The Church of Woman

If I were a cynical person (in my moments of semi-lucidity), there would be moments wherein I would think that women have the greatest con going on in existence with men being the sheep being fleeced.

A man is a human being who works.

He is given little or no choice in the matter.

Any qualities in a man that she finds useful are labelled masculine, the rest are disparingly labelled effeminate.

He must look masculine if he wants success with women so his appearance must be geared to his one and only raison d´etre – work.

He must be ready to do each and every task put to him and he must always be ready to fulfill it.

His clothes are generally lacking in style or variety as compared to a woman´s as functionality is deemed more important than fashion.

His hair is simpler to deal with, his toilet is efficient and unelaborate, and he is generally laughed at should his ornamentation be excessive.

We want to look as identical as possible to every other man.

Many men do jobs they hate, but do so with pride knowing they do it for wife and children.

Every moment of his life is spent as a cog in a huge and pitiless system designed to exploit him to the utmost to his dying day.

Once it has been determined wherein his talents lie, he is sentenced generally to one profession for life and is strongly discouraged by woman to change it, because this need for personal development is wraught with insecurity to the life she has convinced him to embrace.

Change his way of life and he is deemed unreliable.

Do this too often and he becomes a social outcast.

The fear of being rejected is considerable, so we will repeat the same mindless tasks for the rest of our lives ad infinitum  – even as our souls are being destroyed in the process.

Lose our capacity to work, our capacity to earn, is to be deemed a failure.

Tell your woman you want to find yourself in a job that fulfills you and stand to lose everything – wife, family, home – all in the name of security.

How many men´s lives and potential have been sacrificed on the altar of sex and love for the Church of Woman?

This pitiless goddess has convinced us her dreamy disciples that we cannot live without her, so we will do anything she asks.

Our very identites are wrapped up in the promise that we are not rejected by this paragon of beauty who bestows upon ourselves explosive moments of release.

So we ignore that this mindless devotion might not be our only potential.

We think we are on the same playing field as Woman, but we are not.

The gameboard may be love and co-existence, but we are playing checkers, while She is playing chess.

The walk of life

“They do the walk.

They do the walk of life.”

(Dire Straits, “Walk of Life”, Brothers in Arms)

“Our neighbourhoods aren´t all that hostile…

I have a thousand times more often encountered friends passing by, a sought-for book in a store window, compliments and greetings from my loquacious neighbours, architectural delights, posters for music and ironic political commentary on walls and telephone poles, fortune tellers, the moon coming up between buildings, glimpses of other lives and other homes, and street trees noisy with songbirds.

The ransom, the unscreened, allows you to find what you don´t know you are looking for.

You don´t know a place until it surprises you.”

(Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: The History of Walking)

There are many interesting moments stuck in my memory from yesterday and today…

I had an interesting conversation with an SB customer, Leonardo from Milano, wherein we were comparing European nations with North America and with each other.

He asked me straight out if I could be anywhere where would I be.

I answered France with its departments and territories and colonies.

He responded Spain.

It´s clear I need to spend time in both…

Yesterday I had two shifts (0630 – 1130) and (1500 – 2030) with a 3 1/2 hour break between them, so I went on an inner city ramble doing some of my favourite things…

Had lunch at McDo, visited a bookshop, visited the SB at Marktplatz, met with a friend purely by chance, drinks in the shadow of the Abbey Library, and then a very interesting scene encountered at the Standesamt (Civil Registry) close to the Bahnhof…

A dozen men dressed in bright yellow highway traffic vests were holding up long red-and-white-striped construction road barrier wooden boards to form an arch for the newly-wed bride and groom to pass under once the Registry formalities were completed.

A table of wine and champagne with crystalware was standing to the side.

Later this morning in Konstanz for grocery shopping and DVD/book buying, I passed by a church with another unusual processional scene.

Another dozen people, both genders, all ages, all barefoot and dressed in karate outfits (short jackets held closed by cloth belts and loose fitting PJ bottom pants) were also waiting for a bride and groom to appear.

Their plan, as they stood in two separate lines facing each other, was to bow to the nuptial couple as they passed.

Conversations at work all seemed to revolve around the questions of love and marriage which are always of interest to discuss.

(More on this in my next blog…)

Despite the stresses that work causes and despite my preference for the country over the city, working and walking in a city can be absolutely fascinating.

Just one day in a city can generate hundreds of ideas with encounters with so many different people who each have a story to tell.

The randomness of each character encountered and the variety of experience felt make each day its own adventure. 

I don´t intend to stay at SB forever and there will come a day when I will leave both Konstanz and St. Gallen far behind, but until that day I am learning so much and this learning is making me into a deeper and richer character well worth knowing.

The profundity of profanity

Profanity is defined by Merriam-Webster a“offensive words or language”.

It is also called bad language, strong language, coarse language, foul language, bad words, vulgar language, lewd language, swearing, cursing, cussing, or using expletives, what is generally considered to be very impolite, rude or offensive.

It can show a debasement of someone or something, or show intense emotion.

Profanity in this sense takes the form of words or verbal expressions.

As both an English teacher and a wordsmith, I find myself constantly thinking about words, their meaning, their use, their origins and their significance.

Yesterday, I was witness to a workplace scenario between two workers where the attitudes towards profanity were diametrically opposites.

Worker 1 was swearing like a sailor whose ship has sailed without him, but not because the worker was experiencing strong Emotion, but rather because the expression of English expletives so prevalent in pop culture these days was “cool”.

The shock value of the swear words showed a fearlessness of censure and a youthful recklessness regarding “appropriate” (old person) behaviour.

Worker 2 was visibly unimpressed with Worker 1 and compared the cussing colleague´s language to a nether region´s disposal facility.

In many countries, swearing in the workplace can be an act of gross misconduct under certain circumstances.

In particular, this is the case when swearing accompanies insubordination against a superior or humiliation of a subordinate employee.

However, in other cases it may not be grounds for instant dismissal.

The fact that swearing is a part of everyday life means that we need to navigate a way through a day at work without offending anyone, while still appreciating that people do and will swear.

Of course, there are different types of swearing and, without spelling it out, one really ought to avoid the ‘worst words’ regardless of who you’re talking to.

With respect to swearing between colleagues, although it may sound strange, the appropriateness of swearing is influenced largely by the industry you are in and the individuals you work with, but even in a workplace in which swearing is the norm, there is no need to participate in it.

I think the danger of swearing to the cussing individual is not so much a debasement of what or who is being cussed at/about, but rather a lowering of respect towards the offensive language user.

The choice of words reflects upon the class, education and character of a person, whether the language is a true indication of the real person or not.

We are judged by what we say and do, whether or not these statements or actions are true to the persons we perceive ourselves to be.

Our language is the difference between a temple and a brothel.

We need to decide how we wish to be viewed and act accordingly.



Mind the E-Gap

Future shock is too much change in too short a period of time.

Modern man feels shock from rapid changes.

We have become cities without a history.

Urban populations double every 11 years.

The overall production of goods and services doubles each 50 years in developed countries.

Society experiences an increasing number of changes with an increasing rapidity, while people are losing the familiarity that old institutions of religion, family, national identity and profession once provided.

There is a yawning gap between those who have ready access to information and communication technology and the skills to make use of those technology, and those who do not have the access or skills to use those same technologies within a geographic area, society or community.

It is an economic and social inequality between groups of persons, an electronic divide, a digital gap.

Many of us are “connected”: individuals, organizations, enterprises, schools, hospitals, countries, etc. by means of mobile or smart phones, the Internet or telephony, digital TV, SMS, social networks, etc.

The more intense the connection, the more sophisticated the usage.

We can access what we could not easily access before, retrieve that what was thought lost, interact with the world and make innovative contributions at the click of a mouse or press of a key.

So why are there still so many not connected?

People need access to computers, landlines and networks to connect to the Internet.

People need money to afford these computers, landlines and networks.

People need education to use these tools intelligently.

People need exposure to these tools which may explain why the younger generations are far superior in this regard to their older counterparts.

Too much information makes it difficult to discern what information is valuable as opposed to disposable information.

The ring of truth is lost in the cacaphony of noisy networks of non-stop data flow.

Since the 60s, and especially since the 80s, we use technology we do not understand fully.

We rush to embrace the latest technology regardless of its ultimate cost to us culturally or economically.

Who needs God?

He doesn´t have an email account, Facebook profile, hashtag or Twitter presence.

Who needs family when you have so many friends online?

Who needs nations if we have become a global community sharing the same information?

Who needs a profession when we have become a society that values the cult of personality more than the contribution of character?

Who needs history when it can be neatly capsulized into 120 characters whose memory fades long before today´s newspaper reaches the rubbish bin?

Is an efficient society necessarily by extension an effective society or a desireable one?

Gone it seems are the days when a man could just simply walk off the street and present himself and his credentials without first setting up previous electronic correspondence and arranging an appointment in the virtual world of the gigabyte.

A man is judged now by the size of his electronic footprint not his physical presence.

One need not ask who is the ghost in the machine.

One need only realise that the light at the end of the tunnel is a computer screen and we are the ghost reflected in its glow.

The Memory Music Project

“I spent a large part of one of the evenings I was in Uganda thinking about what precisely the memory of a person is.

What do I want people to remember about me?

What would I prefer to have suppressed?

Do I have a number of secrets that I shall take with me to the grave?

How can I shape other people´s recollection of me?

It is an impossible task.

I can hardly control what anyone else chooses to remember about me.

I can only have a vague idea of what sort of impression I have made.

To some extent I can anticipate reactions to what I have written…

But what about the memory of me as an individual?

I can guess that people´s memories will vary…

I don´t know what people will remember.

Nor for how long.

Memories are always finite.

Memories of me will last for a number of years, but the day will come when they no longer survive.

It is given to very few to live on beyond the memories of their grandchildren.

After a hundred years most of us are one of the anonymous grey shadows in the blackness that surrounds us all.

But I also turn the question round:

What do I remember about others?

(Henning Mankel: I Die, But the Memory Lives On: The World AIDS Crisis and the Memory Book Project)

Inspired by this book as well as the events of my 50th birthday party, (See Post Vino Veritas.)

I found myself thinking about my love of music and how many memories, both painful and joyful, have been associated with music.

I hear Air Supply´s Lost in Love and am reminded of a bus trip to Montreal.

Billy Joel sings For the Longest Time and I remember an old friend from my days working and living in Vankleek Hill.

Oran Juice croons his tune Walking in the Rain and I remember a particular painful break-up with a former ex-girlfriend.

Music is intertwined irrevocably with memory.

Music is also a keen insight into character.

I believe knowing the music and literature that formed a person gives sharp awareness of who that person is as well as where (both geographically as well as psychologically) that person came from.

I propose a project…

I want to keep my loved ones ever clear and sharp in my memory and close to my heart.

I want to know them on a deep level that only music can offer.

If there is music you love…

If there is music that makes you remember someone or something or somewhere…

If there is music by which you would like to be remembered…

Send me a playlist…or…burn me a CD…

So that when that music is played, then memory of that person will endure, or a sharper understanding of that person´s place(s) of origin becomes clearer.

I believe that just as every person has a story to tell, so there is a soundtrack that goes along with it.

Tell me your story.

Sing me your songs.

Let us laugh, cry and smile together.

Let the music play and unite us harmoniously.

Work and other four-letter words

All around me, wherever I go, throughout the entirety of most of my life, people talk and obsess about work.

We spend 80% of our adult lives working and more than 50% of us hate our jobs.

We are classified and judged less by who we are than by the job we do.

Despite protests that our modern world is a classless Society, we still consciously and unconsciously separate and evaluate types of work, almost as rigidly as a caste system does.

So much of our lives are devoted to expending energy and effort on making money that our own images of self are intertwined with these efforts.

The young and inexperienced feel torn between exploration and development of their character and the uncaring demands of the workplace.

The older adult feels more and more unwelcome in his/her profession of choice as new skills are required that weren´t needed before and younger workers are cheaper to hire, maintain and fire.

Between young and old workers, the rest of the workforce endures, living between salaries, surviving somehow till vacation, trying to stay sane in an increasingly insane situation where he/she is asked to produce more and more in less time at the lowest cost possible, regardless of the sacrifice to him/herself in respects to physical or emotional well-being.

A very select few truly love their job but even they can only excel if they are willing to give up on other aspects of their lives that make up the human experience, like marriage, family or personal development, because one cannot serve two masters equally at the same time.

There are times when one begins to believe that we live in a dystopia where we are raised to be workers, drained of ourselves in the name of profits and production, and then quietly forgotten and begrudged as we linger on too long in hospitals or old age homes.

The pain of production is endured and surpassed by the fear of poverty.

Somehow the image of unemployment is a far worse look in the mirror than the image of a wage slave.

So, yes, there are definite problems with capitalism.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel recommended that we should throw off our shackles and become a socialist society where all are comrades in an egalitarian utopia, but as history as shown the result of revolution is not a classless collective but rather simply a change in who wields power over the people.

What was a czar-controlled government is now a commissar-dominated regime.

I believe that the change needed cannot come from force of arms or from group passive resistance.

For force of arms or powerful ideas is always met by violent countermeasures by those who wish to maintain the status quo which benefits them.

We as individuals are the change we need.

I think each of us needs to develop some sort of philosophy that is a healthy balance between keeping bread on the table for us and our families and keeping ourselves happy.

Having more money and more luxuries at the sacrifice of love of self and loved ones is a very poor exchange indeed.

If we could somehow reduce our desires for wealth, do the minimal amount of work only for what is needed to maintain ourselves and devote as much time as we can to the things and people that are the true measure of a good life, then maybe the revolution that we have been searching for from outside ourselves will be found within ourselves.

Delivery refused

Sins, that which is counted against you when one´s life is assessed, come in two basic forms: commission (what you did but shouldn´t have) and omission (what you should have done but didn´t).

Clearly, there are no innocents, alive or dead, in the world.

This lesson was powerfully demonstated to Ute and I yesterday when visiting the exhibit “The skies burn on the horizon: Switzerland during World War II” at the Kartause Ittingen.

Powerful paintings, sobering pictures, sorrowful recollections of a time not so far removed in the past.

Switzerland has a long tradition of housing refugees.

Huguenots fled from France in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Socialists and anarchists from all over Europe came to Switzerland in the 19th century, including Stalin and Mussolini.

Then, as now, they came as individuals or in small groups.

In the years of 1940 to 1944, Switzerland was not so accommodating, rejecting 25,000 Jewish refugees at its borders.

Switzerland was surrounded by fascism all around: Mussolini in Italy, the Nazis in Germany, the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by the Nazis, the conquest of France by the Nazis.

Then, even more than today, Switzerland was truly a land-locked island unto itself.

There was widespread fear that tiny crowded Switzerland would be overwhelmed by refugees who would aggravate the shortage of food for all, though stats suggest that the population of Switzerland would only have increased by 0.6%.

Collaboration was easier compared to the prospect of capitulation…and, for some, more profitable.

“Those who cannot remember the past, those who do not learn from history, are condemned to repeat it.”

(George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume One: Reason in Common Sense)

The rest of the world could not then, and cannot now, claim moral superiority.

Boatloads of Jewish refugees sailed the world looking for safe ports of call, yet many were rejected by so-called enlightened nations, including Canada and the United States, because of their Jewish status.

(Google SS St. Louis for just one example.)

Most nations had the capacity to accept far more refugees than they actually did.

Most nations today have the capacity to do more good than they actually do.

Today, in our more progressive age, boatloads of refugees still roam the oceans, escaping persecution or starvation.

Enlightened democratic governments, like the European Union or Australia, continue to reject, or accept with extreme reluctance, those wishing to start a better life on their shores.

The American government is extremely interested if a person flying from Europe to America is of Arab origin or not and forces carriers to deliver personal information about passengers.

Again, fear is a factor countering our humanity, despite statistics proving that our fears are greater than the actual reality of the threats to our peaceful prosperity.

Most of us today are fine upstanding individuals living in nations with solid moral traditions and reputations.

We consciously and conscientiously avoid doing wrong, but if we know the right thing to do and do not do it, then this is wrong as well.

If we do not deliver those that seek our assistance and deliver them from death and war, persecution, repression or starvation…

If we do not hold back those staggering to their own slaughter, then our morals and values are mere whispers in the wind.

We need to listen to the harsh lessons that history has tried to teach us.