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Sacred Democracy

It’s interesting to see that most people defend democracy while they know quite well that the winning parties are the ones with most of the money and the strongest organizational capital. Most citizens today are aware that these parties are indoctrinating them with their repetitive presence through posters and slogans, yet we still vote for them.

Democracy was the elite answer to the French Revolution. It was introduced to keep the angry mob satisfied with the illusion that they were in control. At the time, the new regime proved their own dishonesty by their increasing suppressive character, releasing the public anger once again a few decades later. Things have calmed down since then, but does that justify our obsessive idealization of the democratic system?

Surely, the destiny of our species has long been bigger than the individuals who courageously put themselves in centre of the battle fields, hasn’t it? Then what is it we believe to attain when we collectively put our cross on the piece of paper that was given to us by the people whose names are written on it?

In a recent text, subconscious stakes, I tried to show the importance of deepening our self-knowledge in decision-making processes. Politicians, in their public debate, exercise the opposite. Their stake is their party, but if you take an entire political program, it’s unlikely that all members fully agree with it. Regardless of inner disagreements, they’re trained to defend it. They have to stand for a static cloud of ideas, while, particularly in these versatile times, change of personal preference is only natural. There has to be subconscious friction which troubles decision makers’ views.

I think my point here is that the movements of the tides are not in our command. To be honest, I believe that the big political fields can be steered only by those who deeply choose for the new direction. And they will have their impact whether they are part of the theater or not. If we want to feel in control, we should do our best to stay close to our dearest motivations and use whatever talent we have to push in that direction. Not just our vote. That part wasn’t even credible in the eighteenth century.

Small world

As I walk home from my expedition to the grocery store, I wonder what I’ll write about today: it’s friday after all. It will not be superfoods. Even if I have been wanting to tear down the growing Dutch collective health obsession for a while now, and the timing would be perfect given the massive social media reaction to the government advise not to blindly trust such products, I won’t do it today. The whole thought of it exhausts me. Another time, perhaps.

I might write about this little walk on a sunny day instead, and about how much I don’t mind that the climate is losing it. It’s beautiful. I love this broad, square-like street leading to my front door. Our building isn’t mother’s finest, and the construction sites around mess it up quite a lot, but it’s home for me. Besides, the sky will always be here to give me the space I need. No, let’s not write about that.

Shouldn’t I once write about the arrogance of world leaders, fighting over little pieces of land with the so-called excuse that the inhabitants of that little piece would benefit from lawfulness? Or perhaps about the troubles in the desert, where ancient cities are torn apart by groups I understand so little of?

As I walk here, I wonder what it is I like to write about. Internet ethics, psychotic murderers, mass hysteria, internal conflicts, adventures in the streets of this town. Love? Minorities? The enormous problems we face without being aware of it? Am I not just writing about my own little world under the pretension of making others’ a better place? Well of course I am.

I put the key in the hole and open the door. I see the old familiar green hall that suffocates me in the same way all my homes once did. Compare it to the open air. I quickly adapt to this place, eat an egg, forget about the contemplation and take on the quest of puzzling with those tiny little scientific words of my second academic paper, in front of a screen that slowly, yet steadily takes my vision away from me.

No breakthrough, no message, just my own little world.

Subconscious stakes

We are often taught to consider the stakes of all parties involved in a certain issue. Many businesses and NGOs regularly do stakeholder analyses when creating a marketing plan in order to understand the aids and obstacles to their plans. In doing so, they seldom take into account the subconscious drives of those same players. Thus, agreements made on the surface don’t always match the movements on intangible levels.

Some examples. Money and profit are conscious stakes. Having a house, a night in bed with a colleague, stepping up the career ladder are personal conscious stakes. Nature conservation, policy making or cleaning up de city, basically any project goal is a conscious stake.

Personal subconscious stakes include control over the own situation, being recognized by a colleague, dominion over others, harmony on the work floor, adventure, doing the good thing and seeing your ideas manifest in reality.

A conscious stake for one may be subconscious for the other, and one stake can be conscious one day, but grow into the subconscious. It’s dynamic. The extent to which you are aware of your stakes determines how much in control your are once the heat gets on, for example during a meeting when those stakes start to matter.

Here’s why I’m bringing this up. Unfortunately people are often unaware of stakes that take a hinderingly dominant form. It can hamper their ability so see clear once a meeting is on. In some cases, they can’t communicate anymore. Whether they need to be right, drift off from the conversation or feel too insecure to speak their minds, they stop paying attention to views of others. Plans become less determined. They lose stability. Lose their rational base. In a wilderness of actions, any asshole can do what he wants.

I believe that unacknowledged subconscious stakes cause more harm in society than we are aware of. They are important to see and to consider for anyone working in a team. We could do so much better if we manage those as well.

Higher up

“What do you do for living nowadays?”
“I’m unemployed.”
I think I say it that way to see people’s reactions. It started out as a truth, now it is just the simplest way to describe my situation. With few exceptions, when I speak the magic word, people’s expressions turn grim.

I was born and raised in Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the world. I have always had everything I needed and more. On very rare occasions have I saved up money to buy something I longed for, simply because when the toy phase ended, there was nothing material I desired except for food. Now, my fixed costs are ridiculously low, my dad gives me a bit of support and I have an irregular income from a zero hours contract. I do spend some effort applying for jobs to take a step up the financial hierarchy.

It has been two and a half years now since I graduated. At first I was ambitious, motivated, disciplined. I wrote four to five applications per week, moved to the big city, consciously entering a new phase. I had diverse applicable experience, spoke four languages, had an open personality and felt good about myself. The initial enthusiasm backfired after, say, nine months, when things did not work out as planned. The perpetual rejections had carved wrinkles on my self-image. Then came a dip.

Being down usually helps me look at things from a different angle. I became aware that I still have more than I possibly need. The time and the location in which I was born were an exceptionally lucky shot. I began to feel that this striving for a job or whatever it is people strive for, is important, but that it should not rule a life. Then, I saw that many people with jobs indeed overvalue them. For some they are prisons. I wrote Awards.

In people’s repeating “empathic” reactions, I see that they don’t look into my joie de vivre, but at a status. They look at their assumptions, fuelled, no doubt by fears that hold them on the spot. The career ideal has grown wild. Perhaps that can only be seen from the sideline.

In circles

Do you know which group of people I find silly? Joggers. I’d hereby like to ask them all: where do you think you are running to?

Consider person X. Person X takes the car to work every day, sits behind the computer organizing his or her mind for eight hours straight, then goes home in the same car. Feeling lousy, person X puts on aerodynamic clothing, bouncy shoes and headphones. Listening to commands about speed and timing, person X greets absolutely no one on the street, nor is there any other contact than his or her unusual speed and outfit being noticed. Within fourty five minutes and twelve seconds, person X is back at the door he or she left earlier, two seconds faster than last time. Now, what’s wrong with person X?

First of all: bouncy shoes? Aerodynamic clothes? Isn’t person X trying to get fit? Then what sense does it make to make the effort lighter? It kind of misses the point, doesn’t it? Person X should wear thick winter clothing, perferably with a hat and wear a ten kilo backpack, regardless of the season. A healthy side effect of this outfit is increased sweating, which expulses the toxins person X ingested during the synthetic lunch enjoyed earlier that day.

Then this one: the running is to compensate from all the sitting, am I right? Well, what is person X doing sitting behind the computer all day anyway? Why doesn’t this person, say, build a nice little arty house in nature for his or her mom? Or help a poor truck driver carry some of the heavy stuff that will end up in person X’s fridge? Why doesn’t she or he bring some mail to the houses nearby? Constructive effort. That would make this whole jogging business useless.

Or how about the fact that person X doesn’t greet the stranger on the street? Physical health means the world, but a little effort on the emotional side is too much? Why isn’t person X joining a team sport? Something amusing that can facilitate some physical awareness? Let’s face it: even though person X is putting one foot in front of the other all alround, he or she is unlikely to discern the feelings of his or her third and fourth toes.

Finally: two seconds faster than last time? Well that will be of good use once a tiger attacks person X behind the safely guarded computer desk. Why does person X’s condition need constant improvement if it’s just for the jogging itself? Some secret dream of a marathon? Perhaps person X would like to carry an interesting fact along these 42.195 kilometers back to the start?

In summary: person X is a silly person. That’s all I have to say.


“You’re my hero!” I call out to Ondrej -Zuzana’s brother- as I see his colourful appearance approach on his snowboard. He slides in zig zag, then just stands on his board legs open as if floating over the white road. He stops right in front of us. In the past half hour, I have made my first attempts to slide and brake. My capoeira past seems to support me in the quest to master this board.

It’s the first time I spent Christmas and New Year’s with Zuzana in Slovakia. People here ask about the differences in the way they celebrate. For what I’ve seen, there aren’t many. Perhaps the timing and the duration of the diners varied a little, and we never do a prayer before diner, nor do we go to church. The language of course. No, I’ve been in some Christmases around the world, and they all look alike. Family. Friends with New Year’s eve. Mine were far away.

After the short class by Kata -Zuzana’s sister- , we walk up the mountain with Fero, the dog. We arrive at a place with a spectacular view on clouds with mountain peaks rising out. A clear blue sky. Dark green pine trees are loosely distributed over the slope. A thick white blanket of snow covers the scene.  I practice once more on a lesser slope uphill, then feel confident enough to whoosh down this one without ending up in a tree. I never expected to take such a cool and long slope. I instantly get the addiction to this sport.  Fero joyfully makes his way through the snow behind me. Down, I stop in front of a little stream. Silence is only interrupted by a breeze. Snow falls off a tree to my left. Then of another in front of me. Then to the right. Silence again.

The ancient Greeks believed that the reason a stone always ends up downhill is that it follows its destiny. It’s 2014 now. It might become a year of big changes. Whatever lies in store, I feel as if it will find me soon. But not before I take another slide down this hill. Isn’t ending up at our destiny all we can ultimately do?

The Mystery of Loneliness

I remember when, one day while I was living in a mountain village in the Andes, an older lady came down from her little one-person hut in the Puna, about a day’s walk up from this remote place. She seemed remarkably easy to communicate with. Far more than most villagers, she listened. I asked her how she was able to live in a little cold hut all on her own and so far away from all others. “I live there with God” she answered. It made sense. “But don’t you miss people?” Then she replied – and I’ll never forget – : “you know, every human will one day let you go”. Something inside me knew she was right. If it’s not in the breaking of your ideals, or in literally moving away, it’s in the inveterate tendency to die. It amazed me that she smiled with it.

We’re approaching the darkest day of the year. This darkness guides me back into my inner world. I am very aware of the motions inside of me, to notice that even among groups of beautiful people, I have always been a very lonely guy. I notice that it’s simply very hard for me to tear down the projections and the expectations we all enforce on each other. To keep sensing through the facades. To touch each other from beyond the material or even the mental, and be aware of it. Because this is so hard to conceive, I settle for the cages casting themselves around me. I even fight to keep them there.

Out of this internal view, I see that most of my actions are attempts to avoid the loneliness upon me. I think I’m not alone in that. Career tigers, for example, seem merely to run so that one day their isolation vanishes before their eyes. I believe that the search for the spiritual is in fact a search for proof that we are not alone. Creativity a scream to be heard by the unfathomable other. Our fear for isolation stows us on towards utopia.

It’s in days like these that my expectations towards others disappear. We’re all in it, struggling to be in touch. The awareness opens the gate to another world. A place where everything is more common. Suddenly, I connect with people on a deeper level. Just as long as I don’t forget.

On that day in Huancaya, the lady from the highlands asked me “am I wrong?”

To jail with the state!

The Dutch state was sued for not investing enough energy in the avoidance of climate change. The summon is now being translated into different languages, meaning more states will follow. The case is unlikely to win, but the news is nonetheless interesting.

Who can we blame for climate change? It is well established by now that it is happening, and that rich humans’ role is massive. To whom can we point our fingers on this potentially disastrous turn of events? There are so many of them.

The consumers perhaps, who grow fatter and fatter with products that tingle their big, sloppy tongues with ever more exquisite taste? Can we blame them for driving the expansion of product availability by their constant curiosity for more? Can you really blame a fish for biting a worm on a hook? Should rationality have prevented man from going for the bait over and over again? Or was it this very rationality that caused the trouble? Where have our ethics abandoned us?

Maybe we should blame the producers for not caring about their product cycles? Could they, after all, not have thought the business through? It has been clear for quite a while that the earth’s surface is limited. Did that ever hit them? Are they honestly aware of the problems that they cause? I think many of them are operating under a narrowed vision, caused by the fear of being outcompeted. Or perhaps it with blinding greed. Who chooses his greed in full understanding?

Suing a state for climate change clearly is an act of desperation. I don’t disagree with the act: politicians could indeed make far greater effort to avoid the mass hunger and suffering expected to come hand in hand with this disruption. So why not address the independent keepers of ethics, rights and law to force that upon them? Let them, at last, speak the truth! Let the state pay! Then again, who really pays when the state pays?

It’s too late for blame. The problem has outgrown us. What we can do, is to hold ourselves and each other responsible for the moves we make. I just wrote this down, knowing it is far from enough. What have you been doing?