anytime and every time, they are expected to be wonderful, passionate lovers, gentle fathers, considerate brothers and sons.
They are allowed other kinds of emotions only in times when sports events become dramatic: Their favourite team in football, soccer or baseball losing – men suddenly are allowed to cry. But only then.
Not even the death of a dying relative is supposed to make them show a chink in the armour…
Armour seems to be the operative word: An armour created of steel and glamour and heroism – when in truth, men are just as vulnerable, proud and sad in their hearts – and sometimes would much better like to just ‘pack it in’ – and run….
I am a woman writing this, trying to understand. A little. My own life has been marked by this yearning: To understand. For real.
I have also been raised that way by a smart and kind mother and father, each in their own way: Do not believe the superficial. Don’t run with the crowd, just because it is large and loud…
I have read more books in the course of my life than I have met people. Italian, French, German, Austrian, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Swiss, older and newer poets and novelists, Russian, British, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, US, Chinese, Japanese, African, Australian, Indian, South-American, Canadian, Middle-Eastern, you name it.
Yet, I have met heaps of people too.
One of my passions is to know about people – and know the truth. However painful it may become, at times.
The above about me is meant to show how I as a woman come to write this. I’d like to encourage men and women alike to not settle for half a life, for fear of being different.
“Strive not to be a success, but to be of value.”
He was right.
It’s an age-old desire, a human aspiration, you might say, to be appreciated. Acknowledged. In that respect we are all more or less the same. In some cultures more than in others.
The difference starts with the values and means that are used to measure the level of acknowledgement reached.
In many Western countries you learn that the highest appreciation of society around comes with wealth. With the best possible results in learning and work. Being ‘at the top’. Wherever that is….
In other countries, being the ‘best’, being appreciated is based on the idea that you actually are a good part of the family and friends, society, around you. Learning, an ‘education’, might be part of that, too. Trying to do your best. But not in order to outshine everybody else, but to be the best possible, and responsible, caring person inside the group.
Why would we want to strive to be a ‘success’ in the eyes of the world around us at all?
Appreciation is a type of love, too. And love is the life-generating force in humans. Without it, we die. Some sooner, some later.
Life can be hard, sometimes almost unbearable. Many of us get the worst of it, in these pandemic times. So, to understand that feeling connected to people – feeling close perhaps, if you are lucky – can make life bearable again; but that may need suffering or sorrow.
The internal ‘glow’ starts here, the realization of yourself as a unique human being and at the same time a part of a group, a society, with values.
Those values that make life bearable and better, each day a little. The Human Rights Declaration has them.
That’s why once you understand what is really important, in hard times as well as in the good, easy, light-hearted ones, you will come to realize that Einstein was right:
“Strive not to be a success, but to be of value.”
When I was a girl, the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books where especially well-known and widely read. As a girl you would learn from the series ‘Pippi Longstocking’ with fun and independent thought that being a girl would not necessarily mean being soft or weepy or helpless.
On the contrary: the song that came with the movies I watched long after reading the books, “I make my world just as it pleases me … ”
(my translation from German) encouraged girls to do what men in patriarchal society have done for centuries, if not thousands of years:
set your goals and try to reach them, your way.
Authenticity in Everyday Life – A Challenge?
I heard a TEDx talk the other day by a Harvard Business School professor, about trust and how to build it. She identifies three pillars for building trust, one of them authenticity.
What she goes on to say and what I agree with in every particular is this:
- Authenticity means: “Be you.”
- Easy to do, she adds, when you are with people who are like you.
- But, “being you” can be a challenge, when you are different in some contexts, she adds, too.
- It can lead to being tempted to subdue and hold back our own true and individual selves in contexts we seem not to fit into completely.
To me that is a very true and a very important statement. I am at odds with my surroundings to some extent, very often: I am not your average girly woman weeping into the silk handkerchief waiting to be rescued.
I was raised on just this idea: be independent and know that the ‘Cinderella complex’ is not just an invention, it’s there. You can prevent it.
Diversity: by Tolerance
I am an M.A. of literature and philosophy, yet I am passionate as well about technical matters, devices, coding, digital technologies, you name it.
As such I have worked around and with scientists as well as developers who in many respects think and live differently.
I love diversity!
But living it in surroundings with all manner of people who are not always sure how to understand you, when you are so ‘different’ to them, compared – is not always easy.
Men, Women…? – People!
I also think that I am not the only person ever to have felt this way:
The duality and conflict can be hard to bear, at times when there is awareness of it:
- I may be at odds with my surroundings in some contexts.
- That does not make me ‘wrong’. Just different.
So, how much adaptability is needed – and how much is good for me?
I’m sure that men are often faced with this conflict in the opposite sense: they are supposed to be always strong, superior and ‘ready’ – even if they don’t feel like that – at all…
And ultimately, not only as men and women but just as human beings in different parts of the world: being at odds can become a new but also fruitful feeling to start realizing who you really are.
The strength to ‘be yourself’ in any surroundings sometimes is hard to find; but worth it.