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!

Pippi Longstocking – and Female (Human) Authenticity …

-row-light-bulbs-with-one-different-colour

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.

Distraction – Internet – Productivity – or: Us?

In recent years documentaries and books as well as blog articles tell us how disruptive the internet is to our work ethics, how problematic it has become for people to constantly check their phones and so on social media about their latest ratings, the newest trend, even if only purported, or the most scary news.

Of course, with any new technology, it is added, this means we should be careful, not to say beware: dreadful things are happening, people become dumb, or dumber through the internet, more distracted, less able to focus.

But as I posted before, history can teach us: neither these warnings nor the idea of a new technology or medium being dangerous to the average person’s mind is really new.
When Gutenberg invented printing, the church and other ‘forward thinkers’ predicted dreadful consequences, for minds as well as morals of the population.
When radio came first into being, it was a wide-spread fear that those waves would damage brains or thinking or make impotent or even criminal.
When TV arrived on the horizon and was made available to the masses, the same happened, all over again.

The presumptions in all of this are:

  • There’s an actual average level of the mind of humans that can be damaged or ‘pulled to depths of iniquity’.
  • There’s a crucial point where certain kinds of knowledge or insight might cause the ‘fall from grace’ to happen again, the paradise-situation and first sin all over again: eat the fruit of enlightenment or insight and you will be disgraced.

What all of these prognosticators disregard sadly, are some basic truths of history and humans that are not all nice to look at but still true:

  • For thousands of years dreadful crimes have been committed, cruelty and torture, by the inquisition, an institution of the Christian church, as well as feudal landlords, have inflicted pain and suffering and death on innocent people.
  • Wars have caused actions of killing and torture the average mind shudders at. Rape, hunger, sophisticated torturing, you name it. And most of the time mankind exists, there was no internet, no social media and no radio, books or TV around.
  • People, in throngs, used to visit public hangings and punishment that was institiuonalised torture, many a scary movie these days would shy away from depicting.
  • Women were called ‘witches’ and tortured and burnt at the stake long before any of the abovementioned media were around, again, no radio, no books, no TV or internet.
  • People always have exchanged sensations, told stories, true or false, ‘spun yarns’ and – looked for excitement in an often too boring reality.
  • The ballads that were sung, the shallower of the plays in mass theatre productions, ‘wall newspapers’ that would pay tribute to any of the today’s tabloids, were in abundance long before analogue or digital technology were even thought of.

If anything, in many parts of the world with higher education levels and more well-paid jobs available, cruelties have decreased – except for times of war, which ‘behave’ according to precedent – and according to crimes’ statistical records that cover around two centuries now.

So, I like to put it rather like this, as someone said somewhere a couple of years ago:
‘Smart, educated people will smartly use and become more smart with using media, dumb ones will become dumber.’

It means responsibility again, too:
the better we ourselves learn to discern and also teach our children discretion of good or bad or the best media, the more hope is in it, for all.

Being ‘Right’ – or Being Yourself – and Be Human

For a long time I have thought about and observed what people do, what they think, what they fear at times, what makes them cry, what makes them laugh – and I have the strong impression that in many cultures emotion, as a concept, and emotions as individual ‘moving aspects’ in life are highly underestimated.

Partly, any culture in the world has its own rules about what is accepted behaviour and which emotions are acceptable to display. Often there are differences between the sexes in these rules. In patriarchal societies, very often for women to become angry or furious, enraged and loud, is considered ‘unladylike’, at least. In former times, women often were condemned for being crazy and eventually were locked up.

On the other hand for men, being sensitive and easily moved to tears in such societies can mean to be considered disturbed of mind or at least a ‘problematic case’.

We have come a long way, partly because psychology and its insights helped. Partly, because social scientists looked closer at those rules. Because people ask and asked questions and started doubting customary ‘truths’.

We know more about what is human, what is perhaps just this ‘little wonderful difference’, that the famous French saying puts so nicely into perspective.

But many people out there believe, that everybody should be more or less the same, do more or less the same things and then will live happily and healthily ever after.
This is not true. Although we are human beings and there exist lots of similarities, as regards cultural tradition, region of birth and upbringing, gender and family – yet in detail each and everyone of us is as unique as their fingerprints.

As a renowned food chemist put it (paraphrase):
“Many health rules are built like this: When they started researching who had the healthiest feet in the country and then found that such people usually wore size 32 shoes, they made it a rule that everyone should wear size 32 shoes. But if your feet are bigger, this rule won’t fit you.”

Therefore it can be very important, to observe these two things:
Learn more about emotions, as Daniel Goleman called it first, develop your EQ, the emotional intelligence, as opposed to the IQ. The IQ tests certain functions of the brain, bluntly put, analytical thinking.
But humans are more complex than just their IQ results. For quite some time, IQ tests are ‘out of fashion’, and rightly so.

Another problematic ‘fashion for behaviour’, for ‘personality traits’, if any, in certain countries, especially in polite society, for centuries, has been taken from business:
be always cool, calm and collected so as not to appear too eager about a deal.
This almost inhuman dictum may well be at the root for many apparent ‘disorders’ being diagnosed these days, in children or adults.

Secondly, question rules that force you to be, or feel, or behave outwardly what you do not feel inside, at all.
If people have been treated with electric shock therapy for certain ‘mental disorders’ in the past century, it is a ‘shocking’ way to reveal the underlying dogma:
be right, be like everyone else, otherwise you will be ‘made to fit in’.

Another fine simile for this is the story of the farmer, who thought it might be interesting to put a piglet in a box so it would grow into a square pig. That worked nicely.
But one day, the farmer opened the box to take his square pig to market – and with a little ‘plop’ it rounded out again and was natural and pig-like.

So, I think, find out what and how you are, apart from the general rule or rules and be true to yourself, to become human and perhaps healthier than ever before.

Computers, Advertisements and Pop-ups – Madness!

I’ve been around computers and digital devices for over 25 years, actively using all kinds of software, writing simple scripts, editing digital video, audio and images; you name it. As many people around the globe have these days.
If you are used to a certain way of dealing with your applications, have got used to a workflow and focus of your own, the one thing most annoying is to be interrupted at will, without your permission.

Imagine someone coming up to your desk and just wilfully blocking your view onto the screen the second you click somewhere important – and worst case scenario might be a crash and hours of work lost.

It drives me mad with anger at many of the latest product designers and advertisers who think popping up little windows and dialogues in your face at any possible moment is a nice way of letting you know about what they think important…

When I use my computer I rarely sit in front of the screen, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for things to happen…
I have an agenda, if I sit in front of my screen.
If I need to be entertained by ‘moving images’, I go to the cinema, or my TV/video-playback device.

If there’s anyone of the responsible personnel out there reading this, from the bottom of my heart, I implore all of you advertisers, web designers and software engineers, think it over:
perhaps that little window or dialogue could be made to appear somewhere noticeable without interrupting my workflow?

I’m sure you can think of something….

Numbers, Business – Everywhere: Love?

People for quite some time, even more so since WW II and the global ‘advent’ of an apparently global culture – have embraced the idea that business is good. More business is better. Which basically means: the higher the numbers, the better.

This leads to the rather sad realization that many people also treat love that way: they may not know better, but they act as if numbers are at the bottom of it. Love the most beautiful, the richest, the most handsome, the loudest, funniest or something else …est.

And the surface too often is taken for the real stuff: whatever someone says is taken at its face value, it seems as long as the image is ‘fitting’ the mainstream, the fashion, the – numbers, all’s well.

Particularly irritating at times is the behaviour of grown-ups, who seem to have no sense of their individual value, who think that having fun can have one connotation only – and that it is also fine to listen to what the majority apparently has to ‘say’ about these matters.

Who are constantly testing their market value by flirtatious behaviour or coy looks and moves – and seem to overlook completely, that they are transformed into a product, on ‘the market’… Almost seize to be human, and loose all individual character in the process, because they try so hard to be ‘part of the crowd’, the majority. Fulfil general ideas, instead of being a person.

So, what people believe, seems to amount to this:

  • The majority, it is taken for granted, is always right.
  • Fashion or what people take for it, the mainstream, is the best thing to have – or be. Or at least be part of.
  • The majority states that having fun means, more of everything is better – even in love. Or what they take for it.
  • If one conquers ever so many more and new people every other day, not only will certain others look up to them – it will make life so much more interesting and – fun…

All these assumptions are based on  the idea of numbers: and since human beings are not ‘working’ by numbers alone or even mainly – these ideas will never result in what many people are looking for.
Instead, the boredom and the uneasiness continue – and become more. More people, more exciting moments become necessary to fill the void, scare away fear or anger –  and less and less insights into their own soul, true needs or sorrows are possible.

What will be impossible to find, are fulfilment and the inner calm of ‘having arrived’.  The ultimate contentment.
These things can be found only inside, not out.