The side of power

Saturday, 04 July 2015 19:26

Since I became a mother, I’ve been hanging around improbable places, such as playgrounds, interacting with improbable people, such as other parents and caregivers. These new interactions have proven to be a rich sociological resource, as people at playgrounds are more bound to talking to strangers, than e.g. people on the bus. Also, as a mother and dog ‘owner’, when I walk the streets I am susceptible to the praise or deprecation of random people, either for raising my child with animals or for taking the dog with us to the playground. Most people are kind, accepting and even supportive, while some are rude and deeply encrusted in their convictions.

                Somehow, the parent that complained about the lack of fences at the playground – since he would prefer to have his daughter caged than explain to her why she shouldn’t run to the street and trust that she won’t do it –, the woman who exclaimed that dogs should be banned from playgrounds, unable to grasp that most people clean after their dogs and that excluding every dog owner from the park and playground is less of a healthy and just option than educating people and expecting them to act accordingly, or the woman who shouted to her seven-year old daughter so that I could hear “This is unbelievable! Couldn’t she take her dog someplace else?” while the baby was at the swing and the dog rested quietly next to us, help me understand facts of great implication regarding our society.

                These people are called to vote tomorrow, and thus support or disapprove the new measures imposed by the EU and the IMF on Greece. Most citizens who realize that “no” is the only sensible – and even obvious – option are amazed by the high percentage of people unable to distinguish between welfare and unfair. Unfortunately, the regular cultivation of idiocy in previous decades, along with the good old stupidity factor, have had crippling effects on the sense of (and right to) personal and social freedom, if, indeed, such a sense ever existed. This lack of principle is first and foremost conveniently applied to the “other” but, in a causative manner, eventually comes to include oneself. People have replaced common sense, empathy and tolerance with rigid rules serving sides, hoping to be on the right side: The side of power. Under such circumstances, no matter the outcome of any referendum, a society is doomed to be backward and democracy an illusion and a dummy word for essentially fascist regimes.

Published in thoughts

Self-Preservation

Sunday, 28 June 2015 21:21

It was the 27th of June, Friday, a little past one in the morning. The baby was fast asleep and my husband was about to go to bed, when he checked his cell phone one last time. A friend had just texted him: “Referendum??!!!” it read. We said “What? Is he tripping?” We decided to check, anyway. I sat on the PC and he told me “Go to a news site.” “Which one?” I asked, as I never read the news. He named one at random, and there it was: “The Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, announces a referendum for the 5th of July, calling the people to decide on whether to accept the measures proposed by the institutions or not.” In total, there had been seven referendums in Greece, the last being held in 1974, forty-one years ago and eight years before I was born.

                “Don’t get so excited” he said to me. “The IMF put pressure on the government towards this development. They want Greece out of the EU, so they can control the country and cause the collapse of the Union. If the IMF takes full control, we’re going to starve,” which of course seemed to be the case either way. We’ve decided to get as much information as we could and conclude later, but before that I urged him to go to the cash machine and get the remains of his salary, since the news were about to bring havoc – which they did, as by Saturday evening one billion euros had been withdrawn and on Monday the banks were closed. There was unusual traffic for this time of night in the suburban streets: The whole neighborhood was to its feet. I could hear elevators moving, doors locking, car engines starting. People were out to get their savings. As my husband left and I went to bed to comfort the baby, I kept thinking that I had forgotten to tell him to be careful. He had been attacked at a cash machine before and, although he couldn’t remember a thing, it was causing him nightmares that made him shout in the middle of the night.

                When he returned, he told me that the parking lot was full of Porsche Cayenne’s and C-Class’s and there were lines of people withdrawing packs of hundred euro bills, inserting one card after another. “Find a good hiding spot for our valuables,” he told me. “Robberies are about to go up in the next few days.” We couldn’t find a decent hiding place, so we decided to take our chances. “Where’s your father’s gun?” He asked. “In the baby’s bedroom. But we don’t have any bullets.” “That’s OK. I just need it to scare them off.” “I’ll take the rolling pin.” We laughed at our own absurdity, but that’s how we slept that night: Baby in the middle, weapons on the bedside tables.

Published in experience

Remote

Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00

It’s a fifteen to twenty minutes’ walk down the beach, and the road is smooth. Yet, rarely do I walk it. Fact is that to get to the seaside you have to go through the bustling market and across the fast coastal avenue. That is more sound pollution, cars and people than a fragile mind can usually take.

                However, there are those rare days – when the sun is pouring all over you and all over the land and the breeze smells of spring – that you feel driven to certain routes. That Sunday was one of these days. Next day was Ash Monday, which made it the closing day of the carnival. We were a company of four: Two adults, a dog and a baby. We had expected the crowds to be out on the streets, and we were braced to face them. It was a bright day, sunlit, with just a few low reflective-white clouds and an on and off northern wind. I was in charge of mapping out our course. I changed my mind twice. But the day was awkwardly serene and the town was suspiciously empty, so I decided it was time to gaze at the sea, after the long winter pause.

                The chilly breeze was getting more persistent as we drew closer to the sea, but so was the sun. I chose the pier as our final destination – the long, concrete arm that went deep into the sea. It was a practical choice, for we were pushing a pram.

                As we entered the pier, I caught eye of a miniature sailboat, resting on a plastic chair. It was wooden and unpainted, except for an orange line that run its perimeter. I looked at a group of people gathered at the other side of the pier, and saw another miniature sailboat in the water. One of the men was holding a remote-control and manipulated the boat’s course. He was relatively young, perhaps in his mid-thirties or early forties, but I couldn’t really tell, because he had a thick beard and sunglasses on. He was smoking a thin cigar and his attire was causal but expensive, the kind that sailboat people wear. True: To entertain such a hobby nowadays, you had to be rich.

It felt strange. No. It felt absurd. A meaningless hobby, on which you had to devote time and money and be passionate about. But isn’t that what a true hobby is? Shouldn’t it be meaningless, so that it could take your mind off the important stuff that burdened you? Then why did it seem so far away from me? I used to have hobbies too. But I was practically a child, back then. I was a collector: Stickers, marbles, tin cans, coins, post stamps. Why was everything I was doing now so emotionally invested in? Because I was expecting to be saved. In everything I was doing there was a hidden hope, that it would worth something or that it would lead me somewhere. I was overridden by stress, by financial anxiety, by the need to find ways to make ends meet. I couldn’t afford a real hobby.

And then it dawned on me that this radio-controlled sailboat wasn’t only absurd, but provoking, as it was gently bending its sail, getting ready to take the turn. It was as provoking as eating a banana on the streets of a city that’s starving.

And then, the universe affirmed my thoughts. Our dog spotted another dog at the end of the pier and headed towards it. It was a white griffon, tied from the wire fence by its pink leash at the left side of the pier. Besides the short cement wall, outside the fence, there were two more plastic chairs. A couple was sitting there, and next to them, upon the short wall, there was their teenage son.

                It doesn’t take a trained eye to notice destitution. I only took a glimpse of those people, their bent posture, their late nineties’ checkered shirts, their unkempt hair, a few missing teeth.

We had reached the end of the pier though, our dog was close to us again, after having exchanged his happy greetings with the handsome female, and I was trying to focus on the sea.

                That’s when I saw the radio-controlled sailboat coming our way, taking the turn and heading towards the other side of the pier. Our dog yelped. The ‘captain’ had stepped on him. I turned and looked at the man, knowing that it was a sincere mistake, that he hadn’t even seen him and then tripped on him, absorbed by his boat. I turned and smiled, but he ignored me and went on to control whatever it was he was trying to control.

We were now a crowd out there, and our private moment at the sea was gone. We decided to head back. The captain went on sailing his boat. The poor party, with their backs turned to us, were talking to each other and laughing heartily.

                So, there were we, the specimens of a broken society, at a random meeting by the sea. The rich man who is used to ignoring the world, the seemingly blissful working class that has its untainted way of truly enjoying life, and us, the endangered middle class, that is destined to comprehend it all and belong nowhere.

 

 

Published in experience

in crisis

Thursday, 28 August 2014 22:22

My current financial situation has made me wonder quite often lately about my life choices. Sometimes I say “What was I thinking?” and try to recall the past. It’s true that as a child I felt for money nothing but contempt. And that’s probably because I had more than enough of it. As this article puts it, money was “perceived as less of an all-encompassing issue.” I also had the funny idea that I could become everything – not just anything – I wanted.

     So, art in my life emerged as a necessity, but also as a viable option. In the present, while I still breathe easily and feel comfortable only in art, I have been forced to make a living by undertaking ‘mundane’ tasks – in which I try to retain the artistic element as much as possible – that are taking their toll in my fragile equilibrium. Consequently, I feel poor and even poorer when it comes to raising my child. Perhaps I ignored all things material for myself, but I wonder whether I will be able to offer my child half the things my parents offered me. And this has also led me to wonder what decisions my child will make for himself, a question that the aforementioned article so accurately points out.

Published in thoughts

beyond good and evil

Thursday, 28 August 2014 22:18

Europe is either sinking into a new conservatism or it was sunken there all along and I think of it as new due to some misconception regarding the past. Anyhow, if the western world would like to progress in terms of thought, all school students should be taught Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” at the tender age of seventeen or so. It is crucial for our civilization to realize how the culture of blame and guilt has infiltrated into our lives. You see, Nietzsche – certainly susceptible to the personal flaws he blames others for, but perhaps exactly because of them – doesn’t beautify human nature. Or rather, he sees its beauty for what it is, through good and bad, beyond good and evil.

Certainly, there are perfectly good reasons to consciously choose and strive for the good, but isn’t it true that lying, cheating, deceiving, wanting and exerting power have all played their part in the, so called, advancement of the species? One should embrace human nature as a whole instead of detesting certain aspects of it and glorifying others. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try for the better or that we shouldn’t be conscious of our choices, our actions and their consequences. However, burdening ourselves or our society with guilt leads to denial and therefore far from the purpose of understanding who we are and why we act as we do, which in turn hinders advancement. The seasoning of our lives with hedonistic accusation and guilt is an immediate impact of the western culture as a whole being constructed on foundations laid by the church, whose pull is still strong.

In fact, the church’s sickening doctrine has developed into a Frankenstein’s monster of its own accord, and Christianity’s venomous sting is now reproduced randomly into society. This is why we are faced with the interesting phenomenon of backward ethics and pretense morality being present even in the minds of people who call themselves atheists or agnostics. Besides, isn’t it a luminous point that Nietzsche makes that man, after having sacrificed everything in the name of god, including his own nature, had nothing left to sacrifice but god himself? The new morality of our era reminds me of dark, perhaps imagined, medieval times, and getting rid of it is imperative for a truly free humanity.

Published in books
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