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.


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.

Just sunshine, wind and speed

If one reads my blog would be left with the idea that all I do is bitching… and it would an approximately correct impression. I wish I was blind, I wish I could simply enjoy life and not care what other people do or think… but that would just not be me. I always envied and blamed my father for having a quality that enhanced his life: being oblivious at everything that went around him. He would tell me often “Why do you get in fights with your mom? Can’t you just do like me: get a face appropriate with the topic, nod and just think about your projects and things you want to accomplish?” Well, the answer is NO. Now I know why – he probably has Asperger Syndrome, just like my son – and what he thought it was a developed trait it’s an inborn one. The only solution for me to be like him would be living on a desert island… and, with my luck, probably dying of appendicitis or something trivial, before I can get to a doctor. And yes – I used to blame him for withdrawing in his inner mind and letting me to deal alone with my mother’s nagging and dissatisfaction.
But no more bitching! Life is – as I often describe – interesting. No, you “shinny happy people” it’s not beautiful – sometimes is sad, other times is tumultuous, in spots is dramatic or happy… but it’s damn interesting.
Recently, as most of my friends know, I purchased a motorcycle. I had some money I was getting back from a credit card, the time is right and prices were very convenient, motorcycles attract women and I am a single dude… so I didn’t honestly was on the edge of my seat due to impatience. I was thinking also about all the hassle for the rider’s license, high-insurance for a new rider so I had my doubts. You imagine my doubts when, after a break of 13 years from the last time I rode, I had to take my new motorcycle home – I was yellow with fear, spun around a close-by parking lot until people thought I was crazy. But then it all came back to me… from the mist of my lost youth (don’t tell me that you found it!) the joy, the exhilaration of being in the wide open, fighting the wind, leaning in curves… I find it hard to describe the happiness that after just 1-2 days dawned onto me.
I was amazed how a simple object – I never believed in buying happiness – could bring so much pleasure, confidence in what is and what will be, and sheer happiness. When I sold my motorcycle – I think it was 98 – it was just like all my dreams of adventure, of open spaces, of the world being my shell had ended. I remember that when my ex would try to talk me into having a child I would tell her: “There is no 3rd seat on the motorcycle”… and then I would bend under the burden of my selfishness. And yet I sold it for all the correct reasons: I am a married man, I can’t kill myself, it’s not practical, it’s not comfortable. When I came to Canada, I flirted somewhat with the idea… but then I gave up. I used to joke (somewhat bitterly): “You know how I figured out that I am getting old? When I came to Canada my wish-list was: 1. Motorcycle; 2. Boat. Then I thought about the wind, the rain, the hassle… and I compared with the tranquility of the boat on an empty lake… and the new order has become: 1. Boat, 2. Motorcycle”. If I was true then, maybe it’s true now and maybe I found the perfect time-travel machine: the motorcycle. When I zoom across empty roads, my mind takes me back to the University’s campus where friends and I used to loiter on a fence and watch the spring wind blow up the girls’ skirts… It takes me back to a time where there were no deadlines, no real obligations or responsibilities. And then I leave the city and get in the middle of nowhere and the cool evening sends in my helmet the smell of “sinziiene” – flowers my grandfather had in the country side… and of dung… In a blink of an eye I am back to my childhood and all those enormous days of summer that ended in a story and listening to politics on a radio with lamps. And these memories are more like feelings than thoughts because I have to stay focused on the road ahead, scouring for rocks or potholes or some animal that might came out the woods.
If somebody thinks that I made a bad investment, think how much you would be willing to spend to be young again?! It’s all there, bottled in that V2 engine and it gets released into my body as I’m sprinting amidst the orange shadows of the sunset.
Yes, it’s true that after 1h of riding my buttocks are starting to get numb, I have a stabbing pain in my back but I simply cannot thing about them.
I am simply happy again. Not as happy as I could be if everything would be perfect in my life but enough to make days at least bearable if not even more enjoyable. I normally go to bed late and wake relatively early and that makes me somewhat grumpy. Now I am going to work with a smile on my face because I get to ride my motorcycle (although the morning rush can be quite unnerving).
Many people are asking me “Aren’t you afraid? So many accidents”. I am afraid – less now that when I purchased it but still the anxiety is somewhat high. Still, I ask rhetorical – why do only things that you are comfortable with? How can we become with new things, feelings, actions if we don’t experience them ever? I like challenges. Just like I love to do only complicated, presumably impossible things in my job, I also try to face any fear that my mind or my body flutters in me.
Yes, I am aware it’s still early to make long-term judgments. It might be that in 1-2 years the rain, the cold, the insurance or even a wipeout, would show me that motorcycle is not really for me. But then I will be able to lay in its grave my youth dream without regrets, love it and remember it if for what it was – a whim of crazy youth – instead of carrying it inside me as a frustration: oh, I could have been so happy if only I had the guts/the money/the X to do it.
I’m going back on my steps and maybe it’s not so wrong to look for happiness in things.

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.

The Perfect Life Partner

Yes, yes, I know, there is no perfect partner. Still, as Robin Williams says in Good Will Hunting: “… she’s not perfect. Neither are you. What matters is if you are perfect for each other”. This material is trying to take a snapshot of somebody who would be perfect for ME. Why am I writing it? Just so I clear my mind, visualize my expectations and, when doing so, understand if they are realistic or not. Everyone seems to know what they don’t want but that is really not very helpful in the quest for a partner. Like always, I am trying to be different.
To figure out the answer to “how would your ideal partner look and behave like” I started by trying to find out who I am, what I can live with and what I cannot live without. Everyone looks for unconditional love – and I agree that this is how true love is. But how does one reach unconditional love? You meet somebody, go out on a few dates, share some laughs and have a good time in the sack and there you go: unconditional love?! It doesn’t make sense. It just dawned onto me – as I was writing these lines – that the road to unconditional love is through conditional one. At least for me. I am dual – a down-to-earth person and a dreamer locked within the same body. Through some unsuccessful experiences, I discovered that the perfect love, in my case, would have to address both my mind and my soul. Only when I will be have them agree, I will know that I met a long-lasting relationship.
Conditional love?! So what are these conditions that should be fulfilled? Only the person involved knows because for each of us the conditions are different: for some perfect beauty is the condition, for others success, for others intelligence or kindness but, in most cases, a mixture of all of these, in different percentage. When these conditions are met and solidified using the cement of time, only then unconditional love appears.
It took me a while to understand that respect and admiration is one the most important for me in a relationship. I want to receive them but – at least as important – I want to be able to offer them to my partner and have good reasons for doing it so. Well, pretty much everyone demands respect these days but, unfortunately, very few are ready to do something to gain it. I had myself a hard time understanding and accepting that respect is earned and not given. Moreover it is hardly gained and easily lost. I know with certainty that respect and admiration for the one who accompanies me in life would make me be the best I can be. I accomplished many things but I know I can accomplish even more if only I would have somebody close-by that I can look up to. I don’t like inter-relationship competition but, as a fact, I always try to meet the standards my partner lives up to (not those my partner would want to impose on me without imposing them on themselves). If those standards are low, I find very little motives to push me forward.
Of course, respect and admiration are very general. What raises respect in one person, could not make another one blink. I gained the respect of my mother by simply proving myself capable of doing house-chores: cooking from scratch, cleaning the house, washing and ironing clothes. For years and years I had many excellent accomplishments that few people can boast and yet they didn’t mean anything for her. Suddenly I do something that pretty much any responsible adult should be able to do and I am raised on a pedestal.
So what is that I do respect and admire?! I admire true fighters – people who know what they want in life and want reasonable things and find the power not to wine for not having them but work hard to get it and somehow manage to still remain moral. Trivial? Most people would like to think so because they think highly of themselves. Personally, I am not convinced this is a quality easy to find. People want better homes, better cars, better vacations, and better family life but very seldom do they want to create the basis for this: better themselves. I take pride in my work and, as such, I respect more a janitor who does his work impeccably than a PhD who didn’t learn anything new in a number of years. We all have things that we are not capable of doing but we can’t know that for sure unless we gave it our BEST try.
I believe that a strong partner can motivate one to raise the bar for himself too (or so it should be). Like a competition. Not an unhealthy one – many times partners compare salaries or other sordid matters as a base for the internal competition and that leads to many issues. I usually say that for me envy is a positive feeling: whenever I envy somebody for their accomplishments, I do not deny those accomplishments but my mind starts working about what I can do to match those accomplishments I admire. Self-satisfaction can be as destructive as never being content – and not only on oneself but in his close ones as well. What is the point of pushing you forward when doing this just increases the fault line between the two partners? And if you do push yourself forward, the trench that separates the two will become insurmountable.
Without being a snob about it, I am a person of relatively good taste. It’s not something I did educate or actively sought to become. It just so happened. I accept the evaluation of what constitute refine things is relative but there are some accepted guidelines. Sometimes, like in literature or when it comes to movies and sometimes in art, I can verbalize my choice. Other times – like in the cases where I am less educated – such as wine and wine tasting, it’s instinctive. Actually I kind of hate snobs, the real ones, the ones who think that expensive is better, the ones who can never achieve a personal opinion but just take it from critics… not the other archetype that the pop culture pushed onto us: people who have good table manner, who are educated and so on.
Lack of any good or at least genuinely interesting taste in culture and education is, definitively, a put-off for me and I would not see myself sharing my life with a person with whom I cannot share artistic feelings, impressions – I say share, not communicate because I yearn for conversation, not monologues. And yes, my partner’s taste don’t have to be totally similar to mine – although a common ground would be helpful – but they need to be somewhat supported in the great scheme of things. I would definitely appreciate someone who can initiate me in new areas of culture, music, food etc. I realize now that I am looking in a person the same quality that I am looking for in art/cultural products: novelty, inspiration, insight, not repetition.
Speaking about taste, I believe one tragedy of the world currently is the continuous search for comfort. I am not the one to despise the comfort under normal circumstances but when it comes to wearing flip-flops in a good restaurant, putting the legs on the table in the same restaurant, going in pajamas to the bus station, walking bare-feet through the office… I believe some of us are going too far in this search for comfort. This all boils down to there is a time and a place for everything but not every time and place are suitable for something.
I also found out about myself that while I am a dreamer, I am still anchored very much in reality. I live on this Earth and if I wrote SciFi or fantasy it means I like to speculate not that I believe in such. I have little tolerance on people who try to meet ET, who believe that crystals are a cure to anything, who believe that the cure for cancer is in the possession of some dude in Kirghizstan and it’s not released just because a huge conspiracy of the pharmaceutical companies. Exploration of these topics, speculations I can sustain but once I feel that there is belief I back down especially because, from my personal experience, I know it’s not a single “birdie” flying up there but a whole nest of them. In other words, I am looking for some common sense. Yes, I know that common sense is not so common but I would nevertheless try to find some. To be honest, reading this I am wondering if I have common sense: somebody who have common sense would probably accept quickly when they do something out of range, while somebody who doesn’t have common sense would never admit to such a fault. Yet, still, I know I can judge somebody who doesn’t have common sense: if you believe that you are saving when you buy useless or seldom of use objects when they are in sale, you don’t have common sense; if you constantly believe that the others are in the wrong, if you don’t see (or admit) when you are at fault, then you don’t have common sense; if you keep on doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result, you don’t have common sense…
All in all I’m not asking much from my partner – just the impossible: a strong person (not a stubborn, or yelling one), with a decent taste in all that makes this life worth living, based on a solid common sense and that’s it… And please, before you swear at me, remember – I never demanded more than I can offer.

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?

I, Robot!

Last night, although tired, I got stuck in front of the TV watching Star Trek – First Contact. No, although I don’t have much of a life, I am not a fan Star Trek – I was just cleansing my brain (already pretty well scrubbed by the exhaustion; but, you know, one can never be too meticulous about these things).
I was watching quite bored The Borg assimilate humans when suddenly a weird thought came to my mind. Nothing new here – the antithesis between the humans and machines is used and over-used for decades if not for centuries. Who is better? Stupid question! From where I stand it looks even worse – as an IT worker, for me the machine is a machine, a tool to perform some tasks. Am I better that a hammer?! WTF? Still, for some reasons this issue has risen to the level of a real obsession – books are written, movies are made, scientific or pseudo-scientific articles are published… Very few of them come to bring anything new to this conundrum. Last night, somehow, my mind managed to overexpose this (fake?) issue over what I think it is a collapse of the responsibility in society and it got me thinking. I believe that, indeed, there is a collapse of individual and collective responsibility: very few people still want to do what is right, very few people want to live by rules, hence the rejection of religion (people, religion is not equal to sexually abusive priests, to “don’t eat pork” etc.), of academic rigors, of systematic parenting and so on.
What if – pause and think for a second – what if all this behavior, this shedding of responsibilities has a fundament in us trying to make a clear-cut statement: “I am not a machine. I am not a robot.” Yes, I know it sounds far fetched but, incidentally or not, I can find many arguments for this. Technology has reached a level where it suppresses our individuality. While very often claiming to boost individual personality and liberating ourselves, technology – and modern society as a fact – does quite the opposite. Instead of a big fish in a small pond, we more and more identify ourselves with a tiny, tiny fish lost in the pond of globalization, of Facebook, of huge corporations. Yes, we communicate more and world has become a village but it’s a humungous village and we really feel lost in it.
Society managed to impose those rules within relatively confined spaces. Social rules are always much harsher and inflexible in smaller communities than in large ones. In face of technology and of this globalization that tries to change us into little robots, the self defense mechanism might kick in and it might try to assert itself by doing silly things and continuously trying to break the mold.
Even the dullest of persons will not agree that they are boring. We used to distance ourselves from accountants but that is so passé – now we are trying to distance ourselves from The Borg and as it becomes more and more difficult to do this, we are forced to become more and more inventive in doing so. 30-40 years ago stating that you will not marry every was enough to be stamped as different. Now, wearing in public thong, declaring that you are gay, live in a commune and will adopt children would probably not even get a shrug.
This is probably the dichotomy – our desire to be accepted vs our desire to be different. I used to wonder what the heck is with youngsters who, after covering their body with piercings and tattoos, complain that they are not accepted. You made this to be different and when, as different, you are treated differently by the society, you say it’s unfair. We should all understand the truth that lies in “one cannot have the cake and eat it too”.
Technology makes us embrace it by making us believe that we are different. Everybody seems to brag about their GPS, HDTV, PVR, Shine vs iPhone vs Chocolate. At the same time, our strong association of technology with The Borg makes us behave in more and more irresponsible and aberrant ways, trying in a futile and childish way to distance ourselves from The Borg. Sometimes I really yearn for the age when grandmas were baking cookies and telling stories, not getting plastic surgery, marrying men 30 years their juniors and jumping with the parachute.
The dichotomy above presented is present even in this article. On one hand, I come up with this idiotic idea – we are irresponsible because we want to draw a line between us and the machines – and on the other hand I really want people to say “Wow! I never thought of that! He might be onto something” (ok, you may lose the “wow” – there are so many words in English to describe amazement).