After all this time someone managed to hit, cruelly: Salman Rushdie, wonderful poet and writer of award-winning books was attacked on Friday with a knife and hit 10 times. At the moment of this writing he seems to be out of danger. I hope he will recover and heal mind and body to come out even stronger than before.
The darker side of any religion sometimes is revealed in such acts: Manipulated simple-minded people who actually believe that freedom of press, opinion and religious following could be considered a sin, exist. They existed in ancient history when Muslims and Christians killed each other in the ‘Holy Land’ apparently over who would own it. When it really was about power in that region and trade ways as well as roads.
In ancient times and these days: Any religion can be abused to manipulate people into cruel deeds, into following someone for the sake of simple solutions in words, in order to feel special, in a dangerous, deceptive safety of woolly-headed idolatry.
The only way out of what Plato described in the cave allegory: People sitting in a cave, with the entrance behind them, a slight elevation and a light on it between, watching the cave walls. Life and its figures passing by the entrance outside, to such humans appear like flickering shadows on that back wall.
To leave that cave of misinterpretation and age-old manipulation means: Train your mind.
Learn about thoughts and ideas. Understand that humans need to respect each other in order to be able to live in a world of peace and joy. To be able to even let their dreams come true which might be just – to live and let live in peace of mind.
To watch over human rights as declared in the Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations – is without alternative!
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.
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…
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
The religious aspect of the church trying to control passionate contemporaries putting their urges into action, cannot be overestimated in Christian regions, over the past couple of thousands of years.
A Question of Politics
But it also is basically a question of politics: Apart from food and drink and the need to ‘relieve yourself’ (discreetly put), human bodily passion is the strongest urge and many call it by rights the second most pleasurable among them. So, controlling it by making people afraid, as the Christian church has done for such a long time, means power over their minds. Which means, power over them.
I couldn’t agree more. What I also think is: It happens still far too often that people are irresponsible or downright careless. They ‘play games’ with their own or other people’s hearts just because they can.
Why hearts? Isn’t this about ‘bodily love, passion, lust’?
I’ve posted about this before.
Somehow the subject seems to come up repeatedly and a certain careful approach can easily be misunderstood by the uninitiated.
Review The Evidence
It has been made clear in the past couple of centuries by social sciences as well as medicine that passion in humans (or other organisms) is not singularly a matter of the body – uncontrollable – or, as it was posed for quite some time after the 1960s sexual revolution, just a human need, like having food and drink.
Since, simply put: If you do not drink or eat for a certain amount of time at all, you will die. You do not die from not having sexual intercourse.
Which brings me to my argument here and anywhere else in this blog if you care to check:
Although it has been represented to be two separate things, namely lust and love – they are just two aspects of one and the same thing: Emotions, feelings are closely intertwined with our body and its reactions.
We start breathing hard when the object of our desire is close. Our heart starts beating. We may feel ‘butterflies in our chest’ or just a wonderful warmth all over.
There is ample proof that all this is not to be treated lightly.
That’s all I ever mean or advocate – in so many words, sometimes even less words used:
Take Good Care of the Fire
Take good care of your or other people’s hearts, be responsible. Because for all the time mankind anywhere on this world can remember, arts, music, poetry and literature as well as fairy tales have called human passion and love what it actually is:
A fire, it can be wonderful to have around, warming, fiery, full of light – but it can burn, like a firebrand, and destroy all before it.
So, treat it – and yourself – with kindness and respect – as you would a good friend. And do unto others as you would want them to do unto you…
Alfred Hitchcock in movies is called the master of suspense. He is unique that way – in this comparatively young art, existing for a little over a hundred years and having started basically with slapstick and vaudeville comedy – he has made unforgettable classics, such as The Man Who Knew too Much, North by Northwest, Birds, To Catch a Thief or Rear Window.
In all of the above a recurring theme is the immaculate, enticing and tall, beautiful blonde, characterized by a definitive ‘come-hither’ look and graceful and stylish appearance, made up to swooning point, into that quality Hollywood always sells best:
The larger-than-life heroes and heroines.
A memorable exchange between the two main characters takes place in a few scattered scenes in North by Northwest:
After a brief, passionate encounter that these days would be called a ‘one-night-stand’, the two main characters are hurdled and chased through a story of mystery, spies, agents, government secrets and espionage at its most polished and at the same time elegant suspense including mysterious strangers and hidden ‘looks’.
Yet, the looks of men towards women are not that hidden, especially on camera…
I am driving at the underlying principle of patriarchal society where men are supposed to judge a woman and her attractiveness by looks, three-fold:
Look-at-her: Gaze, look, pay attention, by using the visual capabilities nature has provided – and, more importantly, culture has instilled…
Looks: Is she dressed nicely, to signal she is ready to attract attention – at least – and has an even and nicely shaped face, in turn considered to be bautiful?
Looking-back: Are the eyes expressive of preparedness, the ‘come-hither’ look?
This way, the term ‘looks’ gets an almost completely changed meaning, which encompasses all the aspects and often unconscious implications:
Women are looking a certain way, ‘at’ a guy – and ‘to’ a guy – and are judged – thus:
Either interesting in the role of fleeting and perhaps even exciting adventure – not to be taken seriously and easily passed over.
Or, on the other hand, rather plain, less ‘enticing’ looks and thus ready to be made into a (house)-wife…
I add an edit of the scenes in North by Northwest here.
I find them almost revolutionary on Alfred Hitchcock’s part, to whom one cannot help take off one’s hat, any time!
They make abundantly clear if you care to listen closely, how easily the above stereotypes cause misunderstanding, at least.
Hitchcock shows female lead characters who are almost completely out of tune in the mid-nineteen-fifties:
Self-dependent, courageous and ready to take a stand – underneath all that polish… But perhaps these qualities are still far too much overlooked in women, even these days…
Let’s ‘look’ past the image(s) that make up our idea of the world – or our idea of women.
But then of course, there are always those who do not know about or realize the above – and may stay in a comparatively adolescent approach, what I like to call ‘the giggle state’ regardless of their true age, on these subjects. Usually a smaller percentage of any population, I am happy to note.
Author’s note: It might appear as if I was solely drawing on my own ideas or observations for this. But quite simply, the whole of social sciences (recently also: behavioral sciences) have been describing these patterns for centuries. “social science, any branch of academic study or science that deals with human behaviour in its social and cultural aspects.” (Britannica)
I love to find out about people, humans and the real causes and effects, looking past images and traditions or customs that hamper knowledge rather than help it along.
Especially in hard times you comparatively quickly learn one thing:
Walk on, let go, do not look back.
In the bible there is this story about a God-fearing and pious man called Lot – and Lot’s wife. When God in this story tells Lot that he and his family should flee his hometown in order for God to be able to let an earthquake destroy its population as a sign and a punishment, they do so.
And although they are told to follow the guardian angel and on no account look back so as not to be turned into pillars of salt – Lot’s wife is disobedient: She looks back. She is turned into a pillar of salt – and so to this day lives in the (sub)-consciousness of many a Christian or Western person. Not Lot on his own merit, but by his wife’s action, and thus ‘Lot’s wife’ has become immortal.
For looking back.
On the surface the story tells us that being pious means being protected. Yet, I also think that the looking-back part of the story is the most important aspect:
However serious or even catastrophic the situation may seem: Looking back saps your strength and your energy to go on. Continue with life.
I’ve found that true many times, and even though I have seen lots of hardship, pain, suffering and death of loved ones, I also consider myself lucky, compared. I have seen love too, closeness, friendship – and being ‘connected’ to other human beings who know a thing or two about life as well.
The idea seems global really, Buddhism has it, other religions and cultures know it:
Letting go of suffering, walking on, try to avoid pain that may be obvious in advance, from experience…
The choice of what happens is not always ours – the choice of reaction is. Always.
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?
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…
In this fast day and age being with others is often considered to be the most healthy way of being.
Some even look with suspicion on those that like to withdraw and are busy just doing the things they love.
I am one of those people: For a long time I observed human behaviour, life and cultures as well as customs. I have accumulated a good pile of knowledge and a moderate one of wisdom.
I know when and how I like to talk to people. When not. I am lucky in this region and with my qualifications to be able to use the internet to advantage and connect to similar minds.
I think the basics of such behaviour are in two things:
You have a good idea of the value of time spent alone. You do not feel bad about being alone, as if that was a problem.
You have experience with those aspects of life that are connected with the above idea of ‘to be with people’. You know about ‘going out’, be with friends, relations, a spouse, a child/children. In other words:
You know your needs.