Stereotypes – Images – Mistaken Judgement

In literature and philosophy one of the things you learn at an early stage is, to look beyond the obvious.
Or that which is apparently obvious.
The great works of art, especially in poetry, often have layers of meaning to them. And not just one or two layers. But several, in many cases.

In life, this kind of knowledge can be crucial: that the surface, the apparently obvious, the first impression, the things you hear and see with the ‘naked eye or ear’ can be completely misleading.
This fact is made use of in marketing: use images and ideas that are easy to grasp, are part of common knowledge and that way, sell – chocolate, cars, or clothes.

That’s why advertisements are often full of stereotypes, such as the wonderful housewife and mother. The cool and always superior father, the cute kids, who never complain, except when chocolate is becoming scarce… and so on, and on…

Why is this misleading, though? Aren’t there cute kids around? Aren’t there wonderful housewives and mothers? Or the superior father – not to say passionate lovers?
Of course there are!
But they are not always the only thing to know about or the most important aspect of a person.

Stereotypes exist everywhere and are almost countless.

A particularly impressive because very colourful one, connected with heaps of imagery and at the same time so easily dismantled is that of the passion of Spanish natives as opposed to that of the average European, supposed to be far more sedate in outlook:
bluntly put, unfortunately, that’s just complete bullshit.

Why, again?
What the emblematic image conjures up in the mind is the Flamenco dancer, clapping, stomping, scowling, accompanied by apparently fierce musicians strumming the guitar and the sad, sometimes fierce songs of, among other sources, the gypsies in Spain. They had been chased and abused for centuries and Flamenco, so the legend has it, expresses their fight for life.

The Flamenco as well as other dances considered to be passionate, such as the Tango or the Rumba, has seen for decades now a new appreciation and recognition in countries such as Switzerland or Germany.
Where people are considered to be less passionate, than in other regions of the world.
How is it possible then that among the famous and even in Spain recognized Flamenco dancers, there is a Swiss woman?

Because people take preconceptions and stereotypes for granted. They do not look beyond the image, the impressions, eye and ear seem to convey apparently.

But the truth is: we only understand and recognize what we know.
If our knowledge is marked by stereotypes, stereotypes is what we will see and find.

And that is a great pity!
The above example about apparently passionate as opposed to less passionate human beings is a striking one to make the point:
if we believe in it, the really passionate nature in ourselves, wherever we’ve been raised – and other more subtle aspects of people around us, may completely escape us!

So, go beyond stereotypes! Find the truth, not just the image!

 

Love – Life – Marriage – Passion

Love is not an adventure – but a journey.
Passion is not a function – but a person.
Marriage is not a commitment as in: prison – it’s a decision.
Romance is not a fleeting idea from fairy stories – but heart and mind of a person.
Life is not a sandbox and games – but responsible behaviour – and a ‘Yes’.

Religious Books, Truth, Knowledge – and the Fellow Being!

Religious books these days are taken as basis to judge people. As if people following Islamic traditions were equal to what is found in the Koran.
As if every Christian you can meet would be exactly the way the bible states.

A more stupid approach cannot be imagined: people who study religion for a living, who are either university fellows or academics in the field of one religion or even religions as a subject, will tell you how contradictory the bible can be in only ‘one book’.
Take the old and the new testament and place them side by side and find out what values are purported there:
you will be amazed.

Compare Versions and Ages

Take the Koran and study its Suras and find out how many of them are really applicable to modern life.
How much of it was dependent on living conditions and then recent changes ~1400 years ago!

There have been researchers who found that society before it was not only matriarchal – which basically means, women were considered to be the most important members of society and the ones who were free to choose their ‘mate’ when and how they thought fit.
It is said they would suspend a little bouquet of herbs in a certain place at their house’s front door to indicate to the current partner that he was free to leave because they had found someone else.

These researches are still in dispute among the traditional scientists of these fields. Some people would perhaps refute them just because they cannot bear the idea that things could have been so much more in favour of women.

Be that as it may: matriarchy and matrilinear societies and religions exist to this day. Matriarchy as the earliest form of society has been established!

To this day, in Jewish religion, the religious membership of a newborn is determined by the membership of the mother: is the mother a Jew, the newborn will be too.

Findings

What I am driving at with all this:
Religious books or scrolls are just that: books, with a partly very long established tradition of reading and interpreting them in the respective religious body.
Historians and social scientists were among the first who dared looking for the truth behind it.

And if you do only for a few minutes around Europe with the bible, as I suggested above, and afterwards go into the ‘streets’ of your home town and try and find people that are like that… I’ll hand it to you!

So, stop comparing the Koran with people living in the Islamic tradition. And stop trying to make out that the bible was always the only truthful basis for the human rights act – in other words:
know them by their deeds!

Tolerance – or: Accept the Other by Looking Beyond the Image

When we work or live together, everyday life can be made difficult by disagreements, arguments or even serious quarrels, with misunderstandings at the bottom of them, very often.
What can help to solve this all-to-common occurrence? How can we get past petty arguments and self-righteousness to allow for a broader view and deeper understanding?

Listen to Your Peers

This sounds like easy advice but it isn’t. In everyday life, we are busy and these days internet and digital devices are everywhere. With work, family and friends demanding our full attention most of any day, it can get difficult to really listen; pay attention to what is being said, and what a person may even not say, but what is still there.

Identify Guilt and Get It Over With

Why should we identify it – or even assume it’s there?
In most countries and cultures around the globe the expected conduct, behaviour and rules of the community are strict, especially when listened to closely. Some more than others. But this strictness, these rules, between people, between parents and children, between lovers, between husband and wife, between friends – lead to easy and repeatedly felt emotions of guilt in the sense: “I did not follow the rule. I behaved or acted inadequately. Or seem to have. That is bad.”
After such, often not completely conscious thoughts, the next step in such chains of thought is:
“I have to prove myself. I have to contradict the other person, to make clear that I am good.”
With this the defensiveness sets in, anger enters the conversation, and mutual accusations of what the other person got wrong, will follow.

How can that be got over?

It cannot completely, because we are human beings and we live in this world and have been raised to certain standards and beliefs.
It can be relieved, though.
Because if we are ready to see the whole picture, we may teach ourselves and thus our surroundings, forgiveness.
Based on the realization, that we all at times have differing needs, even in the same family, not to say across cultures. That this difference of need and emotion can lead to excitement and even anger – and we are still good at heart!
Because, just as much as we are trying to do our best and occasionally fail – so do the others.

Look Beyond the Image

What image? And why look beyond one?
Culture, education, upbringing and history of our respective countries shape our idea of the world, of what is acceptable behaviour, what is not.
Women and men are usually supposed and expected to act or behave or talk in a certain manner. If that manner is markedly different from our expectations, we start wondering, why and how – and very often jump to conclusions based on what we learned so far.
That is the image: what we have learned, what we expect, and what these presuppositions actually let us see – or miss.

So, in this sense, looking beyond the image means: realize what the values are that you learned, which of them you actually live by – and what could be different, in the other person.

Accept the ‘Other’ as such – different, not better, not worse, just different, in most cases. And, sometimes the most difficult task of all: accept yourself!

Tolerance

With this comes tolerance:
A wonderful word, to my mind, it encompasses the concept of allowing for variety – of being open-minded, and accepting that not everyone is the same as we are, at least in detail, and that this fact is – and thus the other person is – welcome.

The Acorn, the Oak-tree and (Young) Ladies’ Self-confidence

This short video is another example of the TEDx series of talks that I like to share. And it could be for you, if

  • you are a young lady between 17-24 and want to learn or be reminded of what can be important to remember for a life.
  • you are a lady of more advanced years and had temporarily forgotten all about it…
  • you are a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, granddad…or… to find out about what it makes sense to teach young ladies – and why.

The ideas expressed are generalizations to some extent, as is customary for a short talk. For individual human beings and situations we always should look more closely to be as just as we possibly can.
But these ideas provide excellent pointers!
Emotional well-being and self-confidence are essential ingredients for a day – and a lifetime.
So, enjoy, everyone out there, who come by – and like this, too.

(Young) gentlemen, although in this day and age, in many regions of the world it seems too self-evident: you are oak-trees, too!
(Young) ladies, remember: you are an oak-tree already!

The Beauty and the Beast – or: The Idea of Loveliness and the Adored Woman Divine

In former times the idea existed of what an adorable woman should be like, I have to some extent already mentioned this before: she was to be slender, graceful, mild and smiling. Aloof from the ‘pit of worries and ugliness’ of this world, basically angelic.

The concept of adoration carries with it the idea of the pedestal, the aloofness, even distance and other-worldliness that is sung to in many songs and poems of the time when the idea of ‘courtly love’, the ‘Minnesang’ or ‘Minnedienst’ (German) was in full swing. Knights were sworn to such a service to a lady, they often chose one themselves that was a picture of virtue and aloofness. More rituals are associated with this service: the glove of the adored woman the knight was to carry around always, or a lock or a special piece of cloth, often embroidered by herself as a sign that all his deeds were dedicated to her, in war, in life and in death.

This romantic love created a mist, a blur of what we today still find in everyday infatuation. It calls an emotion ‘love’ that is based on a fairy story, an illusion about the perfection of a human being. Where the outer appearance is at least as important as the alleged virtues.

Actually, the image gets even more blurry and confusing by the fact that the ‘inner and outer beauty’ are exchanged for each other. The looks are taken for the person. Thus the emotion called ‘love’ based on this idea rather than person, is a picture – painted perhaps with great artistry – but still only containing part of the truth.

Truth: the concept of truth to me also is contained in these images, but it is more. It is what you find when you look closely, without prejudice. When you are not afraid of some time sordidness or disillusion and still are able to see the whole picture.
In Persian there is a saying: “the truth is bitter”. And that can be true too.
Ayurveda just equals truth with life.

I have found in the course of my life that truth, reality, as difficult to bear sometimes as it is, in cases of cruelty and torture in war or politics or crime – makes for ultimately a safer kind of life. And a more interesting and diverse one. Because our ideas and our perception are based on facts, not surmises, therefore sound. Because all the little details we can know about friends or family – or the loved one – will make us appreciate them for what they are: human beings.

The concept of knowledge, recognition, is to be found here too: in an almost biblical sense, to ‘recognize’, to really know and still like and love. Therefore I rather won’t have anyone adore me for what I look like. ‘Adore’ me, at all. Because for me that’s not real, ultimately doomed, because it will end the day the veil is lifted, the illusion destroyed.

So I for one, would rather not be adored by but well known to a man of my heart.

Would You Be a Lady? – Corsets, Crossed Legs, Cinderella, and the Bad Back

For centuries in many parts of Europe a very distinct idea of the true lady existed: she was never loud, never obtrusive, never swore, did not know the words to describe the bodily functions and if even a hint of the juicier sides of life was made in a conversation she would faint.

This changed in the course of centuries since the advent of the civil society, when first the equality of men was declared and later on the freedom of men, women and even slaves was proclaimed. Step by step the enlightenment and women’s lib movement acquired a foothold in thoughts, ideas and finally in law: even in the late 18th century, when the French revolution started a whole volley of changes, equal rights for all men and freedom for serfs, women were not even considered, much less covered by such laws.
As had been custom since ancient Greece and Rome, the law considered ‘man’ to be free and have the right to vote. ‘Man’ did not mean ‘human being’, but literally the male grown-up of the society. The eldest sons not even of age were often put to ‘look after’ the woman and younger children of the house, when the father (‘pater familias’) was away.

Women were considered to be weak, a lady was something like a hothouse plant, to be kept under wraps, to be protected and hatched and not to be spoken roughly to. On the other hand she also was considered to be less smart than a man, practically dumb, less able to conduct business or study the serious subjects, such as high literature, medicine or law.

During the nineteenth century it became even more pointed when a ‘writing woman’ was likened to a ‘monster’, in so many words, in articles of special ladies’ magazines, books for housekeeping and instructions on how to properly behave as a lady.

Into the 1950s, the seminars and classes for young women were well known in Germany, to instruct the bride-to-be in how to take care of the man, cook, clean the house and dress, the so-called ‘Bräuteschule’. Down to the crossing of legs, the conversation considered suitable and the poise of the head, the shoulders, how to hold cup and saucer, knife and fork. The most cruel expression of this idea can be found in the German version of the fairy story of ‘Cinderella’: two of the daughters are encouraged to cut off their heel or toe to fit her feet into the shoes for the dance – to ultimately ‘catch’ the prince.

All this made for another kind of corset: the strict rules thus creating a restricted range of body movements caused numerous problems for health and well-being. Among them reduced blood circulation especially in neck and shoulders, legs and lower back.

Today we are lucky that in some parts of the world this has been realized and also leads to a potentially more relaxed expression of emotions and thoughts.
I still think an evening dress worn to a ball and the grace of a dancing woman is fine to look at, and feel – but personally I enjoy it so much more, when dress and shoes ‘fit me’ – not vice versa.