Why follow the stars?
Why do we follow and worship celebrities? Why do we vote for sociopaths?
Most families have a tough time feeding, washing, nurturing their children and keeping themselves reasonably happy. They do not have exceptional talents. There is nothing in which they will be world-class. But most would like to be recognised as exceptional and receive the adulation that goes with it. When we see someone who has achieved the goal of celebrity, we can dream of how it might be. We can imagine that our everyday worries will disappear. They sing beautifully, skate divinely or write wisely. Most often, however, it does not inspire us to even greater efforts to be great ourselves but instead allows us to relax and join an informal club of admirers basking in a reflected glory.
The football fan is devastated when his team loses. His sole contribution has been the price of a ticket. The young girl seeks a glance from the rock star to recognise her devotion. She dreams of a life as his consort. Stars allow us to escape from the realities of our day and imagine a better place. We are not marching alone we are with kindred spirits.
But the reality is perhaps otherwise. The skater has trained for hours every day from childhood driven by demanding parents or a coach. Her knees with be destroyed when she’s thirty and thoughts of being a mother must wait until her career is over. The Rock star has a drug addiction which will kill him soon. To be a celebrity places demands and presents temptations. Do the fans dream of taking on all these obligations to achieve stardom?
The sociopathic politician does not have any scruples about lying and creating false crises that they alone can solve. They feed the hungry media their entertaining oversized egos. Their followers believe they will lead them to a better place and they too march with kindred spirits this time wearing a silly hat.
Perhaps the only antidote to this idolatry is to foster a respect for self. To develop an acceptance and recognition of your individual worth.
“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life” – Steve Jobs. I would just add “or someone else’s lies.”
Have you been in love? I thought so twice before, but the third time revealed I was wrong. It was a remarkable feeling standing in my open door and looking direct into her mind. She was in love with me and at that moment I with her. It felt as if a warm shower poured over me which was just a little disconcerting on that cold January night.
We said “good night” without recognising our condition. Tentative steps followed to confirm our feelings were mutual. We had known each other for some years and we were both married so it was a celibate and surreptitious courtship. We revealed everything to each other on long walks. We had to be certain of our mutual feelings because the price of our love would be high. Anxious hours of deciding what and when. Every chance taken to catch one more glimpse.
It has turned out well. We often have moments when that warm showers return. The anxiety has gone.
Que sera, sera.
It is easy to panic in today’s turbulent world. Russia threatens to invade the Ukraine, Trump planning to have one more go, sea temperatures higher than ever because of global warming and to top it all a pandemic is rolling around the world. To be depressed and panicked would seem a reasonable response. If you have recently arrived in this world, at face value, it does not look good for your future.
But when I think back over the last hundred or so years things have been worse. The Spanish flu killed between 25 and 50 million people depending on who’s figures you believe. In the first world war both civilian and military deaths came to 40 million. World war two saw 6 million Jews and 5 million prisoners killed. I remember the days Kennedy was assassinated and I saw the twin towers falling down live on TV.
But in the same hundred years life expectancy has increased because of advances in medicine, nutrition and lifestyles. We have developed fantastic machines that have given us low-cost goods, travel and communication. Additionally research, lifesaving medical techniques, medicines and machines have contributed to ensure less people die of starvation and sickness than a 100 years ago.
On balance it is getting better. We have far superior lives from a material standpoint. Culture is all around us and there are more opportunities and ways to see and experience it. Culture has become everybody’s and not just for an elite.
I think it is better now than it was.
“Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera.”
The inevitable decay of our bodies with age can be depressing. Knowing that what you could do today you may not be able to do tomorrow is not invigorating. I have tried to deal with the increasingly shorter steps towards my death by developing a profound gratitude. No, I do not expect to die in the near future but statistically average longevities suggest that the percentage of my life remaining is nearing 10%. Like the warnings on you PC when space is running low, the red light blinks.
Gratitude for what I have enjoyed and experienced in this life means that I can leave it at least not feeling bitter for things that might have been. But it also means regret that I may not experience even more of the good things, like a young child who wants “one more time”.
I have observed that some very old people develop an attitude to life that considers that all is turning much for the worse to help them slide into their graves without regrets. For those who have health conditions with associated pain and helplessness I believe this is a reasonable assessment. But I can still enjoy life, am loved, am in love and have the resources for a comfortable life. Gratitude is a reasonable response.
I have decided to make changes in my remaining life. I will accentuate the things I enjoy and drop those I do not. In essence to become more self-centred and less selfless. It is not an unusual choice. However I want to avoid the grumpy old man syndrome which is the ultimate expression of someone who considers they have seen and done it all and it was much better the first time around.
I want to adapt a position of elegant selfishness. Less time working with others creativity and more with my own. Oysters instead of hamburger. Chablis replaces plonk. After all you cannot take it with you. Some people will be disappointed that I no longer do some things they relied on. Some will see the changes as a sign of encroaching mental frailty.
I recommend they think of it as my response to gratitude. That for which I am grateful I want more of. I aim to leave behind kind thoughts even if it is only that he was a happy corpse.
The corona virus came from remote Wuhan in China to suddenly change my life. As we belonged to a risk group we were advised to avoid catching the virus by social distancing. Our diaries were cleared. The choir, meetings, parties, Easter all were dumped. It was a voluntary lockdown. English is my mother tongue and news one of my main interests so I was not surprised at the fast spread and severity of the virus infection. I had read an article by an Economist who’s subject was the future risks for the global economy. A pandemic was top of his list with the worst smitant being corona because it was so fast spreading, mutates often and does not have a long immunity. We get normal influenza, also from the Corona family, every year and it culls many of the weaker in the herd.
But this corona was not the familiar influenza but instead a new virus. The advice to us was to hide away because the chief victims were those already ill and over 70. During the course of the first few weeks of the global pandemic it also became clear the main victims were men with a preponderance of those with heart problems, weakened immune systems, high blood pressure and overweight. Right now, the average age in intensive care in Sweden is 61 and 70% have pre-existing health problems. The young seem to have a much lighter ride this time. The 1918 Spanish flu killed mainly young people whose immune systems overreacted and filled their lungs with fluids. This time residents of old peoples home seem to be a high proportion of the victims.
At the beginning the reaction of some of our acquaintances was “it’s only another flu.” Eighty percent of those infected had mild or no symptoms. They changed tune when the death toll climbed and the severity of the illness for those with risk factors became apparent. The focus of the disease meant the young city dwellers were not highly motivated to follow the social distancing guidance. They were not likely to be severely affected. Not surprisingly the virus took hold in Stockholm first because of the infection opportunities of a high-density city and a high proportion of residents who even if infected showed no symptoms.
The aged in homes do not have the luxury of social distancing. They are forced to accept help from a string of young carers. These carers when infected are often not aware of it and that they can infect their patients. The result in many lands has been a terrible high mortality for this vulnerable group. They represented a significant proportion of the deaths at time of writing it was circa 50%.
In the end some would have died from a normal seasonal flu. Norway’s average mortality for early 2020 was not significantly higher than normal but we are still early in the lifecycle of the pandemic.
The hope is that herd immunity will slow and stop the spread of the virus. We over 70’s will still run a risk of being infected for many months to come as the pandemic slowly achieves herd immunity. The only safe result for us will be an effective vaccine and an a campaign to spread it in the vulnerable groups.
Its going to be a quite year for us is my guess. No travel, no parties, no dinners with friends and always with a look over your shoulder to ensure people keep their distance.
I told you so
I first came to Stockholm in 1991 from Italy and was impressed by its uniform orderliness. When I visited some of the suburbs, I saw another picture. They were ghettos of immigrants. The political atmosphere was of self-satisfaction with Sweden’s humane immigration policies. I was sceptical that this would turn out well.
There was much talk about integration, but I wondered how that was defined. Did we think Muslims would learn to drink snaps and eat pickled herring? Would people from very different backgrounds forget their religious and cultural norms that, for example, saw women’s roles in a quite different light from liberal Sweden?
In a country where education and examination results were the keys to employment how would people with another mother tongue cope. Whilst politicians said Sweden was not racist, I believe it depends on how you define racism. Studies emerged which discovered that having the wrong surname was a large minus in being selected for a job interview.
The ingredients for future problems were plain to see. However, if you brought up this issue in conversation you were labelled a racist and advised to drop the subject. As an immigrant myself I thought I understood the probable future based on my experiences of living in The UK and Paris.
The future scenario was clear. Young, disaffected immigrant men would create gangs that fed the Swedish market for drugs and try to create no go zones for the police in their home ghettos. Violence would increase as they fought amongst themselves for control. Weak and culturally unsuited policing would allow this to develop without hindrance. Politicians would decide to ignore the problems because it pointed to their failure to see the potential consequences of their policies.
However, the voters saw the problems in their daily lives and voted an anti-immigration party into a position of being Sweden’s third-largest.
Way back in the nineties, the outcomes were clear for those who could see with unbiased eyes and were willing to benefit from other countries experiences. Now we have a situation I doubt Sweden can ever recover from because of its arrogant naivety. For too long it has tried to convince itself that it was the best, most humane and leading the pack.
Sorry, Sweden you have made huge mistakes that will change Sweden for the worst forever. Was the big mistake Immigration? No, there was definitively too much and at too fast a pace but Immigration is enriching and stimulating especially in countries with ageing populations. The big mistake was not investing sufficient money and energy into the predictable outcomes. We needed more suitable education, social programs, action to encourage immigrants into employment, tougher laws against gangs, more police, more recruitment of immigrants into the social services and police etc.
Can it be fixed? We have some of the worst gang violence in Europe. Sorry but I very much doubt it.
The anatomy of complaints
How do you feel when someone complains. For example a guest in a restaurant complains to a waiter or a customer in a shop returns a faulty product. You are in proximity to the complainant and can see they are about to express their irritation. We are sensitive creatures we feel the emotions in the air of both the complainant and the supplier. Their radiated negative emotions promise to spoil our experience in the restaurant, shop or wherever. From a sheer selfish viewpoint maybe we wish they had not complained.
I was in a restaurant in London with a group of work colleagues. The wine had been tasted by a newly employed manager. When mine was poured I did not need to taste it. Just the smell told me it was off. I called the waiter and asked him to smell it. He did just that, removed the bottle and glasses immediately and replaced them. The newly employed manager was crushed, my colleagues were in a state of relief at not having to try the wine but embarrassed for obvious distress of the new employee. I drowned in my own thoughts how could I have handled it differently?
I could have just put the wine down and left the complaint to someone else. That action did not sit with my self image. I have never considered myself a coward. I could have just bitten the bullet and taken a sip. The fact that the wine was off would probably be discovered by the others and perhaps the only person drinking in the end would be the new employee. This would indicate not only his poor taste capacity but also stubbornness and a lack of courage to admit his mistake. That would quite likely taint our view of him for a long time.
No what I did was my only choice. Complaining when a service or product is not up to the expected quality is essential to hold suppliers accountable. It is in their best long term interests. In this case the restaurant handled it nearly impeccably. Perhaps if the waiter had smelled the cork he would have detected the bad wine. A bad bottle of wine was just bad luck.
We know there is a risk of the complainant being subject to “shooting the messenger”. The negative emotions in the air are disturbing to onlookers and somebody is going to feel bad either the complainant or the supplier or perhaps both. If the complaint is on social media instead. Do we react in the same way? On social media the reaction can be more extreme. The bystanders to a complaint have the same feelings and the freedom to express their discomfort. Often they try to close down the complaint by attacking the complainant. The catchment area of bystanders to the complaint is far wider. Trolls can also “stoke the fire”. But the principle is the same in my view. If you love your supplier you will complain when they fail to deliver. Collectively complaints point the way to a better service or product.
And those who seek to close down complaints? They do not care if the supplier gets feedback to help them improve but just want to avoid an uncomfortable situation and feelings. Maybe they have not had any bad experiences with the supplier but if the bad customer experience had been theirs?
The last alternative is for consumers to avoid bad suppliers, which they do of course, silently.
“When the lips are silent the heart has a thousand tongues” – Jallauddin Rum
© Terry Hannington 2021 terryh.se