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It is probably fair to say we live in the most organised and efficient century since humans started to exist. With the ascension of technology and innovation, we can track people, organise, categorise, label and exercise control like never before and our lives (speaking of average, Western world lives) are better organised and structured than ever before.
Our meetings, lunches, even coffee breaks, are scheduled down to the minute, we leave exactly in time to pick up our children, so they can enjoy the allotted time to play and dine before they are sent to bed to the minute every day.
And we start it all over again. Even the weekends are, for most people, masterpieces of organised family events which include cultural visits, time with other family members or visiting a party from another child (exactly from 3 to 6).
We have become masters of what I coin "projecticising". We have managed to transform everything into neat, little projects which get their allotted time slots and which will make our lives simpler and better.
Will they, though? It is my understanding that a certain structure to managing life is not only desirable but important; however, if the line to micro-managing is crossed, the result seems to be any fun drained out of activities - even quality time with your family or a hobby.
It occurs to me that everything, regardless whether it is work or leisure related is projecticised, may it be time with the children, watching TV, pursuing a hobby, and even sex. Think about how, when it comes to sex, for instance, its quality is measured by how often you get it and how many orgasms you get out of it. We not only projecticise our lives; we also compare our projects to another, setting out a scale of achievement according to which we manage our lives better or worse. This puts enormous pressure on supposedly enjoyable activities and processes, which is increasingly becoming a problem, as it seems.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at my OB-GYN and he told me that only 30% of women could actually get an orgasm. Now, I am not a doctor, but I am still calling bullshit on this statement (excuse the language). It's exactly utterances like these, which make women feel self-conscious about sex and reluctant to talk about it. What if, actually, not 30% of women couldn't get orgasms, but 70% of men are just clueless how to please a woman's body? I daresay if sex wasn't a projecticised process by which a human feels the pressure to have sex three times a week because anything less is perceived as "not good enough", I could imagine why women (and men) feel rather pressured than elated when it comes to amorous activities.
Also think about the decline of hobbies. We have reached a point of time where the average American teenager spends up to nine hours every day in front of a screen instead of pursuing an actual hobby like fishing, dancing, climbing, carving, cooking, or whatnot. Anything other than watching TV or playing PC games seems to be considered a hazardous thing to do which only costs energy and, if it is pursued, it is only as a project which has a cultural or societal purpose (of course there are many exceptions, but the general mood seems to be that anything other than lying on the sofa is considered to be "work"). As long as we approach everything like a project which needs to be ticked off, we are unlikely going to enjoy any of the activities we do, but rather see them as an annoyance or a burden.
Another area in which I notice the dangers of projecticising is when it comes to raising our children. Whether this has always been like this or not shall be open for discussion, but I can definitely conclude from my time as a teacher and nanny that a lot of parents, teachers and other people who regularly work/are with children have successfully projecticised them, leaving little room for spontaneity or flexibility.
I have had extensive contact to children in the past years during my position as an English and dance teacher in a private school as well as my year as a nanny in the UK where I met and mingled with many parents, teachers and schools. Upon observing these two environments, I would say that most children I found where mostly or entirely projecticised by their parents, teachers or both.
Now, to assuage any ranting parent, I am totally aware that projecticising doesn't happen in awareness of the agent, nor that it is executed with any bad agenda - mostly on the opposite, which makes it even more difficult to detect and resolve or alleviate.
Most parents I encountered where rather busy, hard-working people, trying to provide the best for their children and there is nothing I can say against that; however, sadly, it often happens that in order for the overly scheduled lives of the parents or school, the children have to function in a certain way in order to ensure a smooth and practical up-keeping of a family or school system. As mentioned earlier, there are mostly the best motives in mind; however, the execution often results in the opposite, without the agents even noticing.
You may have noticed that I said "the children have to function in a certain way" and it might have left you shocked or puzzled, but I can guarantee that many parents I have encountered actually use this verb when describing their children. They justify their bed times, their dinner choices or TV hours to other parents (or themselves) with the excuse that their children "function" better when it is done this or that way. However, it doesn't mean that ways to make our children function better are also methods which are good for the child.
Let me give you an example. A family goes to dinner with their child, aged four. They are seated in a posh restaurant because it's the mother's birthday and they want to give her a treat. Nothing wrong with that.
The time between the courses is rather long and the four-year-old, as four-year-olds do, becomes increasingly agitated and fidgety because it is bored. It has consumed its meal much faster than its parents, who still have a chat over a glass of wine (it's also Friday night). Because the child starts whining and lolling about on the chair, the father gets his phone out and lets the child play a game to quieten it. When they come home, the child is not only tired, but also passive-aggressive due to is exposure to the phone and the thrill of the game. They are all stressed and agitated.
Giving the child the phone certainly was the easiest way to make the child "function" according to the situation, but it definitely wasn't the best activity for the child, as the consensus of neuro-scientists agree that screen exposure for little children can do significant damage to their still-developing brains, but that's another topic for another day.
So, you see that between functioning and providing the best solution can be total opposites from another. To compare children to computers according to their functions is a problem deep-rooted in our society and I will discuss the analogy of people and computers in our modern societies in a future post more in detail.
Functioning, as I see it, is closely related to the process of projecticising. My child only has to "function" when I have a project to which accordance it has to act. As long as my life is not measured in little units of time and projects, I can allow more spontaneity and my child can cease to function and actually develop and grow.
What we forget when projectsicising is that humans are no computers and lives lare not linear and neat, but dynamic and chaotic. Allowing spontaneity and flexibility to your daily life means abandoning at least some of the project-related thinking we do and invite synergies of our and our children's needs to create a flexible yet structured environment in which a child can thrive and, for once, stop to function - as it usually has to do in school anyway all day.
Before I finish this off, I also want to state that projecticising and structure cannot be mixed up with another. As a parent, I need to establish structure in order for my children to know how far they can go and where they have a safe place; however, making my child a project which is only a tick on the house, car, dog, child list many of us, sadly, still have, will lead to a suffocated child which will try to break free at any possibility given.
In conclusion I can restate that it is vital, not only in the area of raising our children, that we loosen the patterns of our lives a little, stop projecticising everything and learn to have fun while doing something again.
January is at its demise and we are fast pacing into the new year. However, I am sure that amidst New Year's resolutions and promises, racism and bigotry will, sadly, not have become part of the 2017 legacy, but will prevail well into the new year of 2018.
As you might know, I have recently moved to Vienna, the capital city of Austria, which is currently under a conservative, right-extremist regime which undermines the process of taking in refugees from war-stricken countries and even went as far as to propose setting up "concentration camps" for arriving refugees - and that as a country having been one of the chief instigators of the holocaust tragedies of WWII!
But let me not derail into the topic of Austrian politics because that alone could take for hours.
Primarily, I wanted to talk about the fascinating topic of racism and pose the rather philosophical, yet provocative, question how much of racist is in all of us and whether we're, in the end, not all racists.
Before we moved to Vienna, we, obviously, had to find a place to live and I couldn't help noticing how I found asking my Viennese friends which were the "superior" districts to live in. Now, what do we really mean by "superior districts"? Obviously, they are the districts with great infrastructure, best schools and an "upper-class" environment. However, this all usually translates to "district with little minority percentage", doesn't it?
We visited a couple of flats and each landlord, in more or less subtle ways, told us he/she wanted to "raise the level of the renters" and "get normal people", by which was meant no Polish, Serbian or Czech people, but white Austrians (preferably with a certain level of education).
Nearly all of the landlords wanted some evidence of work, a pay slip or something like that, which, in my opinion, is not only highly discriminatory but also none of the landlord's business, as long as I can pay my rent. Upon discussing this with a friend of mine, she added, "imagine being a non-White, it's almost impossible for them to get a decent flat."
We live in a supposedly enlightened and civilised part of the world; yet, some people still have a harder time finding a job or a flat, and I know this is common knowledge and it isn't going to be the major part of this post; however, the question is how much of these apparently deep-set prejudices are still in all of us, and does it necessarily make us bad people to have them?
Let's face it, racism is not a terribly ambiguous topic and decreases to be so every day. We have governments ascending which openly admit to being racist through their actions and even though there are plenty of people fighting against these prejudices (myself included), we have to admit that racism is probably not only a cultural problem, but may also have biological, deep-set roots.
Our basic survival instincts tell us to eye up everything with suspicion which is not, well, us. As stated in the quote "If it moves, shoot it, if it doesn't, shoot it anyway, it might move later."
Upon looking into systems applied by animals, we detect similarities to the above given quote. Animals cannot be categorised into good and evil, yet, they kill each other merely based on the premise that someone crossed their territory, the reasons being none of spite or hatred, but survival and fear. Animals aren't racist, they are territorial and, additionally, they do not, at least as far as I can tell, kill each other because of skin colour, etc (but they are mostly colour-blind, so probably that's how they deal with racism - you cannot hate what you cannot distinguish), so there are differences, but what we can agree on is that violent actions against another race or animal are based on basic survival instincts.
So as much as this analogy introduced the topic, I will deviate from it now and proceed to another thought. As mentioned previously, we pride ourselves for not being racists, yet we would, if we are probably entirely honest, prefer to live in a white, suburban area with like-minded people regarding class and culture, rather than in a minority-stricken, poor environment with rundown houses and three Polish supermarkets instead of a local shop (I am not suggesting that is what you think, I am just provoking a thought here). We will probably feel more uneasy if a Muslim sat next to us on a London bus than a white, middle-aged man because we know that the odds of neighbouring a bomber are higher with a Muslim than a white man - so, is that now racism or an attitude we have learnt to adopt based on data we have been fed which inferred a conclusion? Obviously, the whole topic of racism has become so intense that uttering a thought of fear might even be considered racist if it applies to a Muslim person more than a non-Muslim person - regardless the data we know.
We might all have the above stated thoughts; however, some might feel more ashamed of having them than others. Is it really true, as it has been suggested by many people in the past, that some people are just better at hiding their racism than others, but deep within we all are racists? Maybe, but I would see the major difference in people in this circumstance already. According to basic instincts, it is probably understandable to be racist - to fear the Other and anyone who doesn't share your set of values, but if I take this as my stance and justification to be a racist, I admit to having no much more control over my basic instincts than an animal.
Upon which you would enter an entirely different idea of racism, of course. Say, I was to propose than some people were "lower" than others in their evolution, so basically, that racists - people who cannot suppress their basic instincts as well as others can - are below people who can and should be treated as an inferior race...is that then racism too?
You see, the whole matter is terribly complex and fickle; however, I daresay that being able to control your basic, animalistic instincts and be able to decide against acting according to them, is what basically makes you a human and differentiates you from animals. As a human, I can decide to not let my fear guide me and act humanly or humanely instead, which as the words imply, is all about being a human.
So, as provocative as this sounds - and probably is - we could determine that people like me and you (unless you are a racist) decide to be better developed in controlling our basic human instincts and rise above them in our humanity and humane possibilities; however, by this we would introduce another thought which entangled itself in my brain, which is not entirely related to racism anymore, but classicism.
General data and statistics suggest that racism is mainly related to less educated people from more rural areas. Obviously there are deviations to these statistics, but you are less likely to utter your racist views on an university campus than in a hair dresser in a low-income district (oh dear, I am so entangling myself here, but bear with me, I know it's a hyper-sensitive subject but only by topicising it, we will overcome it eventually - and let's just admit for once that some stereotypes aren't stereotypes for no good reason...).
Classicism, by which I mean the differentiating and hierarching of people according to class, is a well-known, old hat we all are familiar with; yet, it is to determine whether it deserves the same status as being a racist. Racists discriminate because someone doesn't look the same, has a specific religion or some other aspect which doesn't entirely or at all relate to the person's character; however, if someone doesn't agree with my intellectual level or values, does it make me a bad person to avoid this kind of culture (by culture I don't mean a country, but a kind of person)?
Personally, as long as you don't seek to discriminate or actively look down upon anybody, I would say it is absolutely OK to avoid the company of people who cannot relate to the world in the way you can or want to. Upon pondering all this, I came to the conclusion for myself that I am not a racist. I couldn't care less if I lived in a district with black people, gay people, transgenders or anyone else; however, I realised, and I will further observe and reflect on it, that I wouldn't want to live and converse with people who do not share my basic views on the world (i.e. racists or bigots) and I came to the conclusion that it does not make me a bad person to decide I cannot be friends with everyone...
What do you think about racism and how it relates to people? If you have a great, open-minded opinion, please share here or on Facebook :-)
Moving is entirely exhausting, in case you didn't know.
I come from a family of movers, so I am used to it, but, obviously, moving is much more fun when you're a child (as everything in life is). We moved various times and it was always exciting to get a new room furnished and painted and I loved it; however, as my man and I are in the process of moving at the moment, I feel rather disillusioned by the whole process.
Later this week, my man and I will have packed up our lives and head to Vienna to start a new life there and we have been boxing up our lives in the past days (which actually means I have been boxing up, he was finished after twenty minutes; seriously, some people don't have lives...).
I simply cannot believe how many things I have already accumulated in my respectively short life (I mean, a quarter of a century is not that old, is it?) and I can say with great certainty (or surety, according to the POTUS) that I definitely have a severe case of BMA (books and magazines addiction). All my floor is covered in my books, some of them dating back from me as a young child. The thing with books is that I simply cannot throw them out (except for 50 Shades of Grey, but simply because it was the worst book I have ever read and would have genuinely felt ashamed if someone found it on my bookshelf).
However, moving is also a very cleansing process in which you can dispose of superfluous items you got over the years (like presents from unwanted aunts or so - not naming anyone) and you can relieve your wardrobe of a couple of pounds, which means you can go shopping!
I always thought moving to be a liberating process upon which you can review your life and shed with the things you don't need anymore and as I have done it a couple of times and am doing it right now, I will give you some advice on what to do or avoid when moving.
Prepare your move and ensure you have enough canisters to put your stuff into
It hurts to buy boxes because they are rather expensive, but it is necessary to be well equipped before you embark on the tedious task of putting everything together for the move. Preparation is key and it is true for moving too. Make sure you take good boxes which are strong enough and if you want to have a box entirely filled with books (which I cannot recommend), use wooden boxes or strong carton boxes usually used for fruit. Also provide enough wrapping paper for fragile items.
For clothes and non-fragile items, you can also use big black bin liners, which won't rip easily and save you some bucks. You can close them with a cable tie.
Upon reviewing your stuff, you will first think it's actually not that much, but you are highly mistaken, believe me. You can also be sure to need some item desperately and then having to go through all the boxes until you find it hidden in the farthest back corner of the last box, which is highly frustrating.
Put everything that belongs together in the same box and label them, and not only with rooms. Don't simply write 'kitchen', but also write a little list (either directly on the box or on a post-it), of what generally hides inside and stick it on. You will thank yourself later.
You can also use colour code post-its to label the boxes from important to not-so-important. This is specifically useful if you don't know if you can transport everything in one go and ensure that the most vital things you will need are transported first.
Be radical with throwing out junk
I have already addressed it, moving is a great moment to throw away junk you simply don't need anymore or which you have lost interest in. This is specifically true for your wardrobe (at least in my case), but also technical items can gather (old TVs, receivers, etc) and it is the ideal point of life to get rid of everything. Don't think you might still wear this some time, simply throw it out because you won't, and if you might, you can buy new clothes. We don't live in times anymore where you need to hold on to old things. Chuck them out and feel liberated!
For clothes, you can give them to a charity shop if they are still in good shape and clothes store like H&M also take old clothes to recycle them for their own clothes.
Prepare the transport (financially and organisationally)
The most expensive and terrible thing for our move will be logistics. Unless you are super-lucky and know someone who owns a ginormous truck and is happy to lend a hand, you will have to think about organising transport. Nowadays, you can rent trucks for moving, but they are terribly expensive and are unreliable (for our last move, the truck simply didn't show up and they didn't even apologise or provide another one, on the move before they charged us with 5000 Euros, refusing to understand this had to be wrong until my dad showed them that, within the time we used it, we would have had to drive in circles with 600 km/h to achieve that kind of gas use - this was the company Sixt, by the way, for both incidents).
Ideally, you know someone who knows someone and you can get one via a private person where you only have to pay for gas (especially if you're moving long distance, like we do).
Have enough people around on moving day
Moving is physically exhausting, so make sure you time your day of moving with a lot of people being available to help put everything inside the truck and out again. Also make sure you are well-rested and drink and eat enough because it is really exhausting and nerve-wrecking, especially because you can count on something not going according to plan - something always does.
Finally, don't allow to much time to pass unpacking
You have finally reached your destination and, after unpacking your vital items, you lose your flow and stop unpacking. Make sure you unpack everything within a week or so, otherwise you will still have unpacked boxes when you're moving out again (which, kind of, is really practical). You want to feel home, so get everything out, find a spot and put the carton boxes somewhere, ready for the next move...
My initial plan was to break from 24 Dec to 6 January. I know I am a little delayed, but I had lots of things going on, one of them being my impending move to Vienna. YES, it's actually going to happen!!! Yay!
My man and I spent the last weekend flat-shopping (for rent, don't freak out) and found a lovely apartment a little bit outside of Vienna's beautiful city centre. Thankfully, we found the perfect landlord (kind, but not too needy) and will be moving next week.
I did, however, post a little video on Youtube in which I brag about all the presents I got for Christmas and some other things (a bit delayed, I am aware of that, but, hey, Christmas actually lasts until the 2nd of February, remember?).
You can see the video here and I hope you enjoy it and I am already drafting aforementioned articles I promised and hope the wait will be worth them.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.