Ahhh, The Arrogance!

All in to throw the first stone, none caring to heal anything.
Hell is paved with good intentions!” we are taught. Yet, so many amongst us, some intelligent, keep on believing that they have the key to the Paradise and it’s made of… you guessed: good intentions! After all, is common sense, isn’t it?! But then again, the old saying “common sense is not so common” is always true in the case of others. Ahhh, the arrogance of thinking that good intentions amount to the worst of plans.
In the hardest of times as well as in the best of times, good intentions trump reasoning. Politicians do it wrong, corporations are to blame, welfare and health care are off the hook or they are not enough. What a blessing it must be to have a simple mind which sees everything as very simple and the choices that we have as being between good and bad! How simple must be everything when Jews or evil corporations or lazy bums are to be blamed for everything! People can straighten all the evils of the world in just 2 hours, over a pint of beer of glass of wine.
Now we are going through a deep economic crisis and people who went happily for the ride when this crisis was being cooked in the oven, are screaming and calling for heads to roll and throwing generous ideas as plans for recovery. Who is to be blamed for this crisis? THE OTHERS as poor Sartre was saying. Who are THE OTHERS? Bankers, corporations, politicians. Right?! WRONG!

(I am not really sure who am I writing this for because those who understand the situation, know it already, those who scream in the street, don’t care much and are too blinded by passion to give my words a second thought. Yet, here it comes.)

Bankers/Corporations – CEO and upper management are making money. Sure. With disregard to the deep social implications which most probably they didn’t give too much thought. Indeed. But, people – THIS IS THEIR JOB. They need to make money, to create profit and to reward the stockholders. If they don’t, they are kicked out on the spot. Check out what happens now on the market (not that you screamers ever bother to check the S&P, understand economy etc.) – if a company misses their PROFIT target, the share price goes down, most of the times ending with the company having to do massive layoffs. I repeat – even if they ARE making profit, just not as much as last year. Are these people making good money?! Of course they are but they argue that they did what they were supposed to do: profit, and deserve to be compensated. Did you ever refuse a pay raise?! They are greedy – of course they are. Would you stay 12h/day at work, travel extensively far from your family and dear ones, if you were paid 20-50% more than if you were to have a comfy 9-to-5 job?!
Smaller ranks, clerks need then to be at fault. After all it wasn’t the CEO of Bank of America who was forcing them to give the loans to UNQUALIFIED people, bad payers, poor people. What sane and good person would give 500,000$ mortgage loan to a family who earns 50,000$ (BEFORE taxes)?! They must be evil! But do you think they were giving it a second thought?! Upper management decided that the price of housing can only go up, so mortgage loans will always be paid, gave bonuses/commissions to those who could bring in people interested in buying a home. As long as your 50-60,000$/year salary becomes 80-90,000$ salary and what they were doing was not only legal but encouraged by their bosses, who would have said NO?! After all, one could argue – I am giving their house, their very own place to live to poor people, I am doing them a favor.
(This pertains to another discussion – what is the real good, is being gentle and permissive momentarily the same one with being good and doing good?)
Stockholders – so stockholders with their lack of patience and desire for quick profit are the ones pushing for more profits. To hell with stockholders! After all, who are they?! Business people wanting to speculate the pain of the working people, living a lavish life with their proceeds, people like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet… Right?! WRONG. We are ALL – ALL who know and (most important and more) ALL who don’t have a clue. In N America, people can’t rely on government pensions so they invest, save for that future in which they are too old to work. Mom and pop, after working a lifetime, they are happy when their 100,000$ saved over 20 years becomes a 4-500,000$, allowing them a peaceful old age. If their 100,000$ becomes 2000$, we hate the ones we hate now anyway: they entrusted their money to people who were supposed to make them a profit, grow their initial investment. Would you accept a banking account which “gives” you a negative interest?! Let’s say it takes 10% of your savings for whatever reason: to feed the hungry, to keep jobs in your country, to save the whales, or pure and simply to squander it in bad investments? Would you open a “Big-Heart Account” or “Incompetence Account”?
In Europe and other places, people rely pretty much on the government to care for them in their old age. But how is government able to do that?! Print money?! Yes, they are doing it and that is why we’re in such a shitty place now. But is it feasible and logical to think that 1-200 EU/month you contribute to pension will generate in 20 years 1000EU/mo which will last another 20 years? How could this happen unless that money is INVESTED and, more so, it brings PROFIT? Government pension funds need to obtain profit, lots of it, to be able to sustain Social Services, so generous in Europe, to be able to pay for pensions. That or print money. So either you know/accept you are a shareholder or you have no clue, it’s a very good chance you or your loved ones depend on PROFIT to get by.
Politicians – Why haven’t the politicians done anything?! They are surely to be blamed. But a politician – I am not talking about the scumbags from poor countries – react (like all of us) when bad things are happening. What was bad before the crisis broke, before 2008, to require their reaction?! Corporations and banks were making sh*tloads of money, government was raising wonderful taxes on these piles of cash, people were happy either because now, magically they could afford a house to call their own (instead of, more appropriately, “the bank’s until the mortgage is paid”), or maybe because their house doubled in value in 3-4 short years. Workers had jobs sustained by construction, equity loans based on the house equity were flowing and eternal sunshine was glaring over the country, over all countries to an extent. This wealth, as rotten as it was, was fueling discretionary spending – more TVs, stainless steel fridges for everyone, 2-3-4 cars and vacation houses. “WE DESERVE IT ALL” – I hear this line from people “lost in shopping”, all the time. We do deserve it all – everything that happens to us is only OUR fault.
And when the crisis hit, what you would have done?! It would have been a sensible thing to let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt, let the banks go bankrupt because they deserve it. But it is estimated that auto-industry sustained 800,000 jobs and millions of people who depended on these jobs. If you are not living in a state where 20% of the jobs depend on automotive industry, you can say “let them die for the crappy job they did”; but if your constituents livelihood depends on these jobs how can you say “Go to hell!” ?! Come on, do-gooders, how can you tell some guy who tightens the same screw for 20 years (and does it badly) that he will have to get new skills and look for a new job and still expect to have him vote for you?! So, you save the few million NOW , hoping that someone else, not YOU will give tens of millions to the dogs when the seeds you planted NOW will reap the huge crisis. You print money and you pretend that happy times will be back in a jiffy… when in fact they are not coming back soon.
Government should have had control over the banks and companies and regulations. Indeed – but if you ever worked in the government, you know what a waste there is – people paid with 80-120$/h (160-240,000$/year), doing jobs for which they would have been paid 50K/year in a private company. 5 persons barely taking care of the workload of a single person – why?! Because of the damn regulations and damn comfort of the job they are in. Government is a black-hole and EU is a good example how regulations can stifle economy, growth, profit and thus jobs, pensions, stability.
I could go round and round and round but the fact is SIMPLE, if only the simple minds would accept this assessment: no one can cast the first stone, because we are ALL to blame. The arrogance, the gull of some idiots who take it to the market armed with good intentions but otherwise without a plan where everyone can win will not convince me. Do I want to live in a world where profit is balanced with the needs of the people? Do I want to live in a clean, eco-friendly world? Do I want to enjoy the benefits of modern healthcare and technology and what have you? OF COURSE I DO. I simply know that revolution is NOT the answer. Good intentions are NOT the answer. Big-heart is NOT the answer. We need BRAINS and careful information, we need an action plan which mediates between the interests of ALL segments, we need balance, not hippies shouting Mao’s lines, who – invariably – will end up being upper management in large companies. If we use our hearts and not our brains, we simply end up pave the hell.
There is a lot of GOOD to do. How can we do that?! Think and identify the LEAST of EVILS – because that is what GOOD in this world is.

Depression – Part 2

As I promised, but later than I wished for, here is the follow up. “The pickle” with all my advices, the most important, the critical aspect I left for now. Nothing is worth a dime without the most important one of all –WILL/DETERMINATION. And, hey, that is exactly where depression attacks – the WILL. Most of us, let’s be honest, are lacking this in the best of times.

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Good-Bad

For a very long time I wished to be good… and that strong desire made me become bad many times. I would speak my mind – giving many times “cutting” opinions, made people feel bad and then feel bad about myself for pointing them what their inner self tells them too but don’t want to admit. Feeling bad about yourself is the sure way of behaving nasty toward the others. What is worse is that while in time I learned to be more diplomat with people I don’t care much how they live their life, I kept on giving my truth to people dear or close to me, the ones with a future I perceived intertwined with mine. In other words I scold only the people I care for, just like I scold myself.
No, I am not a good person. Not in this definition: telling people what they want and what they need to hear. I do good deeds – many times I was told that too much out of my way to help people, even to get away from their own mistakes, but I can’t help telling them what they did wrong. And that is wrong – because people know what they did wrong, they know why their lives are not what they want them to be. They simply would not admit it. And that is why attending lifestyle-gurus conferences don’t make one bit of a difference – people don’t need to be told what is wrong, they just need will to fix what they are doing wrong. Unfortunately, I am so impatient that I keep on forgetting that one is never a prophet in his/her own country and I believe that a simple demonstration would (as it should) be taken for what it’s worth.
People spend too much and then complain publicly about the state of their finances. Do you think they need to hear me pointing out the errors of their budget (or lack of)?! People make wrong emotional choices – hanging on too long on a destructive relationship… do you think it makes any difference if I point out the futility of expectation of love and care where it didn’t happen in 1-2-3 years?!
I remember how angry it made me when my ex told me that she is with a man who is “good”. It seemed so unfair! He paid for 2-3 dinners, told her that she is the most beautiful, accomplished woman he ever knew and had become good. I, on the other hand, to consider only the Canadian period, sustained her financially for 4-5 years. But during this time I told her what I considered is wrong: that taking Computer Science during the layoffs in the technology sector is dumb, then she should chose the stable job, not the exciting one… and unfortunately I was accurate as a soothsayer and she resented me for this. I pushed her to make a credit history, a driver license, forced her to become autonomous so in case of my death, she could continue to be on her feet and take care of Gabriel. That is why I became “mean” and a stranger who didn’t help in any way in her becoming was “good”.
No, I am not a good person. I am just like a horrible Jiminy The Cricket… the voice of conscience, telling people “That is wrong “… but they already know it and just do what they were programmed to do. In the end I resent myself too because I think I am a complete idiot expecting the pig to fly, the eagle to dig the soil, the chicken to kill and so on. What I build with dedication and hard work, I destroy in a moment with my damn mouth.

Money, Life, and Happiness

It’s just my life philosophy that I am trying to share with you. Everyone is completely free, in what I am concerned, to decide how to spend their money. The issue that I have is with the unhappiness money generates. I always believed that while money doesn’t bring happiness, they help preserve it. Well, it’s not true. Families with incomes of 150,000$ or more end up unhappy, in debt. I see them trading their long term peace of mind, relaxation for the “cheap” thrill of unwrapping NOW that desired gadget or car or thing that somewhat complicates their life and makes it less happy.
Money is meant to be spent. I agree. Up to a point. All?! Even money one doesn’t have? How much borrowed money do we need for our happiness?! Pretty much none. I did it, don’t get me wrong – even my motorcycle was financed with borrowed money. Yet a measure must exist – you pleasure yourself, then I believe you should take a break from pleasuring yourself… for a while. I have even witnessed the idiotic vicious circle: I am in debt, can’t make ends meet, I am unhappy sooo… I will buy myself some knick-knack that will make me feel better. What is even more infuriating is that the people will feed you wise sayings such as “life is more about being and less about having”.
As I was saying, happiness is much simpler and cheaper than you think. Renovating the kitchen with 600$ and some work – change handles, paint it, some spots, new window covers – will make you happy in ways a 12,000$ renovation made by some contractor will never be able to do. At the end of 2 years that you have been saving money, purchasing that set of living-room furniture you dreamed of will reward you infinitely more in joy than living with the dangling sword of 5000$ loan taken right before losing the job. What is wrong with saving and letting the Joneses get into bankruptcy?! The 10000$ invested when you are 30 that becomes 20000$ at 40, will buy you that peace of mind that the quick thrill of shopping never can.
The common point seems to be this desire for perfection NOW. Purchased a new home?! What kind of dream-home is that which doesn’t have hardwood floors, interlock patio, new furniture?! And the sad truth is that when we achieve our dreams we don’t fill fulfilled but EMPTY. We reached our goals. And now what?! Now we should mess our lives: get more toys, a bigger house, get in debt, break the marriage over accumulated debts, blame the other for decisions we helped take.
We need goals in life. Most of us don’t have Earth-shattering goals: to build a pyramid, to circumnavigate, to compose a symphony. So I believe that we should spread our goals over a longer period of time. Instant gratification doesn’t work. Not for those who seek peace and happiness.

Watcha gonna do?!

The lack of logic frustrates me. It frustrates me deeply. I can’t help the feeling of being helpless when I am confronted, for example, with a mother complaining about her child’s weight and 10 minutes later encourages him to have a snack and use lots of mayo. Or somebody complaining about the debt burden and then, right away, proposing a long, expensive vacation.
People are not stupid. Not THAT stupid, anyway, yet they seem to not exercise any control over their live. Mostly everyone agrees that we are trashing this planet but most don’t see anything wrong throwing 2-3 years old electronics just for the sake of latest fashion, replace the car every 4-5 years, buying more junk to fill their closets. Everyone says financial responsibility is very important but when you point out their debt, they say “well, everyone has debt”. Most of the people deplore the technology invading their lives, but if one waits a few minutes you will hear “Ohhh, I am adicted to my blackberry/iPad”. All the media is filled with articles about the decline of knowledge – high-school graduates not being able to be functional even in the most modest jobs, inculture of the most shameful kind, yet somehow the main idea of the education system is to not push the children to achieve more, do more. We are surrounded by a “whatever” generation and yet many of us replace parenting with friendship and expect teachers to do our “dirty” work… but without being stressful on the children in any way.
Most people know what is good for them, know what is the correct thing to do yet they indulge themselves into doing what they want, when they want it. Of course, everything has a justification. “The more you buy, the more you save” or “we need confort” or “carpe diem”. Nobody accepts the fact that our perverse mind can rationalize anything and give a justification even to the most unjustifiable things.
Caught up in hedonism, preferring immediate, superficial pleasure to deep, long term satisfaction, we ignore willingly common sense. Of course it is hard doing the right thing, it takes self control, it takes tough standards applied to ourselves but not everything that is hard is bad. So very few children love math – yet should we remove it from curriculum just because it’s unpleasant? Does anybody want a surgery and the long recovery?! Then why don’t we just say to the surgeon “Please, dude, don’t do it because it will be, like, hard on me and, like, totally unpleasant
Why don’t I simply accept and ignore it, enjoy life?! But I do and I apply what is right mostly to me and those that I hold dear. “Whatcha gonna do?!” say all with a shrug. Spread the word, make yourself and people confront their own failures , adjust and try – to the best of one’s abilities – to live by the principles you have. And NEVER accept pre-digested thoughts just because they make your life easier.

Empty Words

There are some of us who never get tired of re-evaluating everything, for inquiring, never accepting pre-digested food-for-thought… but we are few. I remember a very smart assistant-teacher who, in high-school, proved to us that what we believed to be a just rebellion against mature people was a mere template we were using to prove we are different, not that actually made us different. Some kids become goths, emo etc. just to be different: enroll themselves into a huge movement (?) to prove they are different.
With age patience fades away – and I never had much to start with. Yes, I have much more patience in other ways but not with intellectual pygmies who repeat wise sayings and yet manage to empty them of all their meaning.


You are as young as your soul is”. HUMANITY! How many times wasn’t I forced to listen to this phrase?! Armed with this phrase one can pretend one is as young as they desire or as the situation demands. It’s not a dumb phrase yet it is misused. From my observation, most people have an OLD soul after 30 (almost random age… but not quite). Some are OLD at 17, very few manage to preserve their soul young through all the vicissitudes life throws at them. Let me make myself clear. Your soul is OLD once:

  • you stop believing in blind love
  • you start making silly calculations in relationship and let the brain decide what might work and what not
  • you believe that passion is something that will come in time
  • you stop believing in true happiness
  • IF you still believe, you are not ready to fight for it and you expect it to knock at your door at midnight
  • you are suspicious about human nature and believe that people are out to get you and make you miserable
  • you try to knock down all dreams and aspirations that people might carry inside them
  • you believe that job satisfaction is something related to money
  • you believe that whomever has the biggest house, the most expensive car wins The Game.

Simply put, a 14-year old girl who plans to marry for money has an OLD soul. A 65 year old person who still looks for tenderness, kindness, can still bright up when complimented, still has goals in life and can fight for those goals, has a YOUNG soul.


A particular case comes to my mind. It comes from online dating. A Caveman wrote to this beautiful lady something that in his mind was probably a compliment: “You look good for your age! Use the looks while you can”. Don’t ask me why somebody would feel the urge to post something so hurtful. A simple answer would be “because he is Romanian” but it is really more complicated than that. Anyway she replied “As long as the soul is young, age doesn’t matter” or something to that effect. I had, at a latter time a private YM chat with her. In a very short time, this lady with a “young soul” told me – when discussing how I see a relationship – that I am being childish, naïve, that one should look for one’s best interest, that passion will come later, if ever… She blamed me for searching for true love because, apparently, there is no such thing. Life and some miserable love stories she went through (no details though, just innuendos) taught her that. While I told her that she was right, that I am childish and that I want to stay that way, I never had the heart to let her know that she is wayyyy to mature to get involved with me, unless risking being classified as a pedofile.

MeHarmony

I just joined the famous dating/matching website. It took me through a very meticulous questionnaire and I like it thinking, like everybody else that this is a sign of seriousness. It was my second attempt. First time, I had filled the form late in the night going to extremes: either a feature was very important for me, or not important at all… in the end they announced me that they have no match for me, that I should not feel bad, because 1 in 5 people get this result. Of course I felt bad (and since I met other people who got the same answer and they felt bad too) but then I laughed at it, thinking: “OMG, I am really bad if even eHarmony rejects me… but that means I am special”.
I called it MeHarmony after a fake commercial on SNL that was suggesting that what people are looking for and finding is a duplicate of them in the opposite sex. While I don’t think that it’s the case, I noticed that in profiles listed on other dating websites that it is true: people look not to be completed and balanced by the partner but a totally identical image of themselves. This, now I realize, is another argument to my main point of this post: eHarmony, while very good in its intentions, is based on an assumption that is generally false… and no matter who good their process is from that point forward, the result will be tainted.
MeHarmony process could match people but only if they would be honest. Users are being told that there is no right or wrong so they should answer honestly. Most of them truly BELIEVE that they are being honest. From my experience though, people cannot be honest for a simple reason: being honest would mean that they know and accept that they have defects, some being big ones. No matter what is being told, introspection to know oneself and accepting the conclusions, no matter how unfavorable they might for one is not something people do. People want to feel good about them even when they have no real reasons. They are so desperate to believe that they are intelligent, kind, generous, patient that they lie, mostly to themselves. And what a better lie is there but the one you honestly believe to be the truth?! Once you managed to fool yourself, automatically you will be able to fool everyone else, especially and automated system like the one eHarmony makes available.
I remember that when I was a kid and got a bad grade or needed to hide something from my parents, I would cycle in my mind tens or even hundreds of time the lie… until that would somewhat make it true in my mind – with details and ramifications, just like the truth. I remember I saw killers that were proven without a shadow of a doubt, still denying any involvement and taking the truth even beyond the grave – and I believe they are convinced that it is the truth they speak. I know people who spend themselves silly, every penny, are in deep debt but still continue to argue that they are savvy people because they drive 10 km to save 2$ on an item. I know people who eat themselves to death but then say “I am eating so little and I still cannot lose weight”.
I always process information from stories seen or read and I identify myself with one character or another one – and to myself it doesn’t matter if that character is good or bad. At the same time, I had the chance (?) to share with somebody a documentary about OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).. The person had pretty much all the symptoms displayed by the focus of the documentary. After a few days, putting a little bit of distance from the fresh emotions, I asked the person if she can identify herself with that character… and to my surprise and hers – I could read that in her wide-open eyes – she said “There is no resemblance between me and that person”. I was flabbergasted and only then I realized how far people will go to avoid accepting their flaws.
What are my flaws? Oh, quite a few and I described them clearly on eHarmony questionnaire. I have short patience – I trained it and I provide signs that it’s running out, but it’s still shorter that the average. I need a partner who can be honest and when they made a mistake can admit it so we can discuss how we can avoid it in the future (even by not doing a thing one doesn’t have the aptitudes to do it). It’s not easy to admit you are wrong but I taught myself to do the very same thing. I am focused and I need my space now and then, so clinging to me and calling me every 1h at work will make me run out of patience. I am not kind and I sometimes tell the truth (it’s better than years back when I would always tell the truth, required or not, delicate but mostly not) – now I fought with myself and, unless you really annoy me, even when I say it I try to adopt a form less aggressive. I don’t like surprises – good or bad… sounds crazy not to like good surprises, eh? That is because I go by planning and when plans are broken that doesn’t make me feel good, so I need some time for adjustment in my mind, for realization that it’s good, that we can work it out. If my nerves are tried out by someone, after a while, I end up saying extremely hurtful things which, sometimes, might be the truth but are still hurtful and the choice of words can hit hard people. It’s after a while and only if I am being poked hard. I don’t suffer criticism if it’s “in your face” (one might say I can’t swallow my own medicine) but if there is merit, when I calm down I will acknowledge not only by deed but by words as well the truth of that criticism.
Well, the previous paragraph could be seen as an argument to what I was saying – I find myself excuses for all my flaws. I believe that they are not excuses but that they are true, the result of many years of finding out my flaws and working on them… but then again, maybe I am lying to myself so well that I have no chance in knowing the truth.

Brain – an obsolete tool

I know that I am what could be called “The Voice of Doom” but I believe that society needs people like me. Following the traditions of SciFi and distopic writers I try to show the world how bad it could be, marketed in a coherent social image. Most of the time it doesn’t really help or at least not in the short run because society has such a huge inertia. Beside that, people who, in this time of happiness, still bother reading such dark scenarios… or simply bother reading, don’t really need to be told about it because they can probably make up for themselves the society I am writing about. For those, let’s just say that I am simply adding up all the markers and unify the big picture.
Yes, the brain becomes a more and more obsolete tool. What has began as a way to enhance our lives, to free more of our time for our pleasures and to allow us to pursue the happiness, has metamorphosed into a race for removing the daily functions of our brain.
Now, let us sustain this. We use GPSes to navigate our way not only in unfamiliar surroundings but in environments that should be/become familiar, like our own cities, large or small. I met quite a few people who, after living more than 5 years in a place, still can’t name the major streets and boulevards or even highways of their town/city. At the store, the machines add, and subtract and even the change to be given/received is computed from the bills handed. In general we don’t do this and is difficult to explain to children why they should memorize the multiplication table, as long as we don’t. We don’t read and instead watch TV because images speak more than 1000 words, are easily digested. Even so, it seems that with the increase of technical quality of our TVs, the intellectual content of the programming and of movies has decreased. We have PDAs and organizers and “intelligent” cellphones that can remember the telephone numbers so that all we need to remember is “John” or “Mary”. Even guessing time instinct is quite lost since we have so many sources of finding out time. A search engine can retrieve information in a matter of seconds and children know this better than anyone, since many teachers advise them to use Google for their homework. Not so many years ago, that very same information would have taken weeks of research, a number of books read and so on – now it’s received instantaneously in a pre-digested form and students never manage to grasp the idea that education requires effort. Started as a current against the dumb memorization process of the past, the educational process now moved into the other extreme, of considering memorization a totally futile tool, even when it comes to multiplication table or the national anthem.
This advantage, of having information at our disposal, lead many people to consider that there is no necessity to store it in our brain. Just like we don’t store water in wells because we have running water, we ended up by not remembering personalities names, dates, pretty much anything that is worth remembering. As a normal consequence of this excessive “offer” process, the value of the information has decreased and the “demand” has decreased. If you can find anything, anytime, anywhere, what is the point of storing it and – mostly – processing it?
Going back to another post – many people are against using the word “STUPID”. What they fail to perceive is that using less and less our minds, we DO become STUPID, individual after individual, and – eventually – as a society! Just by not talking about it is simply pushing the problem under the rug.

Giving voice to those…

Giving a voice to those who never had one” seems to be the message of the day. It is viewed as a quality, public figures receive praises for doing this and the message behind it seems to be that democracy itself leans on this principle. Since it is such a revered course of action, more and more people either promote this generous idea or take advantage of its application.
Yet nothing is all-good, just as nothing is all-wrong. It is a good principle but its implementation leaves a lot to be desired. We live now in a world of cacophony where everybody seems to have been given a voice and uses it in the most violent way. I believe that the idea behind this phrase was for the society to employ caring, intelligent, knowledgeable individuals to voice the desires and aspirations of the silent ones to those groups of governance and organization who can do something about them. Yet this idea was somehow lost and now everyone, no matter how educated, how informed, how intelligent, is given the gall to speak up. And that exposes the weakness of democracy – where the vote of a very informed person, intelligent, who pondered heavily on the matters at hand can be voided by the vote of somebody who doesn’t have the slightest clue about parties, candidates, what they stand for. The same way, the clear, informed voices get lost very often in the cacophony of the well-intentioned, ill-informed masses.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. People should have a voice, no matter how wrong it is. After all I sincerely believe in the freedom of the speech and one of my favourite quotations is Voltaire’s “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” I admire any opinion, no matter how contrary to mine, if it’s presented with arguments and with a sound reasoning.
I used to believe myself that there are lots of people, admirable ones who due to a lack of exposure, could not have a beneficial impact on the society. And it is true. After all my grandfather, a simple peasant, but educated and self-taught, who would stop reading and getting informed only until the harvest, was such a man. Still, life has shown me that the vast majority of the people doesn’t have opinions. This situation doesn’t seem to prevent them from voicing the opinions of others without stopping and considering their validity. And it would be impossible to analyze these ideas/opinions/ideals because they do not have the tools to do this. They don’t have the tools and the biased leaders of opinions don’t offer them (for good reasons – they might work against them and their agenda). In an age where ignorance is cherished and promoted, all one has to do to push his ideas is to wrap it in a good intention and decent, but sub-mediocre minds would embrace it. Examples for this thing happening are in the thousands. Take for example, the help given to Africa. It seems like a “no-brainer” (oh, the love of the society for this term shows where we are heading to), a good and generous instinct that we have to send money over there, to help the poor children (no, I’m not ironic, they are poor, they are destitute, they live difficult lives), to send them fertilizers and help them grow a solid agriculture. Unfortunately, it only seems. There are a number of voices – smothered by high-profile do-gooders such as Bono or Bill Gates – who point out correctly that the western help, if anything, made the Africans even more helpless, it made the rich more rich and that many average people were pushed below the poverty line. Fertilizers made them more dependent of the prices of oil and fertilizers destroy the soil as it did to India in the 70s and 80s. Still, trying to point this one in public will make them treat you as a criminal who wants to condemn those poor people to eternal hunger.
And that brings us to the next point: it is ironic that exactly these new voices stifle the voices of reason, those who try to understand, investigate and debate things. Well intentioned people write to magazines complaining about racism in a 19th century depiction of N American society (duh! wasn’t there any?). When somebody dares to state the fact that Hitler did – a side effect, unintentional – a social service by confiscating and then hiding thousands of art works in protective bunkers, masterpieces that would have probably been gone in bombardments or vandalized, then he is bullied out of the job because he, an anti-Semite for sure, dares see some good in a sacrilege.
To me this seems like the radical groups who want to be given a chance to use democratic tools to get in power and then destroy the very same democracy that gave them a voice. Any lucid opinion that is perceived as an attack of the human values is shamed and destroyed with rush. This contrasts with times not long passed when stupidity and uninformed opinions were shunned and publicly ridiculed. One might say that is better kindness than intelligence but I beg to differ. Idiotic kindness can lead to more evils than considerate intelligence.
I guess my opinions make me an elitist. I am sure they do, but what other option is there? One would not want a bus driver piloting the plane one flies with. One would not desire his children taught history by a mechanic or have his food cooked by a chemist. Then why let uneducated, uninformed or even stupid individuals (yes, stupid, like in low-IQ but not as low as to be considered mentally challenged) make the decisions for our present and/or future?! Voice, like respect should be given to the ones who deserve it.

Defending words, balancing self-confidence, speaking up and other things…

I recently joined a FaceBook group fighting against usage of names derogatory for special needs people. I read the description and it seemed to me well-balanced and having a good point – many groups created on Fb have very offensive names. After just 2 days, when reading some points of views in the discussion list I noticed very one-sided comments… well, let’s not hide behind words (and I am doing this on purpose) stupid comments. While the group included people with very balanced and rational comments, quite a few people would go as far as saying that words like “stupid, moron, cretin, idiot” should be outright banned from language. One person, mother of a child with Cerebral Palsy was even going as far as saying that she feels like slapping over the mouth the people who use the word “stupid” – never used against her son. I could, of course, let her know that my feeling was that she had issues accepting the terrible affliction of her son and was taking on the world, but I doubted I would be listened.
Words are just words. Like the atom technologies, they can be used to construct hugely beneficial things or destroy. They make up for the variety of this world and suppressing them would be totally wrong in my view. Of course, they should be used in the manner they were intended and adjust them to the sensibilities of the modern world but NEVER banned. I cannot describe the actions of a child playing in the street where cars drive +60 km/h with “less-than-intelligent”. A stupid person is NOT the person who by nature’s/God’s will has limitations but I believe it’s more appropriate to describe a person who has the capacity, the intelligence of being better and choosing not to do it. Education of how these words are to be used correctly is the only viable approach I can see. Banning? Even it would make some sense, which I don’t believe, it would never work since it doesn’t change attitudes. If “stupid” would be banned, people would use “oagadugou” or “phadhoum” (make-up words; can’t vouch they don’t mean something in some language 🙂 to describe the same thing. (When I was an adolescent, a friend has invented the word “babar” to describe cigarettes whenever his parents could be eavesdropping.) Education, on the other hand, could explain to some kids using “Look – here goes that retard again!” that in actuality they are the stupid ones because they choose to behave so hurtful despite having all the natural assets (intelligence, empathy etc.) to be something better.
I evidently withdrew from that FB group because I don’t want to be associated with hysterical people who want to social-engineer the very language. Then, at a party I mentioned my feelings about this, in approximately the same terms I am using here. A woman, teacher, retorted she doesn’t allow children to use the “stupid” word even when they describe themselves or their actions. Asked “why?” she looked at me as if it was obvious – “This could erode their self-confidence”. I started to argue that a balance should exist between boosting self-esteem and keeping it in check with reality. When one did something stupid, he/she should acknowledge that and apologize and try not to repeat it. Unfortunately, the teacher took the “higher ground” and kept silent. I say unfortunately because I honestly believe that only dialogue can educate free people – monologues are meant for slaves. In fact the whole assembly – about 6 people were witnessing this conversation – kept silent because, apparently, it is very embarrassing to have a contradictory conversation at a party, even if kept within decency boundaries. Later, reviewing the moment in my mind I reached the conclusion that the general silence was the saddest thing of that evening. 2 of the witnesses were very down-to-earth people and from other opinions they launched throughout the evening I strongly believe they were on my side. 2 others were Eastern-European immigrants and I have still yet to meet one Eastern European, who was educated there, who believes that artificially boosting children confidence is beneficial for anyone. What was sad is that no one of the 4 took any defense unless later, out on the porch, in private… at a time when it didn’t matter anymore. Some might consider this behavior good manners, I personally believe it comes from cowardice. I’ve seen it in team meetings (people loving the way you “told them off” but only in private conversations), I’ve seen it in high-school, basically I’ve seen it in any social environment. I remember a question a Women Studies Group from Algonquin posted as an answer to somebody accusing the group of manipulating The College: “How do you think 70 people could manipulate 1500?” This is exactly the way to do that: shame people into keep their mouth shut, throwing at them “guilt by association”: “he/she is a racist for saying that and you are one too if you defend his/her words”, being bullied into keeping your mouth shut because of what others could do or say about you… The silent majority, focused on every-day problem, allow “political officers/activists” take over and dictate their lives. What is more disconcerting is that later the same silent people complain of the results of their silence.
To come back to the conversation I had with that teacher, I had a vague compensation because the very next day I tripped over an article on BBC: Warning over narcissistic pupils! which confirms my belief that by boosting the self-confidence of children without any anchor in real-life performances is as bad as trashing it by continuous criticism (as it was done in Eastern Europe). Already we all witness the behavior of the Generation Y: demanding before giving, believing that they are entitled to everything and asking more and more, coming late at work and leaving early, suing over anything that discomforts them, abandoning their family/employee duties at the first sign of hardship… Imagine what 20-30 years of such education might do. I know it will all bounce back – the selfish, narcissistic generation will have children and faced with the choice of catering to their needs or the children’s, they will chose the former. Those children will probably grow with self-absorbed parents, trapped in an eternal pursuit of happiness. They will be neglected, ignored, their needs will not matter and as such they will grow to detest these attitudes and the wiser of them will write books, will work hard to avoid what they didn’t like (after all the Generation Y is the result of the New Age parents who preferred to be friends than parents, who didn’t believe in impositions of any kind). I know it’s a full circle but what good will that do to me, to us as a society in 50-70-90 years from now?