Democracy

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I was thinking about power and responsibility the other day – as you do 🙂

It’s a bit of a theme with me, that I see many human things around me in terms of those two terms. I believe (helped of course by reading science-fiction 😛 ) that having power without responsibility makes you bad, having responsibility without power makes you sad and having them unbalanced makes you mad. Or maybe it’s viceversa 🙂

Anyhoo, I reckon that only by having a balance of power and responsibility can we act well.

I will examine those two words in other articles. For now though, I want to focus on human systems. I was reading an article a couple of months ago, and for the life of me I can’t find it. What I understood it to say is that roughly 50% of the people surveyed don’t believe democracy is the best ruling system. Now I have to confess I am biased and stand with Winston Churchill “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. I shall explain.

Going back to power and responsibility, I guess the point I am taking from the life I have lived until now is that only people can take responsibility for themselves. And if they are to take responsibility, they might as well take the power to help them carry it. The alternative, for me, does not bear contemplating. Now I don’t mean each man for himself, That’s why I have used the plural, because I believe that only by standing together we escaped extinction, only by standing together we hunted the mammoth and only by standing together we have any chance of making it past the troubles that are all around us. I am, after all, a humanist.

And yet, people have an abysmal record when it comes to turning against their own. How to reconcile these without going bad, mad or sad? I guess I could analyze the options, at least those that have already been applied: oligarchy, aristocracy, autocracy, anarchy, theocracy. Each of them have been taken to extremes by people with the usual gruesome consequences. Each of them has its own proponents and protesters. But in all of them, the responsibility remains with the people themselves (yes, even in a theocracy, it is still people) yet the power stands (with the exception of anarchy) with people that are kept apart by an ideology that accepts collateral damage in its own name. I have issues with that.

Isn’t it enough that democracy itself is too generalizing because there are too many of us for it to be flexible? Do we have to loosen the reins on an already damaging idealism and make a joke out of caring for one another?

I have spoken before about my views on communism and capitalism (please please please do not confuse them or put them on the same level as the subject we are already discussing!). I have already expressed a wish for a particular type of revolution. But what worries me is not the fact that many people wish for something else than democracy. It’s the fact that history seems to have been forgotten… or not learnt. Except for Antarctica, where we don’t seem to want to live, each of the continents has seen different ruling systems put in place at one time or another. Countless people have died, are dying or wish they were dead because of them. All of the systems are thought up and executed by people, no matter what else they might say. A few people, I might add. It seems to me that, chancy as it were, standing and ruling together is the best hope to actually live.

People ruling… safety in numbers… democracy. Now, if only we could get it right!

Personalize

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I was thinking about this after a long talk with a friend but also after a bit of a media binge. Government departments applying the rules with no flexibility. Businesses trying to reach many more people effectively. Finding a doctor that suits one’s personality and approach. Industrial revolution – no, I am not joking! They are related at some level but it took a while to figure out what that level actually is.

And I’ve got it!

It’s the generalized approach. Like clothes size 8 that fit only a percentage of the people who should generally meet the size criteria. It’s the rules and regulations that we are supposed to follow just because they are despite not actually being suited to the humans who live with them. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not against rules and regulations per se. In fact, I think they are necessary. I just don’t think that there is a one size fits all approach.

Where does the industrial revolution actually fit in this? I have this (potentially wrong) idea that prior to the industrial revolution most people were self-employed contractors. Some were not, like slaves, priests, aristocrats. But most were, participating in a loosely wild economy. It seems that the industrial revolution changed this into a rigid, time-bound system that had flow-on effect on most human life, from child care to leisure to death. And despite it being only a couple of hundreds years old, the “civilized” world swears by it and has to be forced to percieve alternatives. The language we use is telling: a self-employed” person is somebody who is “out of the rat-race” as opposed to a government employee being “out of the wild race” or some such expression. So the rat-race is normal and being out of it is not, with (again!) flow on effects like being eligible for social welfare or insurance.

One reason for the above is sheer number. Of people, I mean. Because, of course, other flow on effects of the industrial revolution were the advances in health care, sanitation, convenience etc. So people numbers went up like a kite. So then the generalization that made the Industrial Revolution possible became necessary – or so we think.

Now we’re going the other way and talking more and more about population burden and reducing the number of people on Earth. Few of us have actually stopped to think what that may mean though. We may agree that there are too many of us, but somehow we never include ourselves in the number of people who needs to… disappear, for want of a better word… like death. It always seems to be someone else who needs to die so that we may continue to experience the better life, on a cleaner planet with enough food, water and services.

And yet live how? Why do we have to be lucky to be told that there are alternatives to the rat race? Like self-sufficiency. Or financial independence. Or self-employment. Work from home. Creativity.

What would you choose, if money was not a factor?

Hope

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Between possibility and reality several concepts shoulder and elbow each other, trying to maintain a continuum, it seems. I have written about expectation, but its sister, hope, knocked on the door as well. Is there a difference? Are they one and the same? Twins maybe? They are both in the waiting period, both of them concerned with a future and a belief… and yet to my eyes they are not of the same realm.

Looks like expectation is formed objectively (even when unrealistic) from our interactions with the others (family, society), while hope is subjective, linked more to our resilience and optimism rather than the choices we face.

And I think we can agree that our hopes and expectations can sometimes be miles apart. Like my younger self realized, when she was supposed to study for university entrance but a pair of blue eyes were somehow more compelling… 🙂

Hope is not always portrayed as positive. Just thinking about Pandora’s box (jar, really!) is quite depressing, notwithstanding her journey from Earth mother to deceiver. Does hope really help, or does it prolong the torment? Norse mythology goes even further and doesn’t even pretend to look at hope as good.

Yet without hope resilience is just a bad joke, the future is random and, let’s face it, the human’s reproduction imperative isn’t nearly on par with other species. But hope, aside from being considered one of the three great virtues, is also stubborn and active. For good or for bad, people have realized that the future is coming towards them like a freight train anyway, so you might as well come on board and check what’s at the next station. It is that realization, combined with a certain talent for manipulating reality, plus a huge degree of consideration for one’s comfort that make hope a fearsome motivator.

Because, let’s face it, it is not with real life details that hope is necessarily concerned. Sure, we can hope for good weather to dry out our clothes, and we can hope for a pay rise to deal with the credit cards, and we can hope to make a good impression on our first date.

But hope has bigger fish to catch, and this comes with a price to pay, in introspection and religion, meditation and principles. We will all die, as we know even without having to think carefully about it. But the death of the body doesn’t scare us nearly as much as it is portrayed (looking at embalming procedures over the centuries, I might have to eat my words!). Beyond reality, beyond knowledge, beyond even belief, hope is humanity’s way to stand up against the annihilation of the spirit.

This, our pride cannot concede.

Clichéd

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I was reading a lovely book the other day, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. She’s German writing about the French so the English translation is occasionally quaint 🙂 Life, love, (the universe), death, mourning, polyamory, dreams, reality, it has many threads. It’s probably not the type of book you will call “a classic”, but it is the kind of book many read once a year at least, whenever you need reminding of some things that are really important. It is a wise little book, and getting a list of books to be used as medicine for the soul is an added bonus, but what really got me writing about it was actually the reviews. You see, they called it predictable and clichéd. Predictable it is, in the sense that you know what she will write next and sometimes you wish she didn’t. But clichéd? I guess it depends on the subject but I took exception to it, so in return I decided to write a list of clichés on the most “done” subject in the world (no, not the Bible. No, not Lord of the Rings either 🙂 )

I love you. The you I love cannot be subsumed by the parts of you I love.

I love your voice. It soothes my soul to hear your voice. And yet if you couldn’t speak I couldn’t love you less. And if I couldn’t hear you I would only have the regret of never being able to hear you.

I love being in your arms. And yet if any touch would be agony for my body, I could only regret that I cannot be in your arms.

I love laughing with you. And yet if laughter disappeared from our togetherness I could not love you less. I could only try to give you back your laughter.

I love how your mind works. I love second-guessing (mostly right!) what you will say about any given subject. And yet if your mind gave way to time or illness I could not love you less. I could only regret that I have no partner to spar with.

I look at the world through you and yet if my lens was taken away from me I could not love you less, I could only regret the lack of depth or colour my eyes can see.

I love our times together. And if those times should be over I could not love you less. I could only contemplate the times alone, cherish the memories of our times together and regret the lack of them.

I love you. And if the you I love should perish I could not love you less. I could only regret…

See? There is more to life than reality. And there is definitely more to reality than just the senses.

Oh, wait… that’s what she wrote about, too! Oh, well….

Sleep

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Two strikes against me: I am lazy and it looks like I might die before I “should”. And all because of nature, it’s all her fault! 🙂

The particular state that apparently contributes to the moral judgement and potential demise described above is sleep. Yes, that brother of Death, but different from coma, anesthesia or hybernation. Sleep itself is poorly understood (we know it’s essential but that’s pretty much it), subject of much research (so that we might have an idea as to why it’s essential), a huge source of money and suffering and, of course, the best place for dreams.

The laziness comes from a mere accident of history. The civilized world we live in has been set up by and for the benefit of early risers, which I am so NOT! Which meant that I spent almost a lifetime being sleep deprived. I will assume that I slept enough as a child and on school holidays/weekends. I definitely tried! 🙂 But in our world of 8 am starts which means a 6.30 to 7 wake up time so that you can have breakfast and walk to whereever you need to be, I accummulated a lot of sleep debt. And, of course, I am considered lazy as you cannot get much sense out of me before 9 or 10 am.

But wait, there’s more! I also tend to sleep longer than the 7-9 hours considered normal for a healthy adult. If allowed I average 10-12 hours. Lazy, much? I could be told so, if someone could actually stop me during my awake period 🙂 Apparently this longer sleeping preference could increase the chances that I die earlier… although we mostly don’t know why and no studies that I know of have managed to account for such factors as depression, cancer and other fatigue-inducing illnesses. So I will ignore this until such time as we know more.

I love to sleep. I love getting tired knowing that I can then sleep. I anticipate lying down and having a bit of time to just think and create. I used to also indulge in staying as late as I could (sometimes all night) for the sheer pleasure of falling asleep.

It hasn’t always been easy. As a teen my mind used to be so busy I would have trouble falling asleep. I was lucky in that I was reading some combination of fiction – self help books and I found out about meditation, visualization and the rest. I practiced religiously, even when I could see no results, and I would go as far as saying that it saved my life. I use this to sleep to this day, especially when stressed.

Then I had a baby and thought my life was going to be over. You know how you are told of the lack of sleep and how to manage it? Well, I tried to prepare for it, by using meditation and visualization to “command” myself to wake up when needed and fall asleep as soon as I was not needed. It worked, and I am lucky in that I don’t have an early riser 🙂 But having a baby means less time for myself – music, reading, people etc. So, stubborn and self-indulgent person that I am, I tried to push the boundaries: with falling asleep and getting up sorted, I started staying up later and later, with the expected results: fatigue, short attention span, worse memory (it’s merely very good now, down from great) and less creativity. All in all, a big and rapidly increasing sleep debt, with nothing else to give…. but stubbornness and self-indulgence 🙂

So I have given myself a stern talk-to and I started looking forward to stretching out on my bed again… to think, to dream and, who knows, maybe to create.

Night-night!

Memories

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Death has been on my mind these past few days.The dead shape who we are in many ways. We may have grown up with them. They may have hurt us. They may be complete strangers but their cause may have sparked in us the flames of a crusade. A lot of the time they fit into our universe really close by: family and friends.

I will not talk about how we experience the death of others. I think that’s rude. I can try to put words to my dead but instead of poetry or analysis I decided to use the only real tool that has a chance of making the grade. Of course, I am talking of memories.

I miss my dead. I miss not only who they were, but also in terms of physical distance, as they have died far away, under different stars. Missing them is a bittersweet burden, one that I would rather carry. A burden of memories.

I remember traipsing through the snow to the long drop near my nana’s house, after holding on for as long as I could.

And plucking a chicken . And making tomato sauce. And the fact that she took in the puppy my sister and I found abandoned. And mincing garlic in a wooden mortar with a wooden pestle. And my nana getting some creamy fresh raw milk because she knew I like that in my cocoa. Going to her friends and getting the sweetest plums you have ever tasted. To this day I ask for plum preserves from home.

And in winter, staying with my back to the big teracotta fireplace, eating home made fries with the garlic I minced and reading “Lord of the rings” for the first time and crying when Lothlorien is revealed. I remember her long hair and watching the Twin Towers crumble on her black and white TV. Sometimes I make macaroni slice for my little one and remember that she gave me the recipe.

My other nana had a different kitchen, but the memories are just as tasty 🙂 I remember Christmas and men fixing the broken bulbs on the fairy lights. Fondant chocolates and psychedelic cushion covers. Ironing damp cotton sheets and sleeping on pillows that could easily serve as bean bags. Playing cards with my sister. Watching the revolution unfold on her black and white TV.

She once ordered me a dress in the single most colourful floral pattern she could find. And she took me to an estranged part of the family for the first of many times, so that I might know them. She had a skirt and top suit made of the most luxurious silky fabric, royal blue with yellow flowers on it. I wanted that suit! She had vinyl records of comedians and folklore and fairytales. And stacks of pictures, black and white, of people I could not begin to fathom they existed (I took a red felt to their cheeks as they seemed a bit gloomy to me).

My father… ah, the lessons I learnt. A child’s inability to influence adult decisions. A child’s persistent attempts to magic an adult into being. A shocking pink winter jacket. My first taste of Pepsi. My first trip to a restaurant. Secretly dialling the operator on his birthday to make a collect call. Duty and failings and a uniform with silver buttons.

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Eh, my friend, of course I remember your laugh, as big as you were. I remember camping in the crater on snow and drinking Tokaj that you brought because you knew I’d like it. I remember you forgot my sunglasses on the other mountain because you were too busy rescuing me and then insisting to go on way after you couldn’t.

And you, bane of my existence and reason for it, too! You with your depressions and unreliability, your wildness and your drinking, your small studio where air was fighting with books, you with your long words and unorthodox exams, you, without whom I would be a lesser person and an even worse professional, to you I owe awakening.

My dead have shaped me and so this shape will keep them. When my memories fail, the passing will be complete.

Photos for my little one to look at, one long winter evening when I am busy…