Projection is fun

I was around sixteen and I was out with my best friend and her boyfriend on a Friday evening. We were walking down a busy street of Athens, when my friend’s boyfriend decided to buy a CD from some hawkers. He spent some time looking at the different CDs and asking them questions, if they had this song or that singer, if the discs were good quality, if they’d play in this or that player, that sort of thing.

The two black people selling the music got annoyed that he was taking so long to decide. They figured quickly he didn’t understand English, and they assumed my friend and I didn’t either. They kept their faces straight and pretended to help him, but started insulting him in English.
“What an idiot, what are you looking for, you asshole, just pick one,” the one said, keeping his smile in place. “He and his bitches just want to waste our time,” the other replied looking elsewhere, seemingly talking about something irrelevant. They both laughed sarcastically.
My friend and I exchanged startled glances, and she pushed her boyfriend, who was still blissfully unaware he was being insulted, to hurry up.

“Fucking Albanians are morons,” the first one said, as our guy finally picked a disc and passed him the money. I've always found that ironic, immigrants being racist to other immigrants.
But as we turned to leave, I couldn’t help myself. I looked at him right in the eye and told him: “Thank you, but you didn’t have to be so rude.”

Did I yell? Did I call him an asshole, a bitch, or told him to fuck off? No. I endured his insults without flinching and in a calm, if somewhat snooty, tone told him he was “rude”.

*~* Music intermission *~*

This song seriously annoys me, for one thing because this guy does not understand what "rude" means (hint: it's not just saying "no"), and for another because who would be stupid enough to think it's a good idea to show up at his girlfriend's father doorstep high AF?!? You look stoned, dude. Don't go talking to parents when you're stoned! Common sense. But, in any case, it fits perfectly here. I imagine my sixteen-year-old self, going all sassy at those guys: "Why you gotta be so rude? Huh?" And it's funny!

How do you think he took it? He lost his marbles, that’s how he took it. His face went from smugness to surprise and then rage, and it was like watching a Porsche 918 Spyder going from 0-100 km/h in 2.2 seconds (Wikipedia informed me that's the best acceleration for production cars). He launched towards me, screaming:

I was so shocked by his overreaction that I barely took a reflexive step back. My friend’s boyfriend jumped between us, put his hands in front of him and started telling the guy to calm down. While still numb, I felt impressed and grateful to him. He didn’t have to stick his neck out for me, but he did. Thankfully, the situation didn’t escalate, and we just walked away. It would have been a very stupid reason for either of us to get beat up over, after all.

Once we were at a safe distance, he asked us what happened and he was surprised that they were insulting him in his face. We were all shaken up, but once the adrenaline burnt off, we started laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. It’s been fourteen years and this is one of those stories that don’t get forgotten.

Here it was a situation where my friends and I did nothing wrong. My friend's boyfriend was under no obligation to be quick or even to buy anything from them. Sure, it's annoying when someone asks too many questions and/or doesn't even buy anything from you, but it's still their right as a customer. On the other hand, insulting others in their face, hiding behind a language barrier is about as cowardly, mean and petty as it can get.

Going off on that tangent, I've found myself plenty of times on either side of that barrier. Excluding a person from a conversation by speaking a language they don't understand felt extremely rude, either when I was the one excluded or someone else. I don't mean saying a few phrases, translating them etc. I mean literally talking about things, while others start glancing around awkwardly. When I'm abroad, I get particularly stern with Greeks who try to show off and speak in Greek with me in front of others who don't understand it. It is rude even when the conversation is about the weather, but, of course, it's even more so when they are bad-mouthing people who are present. If nothing else, people shouldn't do it, simply to avoid the humiliation if the other person actually understands them.

It's pretty epic when that happens, even when you aren't the Mother of Dragons.
"Valyrio muño ēngos ñuhys issa! Who's the bitch now?"

The interesting part is that all people have rationalisations for their double standards, what psychologist Robert Kurzban often refers to as "Why everyone (else) is a hypocrite". When called out, that person tried to pretend he had consistent standards: His first defence was to tell me he hadn't called me "rude". Well, he was technically correct and that was a rather good debating twist, to be honest. It's beautiful to watch the capabilities of the brain to offer explanations. He had not, indeed, called me "rude"; he had just happened to called me a "bitch", instead. Needless to say, his understanding of severity of name-calling (if "rude" is even name-calling) could use some calibration.

His anger was just a defence mechanism. He was caught. He'd either be a grown up and swallow it, or he'd blame the person who caught him. But - alas! - as a very wise wizard, Albus Dumbledore, has said, "People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right."

The morals of the story:

  • People feel entitled to insulting others and not having any consequences, which is why they do it behind their backs.
  • People have double standards about how much respect they give to others and how much they demand in return.
  • People that get their kicks out of bad-mouthing others behind their backs are probably too cowardly to do it in their face, which is why when they’re caught they project the anger, hurt, and blame. So, not only do they make the initial mistake, but then it’s unlikely they’ll admit they made a mistake at all; they’ll just double down and “blame” others for exposing their hypocrisy (pronoun confusion alert).
  • It is generally a good idea to only say things about a person that you would have no problem saying to that person.
  • When we get caught making a mistake, we can at least do the right thing and admit we made it, instead of lashing out and making ourselves look even more ridiculous in our attempt to save face.
And, most importantly, don't let others' double standards and projection to confuse you. People will do their best to avoid responsibility, which means you should expect their manipulative manoeuvres. 


Tomorrowland, a.k.a. the "easy-fix", the "chosen-one", and the "positive thinking" obsession

I watched Tomorrowland a few months ago, and I've been meaning to write about it, but life has been happening again. Anyway, I suppose a "better late than ever" attitude is applicable here, so here it goes...

(Take notice that there are some mild spoilers for this movie and also for The Lego Movie and Inside Out.)

I am a lover of science fiction, it is arguably my favourite genre. However, I'm not a simple consumer of hi-tech graphics and futuristic cinematography. I seek intellectual fulfilment as much as audiovisual gratification. Sci Fi can be the best of everything, when it is coupled with rich philosophy, well-thought-out script, clever direction, and good acting. The Matrix, for example, remains in my mind as one of the best movies ever made, because it married all of these things in a happy polygamous arrangement.

So, when I went to see Tomorrowland, I knew I was going to enjoy the audiovisual treat (and I absolutely did). And because I'm easily moved, I can count on any movie to have some moments that will tear me up (I am a sucker for emotions), even if I recognize at the same time they did it in a rather cheap way (compartmentalization FTW). What was really up for grabs was whether the whole project would stand intellectually, philosophically. The main debate people have about this movie ιs probably the standard disagreement of “romantics” and “cynics”. Romantics were moved, cynics found it “preachy”. As usual, my view is more complicated.


The movie has a wonderful premise: Imagine what would happen if the most intelligent and creative people in the world got together and devoted their time exclusively to making the world better, free of politics and power games. It’s something I've thought of many times, and I always come up with “That would be absolutely amazing”.

The movie, however, completely fails to see that idea through. It begins with that large group of people, which we see for less than ten minutes, and then one single invention by one person is seemingly enough to destroy everything, and then everybody simply gives up, except, apparently from a stubbornly programmed robot, and a teenage girl. Together, they drag back from the precipice of cynicism a former dreamer, and thus the typical trio of heroes is complete.

They “save the day”, not by hard work or perseverance, but by thinking positively and having a couple of ideas on their feet. “Let’s go there”, “Let’s destroy it”, “Use my self-destruction”, and that’s pretty much it.

And, thus, the entire premise of the movie is neatly negated. A quick fix from a handful of people over the hard work of many people, that’s how you save the entire world.

What is the character of our most recent “savior”? It’s a teenage girl, self-proclaimed “optimist”, who understands “how things work”. This includes a wide variety of technological stuff. She moves a diode a little and fixes something her father is building, her father being a full-grown NASA mechanic. We don’t have any background as to how she has developed her tech skills. There is no mention of her having spent a significant time studying and trying and practicing. It’s safe to assume, though, having been raised by a NASA mechanic has given her a head start, an early exposure to mechanics and electronics, but for all we know, she just popped out into the world having engineering superpowers.

As per usual, we are asked to accept she’s just “special” for some reason, and that “being herself” will save the world.
Oops, the "sarcasm" brain module took control for a second.
Please, scroll down. Thanks. 

The former-dreamer, on the other hand, is presented to us as someone “self-made” in that he didn’t have his father’s support. But again we’re not given any insight as to how this small boy has learned so much. He is given to us ready-made, an “unexpected” talent. Though, why exactly he's an “unexpected” talent, is not really clear. If a pre-teen showed up with that contraption, even if it's not entirely functional, any proper engineer would be impressed. That little sequence was an unexplained bit of “unfairness”, only to set up the consequent gratefulness that someone vouches for him, against the panel's better judgement.

It's all very superficial. But putting our heroes aside for a moment, the whole movie came down to... positive thinking. And I have very mixed feelings (pun intended) about positive thinking.

I don’t find positive thinking negative (well, obviously). I don’t find it irrelevant, either. But I also don’t consider it enough or even the most important factor. Negative thinking can act like an anchor, dragging us down and away from our potential. However, we cannot safely reverse this sentence. Positive thinking isn’t enough for us to meet that potential. Hard work and dedication and patience is what will make us reach our potential, and the “positivity” or not of our thinking is secondary. An easy proof for that is how many creative people who have offered a lot to the world, were, in fact, quite cynical and how many positive thinkers don’t manage to make much difference. Positive thinking is useful, but not enough, and it can also be a problem.

In his book, “The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking”, journalist and author Oliver Burkeman, argues that we're putting way too much pressure on people to avoid “negativity” at all costs, which leaves them unprepared for and in constant fear for failure. His proposed antidote is to learn how to enjoy uncertainty, accept the possibility of negative outcomes, and embrace insecurity:

Writing this reminded me of The Lego Movie, where the eternal positive-thinker Princess Unikitty tries and tries to keep being positive in spite of the all the bad things that are happening, and in the end she just gets really angry and single-handedly defeats the bad guys. She was probably my favourite character in that movie (well, she is a unicorn/cat hybrid) and this short compilation of her funniest moments - including the unavoidable epic meltdown - is guaranteed to make you smile:

Inside Out also had a similar twist, with Joy realizing that Sadness has its purpose and necessity, too. Vanessa Hill, a science communicator behind the psychology and neuroscience YouTube programme “BrainCraft”, made an episode about it, where she explains how research shows that people who try to suppress their negative emotions end up experiencing them more often:

Through our cynical times, it is actually not uncommon to see hope and positive thinking served up as the ultimate answer. As usual, the two extremes coexist so as to keep a social balance. But positive thinking alone is not very relevant. The world, mostly, does not evolve by a few geniuses that have single strokes of inspiration born out of hope. It evolves through hard, hard, hard work of many, many, many nameless people and lots and lots and lots of time. Many – most – of them are not “incredibly” intelligent or “incredibly” talented. They’re just regular people who have spent a lot of time learning a craft. The top is a small place and most of the work is not realized there.

The movie attempted to capture this at the end, with a beautiful scene that, I shamelessly share, brought me to tears. But it has that inherent flaw. It shows how we go out there and pick those who are ready-made; those who are already “optimistic”, “talented”, “dreamers”. Again, no relevant solution is offered. How do we make more people like that? How do we bring out the potential of greatness in all people? How do we teach, how do we guide? The movie implies that this will happen along the way, and I’m willing to accept that, but that doesn’t distract me from the fact that the movie-makers avoided to make the hard work themselves. I’m supposed to take the optimism and accept that everything will follow from there, but this is simply not how life works most of the time, especially when we’re dealing with something as massive as the impending extinction of the species.

We love quick fixes. We love inherent “talent”, prodigies and geniuses. And, of course, all those things are fascinating and I wouldn’t discount their value. However…
a) By default, there are very few of them, they are the exceptions,
b) Therefore we can’t count on them exclusively for the betterment of the species, and
c) It is wasteful to fail to focus on the contribution of all the “ordinary” people which, unlike “inherent” characteristics, can be influenced by our interventions.

Apparently, you're not allowed to Google "teamwork" or "cooperation", or you get bombarded
by nauseating business and marketing "motivational" nonsense. This was the best I could find.

To summarize, the movie had an incredibly profound premise (and that's why romantics were moved), but didn't do it justice at all (and that's why cynics were unimpressed).

So, let’s celebrate those rare, incredible people. But let’s celebrate just as much hard work and dedication, even when it can’t get us to excellence. Let’s celebrate perseverance even if we can’t be better than mediocre at something. We can’t all be first. We can’t all be best. We can't all be “special”. We can’t all “save the world”.

But what we can all do is add just a very small, ordinary, mediocre even, piece towards building a better tomorrow. That view paints a very positive picture, as well, but one that is free of naivete, arrogance, and delusion.

For the lovers, and the dreamers, and me...


My medical story

I was born very flexible. The OBG who delivered me laughed when he examined me and saw how elastic I was. The first profession I ever said I wanted to have was “a ballerina of the stars”, because I loved dancing and I loved the universe and wanted to combine them somehow.

By the time I was 14, I had tried all sorts of things; artistic gymnastics, acrobatics, ballet, flamenco, and, eventually, I found myself in rhythmic gymnastics. I loved them all, but that couple of years I did rhythmics I was happier than I’ve ever been in my life. The problem was, we had a splits exercise called “double bench”, basically doing the splits with each leg on a foot-high bench to achieve more than 180 degrees flexibility. I’d always been quite patient with flexibility exercises, though they can be quite painful, so when I started complaining that my knee hurt, my instructor should have realized that I wasn’t just “whining”. Instead, she kept pushing me, telling me I was lazy. So, I kept going, enduring the pain.

After a few months, I had developed a permanent pain in both knees. After my instructor’s advice, I saw a sports doctor. He basically didn’t offer much. He just dismissed the problem as a passing one and gave me an analgesic pill, a thermal topical cream, and told me to wear braces while I practice. I followed his advice, but I didn’t really see any difference. I stopped doing anything that made my knees hurt, which meant I couldn’t really do anything in class.

The pain was getting worse and worse and, eventually, I couldn’t dance at all. In fact, I couldn’t do pretty much anything. I couldn’t climb stairs, couldn’t sit on the floor because I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t sit for too long, or walk for more than ten minutes without needing to stop because of the pain. I couldn’t find a position to sleep, and the pain was always bad when I woke up because my legs were stationary for too long.

A. Normal alignment B. Decreased Q angle (genu varum)
C. Increased Q angle (genu valgum)
We forgot the sports doctors and went to an orthopedics, instead. The verdict was chondropathy for both knees, a disease of the cartilage of the knee, following it’s grinding against the bone, due to a condition called genu valgum (more commonly known as "knock-knee"), in which the knees angle in and touch each other when the legs are straightened. The abnormal angle between the upper and the lower leg leads to the bone biting into the cartilage of the knee, causing the pain. Genu valgum is also often accompanied by pes planus, i.e. flat feet. At least we had a diagnosis. He proposed full rest and avoiding any movement that causes pain. He forbade me to bend the knee more than 90 degrees or straightening it, sitting cross-legged etc. Doing all these things, I stopped getting worse, which was very welcome, but I wasn’t getting better. After a few months we went back and he basically didn’t have anything else to propose. I went through a few different doctors after that, but nobody had anything to add.

Finally, someone proposed I went to a podiatrist to make me insoles to keep my arch elevated. It was very high tech, he made me walk on a pad and showed me the pressure footprint onscreen. Most of it was red, which meant the pressure was above normal and, also, the footprint had no curves since I didn’t have an arch, it was just amorphous. He made me the insoles, and they actually did make me feel better while I was walking. However, they only fit with trainers, so I could really only wear trainers for months. I got a bit better because of the insoles, at least I could move around a bit more, but I still wasn’t very functional.

They also proposed physical therapy. I went to a place recommended by a friend. I spent months doing several physical therapies, including ultrasounds and electrotherapy. Nothing was happening, and if nothing else electrotherapy was actually making my knees feel weirder, more unstable. I kept bugging them that I’m not feeling better, but they didn’t try anything else. I was becoming more and more depressed.

After a year and a half since the pain started, I had very little improvement, big bills, and little hope that something would actually help me. Additionally, I was suddenly stationary for too long which, in combination to my bad psychological state, lead to me taking on 45 pounds. The additional weight only made my medical condition and my mental state even worse. Being a gymnast all my life, I loathed my new body, I couldn’t recognize myself in it. I was only 15, my future in dancing was stolen from me, my self-image had suffered a huge blow, and I had little hope anything could happen to change that.

That’s when Maria came into my life. She had already helped my sister’s friend after a car accident had damaged her knee so much that she needed several surgeries to rebuild it. And, she was a dancer, too. She knew exactly how I felt and I promised me Maria would help. Maria was a Pilates instructor, one of the first in my country, Greece. She had traveled all over the world, trained by the best of the field. She was collaborating with orthopedic surgeons and specialized on injury rehabilitation. We went to see her and she made me walk around to see how I moved. She had trouble hiding her concern. She said we’d have a lot of work to do and that I’d have to work with her. She was quite expensive, but she told me to come in for ten half hour sessions, two per week, and that if she managed to help me, I’d be already better by then. We had a specific goal, not just an open-ended "keep coming and you'll feel better some day". She asked for my x-rays and told me she’d take a few days to think of the best exercises for my case.

This chair is a common Pilates apparatus.
This is one of the exercises I had on it.
It was the most intense, focused exercise I’ve ever had. Maria wasn’t about jumping up and down like a goat, or trying so hard you huff and puff and hurt. She was about very precise, contained movements that focused on specific muscles and protected the joints. I had to keep breathing steadily and be very mindful about where every part of my body was. She kept a steady commentary of corrections “tummy in, don’t relax the butt, you’re clenching your shoulders, don’t forget to breathe” and I followed her instructions as best as I could. She made me discover muscles I didn’t know I have, and the sessions, though short and seemingly simple, left my muscles trembling from the effort, and it was almost as challenging for my brain as it was for my body.

The difference was amazing. After only the first two sessions, my legs felt stronger. Forget about insoles, I was holding my arch with my own muscles, training my body to stand differently. My muscles were getting stronger and stronger, the pain was getting less and less, and my confidence raised its head timidly. After only a month the pain was practically gone. I could walk, I could climb stairs, I didn’t have to wear trainers all the time; I could even stay barefoot, which was impossible before. I thanked Maria from the bottom of my heart and she was very pleased we made it. It was truly a miracle for me. In only a month I got my future back. That future didn’t involve my being an athlete, but it was a future free of pain, and a future that didn’t exclude dancing completely. And that was more than I had dared hope.


Just another nightmare

Once upon a time, there was a family of fairies. They were living in a beautiful meadow overlooking a human city built on a set of hills. The princess fairy (a.k.a. me) was bored of the fairy ways and dreamed of mingling with the humans, but her kind was adamant: You must never, ever go through the fairy portal to the human city. So, she lived her days attaching glitter glue to the tops of the hills with her fairy magic from far away (seriously).

Until one day she did it. She went through the shiny, oval portal and wondered into the human city; and she loved it. She met a human boy there, and it was love at first sight. But soon she figured out that there was another, more sinister reason than just humans, why fairies never went to the human city. A clan of dark witches and warlocks had infiltrated the city and had been waiting for her. As the heir of the fairy throne, her magic was very potent. The girl and the boy barely escaped with her lives, thanks to her fairy powers, but that also blew her cover with the boy; he now knew what she was. They went through the portal, and it closed behind them just in time for the evil ones to be left behind. But they now knew where the portal was, and they’d be waiting.

Her father was unhappy she had disobeyed, bringing a human back on top of anything else, but he was an understanding king. He kept the boy safe, and thought for a few days what would be best for everyone. He finally sat both of them down and gave them their options. Once a year until she came of age the fairy had to go through the portal for her magic to remain, but at least he could create a place for them, hidden by magic, where nobody would be able to find them the rest of the time. They’d hide there, until she would come of age and would be able to take the throne, and after that moment the dark ones wouldn’t be able to harm anyone in the fairy land. But the boy was in danger, so he’d have to decide if he wanted to go with her, and the two sisters of the fairy would go with them as additional protect them, as well.

They all agreed quite enthusiastically, and they went into hiding. And that was how the following years passed, they lived happily together somewhere safe, and once a year they raced to the portal. The evil ones were always there, but never managed to get them in time, and the fairies would just laugh and stick their tongues out to them through the portal that was closing between them.

A little before the fairy came of age, sad news came to them. A good fairy friend had died, Cinderella (roll your eyes with me). The sisters had to pay their homage, so, as the fairy custom was, went outside her house and sat down in the garden, silently communicating with the remnants of the deceased fairy’s magic.

And, out of nowhere, a black diamond the size of a basketball came hurling in the air and hit the one sister, who was rooted to the spot, unable to move. I (yes, I have to change POV now, because it’s a dream and sometimes you watch from the outside and sometimes from the inside :P ) whirled around in time to dodge another black diamond that shuttered into millions pieces on the ground next to me. I saw the attacker, a witch dressed in a majestic black lace dress, walking towards us and speaking the language of magic while readying another diamond. I dodged that, too, but it hit my other sister and at that moment I heard a voice yell “Run to me!”

A white which was advancing behind the dark one, and I sprinted toward her. Black diamond after black diamond came flying my way, but one by one were met and crashed by white ones midair, white and black shreds of glass flying everywhere and cutting my arms and face. The dark witch roared with anger, but I was already out of her reach. As I levelled up with her, the white witch shouted at me: “Hide in the city, we’ll find you later!”

I nodded as I run past her, a panicked expression on my face and a retched fear gripping my insides. Would she be alright? Would my sisters, the fairy land be alright? But there was no time to think, so I just kept running, until I couldn’t breathe. I cowered behind a truck full of debris, thinking which way to go, but something felt terribly off.

And then I heard it; a deep rumble, the most horrifying groan, worse than any spell or monster. It was coming from deep beneath me feet. And before I could react, the ground started to shake violently. Stuck between a truck and an abandoned building, I looked up and saw to my terror parts of the building falling apart and flying towards me. I ran between the truck and the building, heart pounding frantically, evading bricks and rocks and glass, waiting for the inevitable impact. I made it round the end of the truck, only to be met with dust and bits of concrete dancing off its back, and as I finally made it to the open street, the sight made my heart clench painfully.

An avalanche of debris was coming down the street, taking cars and bits of the buildings with it, like a solid tsunami. I was trying to avoid things and find a safe passage to higher ground, when, inconceivably, something even more terrifying happened. With a loud groan, a huge piece of the ground behind me, ten yards in diameter, sank into the Earth. The chasm that it left behind was so deep I could not see a bottom. Terrified beyond words, I struggled towards the other direction, ignoring the things still flying at me. A blow to the head was far more welcome than getting sucked into the void.

Suddenly, the ground stopped moving and things settled down. Then I heard a narrator’s voice in my head: “And then the ground stopped shaking, but she kept running, wishing to get as far away as possible from that cursed place, not daring to hope she was finally safe”. And all of that was true; I could feel the hope, unwelcome, rise inside of me. Maybe it’s over! And as I tried to work my way up a pile of debris to get to the other side of the street, the narrator continued: “But then the ground opened up again”.

I tensed up and, sure enough, another big chunk of ground right next to me gave way and disappeared from sight. Waves of renewed panic arose in me, but I’ve barely made it a few strides before the narrator gave his final prophecy: “And , again, she thought she was spared, but…” And that comment froze me still. I gave up, my shoulders hunched, and I knew what was going to happen. It was pointless.

And the ground caved in beneath my feet and I was free falling into nothingness. The pit of my stomach dropped, like when you miss a step going downstairs, but it was ongoing and petrifying. I wished I would just lose consciousness, but I kept falling and falling, and surely I would die. From far away, I could hear the narrator: “She was scared, but didn’t realize that it was not the end, but only a test to take her to the next level of magic”.

But I didn’t care, I needed it to stop. I had to wake up, because the falling was torturous and terrifying. I tried to create a floor with my mind, something to crush onto, die, and wake up. But even though I made one, I went right through it. I started to cry and knew I’d lose my mind if I didn’t wake up soon. I closed my eyes and concentrated really hard. I wasn’t falling. I wasn’t there. The dream wasn't real; the dread was not real; I was asleep and about to wake up. I heard the narrator sigh in disappointed disapproval… and I woke up with a start, panting and sweating and positively freaked out.


Διαγωνισμός Κατάντιας

Ή η αυτοτιμωρία του να είσαι Έλληνας

Ένας υπέροχος διαγωνισμός ταλέντου διεξάγεται  αυτήν την περίοδο στην χώρα μας, στον οποίο η ανταγωνιστικότητά μας φαίνεται να είναι καλύτερη συγκριτικά με τις αναπτυγμένες χώρες που τόσο προσπαθούμε να μιμηθούμε.
Τις δύσκολες αυτές ώρες, τις περνάμε συγκρινόμενοι τα δράματά μας. Υπάρχει φαίνεται μια άγραφη κλίμακα που μοιραζόμαστε στο κοινωνικό ασυνείδητό μας, με την οποία μπορούμε επιτέλους να μπούμε σε μια σειρά αυξανόμενης δυσκολίας.

Με κριτήριο την ύπαρξη ή όχι δουλειάς
Αυτός που έχει δουλειά και πληρώνεται, ό, τι δουλειά και να έχει και όσο να πληρώνεται, δεν τολμάει να διαμαρτυρηθεί για κακές συνθήκες εργασίας, χαμηλό μισθό, πολλές και απλήρωτες υπερωρίες κλπ, γιατί αυτοί που εργάζονται, αλλά δεν πληρώνονται τον τελευταίο καιρό πέφτουν να τον φάνε: «Μην μιλάς, έχεις δουλειά και πληρώνεσαι!», «Σκάσε και δέξου ό, τι σου κάνει το αφεντικό και να λες και ευχαριστώ που σε πληρώνει!».
Κι αυτός, όμως, που έχει δουλειά και δεν πληρώνεται, δεν μπορεί να ανοίξει το στόμα του να διαμαρτυρηθεί γιατί οι άνεργοι θα πέσουν να τον φάνε: «Ναι, αλλά έχεις δουλειά! Εμείς που δεν έχουμε τι να πούμε;». «Σκάσε και δέξου ό, τι σου κάνει το αφεντικό και να λες και ευχαριστώ που έχεις δουλειά!»
Ο άνεργος που έχει κάποιο παραπάνω πτυχίο ή χαρτί, από την άλλη, ή παραπάνω εμπειρία δεν μπορεί να διαμαρτυρηθεί που δεν έχει δουλειά, γιατί θα πέσουν να τον φάνε όποιοι έχουν ένα χαρτί ή λίγη εμπειρία λιγότερα: «Ναι, αλλά εσύ έχεις προσόντα ή εμπειρία, εγώ που έχω λιγότερα είναι ακόμα πιο δύσκολο να βρω δουλειά!»
Με κριτήριο τις απολαβές και τις υποχρεώσεις
«Μα παίρνω 600€ κι εσύ 1000€!»
«Ναι, αλλά εγώ έχω δύο δάνεια κι εσύ κανένα!»
«Ναι, αλλά εσένα δουλεύει και η γυναίκα σου!»
«Ναι, αλλά εγώ έχω δύο παιδιά!»
«Ναι, αλλά εγώ δεν έχω ξεπληρώσει ακόμα το αυτοκίνητο!»
«Ναι, αλλά εγώ έχω άρρωστους και τους γονείς μου και τρέφω κι αυτούς εκτός απ'τα παιδιά μου!»

Και η λίστα ποτέ δεν τελειώνει. Σε ρυθμό και μελωδία «Η Ελλάδα ποτέ δεν πεθαίνει». Δεν ξέρω αν δεν μπορεί να πεθάνει, πάντως σίγουρα μπορεί να υποφέρει.

Γιατί δεν με ενδιαφέρει τι λέει η προπαγάνδα, πρακτικά αυτό που βλέπω είναι ότι η κοινωνία υποφέρει. Δεν έχω εγώ γνωστούς και φίλους που χαλούσαν ποτέ τριχίλιαρα (ευρώ, γιατί για δραχμές λίγα είναι) στα μπουζούκια. Ούτε κανένας στον σχολείο μου είχε τρία σπίτια, κότερα και φεράρι. Είδα κάνα δυο «μέσα», αλλά για δουλειές το πολύ αξιοπρεπείς, όχι καμία από αυτές που βλέπουμε με τα πενήντα χιλιάρικα ευρώ το χρόνο.
Είχα επιχειρηματίες στη γειτονιά που πότε έκοβαν αποδείξεις πότε όχι, αλλά μαγαζάκια της γειτονιάς ήταν και κανείς από αυτούς δεν έκανε καμιά τρελή περιουσία. Αντιθέτως, έκλεισαν ο ένας μετά τον άλλον μέσα σε αυτά τα ρημαδιασμένα χρόνια κι όχι γιατί είχαν υπερχρεωθεί με τεράστια καταναλωτικά δάνεια που έφαγαν σε τζακούζια στη Μύκονο, αλλά γιατί δεν έβλεπαν πελάτη ούτε με το κιάλι.
Δεν ξέρω πού είναι αυτοί που «τρώνε», εγώ πάντως μόνο από την τηλεόραση τους βλέπω. Μικροαπάτες, μικροφοροδιαφυγές, μικρομίζες, μικρομέσα, μικρολαδώματα, ναι. Η τάξη μεγέθους των ποσών, όμως, δεν μπορεί να συγκριθεί. Η προσπάθεια θα ήταν αστεία, αν δεν ήταν τόσο επικίνδυνη.

Και συνεχίζουμε, λοιπόν, να τρώμε τα λυσσακά μας, λυσσόντας για κάποιου είδους λύτρωση μέσα από την «τιμωρία» κάποιου όχι και τόσο διαφορετικού. Σκλάβοι που η μόνη τους φιλοδοξία είναι να δουν τον διπλανό τους να μαστιγώνεται.

Τα στοιχήματα, όμως, ποιος τα βάζει; Ποιος κερδίζει από τον διαγωνισμό αυτό; Σίγουρα όχι οι συμμετέχοντες.

Η απόλυτη ρήξη της κοινωνικής συνοχής είναι και η τελευταία πράξη του μεταπολιτευτικού κωμικοδράματος.

Επειδή έχουμε αποδεχθεί την προπαγάνδα de facto και άρα το μόνο που μπορεί να γίνει για να βελτιωθεί η ζωή μας είναι να απολυθούν εργαζόμενοι και να κοπούν μισθοί, να ιδιωτικοποιηθούν όλα  με αποτέλεσμα δύο σε ένα, σαν σαμπουάν με μαλακτικό μαζί: Και την πίτα χορτάτη (να μειωθούν κατά πολύ οι «σπατάλες» του κράτους σε τρίβιαλ πραγματάκια, όπως παιδεία, υγεία και άλλα ανέκδοτα) και το σκύλο ολόκληρο (να δουλέψουν όλα ρολόι αφού γίνουν ιδιωτικά). Να ξεπουληθεί ό,τι δημόσια (μπλιαχ, μπλιαχ, βρώμικη λέξη) περιουσία υπάρχει (Λογικό δεν είναι; Εμείς πουλάμε τα χρυσαφικά μας, να πουλήσει και κάτι το κράτος!).

Επειδή έχουμε αποδεχθεί την προπαγάνδα de facto, δεν μπορούμε ούτε καν να διανοηθούμε ότι μπορεί να υπάρξει ένας κόσμος (όχι «μία οικονομία», ένας «κόσμος»), όπου όλοι έχουν μία δουλειά και ένα μισθό της προκοπής. Δεν χρειάζεται κανένας να είναι άνεργος, κανένας να είναι άστεγος. Αλλά αυτά είναι βαφτισμένα αναρχικά ή ρομαντικά ή ουτοπικά (Ως μέτρο σύγκρισης, αναφέρω ότι το να περιμένουμε από τη Γερμανία και το ΔΝΤ να μας σώσουν θεωρείται απόλυτη ένδειξη πνευματικής διαύγειας).

Και αντί να θέλουμε όλοι άνθρωποι να έχουν φαγητό, στέγη, παιδεία, υγεία, αγάπη και προδέρμ... ψάχνουμε από ποιον διπλανό να κόψουμε τι.


Time's Garden

“Now!” warned Later.
“No, Later!” Now stomped its foot on the ground.

They’d always been fighting. They were the kind of siblings that never saw eye to eye. They grew and they fought, they fought and they grew, and nothing their mother did could change that.

“I’m the only one that truly exists,” Now would complain.
“You’re just something that may or may not come. Why should I take you into consideration?”
“But I am your future self,” Later would counter. “If you ignore me now, you’ll be unhappy later.”
“And if I only think of you, I’ll never get to enjoy myself,” Now would cross its arms annoyed.
“How will you enjoy yourself if you know you have a million things to do?” Later would yell loudly, with its arms open wide. “How will you learn, or be, or do ANYTHING, if you just think of yourself?”

Alone in the corner, Before was rocking back and forth, its hands covering its ears. Before couldn’t stand the fights; it couldn’t stand the noise. The oldest of the siblings had seen all this way too many times before. It has been through all that before. It used to be a later that became a now, before becoming a before. As a later it had tried to reason with the then now. As a now it ignored the next later. And now it lived in disappointment and regret.

“Why should I do anything that I don’t like?” Now continued, after taking a moment to recover from the last blow. “Now is all I have, and I’m going to avoid all the discomfort I can, thank you very much.”
“A little discomfort NOW, could mean more comfort LATER,” Later said exaggeratedly slowly, as if he was talking to someone quite thick, indeed. The tone was not lost on Now, who was not impressed.

“It could also mean I’ve wasted my time being unhappy for no good reason,” Now responded, its voice dripping with sarcasm. “You can’t KNOW anything I do right now will pay off at some point. You can’t judge me for not wasting my time for a ‘maybe’!”

“But there’s NEVER absolute certainty! Would it hurt you to at least TRY from time to time?” Later exclaimed exasperated.
“And would it hurt you to stop bugging me for even a second and let me breathe?” challenged Now.

“OK, fine,” Later changed strategy abruptly. “You don’t want to do things you don’t like. What’s your excuse for not doing the things you do like? There are so many things you want to do and you always leave them for later, too. I wanna learn another language,” he said in mocking tone. “I wanna learn how to play an instrument, I wanna write a book, I wanna, I wanna, I WANNA!” Later’s voice was rising in pitch with every word, “Why don’t you do ANY of those things?” it screamed shrilly making Now cringe.

“I… I…” Now stuttered, finally at the verge of tears, “You’re asking too MUCH of me, I just want to… to… BE!” Its voice cracked and it hid its face in its hands. Later was thrown aback, but still too angry to let it go.

At that point, Time came into the room and within an instant she knew what was going on; her eyes fell on Before still rocking back and forth in the corner and Now crying defeated in its palms. Later had opened its mouth to say something, but she silenced her youngest kid with a look.
“Fighting isn’t helping anybody,” she said as she walked to the middle of the room. “Come sit with me”. She pointed to the couch. Nobody moved. She sighed and sat on the floor next to Before. It looked up at her touch, its eyes full of pain. She hugged it tight and then took it by the hand and guided it to the couch. It took a little longer to calm down Now and convince it to move, and Later, arms still crossed, was less than happy to sit next to them, but didn’t object.

Time knelt in front the three of them. “You’re all part of me. Please, be nice to each other,” she said kindly. Before looked at her lovingly, but Now and Later seemed not to care. “I know you all love each other. You just need to learn how to compromise! Later, don't bug Now all the time. Let it rest and have some fun and be a little lazy. But, also, you, Now, don't ignore Later! It's not such a big deal to get a little uncomfortable from time to time. As for you, Before, there's no reason for you to be so sad. You've had your moment and you did the best you could. Why don't you give yourself a break and give your insight to your siblings?” Time's kids were calmer now. They loved their mother and saw the wisdom in her words, after all.

“There will be a time when we’ll all be gone,” she continued. “There will be no Time; no Before, no Now, and no Later. What will your disagreements mean then? We have this one chance to make right by each other,” she smiled at them gently and they beamed back at her. “How does that sound?” she asked and they mumbled all together, “Sounds good, mom!”
“Run along and go out and play, then!” she encouraged them and so they did.

And that's how our story ends, with Before, Now, and Later laughing and playing in Time's garden...

Inspired by an upcoming med school exam, and the unwillingness of this individual to sit down and study, because her brain would much rather wander to a place far, far away; thankfully, in this galaxy, unfortunately, across an uninviting ocean.


Trivializing harassment

Sharing stories of sexual harassment makes everybody very uncomfortable. This is true for all kinds of abuse, but it’s especially so for sexual harassment. We have a history of treating victims of sexual abuse as dirty themselves, and humans have been known to shy away from discussing sexual abuse for that reason; it makes everybody feel dirty by association. This is incredibly sad and unfair, to say the least, and for the sake of our collective mental and physical well-being, we must overcome that obstacle.

As an owner of a body in a major city, I experience street harassment often. That includes cat calling, vulgar comments, whistling, attempts of toucherism, or frotteurism, and sometimes having someone follow me for a significant distance while exhibiting that behavior. I should say right off the bat tha there are many street harassment denialists out there, and this post isn’t for them.

Stop Street Harassment, commissioned a 2000-person US national survey.
The results aren't pretty. 

On a relatively recent event, I was walking on a major street in Athens, when a person started walking right next to me, trapping me between him and the buildings. I sped up automatically, and so did he to keep up and he asked if he could ask a question. I ignored him, but he asked anyway, if I’m doing sports, because I have nice body. I told him to go away and opened up my pace even more. He dropped back, but kept following me, mumbling away a stream of vulgar profanities. And so the puppy followed me for about fifteen minutes, until I reached my destination, a Starbucks.

I waited in line and ordered; all the while he was standing outside the glass doors, waiting for me to leave, but I was actually intending to sit there, anyway. He lost eye contact while I was getting my beverage, and, last I saw him, he was outside the other entrance, squinting against the sunlight and trying to find me. When I left couple of hours later, he was gone, probably having found his next target to harass.

I’m way past the point where I get surprised or upset by such incidents. I’ve been in public long enough that I have a lot worse stories to share from my and friends' experience. There is a discussion to be had about why street harassment is important, why people have the right to feel safe in public. If “civilization” means anything, it is that people should not have to be afraid for their mental and physical integrity all the time. You know, that’s what jungles are for. There is a lot of pointless obstructionism in accepting those simple facts, but, again, this is not what this post is for.

I happened to had shared that incident with some internet friends and after some time I happened to meet one of them in person. During the interaction, which was not a pleasant one for various reasons, that event was mentioned. We were discussing my habit of going to Starbucks; I explained that I relax very much there, and he said “Unless someone has followed you there”. I responded “Yeah, don’t remind me of that, it was a nightmare”. And he came back with something like “Well, the boy saw something pretty, don’t blame him for wanting it”. Taken aback, I just corrected the fact “He was no boy, more like in his late fifties”, to which he replied “So, that’s why you minded, because he was old, otherwise you would have liked it!”


I believe this person was just trying to be funny. Some people will agree with me that he failed (and exposed some deeply held stereotypical ideas in the process) while others will argue I can’t take a joke. However, that’s not the point of this post, either.

And, no, street harassment has little to do
with the amount of skin exposed
and the "provocativeness" of the outfit.
It's an act of power, control, and superiority.
As I said earlier, we generally have trouble dealing with harassment as a society. Many otherwise decent people, in their ignorance and awkwardness, can say the worst, most unempathetic comments imaginable. Two very common hurtful reactions are a) blaming the victim (It's your fault you failed to protect yourself, so don't expect us to have sympathy) and b) downplaying the significance of their experience (So, somebody grabbed your behind on the bus, big deal).

They are both quite disgusting tactics and, unfortunately, all too common. My "friend" trivialized my experience by asking me to "forgive" the harasser, because he was just a guy and I am a decent looking young female, so, of course, he can't control himself and has to harass me. You really can't get more stereotypical than that.

But there's also something else I've been thinking. I’ve spent some time trying to think the last time somebody got mugged and somebody joked “Oh come on; admit it, deep down you wanted to get mugged!” Maybe I have selective memory, but I don’t remember any such occasion. How about somebody getting beaten up for no reason by a gang? Does anybody joke “I’m sure you enjoyed it a little bit”?

I can’t think of another occasion where a person has been “attacked” in some way, reports it was against their will, reports it made them feel uncomfortable and unsafe… and it’s common for other people to casually assert that they must have liked it on some level. And yet this is so very common when it comes to sexual harassment.

That is also true, actually even more so, when it comes to men. If society has been for a long time resistant in accepting sexual harassment toward women, it’s even less open to the claims of sexual harassment that are made by men. They’re men. They always want sex. It’s only women who put the brakes on men’s lust. Men would literally put their organ anywhere. They could and would have sex with any female (remember, this is the stereotype of a cis,straight legacy). It logically follows, that it is literally impossible for a male to be sexually abused.

This view, casually sponsored by my male "friend", is not only disgusting and insulting, practically toward the whole of humanity, but it’s also simply dead wrong. Women want and enjoy sex just as much as men do, and men can very much not want to have sex on any occasion, for pretty much all the same reasons women can. This is not up to debate. It’s a biological fact.

So, there it is again; people being incapable of not enjoying a sexual interaction. If they report they didn’t enjoy it, or it was against their will, they will simply be brushed aside. “Of course you wanted it, dude. You’re a dude. Stop with the whining”. Or, in my case, if it was a "young" guy (therefore, automatically more attracting to me, according to my "friend"), I would enjoy being followed, stalked, and having vulgar comments thrown at me from a total stranger.

And so my question is…

And what is it about sexual harassment that makes so many people think the victim likes it?

I’m sure that the answer, whatever it is, will have a lot to do with a legacy of thousands of year’s worth of sexual oppression and ridiculous social beliefs, ideals, and taboos about sexuality. Well, not just about sexuality; also about how not to be a rude, unempathetic person.

So, here’s my little general piece of advice. When something hurtful happens to someone, you show sympathy and empathy, and tell them you’re sorry it happened to them. And just leave it at that. Assume the other person will not appreciate you trivializing their negative experience, unless you know them well enough to know they will.

And if you want to make jokes, make them at the expense of the perpetrators:

tea consent from Blue Seat Studios on Vimeo.