Competition and Patriarchy – or: Manipulation as Doubtful Means to an End


Patriarchy is an old concept of society but not the oldest ever. Even older is the one about matriarchy.
What they mean? They are about power in societies and describe the fact that either the male or female aspect reigns, the eldest being the head of the family, respectively.

Patriarchy in particular has won a rather doubtful reputation over the centuries since its advent. It’s been a while, bluntly put, a couple of thousands of years. But archaeologists still find ample and unambiguous proof that matriarchy is even older as a concept and was wide-spread at one time all around the world. Some religious traditions and rites still show the roots of it to this day. Just as some rather old customs, in all cultures today.

Patriarchy employs rather doubtful means to its ends, as it were. A society model that to a great extent is based on – competition.

Some people try to tell us competition is a human impulse. I beg to differ, to my mind such people do not look closely enough and I think that the humanities agree: In many societies around the globe a basic human need is met only by winning something:

The need for attention.

Human beings need attention, actually some form of love, to survive. And the closest some lesser developed cultures seem to get to that is the attention provided when winning a competition.

And sadly, this fact also is often used between the ‘comrades’, the ‘buddies’ when trying other people to do something, get them to react, in short: Make them feel or think something.

It never was nice. And it never was really considerate. Even less ‘gentlemanly’. I find the original idea of the ‘gentle man’ rather intriguing. As opposed to some aberrations of the snob.

Again, quite bluntly put: Manipulation is often used as a means to win an end. But as my father used to put it even more bluntly: “Do you have to sit on cr…p just because a million flies do?”

 

A Veritable Credo

image of lighthouse and a rock on seashore
The basics…? Food, dry shelter and clothes. Beyond that? Humans need company to feel accepted. To feel as part of a whole.

To get beyond acceptance and beyond the basics many people are prepared to do almost anything. Attention which is equalled with special acceptance is at the centre, often half-conscious. Depending on the culture, wealth may be put at the top of the list.

The bucket list?

To me, life can be full of pain, cruelty and suffering. In order to make life bearable or even wonderful, we would want to avoid pain for others and for ourselves.

Any wise book in this world you may want to try will put it in so many words. Philosophers as well as business reckonings as well as the great books of the four biggest world religions contain these elements in principle:

Life can be dreadful and it can be wonderful. We, as grown-up human beings are largely responsible for what we do and how we treat others on life’s journey.

We can see it as one big race. But, as Baz Luhrmann put it so wisely, “the race is long but in the end it’s only with yourself.”

There are times when some people wonder what to do, what to put at their list’s top.

In that case I would like to put it this way: All four religions and their central books/scrolls have their strengths and weaknesses, some parts of them having been discussed for centuries.

But, in order to live together in this world that depends on us being smart and compassionate and remember our ancestor’s ways of honouring nature – the human rights of the United Nations can be considered the best possible foundation, a rock of truth as it were, to measure everything else by – and with.

Your yardstick.

After that, the basics. And laughter, kindness and joy shared. Love.

Pick Your Battles or: Live to Fight Another Day

image of a young lady sitting on a mountain top
I have posted about wars. This is about the smaller ones in everyday life. We can make an issue out of every little thing. Sometimes, people will misunderstand it if we don’t. I had to fight a lot in the course of my life. I learned one thing for sure: Many things can become big, even huge in the eyes of the world – or our own – if we make them that. Fighting is proven to ‘take it out of you’: You can become angry, even furious once you have chosen the issue. You start an argument, perhaps. Things even may escalate into a full-blown conflict that rages for years.

And for what, really? So often we will come to realize that a lot of things are not worth the energy, because:
Fighting saps one’s strength. I am not talking about becoming angry – and letting off steam. That’s important in a healthy way and done safely in order to not hurt others. But fighting?

Fighting takes it out of you, the effects can become really dangerous to our system. Because, the way we deal with anger or even frustration is something we can learn – and manage. So much in life depends on how we look at it. Strong emotions are part of our mindset – that is also: part of how we evaluate what happens to us. The first flush of anger may be involuntary – but after that, it’s a choice. To save health and nerves and keep frustration at bay.

Because, also, so often looking back, we may regret unnecessary fights, especially with people we like or love.

That’s why I make it a point in my life – and a plea here for all who are wondering: Pick your battles. The next one may be really worth it.

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.

The Most Important Idea to Remember…

image of a single red rose bloom on a heap of pebbles
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians, 13; translation: New King James Version, 1982)

The bible is called that because the term ‘biblos’ in Greek means book; to many it is the book of books.

I think it is full of wisdom, if you know how to read it. The focus on the New Testament, the Evangelists, neighbourly love at its center.

Other religions are wise too, equally if you know how to read and understand them. To me the most important value we can use to measure that kind of quality is respect for life, human – and otherwise, animals, plants, the Earth.

Again:

8 Love has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Super-models, Used Cars and TV-Shows – or: The Relativity of ‘Beauty’

image of line of models on catwalk walking away
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’.

Erich Kästner, German, award-winning poet and writer of the 20th century, put it in a fine poem like this
(used DeepL for English translation in this case, edited manually, for speed):

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.

 

The Princess, the Hero, the Dragon – Romance? – or: Romantic Love as a Life-long Project

drawing of book with 3D image of castle inside
Fairy stories have them all: The ‘romantic’ types of love that come with a sudden realization, or a ‘meet cute’ as they call it in Hollywood or on TV, or the hero slaying the dragon to save the ‘lady in distress’.

They are sweet, sometimes the rendering in stories is wonderfully done.
Yet, they end with the smile of two, or more, protagonists: Curtain.

Real life begins after that.

The idea of romance can have at least two types, it seems to me:
One is the image made up of ideas that recur at least since the middle-ages, including a couple of different archetypes as C.G. Jung identified them. It causes people to ‘run around’ with stars in their eyes.

The other is romance that combines the longing for true closeness and passion by knowing oneself and the other – and better over time.

At this point I’d like to reference a fine book here that ‘has it all’ for anyone who cares to read:

Steve and Shaaron Biddulph: The Making Of Love, 1999 and later, Doubleday Australia / Wie die Liebe bleibt (German)

Steve and Shaaron Biddulph, Australian couple of psychotherapist and social worker published their first edition of this truly funny, smart and warm-hearted look on love and how to keep it during the 1990s. It’s been revised a couple of times since then and is still one of my favourites on the subject.

Quote: “Love starts out as a blessing, even a fluke, but it continues as an achievement!”

What we tend to overlook in view of all those glittering pictures is the fact that we spend a lot of time and energy on the romance in the beginning – and then feel: ‘Ok, this is done. Let’s get back to business.’

Love is an achievement, knowing yourself, knowing the other – and it needs time and energy in order to work.

Know yourself and what you expect from a relationship – and then find and keep your partner in life.

The Conquest in Passion – Hearsay and Reality

photo of unpeeled pomegrantes

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.

Why?

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…

The Mirror Image Reversed – Focus on Strengths

theater masks

When Dorian Grey in the novel by Oscar Wilde looks into the mirror after having gone through a magical transfomation, he realizes that his painted picture ages. He does not, anymore.

After years of living the life many young men seem to dream about: racy, full of any kind of drunkenness by any kind of substance and any kind of ‘passion’, he still is a respected member of society, not to say upper class of the time in London. After some time people mildly wonder how he can stay young and fresh-faced, as if he was just twenty, but no one really cares to investigate.

At his death by murder, interestingly, he is found some day in the attic of his own house, in front of that omnious picture: only the story’s readers really know that the ugly, wrinkled, red-nosed, middle-aged drunk and libertine is Dorian Grey. After having died his body reveals all the ugliness of his soul: selfish and superficial.

The story is revealing in more senses than one. For me it is an essential ‘image’ of why and how human beings will some day be ‘visited’ with their own sins. By sins I do not mean what the Christian church called them who crudely threatened and especially in former centuries actually held their power over the majority of men and women that way; by making them afraid to ‘veer from the path of righteousness’ and by making out the church was the only hope of redemption, the ‘mass of men’ were held in dependence and fear.

It is the soul and what humans would find in life if they dare: not to go for the apparently big risks – but go for that which is the real path to love and happiness: live it, live peace, live care for others, neighbourly love and peaceful coexistence. And also know that none of us are angelic, while on earth, so have empathy, and remember that you need empathy and sympathy just as much. As human being.

The bible has another fine saying about this principle, yet: “Be as shrewd as snakes, and as innocent as doves.” Which means that you you should look out for yourself, but allow for any misinterpretations, and give yourself and others a chance. At real happiness.

What really makes the soul thrive and glow, is all the love you can find there, and live as much of it as possible.

Love – Human, Basic – Eternal?


Love is a human emotion. It’s one of the five basic ones. But its shapes are numerous: There’s friendship across and among the sexes, there’s love between parents and children and there’s romantic love, as well as bodily love, as the more ancient term has it.

Why would it be considered eternal?

Two very basic experiments and their results come to mind:
There was an ancient king, if I remember correctly, who was part of Greek mythology, although unfortunately his name escapes me at the moment: He wanted to know what babies really need to survive. He put a number of them into a secluded spot, where they were fed and clothed and taken care of – but not loved. They all died.

Now, as a myth, my readers might think, well…

But, in recent decades this has been confirmed in a most sad way: After WW II many babies were orphaned because of the war. Sometimes, just ‘lost’. But the same thing occurred and apparently people concerned found out by sad trial and error:
Babies that were kept warm, clean, clothed, well-fed, but unloved, not caressed or talked to, died. Healthy.

Consider what happens to grown-ups: when they feel ready to despair of love; lonely, depressed and devoid of hope, they suffer heart attacks and die. They may, tragically, commit suicide.

Hope is an emotion that is based on the idea that good will come. The confidence and trust that loved ones can invoke.

So, yes, in all the hard times that can be laid on human beings, and for all the hard ones I’ve seen, I still think, and consider myself lucky:

I’ve seen friendship, love, care of parents and relations. I’ve learned what helped me. Close to despair one day I met a person who without any apparent reason smiled at me, a warm smile. And suddenly I realized, what makes the sun rise in my heart:
Love, unconditional, in all its shapes.

The sound of it seems to be captured in the wonderful recording of Antonin Dvorak’s “From The New World”, his symphony no. 9, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay.
An excerpt of the most beautiful parts in the first movement here: