Fashion or Favourite – The Blindness of Prejudice

image of workers in a foundry at the melting furnace
Courtesy freepik.com – Licensed image

Fashion can be truly deadly in a sense: When it becomes a cast, an iron mold to surround us like a cage. It can enclose the mind. It can enclose the body, because certain expectations as regards clothing, movements and even personal behaviour lead us to shun personal character. Like a cage – making all the same…

I’ve posted similarly before. The subject presents itself over and over again. These days it seems to be even more pronounced when the life of such a formidable figure as the late Queen Elizabeth II of England is being reviewed.

She was a queen of the first water: Although not originally ‘born to be queen’, since the abdication of her uncle only made her own father king in the 1930s when she was eleven, she was raised to a high sense of duty and faithfulness to her country and the idea of monarchy as such. From my point of view I would call it the sense of providing guidance and present an example.

Being an example and that in the eyes of the public to boot, is awe-inspiring, at least. It can also be challenging or even prove frightful. To be watched all your life by often rather critical, not to say strict eyes, is no child’s play.

Yes, she is among the richest people in the world and the richest in England, if I remember correctly. But try imagining to be under ‘observation’ morning, noon and night, every day of your life – and have any false step commented on or even ridiculed: Many have been known to flee from that kind of duty, before. She delivered it with amazing self-control and apparent ease all her long life.

Yet, it seems to me that fashion these days works very similarly in everybody’s life, in these ‘modern’ digital times: More than in previous decades?

The fashion that women and men should behave just as so many actors in modern TV-series: be clothed that way, behave that way, cool, calm and always ‘true to form’: To me that is a pity; anyone who deviates from that ‘form’, that ‘mold’, the iron cast of fashion, will be subject to numerous misconstructions and misrepresentations – just because ‘fashion’ demands otherwise.

I plea the cause of diversity in every sense: Let’s not judge prematurely just because now and again people do actually not fit – and are different – or just show personal character.

Knowledge – Wisdom – Marketing – Stereotypes – What Reading and Thinking Can Do for You

image of beach at sunset and family walking
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

Erich Fromm, Alexander Lowen, Sigmund Freud, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Alxandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, The Brontë Sisters, Shakespeare, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Aristotle,…the list goes on and on and on…. And those are only a very major few dealing with live, love, sex, gambling, man vs mankind, culture, thoughts, ideas in human life, right, wrong, and human needs. I’ve read so many books in the course of my life that I can truly say they cover a mid-sized library. A couple of thousands.

Opposed to that are the images you find in many Hollywood movies (often especially the ones drawing huge audiences), on Social Media – strange word for such a rather ‘un-social’ market place – but then, ever since the Ancient times it was common calling bad or problematic things by good names – to lessen the fear or dread of it, such as the Black Sea known to be dangerous to sailors. They called it “Pontos Euxeinos” in Greek, the friendly, kind sea.

Market places: Marketing images are everywhere – and they ‘feed’ on stereotypes.
Reading and thinking on your feet, you might say, trains the mind; trains your thinking, to go beyond common images, and be – at some point – a complete and wholesome human being rather than someone chasing the latest fashions in order to be fashionable – and be ‘IN’.

The monster, the lady in distress, the prince and the common man to rescue her so they can fall in love with her afterwards…
C.G. Jung, a Freud-disciple, called them ‘archetypes’ that have been around for many centuries in human existence, in the West at least, and patriarchal society, and thus are part of all our common (usually unconscious) heritage of ideas and wishes.

Most important in this respect to me are these ideas:

Knowing about something does not mean you had to do it first in order to  understand.

Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. Wisdom is the combination of empathy (know human emotions) with experience and knowledge to truly understand human life.

Less is More – Western vs Eastern Concepts of ‘Action’? – The Cards of the Game…

Image of falling cards suspendedin mid-air
Image courtesy freepik.com – Licensed

The loud and ‘active’ are equated; the fast runner and the quick result of a ‘win’ are equated; the ‘meet and talk about it’ and reaching results are equated. Why – and since when?
Hold up something that looks like a real brick of a thing – when it’s actually ‘just’ a card in a card game, nice and solid viewed from the front, but thin and without any substance viewed from the sides.

In business especially since WWII and the advent of the ‘new economy’ some ideas have been churned around for decades now, which amount to this:
Prove your work, your results and your professionalism by making lots of nice noise, present and talk about what you do. Run around a lot, talk to people a lot. That way, everybody will be impressed by your ‘busy bee’ image of the worker bee…

Yet, when all is said and done, what is work – or business, for that matter – about? About reaching results. Creating them, changing them, ultimately selling things, and earn your salary – and the revenue.

The ‘cards of the game’ can be that: A lot of noise, not to say hot air – but when you look closely, from a different angle, it’s a rather thin substance…

Do not underestimate those who have their goals and priorities straight and focused and will reach them with the least amount of ‘noise’ and the maximum amount of output. Not all who are calm – or quiet – are ‘passive’…Not all who are loud are really active…

 

Culture – Diversity – Business – True Wealth

picture of the earth in space

In anthropology one truth has become completely apparent and proven: Any culture that refuses outside influence and exchange is doomed to die.

That is not only true for peoples, such as the old Chinese one: After they had built a wall around the empire and closed off their realm, they were doomed. There are more examples in history.

It is true for businesses too: If they close off against new and outside ideas and the new perspective another culture can provide, they miss out on the very basic and actually revenue-creating asset a company can have:

The colourful perspective and invigorating effect cultures have so often in life and in business.

This is not just true for the more exotic cultures, depending on the perspective one has: The Far East viewed from this part of the world represents that exotic ‘other’ that is far enough away to be valued again.

It is actually true also, close(r) to home: Your neighbours in terms of a region can teach you something. But you would need some self-confidence to know:
Not being perfect is not a shortcoming. It is just human.

Let it suffice me to quote the prestigious magazine with online content geared towards enterprises, namely Forbes.com:

Adam Smith in World Politics? – Diplomacy Beyond Popular Images

image of a world map and a compass
Diplomacy needs among other things these very basic skills: The ability to look beyond images, propaganda and popular opinion.

Politics of peace need them too.

The Western world in my eyes is blinded in their view of the world, politics and negotiations by something almost amounting to idealism:

It‘s about money, in any shape or form, we are about it – and everyone else is too.

This is perhaps the most tragic misconception that will endanger peace in all parts of the world again and again:

Indeed certain factions of the Christian religions in the backwater of the rise of civil society around the 13th / 14th centuries claimed, in principle:

Wealth is the sign of God‘s pleasure.

Ever since an ever larger part of the world – especially rooted in the beginnings of the US society with the first actual settlers on the Mayflower representing that idea – are exactly of that frame of mind:
Be wealthy and God is with you.

Most Eastern societies from Africa, over Russia all through Asia in one way or another – in principle that is – value the community and the dignity of the individual even more.

Dignity!

I have spent most of my adult life around all manner of extremely peaceful, knowledgeable and kind people from the Near, Middle and Far East.
I have studied Persian poems and literature and have met other people from around the globe.
I have had the privilege to call books my friends in childhood and adolescence and still do. I studied languages and culture at a prestigious university and earned my M.A. degree there.

The most tragic misunderstanding between the Western world – leaning towards Adam Smith‘s ideas of economy – and the Eastern world – leaning towards trade among dignified, respected and proud tradespeople is that:

Dignity

The European literature of certain times and people as well as later stereotypes about life in the Eastern world – or the ways and means of trade and politics – is practically steeped in this painful repetitive almost ridiculous contempt:
If you know about their ‚purse‘, you know about their interests. Anyone with a contempt for money is stupid.

This is not the real driving force of mankind: Indeed, wealth was always craved, if people had gone hungry or even starved; but dignity and respect in combination with extreme poverty can be thought of in the East – not so in the West.

In the Western world, respect and the consequential dignity of a person – or a nation – are closely related, if not tightly interwoven with their monetary means.

In most parts of the Eastern world this is not the case. Dignity is a fundamental possibility that can be envisioned easily with little or no money.

Among nations dignity is crucial. Treat them with respect, dignity and regard, let them safe face.

And remember this fine part of the Christian bible that actually was originally written in that Eastern culture:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Matthew, 25:40)


Author’s Note (April 2022):

In view of the latest developments I’d like to enlarge on this, make it clearer yet. The question after motives and real reasons is not always easy to answer. But if we are really interested in successful negotiations we need to do that. Not always is the answer to ‘cui bono’? : ‘money only’ as stated above.
Usually the attributes associated with money, or more money are actually much more important:
Respect, attention and power in certain circles.
Bluntly put: If it was about taking the Ukraine, they would have taken it long ago.

The question “cui bono” needs to be researched and answered in all directions of cause or effect or impact. Basic human motivators.

Austria, Politics and Political Approaches

Flag of Austria with ensign
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!

‘Social’ Media, ‘Shitstorms’ or: Types of Public Recognition…

image of skewed social media icons on a smartphone surface
I think I can thank my lucky stars that I never was part myself of the so-called
‘social networks’, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Their really ‘unsocial’ character is proven daily. I watched a documentary on a prestigious TV channel the other day and the amount of dirt used to discredit journalists or political opponents makes me shudder.

I know for a fact too, that younger and inexperienced people may suffer serious damage and pain from such hunts. That is tragic.

As a blogger and part-time writer I safely can say: If there was any shitstorm raised from some corner of those nets against me – it would be a sign only that I had hit a weak spot of such a politician:

Trump in the US, Salvini in Italy and Bolsonaro in Brazil come to mind. Each of them just interested to manipulate those that are too simple-minded to be able to know the truth.

Facts can be checked, there is no interpretation possible of facts.

That kind of recognition by reactionary representatives of an actual silent minority of too rich and too selfish groups in society would actually make me proud.

Perfection Meets Paradise: What Marketing and Travel Agents Have in Common

open book showing landscape in 3D
Once upon a time there was a fairy and a tale… They met, the fairy looked at the tale and decided she wanted to make it pretty and alluring. She raised her magic wand, murmured a few strange words – and suddenly the tale was grand and wonderful to look at and to hear told.
That was the day ‘fairy tales’ were created…

You don’t believe it?
Why not…?

Marketing professionals and travel agents have learned from fairy stories: Make the incredible into a story, tell it, sell it – and call it ‘perfection’.

The fairy tale is one of the earliest genres of human story telling: An old oral tradition that exists all across the globe in practically any culture that is known to and has been researched by humans since the dawn of time.
Looking at travel agents’ brochures – online pages more, these days – one is reminded of that first fairy… (I made her up by the way… 😉 )

I have got the impression that to some extent cross cultural understanding might be hampered this way:
The average person, a librarian, let’s say, or an accountant, will look up their next holiday trip location. The description is full of praise and glory:
“Wonderful views, the city full of dreams, the landscape like a painting, your accommodation close to the ski lift / beach / city centre, quiet, 4-star furnishings and excellent service…”
Since they pay for it the average person when arrived will certainly use this description as basis for evaluation; and they will complain if their expectations are not met….

As a host you might be tempted to think that they judge based on conditions at home.

They don’t. They judge based on a marketing text. On the ‘sublime’, the ‘perfect’.

That’s why perfection as a concept to my mind is what we owe to marketing:
The fairy tale that is part of the image being sold…

Men, Women, Emancipation – Beyond the Image…

Greek god statues inside temple arcade

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.

Tu Felix Austria – Lucky Austria, You… In Spite of Corona…

female statue with crown on fountain as Austria allegory
Allegorical Austria – Austria fountain, Vienna (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In these times I’d like to remind all of us of the ancient saying that stems from the Habsburg monarchy, meaning the tradition of the dynasty not to make war, but love, you might say:
that is, they married smartly throughout Europe in order to tie bonds of kinship with courts all over Europe, to keep the peace rather than make war.
The Latin origin of this actually wonderful concept from the year 1384:

Bélla geránt aliī, tu félix Áustria nūbe.
Nám quae Márs aliīs, dát tibi díva Venūs.

Wars may be led by the others, you, lucky Austria, marry!
‘Cause what to others is Mars, Venus, the goddess grants you.

So, it’s perhaps the earliest possible dictum of ‘make love not war’?

I put this here just for feeding thoughts… and perhaps to invoke a smile on my readers’ lips…

In these hard times, we should remember, it’s not about being best or first in blaming!
Blame politicians for small(er) errors in the face of a pandemic?
Blame officials for being too harsh – or not harsh enough?
Blame hospitals for not saving beds in order to be prepared for taking care of more people?
Blame everybody for lockdown measures, because the economy is suffering worse than ever before?

Yes, it is true, tragedies arise from all of this; many have lost their jobs, their livelihood(s), their prospects of a promising future, for quite some time…

But let’s remember these few very important facts:

    • the lockdowns are about people being kept alive!
    • the economy suffers always, in pandemic times!
    • in ancient and medieval times any pandemic plague wave was so much more worse at every turn!
      • dead bodies literally lay scattered in streets!
      • trade or any other kind of contact practically was impossible, because people would die right there in the room, in front of others, often in the middle of a negotiation (try Giovanni Boccaccio’s “Decamerone“).
      • decades would pass until things were back to something equalling normality.
      • death tolls ran up to millions of people in each realm, leaving whole regions empty, villages deserted.

We should remember how lucky we are, compared, here in the middle of Europe:

    • a high standard of living to begin with.
    • heaps of fast available data, being provided practically every second.
    • technology and research at an all-time peak in order to develop and approve vaccines inside of months!
    • a large part of the population agreeing on the value of each human life!
      • there were times when lives were reckoned by society strata: so much for a worker, so much for a merchant, so much for the king…
    • information based on a huge amount of well-educated reporters, journalists and scientists!
    • even more data available on every aspect of possible business strategies to get us all through this.

I dare anyone out there complaining harshly about measures taken:
be a politician and do it and decide – in ADVANCE!

Tu Felix Austria, remember, this is a wonderful country of ancient history, tradition, innovative ideas, culture and thought, with usually friendly, and very peaceful people, who know how to work – and how to enjoy life!