… none of the above :)

There’s obviously no wisdom highground to be taken by someone who is being emotionally incontinent online (in the illusion that this saves some energy from friends who might not have any to spare for one’s shit and also, hopefully, it prevents one from blurting out inappropriate relation-altering nonsense just because it hasn’t received any vent for too long) on the notion of dealing with one’s emotions. With that disclaimer in mind, though, I’m wondering whether there’s not something to be said for… denial. If the fact that it’s part of one’s process of acceptation of traumatic experiences doesn’t mean that it might have a useful part to play in how we deal with our emotional reactions to all sorts of things.

All right, perhaps I’m being too vague. I wonder if the things we feel cannot, sometimes, be made less aggressive towards our own fabric by recategorizing them somewhat. If the consequence of calling something an emotion which is socially accepted as intenser doesn’t allow it to take over you in a more depletive way. It’s probably the same approach I have to pain thresholds (we are, after all, creatures who think in categories). What if, as soon as you say `I’m depressed` instead of `I’m sad`, that changes the quality of your emotion and it empowers the emotion over you. And while I think it’s a good idea to live one’s emotions instead of burying them completely, I’m wondering if sometimes we don’t live more dramatic emotions just because… well, I don’t know – they give us purpose as individuals, maybe?

It seems to me that the yoyo (I know, I have a fetish-image, get over it already) bounced back at some point from an (overly masculine, some will say) overly rationalistic way of conceptualising the world, towards an (overly feminine) overly emotional manner of dealing with things as a mainstream. What if the divide is not as simple as `rationalistic defies nature, emotional embraces one’s impulses`, but instead, being rational is just as natural an impulse of repressing the feelings that make one incapable of functioning effectively, while what we experience as `embracing one’s emotions` is also a greencard for filling one’s life with a host of `issues` which get in the way of experiencing any good, growth-bringing feelings? What if we might imagine this as only a gradual scale between the two attitudes and what if there was a, perhaps healthy, way of balancing the rigid, starched collar with the fluttering tye-dye robes? What if our children need to learn to harden themselves just as much as they need to understand how important empathy is?

musings on thought systems

I am (almost) full of admiration for people who can take a very clearly definite position in the world. In connection to… well, pretty much everything social. It seems that they have to be either very, very intelligent (as in, they have thought of everything that plays a part in every single equation of their world model and made up their minds) or else, and I’m trying really hard not to make this sound mean, but… quite misguided.
While trying to decide how I feel (think) about all sorts of social topics, I have come accross the same type of mind-numbing complexity.
For instance, on one side of the possible ideological field, it seems very well-intended to want to change skewed relations in society in order to give people who are being treated unfairly a better chance to realise their potential – yet that means that a) the efforts of the people who have managed to overcome the income crookedness/glass ceiling/education gap/ (fill in any of tens of topics divided along this line) become irrelevant the minute the rules change; b) that the stimulus (for people on both sides of the normal distribution) to make any effort gets seriously reduced – and people are nothing if not lazy; c) that, eventually, excellence levels out. It’s hardly worth illustrating this point with politics, therefore I’ll depict this puzzlement of mine within other topics of potential interest. I read this post the other day which, to me (and I apologise for the need for labels), falls under `feminism`. And I felt, for one part, as if I was ready to stand on a barricade for the right to behave like a girl, to accept one’s emotions and live one’s – socially successful – life within the framework of one’s own gender (and nevermind, for the purpose of this discussion, how much of that is social anyway). Yes, it felt unfair and crooked that you’d have to `man up` about everything („stel je niet aan”, „nu-ţi pişa ochii”) instead of being allowed to be in tune with yourself. Yet, for another part, it seemed as if, if that rule changed, then half of how I, personally, and many women with me, define themselves would become worthless. The ability to play `as men` and to perform within the crooked framework – it would be irrelevant as soon as everything got redefined to make the playing field level. As for what it would all look like as soon as we structurally embraced emotionality, I dare not formulate any thoughts on that matter…
Another example: University entrance exams – in my generation, they were still the rule. Luckily, Romania still being a postcommunist country, the divide between extreme incomes had not yet systematically become so large that some would always be able to get preparation for a superior education and some never (although I am sure there will always have been people in whose horizon of expectation school didn’t play a part to begin with). It was, quite often, a matter of working hard (or at least, so it felt). People whose parents earned little worked extra hard, without private lessons, to pass this entrance exam. And there were fewer places. Today, everyone is welcome, on the basis of their highschool exams (SAT-like) and a tuition fee. Democratisation, in a way, although there are much fewer scholarship places and much more tax places – more students in general (because more people should be schooled), but also more students that can afford it without particularly having to make a dramatic effort. And yes, although the system of the small elite may be unfair, it seems unfair to one who couldn’t afford many things, but went to university in a time when it was a bitter struggle to get in, that their diploma is worth much less, through sheer inflation.

This is not, by the way, a post about rather sympathising with right (see, I said it, it seems impossible to get out of the left-right paradigm, however much you try). On the other end of the ideological paradigm, it makes perfect sense to me to assume that people will be more motivated to produce and make an effort when they embrace their self-centeredness – therefore a liberal economic and social system based on people’s self-driven `pursuit of happiness` sounds correct to me. But then, again, there have to be some rules so that one’s freedom shouldn’t impede on someone else’s freedom. And that’s where I start seeing flaws on this side as well: a) it is difficult to make sure that the freedom of people with more resources doesn’t become more important than the freedom of those with few resources – because man is nothing if not corruptible, especially when distribution of wealth becomes very skewed; b) this sort of system, without in-built (and therefore, unfortunately, state-built) holdbacks, will always choose money over quality of life – on a societal level: there is always the question of how economic motivation stops being the motivation of gaining a certain quality of life – because, well, in the process of attaining it, you relinquish the momentary quality of life (you hardly see your kids, due to the long hours you have to put in to pay for the dream-house that you hardly live in) and after a certain ceiling of wealth, the accumulation no longer simply sustains the very high standard of life, but becomes self-driven – because man is nothing if not greedy, as well; c) not everything is as profitable and therefore the market system reduces potentialities because not enough people are interested in them, although the input of different points of view/cultural products/niches may be very fertile for the evolution of the mainstream – it’s as if you chose (oh wait, that has already happened!) sweet corn as the corn that everybody likes and stopped producing regular corn other than for livestock, thereby losing large portions of food culture relying on a taste that isn’t there anymore, sweetening `general preference` in a way that subsequently requires the sweetening of all sorts of other varieties of food and – oh, surprise! falling into the pit of a structural body weight problem; d) not all external effects can be quantified, therefore the market system overuses resources… and, of course, one can go on for a long time. (I know, by this point it really is purely political 🙂 ) .
Coming back to where I started: I can very well imagine society as an organism that needs persuasions the way our body needs hormones. THe moetaphor is, to spell it out, that a group of people of one persuasion is an organ secreting a cetain type of hormone and, on the big scale of things, hormones keep each other in balance – right-wing governments follow left-wing governments, some push one way, some the other, public opinion on… say, body image gets formed at the intersection of beauty industry-generated models and people militating to step away from photoshop representation of bodies and so on. It seems fair enough, if that’s how you represent the whole thing in your mind, to strategically pick a place to stand in one organ or another because you feel it needs reinforcement. But there are so many unquestioned, well-rooted beliefs in our heads that it seems to me almost impossible to make a well-informed choice on this matter – and sometimes on any matter. And then I wonder (especially at times when the level of alert in the world reached boiling point) – does any single neuron of this organism-thingy know, at any given time, how it ought to work? Is there anyone with a firm position about everything which is actually based on something?

prostia la români

Mă gândesc de ani buni la asta. Pare-mi-se că, de la Caragiale încoace în mod documentat, dar probabil de cu mult înaintea lui, premisa elementară a relaţiilor interumane în România este că celălalt e prost. Asta poate să însemne orice, de la ignorant la retardat şi de la semidoct la un IQ cu doar un punct sub cel propriu. Pe vremea bunicii, deşteptăciunea şi rangul burghezimii se măsura în „cu carte”. Adică şcoala de ingineri era o chestie mai cu moţ decât să te faci ofiţer, îmi povesteşte mama. Străbunicul meu şef de gară sărac-lipit după crah era mai deştept în mentalitatea locului decât cumnatul lui care administra o moşie de sute de hectare, cu cap, dar fără şcoală. Pe vremea împuşcatului se măsura „inteligenţa” cumva în cărţi citite, cu atât mai mult cu cât cărţile disponibile erau mai mult sau mai puţin aceleaşi, într-un număr limitat. Mintea se măsura în informaţie – deşi, în lipsa informaţiei cu pricina, interlocutorul putea să aibă o capacitate de sinteză cu mult mai mare decât tine, care posedai informaţia şi nu făceai mare brânză cu ea. În ziua de azi e greu să mai ai o măsură fie şi aparent obiectivă. Iar criteriile de evaluare a „inteligenţei”, dincolo de +/- manele, care e la fel de arbitrar ca orice criteriu, sunt de o volatilitate nemaiîntâlnită, fie şi numai datorită specializării substanţiale în plan profesional. Cu toate astea (adică cu toate că, mie personal, atunci când m-aş întâlni în virtual cu cineva care ştie să facă ceva ce mie mi-e complet străin, respectul pentru competenţele lui mi-ar paraliza întrucâtva capacitatea de a-l categorisi alb-negru), invariabil, pe forumuri de toate felurile, prezumţia, atunci când cineva nu e de acord cu tine, e că e un bou. O gâscă. Un prostălău. Acum vreo săptămână am citit, într-un subsol de articol de pe criticatac, un schimb de replici condimentat cu puhoaie de citate din cărţi de economie şi filozofie politică pe care nu le-am deschis vreodată. Impresionant schimbul de argumente între cineva care se ţinea de „de dreapta” şi cineva care milita stângist. Oamenii erau amândoi uriaş informaţi, gândiseră temeinic şi ajunseseră la concluzii diferite (deja un spectacol pentru un schimb de argumente pe un forum). Dar nu se puteau abţine – se tratau reciproc de „prost” şi-şi numeau reciproc concluziile „idioţenii”. Oare chiar nu există loc de „agree to disagree”? Să mor dacă pricep de unde şi până unde a apărut orgoliul ăsta absolut că numai tu poţi pricepe/cunoaşte/manipula totul şi că ceilalţi, dacă văd lucrurile altminteri sau fac altceva cu informaţia, sunt nişte imbecili. Poate cineva să mă lămurească?

blogul ca confesional

„an insufferable know-it-all”, cât de tare Hermione îmi defineşte momentele de ruşine că iar am vorbit prea apăsat, am tăiat cuvântul cuiva în goană, sperând în sinea mea să nu-i încurc prea rău, dar să zic totuşi şi eu… Că am râs prea cu poftă, când susceptibilitatea altuia ar putea să fi interpretat că… Că am căutat pe wikipedia sau pe imdb ca să-mi dovedesc dreptatea prin implicarea unui terţ într-o controversă irelevantă – dar dreptatea aia, când eşti „verschrikkelijke betweter”; oare de ce lucrurile care te compun şi te fac uneori folositor sunt totodată sursă de ruşine? Iar am păcătuit, părinte, iar nu mi-am văzut lungul nasului, a vorbit gura fără mine, am făcut un banc prea mult, m-am simţit prea în siguranţă şi mi-am imaginat că şi cei cu care convieţuiesc îmi împărtăşesc siguranţa şi că nu le pot face rău. Pare că totul e o negociere a unui punct de echilibru extrem de fragil între ce dai şi ce păstrezi, între ce crezi şi ce spui, între cine eşti şi cine vrei să fii, între munci, vieţi, relaţii, răspunderi, amoruri, vieţile altora… un gest în plus şi faci o zbârcă. Şi uneori o vezi în timp ce o faci, dar nu mai e loc de dres, şi dacă o admiţi, e ca o pată de grăsime pe care te apuci s-o ştergi cu şerveţelul – se face doar mai mare. Şi dac-ar fi să facem penitenţă realmente, ce, n-are dreptate Yusuf? Se aruncă chitara cu totul – se-nchide, în cazul ăsta, blogul, se tace cu adevărat. Doar că nu cred în penitenţa care neagă substanţa penitentului. Deci se înghite ruşinea cu linguriţa şi se merge mai departe. Sperând că ăia dragi o să ştie că „but she meant well”.

third in a row

(meaning third post in English in the last few days, mostly in order not to dissapoint my first other-than-my-mom subscriber – who so pleasantly surprised me this morning – with random musings in Romanian.)

The thing circling about in the bucket of my mind and trying to get a formulation, stimulated by more or less debate-ey comments on the mummyblogs that I’ve been reading with unembarrassed thirst for the last weeks, is the extent to which exposure to gender identity stimuli in the world around us makes us comply and be what we are told we are. Or rebel. Or – ideally – shun labels.
Because I used to think I would die if anyone ever called any thought in my head a feminist thought. I also used to think my children, if female, will own no pink piece of clothing – in apparently no connection at all with the first thought. I used to think I could be absolutely anything I wanted AND that the thing I absolutely wanted to be was a mum (to be honest, this is the one piece of reasoning that never substantially changed and I’m happy with that, in spite of the fact that I never got round to actually resigning my lucrative activities and probably never will). And I hated the feminist movement because of growing up in a country where the movement had done nothing but defeat its purpose: where I come from, women were and are supposed to work full-time, more often than not keep households in which their men don’t lift a finger (rumour has it it’s been changing lately, I’m not there enough to check), raise children more or less on their own – with the occasional male input of ball-throwing at little boys at the weekend side-of-the-pond-barbecue and of belittling them if ever they manifest any non-masculine interests. I am quite aware of the extent to which this sounds like a rant – I used to see the issue rather black and white and be angry at the wrong… ah, but no, I still think, to a degree, I was angry at the right people. Because the generation of our mums, while being quite driven in their carreers and telling us sky was the limit, also taught our brothers to be exactly as helpless as their dads, whose mothers they used to curse, in turn, in their youth. Chores in houses were seldom split evenly, the roles of boys and girls were distributed before we even knew it and by the time I went to the seaside on holidays on my own with a group, when we were about 15, the girls were cooking every single day for everybody – never grudgingly, mind you, we were playing at being grown-ups, and that was what grown-up women did. (I also impressed a very temporary love interest to tears in my second year of university by washing his t-shirts – apparently it was endearing that there were still old-school women who took care of their men in that way, and amusingly, I was proud to be one.)
In time, a lot more nuance has come into the way I tell these stories or see `societies`. Having lived in three countries by now, I have been able to see that people get exposed to things to which their particular society attributes values and most of the time the `irrefutable truths` about `how things are` are integrated unquestioningly in one’s system of beliefs. (The temptation here is to illustrate with examples of `universal` trains of thought per nation, but I’m not going to fall for it, of course, this already being a rambling post with too many branches). What I wanted to say is that, with globalisation, quite a mass of the thought that is acceptable and accepted, mainstream, not consistently questioned, might just be the same for many of us. This being how come we can wonder on different meridians about the effect of sexualising pictures on children growing up and on their image of themselves. This is how come anorexia and bulimia are spreading at much the same pace in different places. This is how unfiltered feelings of being unsafe or of making too much effort in comparison to others (ow, how well this ties in with my rant, although it comes from somewhere completely different!) create rejections of otherness of the least politically correct kind.

And this is where I begin to wonder about the sense of this post and get all solipsistic on my own ass – to what degree am I capable to think independently about these things when, in truth, I wanted to have girls because my own brain was washed enough (and it’s difficult to say by whom) to believe that girls were the part of humanity that I had a more decent chance to reason with? How can I stand straight in any debate on society shaping uneven roles when I have been glueing all-hated labels on human behaviours on both sides of the gender rift for years? But also, going back, are the unquestioned things which have been settling peacefully in my brain really disqualifying me from formulating any informed opinion? And if so, is there no informed opinion possible on gender identity issues (or any issues, in fact)? Or is there a way of securing one’s attempt at `objectivity` (lovely construct, can’t help labelling it `scientifically male` though 🙂 ) by critically questioning all assumptions one makes when trying to make up one’s mind? In other words, if I assess myself, for instance, as touched by an improperly/insufficiently questioned tinge of misandria, will that disqualify my view on how my world typecasts children in little princesses and little dinosaur lovers or will it just give it more strength because I am dealing with my own potential bias by admitting it?

Whoa, I definitely have too many questions for one single post and too many modifiers for every single sentence. Oh well…

of everything too much or too little – diary entry

The rambling quality of this my virtual place makes it rather difficult to communicate properly with anyone who managed to define more accurately what they are writing about. Hell, I haven’t even defined accurately what language I’m writing in, although I seem to have chosen as main one the one with the most limited potential audience. But then again, I wasn’t writing for the sake of audience to begin with. However, the feeling I get gliding from blog to blog in this labyrinth of minds and hearts spoken online is mostly a tinge of envy for all those who have learned to take into account the potential objections of the mainstream voice, to make fun of themselves/not take themselves too seriously, but still to allow themselves to go ahead doing the things they believe in or love to do, unrefrained by the harness of self-censorship. I stumbled today upon this adorable example of what I’d call a mild preemptive rebuttal aimed at the Other’s judgment of some me as a minority view on things: `Now, I know your Tie-Dye and Mung Bean Alarm is already sounding, but stay with me if you will. ` – and I so wanted the sentence to be mine…

I know I’m being incoherent right now, but – once upon a time in Amsterdam, I had this moment of clarity during a night of being drunk with friends and made a whole speech (that I immediately half forgot) about how being a woman is all about wanting to be things/people, not necessarily wanting to have things/people. I believe I meant that, even when there are things a woman wants to have, they are mostly props for who or what she wants to be – a setting, rather, for the play of her own life. But more importantly, that the way a woman lives relationships most deeply is not by wanting to posess another person as a friend or lover, but by wanting to be more like them, to reflect herself in them and them in herself. However, this kind of generalising talk (or drunken clarities) has left me quite a while ago, and now I only dare to write or say things in the first person, the way they teach you to in the rather pointless assertiveness classes. I, therefore, believe that I have been attempting all my life to become something, while constantly looking at others and emulating the parts of them that I would have liked to be – or just looking at the dancers and wishing I had the guts to go out and dance. However, at some point I cannot help but wondering, in the cacophonia of voices I’m trying to hear and in the multitude of people whom I guiltily envy because they seem to have found their convictions and peace – is what I call my self-censorship actually not my voice? Is the not giving in to the extremes of all the things I might like to surrender to completely, the measure of how I personally cope with the chaos? I would so like to be the person who invents rituals for themselves and for the children, and yet I am so obviously the person who could not stand the ridicule of their own partner about any excess of sentiment…

Shall we just leave it at that? No tie-dye alarm here today – just no nonsense, no maintenance, no envying others for being real – they’re probably just hurdling along as well – why else would they be writing?

pit bull

„Papa -Dacht het niet!
M. -Dacht het wel!
Papa -Dacht het wel!
M. -Dacht het ook wel!”

Ăsta e un joc pe care ai mei se amuză să-l joace aproape zilnic. Ori de câte ori tata încearcă să inducă în eroare copila schimbându-şi poziţia în jocul de „p – non p” ca s-o facă şi pe ea să i se opună formal, rostind astfel contrariul a ceea ce susţinea iniţial, Maria rămâne neabătut la propoziţia logică „p”. Ceea ce mă entuziasmează enorm la nivel paradigmatic, fiindcă importantă e, deci, (cu siguranţă, doar deocamdată 🙂 ) poziţia ei de principiu, şi nu negarea poziţiei celuilalt de amorul negării.
În schimb, în viaţa mea de toată zilele, mă confrunt des cu atitudinea „orice ai zice tu, nu sunt de acord!!!”, uneori pomăduită cu o spoială de umor, cât să trebuiască să zâmbeşti şi să îţi înghiţi iritarea – „Dar este vorba despre x, nu despre y, aşa cum reiese din interpretarea ta”, pledez. „Ei, poate nu am citit bine, oricum nu m-am uitat la context, dar oricum cred că trebuie să fie altfel decât zici tu.” Cu instinct de pit bull. Care a dat de sânge, fiindcă mă costă o găleată de energie vitală să intru în starea de conflict, oricât de mărunt, ca să apăr ceva care nu mi se pare important, aşa că îi dau, adesea, dreptate pit bull-ului, numai să mă lase în pace. „Unchiule Charles, ce să fac?”