Lifetip 3 – Accept the pecking order

The third post in my series of Lifetips will be dedicated to the benefits of hierarchy. It is actually a very improbable lesson to ever be coming from a Dutch person’s mouth, as we tend to have very little respect for these things.

Then again, maybe countries that actually understand and respect the implications of hierarchical structures wouldn’t need this lesson in the first place. Perhaps they could, however, explain it better than I (or Rutger Bregman, who brought it up in his April 2019 podcast episode) can.

Bregman poses that progress may not be possible in a purely egalitarian atmosphere. Hierarchy is needed in order to move forward on the long run.

The fact that western societies have increasingly been promoting “nice guys”, has softened our culture, as well as our politics. For our institutions however, too many nice guys is a curse. At some point, somebody needs to call ‘bullshit’, even it hurts someone’s feelings or means that all the work that has been done so far will be thrown in the bin.

An example that was given by Jesse Frederiks was a plan that journalist platform “the Correspondent” had upon its conception in regards to its compensation model. The initial plan was to let all the employees decide on the salary levels among themselves. The idea was that there would be full openness on the matter, with everybody having knowledge and insight into the division of the company’s money.

Long story short: it didn’t work.

Everybody was pretty relieved when they went back to a more traditional model, with specific people responsible for such decisions.

People that didn’t agree with the slice of the cake they ended up with, could complain about bad decision making by people elsewhere in the building and then bond over it with direct colleagues around the coffee machine (instead of having to blame them for it). Also, not having all the facts, turned out to be a relief to many.

Without hierarchy, direct colleagues would have to decide on a course of action together and battle out their differences face-to-face. This inevitably causes some friction, which makes working together increasingly difficult.

So perhaps certain positions require people who do not mind being disliked (for the greater good)?

Those at the bottom of the food chain do what they are told, without having to debate why and how.

With a person higher in rank calling the shots, foot soldiers can bond with their comrades over their shared suffering. At the end of the day the work gets done and everybody (except maybe that one guy) can go out for beers to celebrate.

In the YouTube video below Jordan Peterson (who Im not sure suffers from that Mr-Nice-Guy-complex) gives his explanation of why hierarchy is necessary and how left- and rightwing thinkers can (must?) keep the ranks from falling apart or being corrupted.

Sometimes you need an asshole to stand up, that doesn’t care if people like him or not, to get the job done. It’s OK to hate him. But recognize that you couldn’t have done it without him.

What do you think? Do you believe in an egalitarian system? Or is really hierarchy really indispensable for stable community structures?

Lifetip 1: Believe in goodness

Rutger Bregman and Jesse Frederik are the hosts of my favorite Dutch podcast: de Rudi & Freddie Show. They discuss all sorts of topics, which at one point ventured into their disdain towards self help books. But, as is typical for R&F, they decided to investigate the popularity of the genre and then ended up coming up with their own list of life-improvement tips.

Rutger Bregman’s first tip, also stars in his most recent book “De meeste mensen deugen”. The title is kind of difficult to translate as there isn’t really an English equivalent for the word “deugen”. The noun “deugd” means “virtue”, and the verb means something along the lines of “to be virtuous”, but it’s used in a much more casual way than the English version makes it sound…

Someone could ask me if I’ve met my brother’s new girlfriend. My answer could then be: “Ja, ze deugt”, which is just basically three words to say that I have indeed met her and that I give her a thumbs up.

Long story short, Rutger’s newest book title translates to something along the lines of “Most people are cool”.

The accompanying tip boils down to:

Always assume good intent.

There will always be moments in life when you are not quite sure what “the other” thinks, feels or might do. When you find yourself in such a situation, you can assume the worst and start preparing (mentally) for somebody’s anger, stupidity or deceit. You can also chill out, assume all is well and nobody is out to get you.

Why would you give people the benefit of the doubt?

  • Because it is most often right.
  • Because it is less stressful
  • Because you avoid making it a self fulfilling prophecy

Rutger insists that trust is the water that we swim in. Having your trust broken (by being set up, robbed or swindled out of your money) is collateral damage. The price you pay for mistrust is not worth the amount of negative energy it brings into your life.

True story

A while ago, somebody knocked on my door. The person at the door was a stranger. He told me he lived down the street from me and that never did this kind of thing but that his sister had just been hospitalized and that he needed a couple of euro’s to fill up the tank of his scooter to go see her.

So what were my choices? I could assume the worst and let my fantasy freak me out:

  • He’s a junkie who is going to use the money to get high.
  • He’s never going to pay me back.
  • Next time he knocks he is going to rob me.

The alternative was to assume he was telling the truth and help the dude out.

In all honesty I did a bit of both: I assumed he was telling the truth, but didn’t count on seeing him or the money back ever again (even though he assured me several times he would be back the following week).

I dug through several bags and pockets to collect all the bits of change I could find (because really, who still has cash these days?) and told him it was not necessary to repay me but that he should pay it forward to somebody else some day.

So yah, I may have “lost” 4 euros. Or did I?

  • Maybe he really did come back with the money but I wasn’t home.
  • Maybe the handful of change is still being handed down to people in need, spreading kindness and smiles across the country.
  • Maybe he was really planning on coming back to rob and kill me, but changed his mind after my kindness (or when he glanced into my house and saw that my house was a trip hazard).

Hold on… That last one doesn’t sound quite right. This positive-assumption thing takes some getting used to, I guess…

Society and politics

Let’s try applying the same logic to a larger scale.

Because if we trust the people right in front of us, we can trust people a bit further away as well, can’t we? And if we do that, we can assume whole groups of people consist solely of good-intentioned folks.

What could we achieve as a society if we put full trust in each other? What would our laws look like if we weren’t always basing them on the assumption that people want to take advantage of the system?

That is some radical thinking, I’m telling you…

Trust your friendly neighborhood charlatan

Have you ever been cheated? Good! That means you put trust in someone. Keep it up!

If you haven’t been scammed at least a few times in your life you may be missing out on the good stuff by being too mistrustful.

I’m new

On day two of the lyrics challenge, I might as well name the Rules that go with the Three day Lyric challenge:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
    I actually wasn’t nominated, but felt free to invite myself to the party, as from Sparks from a Combustible Mind kind of gave me permission to.
  2. Share one of your favorite song/lyrics one at a time for three days.
    On day two I will be sharing Stevie Wonder’s song “I’m new”, which should be a mandatory addition to everyone’s lives.
    Yesterday I wrote about the lyrics of two songs, which (imo) could be seen as two sides of the same story.
    Tomorrow’s post will be about Silence, pero en español.
  3. Nominate three other bloggers each day.
    I will follow in Melanie’s footsteps and skip this rule, partially because I don’t really have a following and partially because I think it’s nicer this way (because it paved the way for me to join in).

So have a listen if you don’t know this Stevie Wonder song already and let the lyrics quench your soul’s thirst like a big glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

 

Try to envision you as the oldest living someone, being every night and day all alone
Going through ages and ages, places and spaces with never finding that someone to call your own.
Like a treasure chest of dreams long forgotten, hidden for good in a stolen lost and found
But just when fate was calling quits, love appeared in the midst of despair, came and turned your life around
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I’m new.
New like the first day of spring
New like a nightingale that’s just learned to sing
I’m new, new like the very start of dawn
Like a child that’s first born with your love.
I’m new.
You’re standing among a crowd of six billion people, crying out for help, but no one understands
‘Cause much to your dismay, you’ve been taken far away to a land where joy is pain and sorrow’s a happy man
Where an aching heart’s the sign of the mighty and a love-filled heart looks down upon with fault and shame
But at the very instant all was through, lady luck appears, says “love can do” and changed you like a Christian who’s been born again
I’m new.dove-fly-gif-jpg
New like the fresh morning dew
New like a work of art that’s finally through
I’m new, new like a first flight of a dove
So safe and secure with your love.
I’m new.
Love took a long time coming to me
But I’ve gotta say I owe my thanks to him for sending you my way.
‘Cause I’m new.
New, like the first winter snow.
Like the start of forever, with infinity to go .
I’m new.heart stripes
New, like the birth of the sun
Forever young I will be, ’cause with your love;
I’m new
New, like from a restful night of sleep
New like a starving man that’s had food to eat
I’m new, nothing compares nor can compete
Sharing with you the sweetness of your love,
I’m new.

Ode to Louise

Day 1 of my (own twist to the) Three Day Lyric Challenge.

A song my father introduced me to is a song by Leo Kottke about a lady called Louise. Small town gossip said that “she’d act the little girl” but that in reality she was “a deceiver” and that we shouldn’t believe her, because “that’s her trade”.

The song describes how Louise received gifts from men, whose “intentions were easily traced”, insinuating that she was either stunningly beautiful and would lead men on with her appearance, or that perhaps she was even a prostitute who inadvertently had some male “fans”.

Halfway through the song Kottke describes how people thought it “kind of sad” when Louise was found dead in her room. The song paints a picture of a lonely and misunderstood woman who ended up taking her own life.

Kottke bids her farewell at the end of the song with the words “the wind is blowing cold tonight. So goodnight, Louise, goodnight”.

Leo Kottke’s guitar intermezzo is mesmerizing on its own, but with the lyrics he really tells a tragic micro-history. I am not sure when I really started to see the whole image but when I did, I really felt for Louise.

A second song has recently entered my life that has a similar effect on me. After having given it some thought I realized that it is actually the same story, but this time from Louise’ point of view.

The first time I heard the song it stopped me dead in my tracks and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This had to do with the singers vocal range and the pain he put into the song. It was only later that I learned that it is actually a cover of a Nina Simone song, called “When I was a young girl”.

The song, in the version of Marlon Williams, is over six minutes long and can be summed up by the last 4 lines (which he manages to spread out over two heart-wrenching minutes)

When I was a young girl I used to seek pleasure
When I was a young girl I used to drink ale
Out of the ale house and into the jail house
Right out of the bar room down to my doom

Be sure to listen to Nina Simone’s version too, which is beautiful as well (but less haunting).

Whoever this young girl is, all I can say is: I am sorry the world wasn’t kinder to you. Good night, sweet girl, good night.

 

 

 

 

Summer of sixty-NO!

It took me a while to get this list together and I still feel it’s incomplete, but since the blog that inspired me is already six months old, I think it’s better to just throw it online and then see what happens later.

Lyle describes how she realized that some of the songs that were good when they first came out but had now passed their expiration date and should really be retired and never taken out again.220px-Bryan_Adams_-_Summer_of_'69.jpg

There are so many songs that I feel the same way about, but one that I really can’t wait for to disappear into oblivion is Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams. It’s not that I got sick of it. I never really liked this song. But for some reason some of my friends keep sharing it on playlists and acting like its something I should feel melancholic about. I don’t.

 Make. it. stop.

The summer of 1969 weren’t “the good old days” for me, nor any of my friends. Our parents maybe; but then again, Bryan Adams means nothing to them.

The rest of my list consists of the following six songs:

  • Deep Blue Something – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Robbie Williams – Angels
  • Lemon Tree – Fools Garden
  • REM – Everybody hurts
  • Last Christmas – Wham!
  • Rihanna – fourfive seconds

There were also two artists that I dislike in general and would like to request to leave the stage and find another occupation, being:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Sam Smith

In the case of Bon Jovi, I think probably don’t hate all of their music. The song that really really really gets to me in all the wrong ways and has ruined their whole repertoire for me, is the slow version of It’s my life. I would crash my car (or bicycle, taking into consideration I don’t actually have a car) if it came on the radio while driving and I wouldn’t be allowed to switch the channel…

Sam Smith is talented, I get that. His voice is…. interesting? But he sings like he’s constantly running out of breath and that high pitch thing he does… Good grief, please don’t.

youre-annoying-stop-it

On the other hand…

Have you guys seen the animated movie Sing? Nothing can move a grown-up to tears quite like a kids’ movie can, amirite?

Chuck the list!

bucketlist

This morning I stumbled upon a blogpost that made so much sense, that I can’t believe I hadn’t already written about it myself. The post is titled “Chuck that list“, describing the blogger’s feelings about her bucketlist.

bucket-list

And all though I love the idea of a bucketlist and am oddly attached to mine, I can totally relate to what Imadcap wrote about the limitations of such a list.

My bucketlist was supposed to inspire me. It was meant to motivate me to pursue these goals, even the ones that make me nervous or uncomfortable.

In hindsight, making the list public kind of messed it up. Or no, I think putting it into writing did that. Because then it became a to-do list and not striking anything off became failure. And that really wasn’t the point!

I suppose it’s like playing a video game, where you are actually doing great, passing level after level and gathering points and bonuses along the way. Striking an item of your bucketlist is like finding an easter egg. It’s not necessary, but it is cool!

And Imadcap puts it very well when she says: “a list always limits you into thinking these are the stuff you want to do.” That is so true! Some of the best experiences I’ve had were ones I hadn’t counted on having at all!

Imadcap adds: “Secondly, lists change. Or at least they should.”

Woman Reading Long List

Again, I couldn’t agree more… I always thought my bucketlist would continue growing; with more and more life goals being added on at the bottom, striking the goals that I achieved, as I went.

But as it turns out, I actually don’t demand as much from life as I used to or at least not the same things. There are things on the list that, deep down in my heart, I really couldn’t care less about now… And that’s OK!

All of this helps me pinpoint and eliminate the nagging feeling I’ve been having… You see, a dormant bucket list can lead one to believe that nothing is happening. That life has come to a standstill.

First of all, let me say that a quiet life is not necessarily a bad thing…

But second of all, the fact that I haven’t stumbled upon or pursued as many of the bucket list items, is merely proof of my lack of imagination. Life has so much to offer and if I had been more creative I may have made more room for the smaller ideas that ended up leaving the biggest impact.

On the other side, the fact that I put some life goals into writing, may have even prevented me from enjoying them as much as I would have if they had simply crept up on me out of nowhere.

Another thing that kind of bugs me when I look at my bucketlist, is that I feel it doesn’t represent me. When I put it together I really made an effort to think out of the box and include things that I didn’t necessarily think I would enjoy but that I felt I should do anyhow, either to broaden my horizon, to become a better person (whatever that means) or to be able to say “yes, as a matter of fact I DID try that and it sucked as much as I thought it would”.

tales of the unexpected-logo

So, I guess what I am saying is that having a bucketlist is one thing, but it is not complete without a second list with all the unexpected stuff that actually meant something on the long run. Small anecdotes that have shaped who I am and reflect what matters to me.

Like the time I bumped into the homeless man that used to sleep on my porch but whom I hadn’t seen in many months (I moved and actually felt bad for some reason that I hadn’t been able to tell him that, since I was quite sure the new tenant would be less accepting of his midnight ramblings). It warmed my heart to see his face light up when he recognized me and seeing his toothless smile appear on his face as he exclaimed: “HEY! It’s you!”

Or the time my boyfriend and I decided to order takeout dinner last summer and eat it in the grass a couple of streets behind our new home and then sharing our food with an amazingly tame blackbird. And as he flew off, my boyfriend and I couldn’t believe our eyes as he flew away, over several houses and straight to our very roof, that we could (by chance) only just see the tip of from where we were sitting… and he’s been around ever since!

Awkward-White-People-Dance-Moves

And how about the love I have developed for Roskilde Festival? This year will be my third visit and my second time as a volunteer. I could never have foreseen how proud it makes me to be a part of that. More, I could never have imagined how welcome I have felt there, even as an only-slightly drinker, a not-at-all drug user, an awkward dancer and a very non convincing hippie.

These are all things that define me but in no way or form feature on my bucketlist. I suppose I could add them in very general terms and it wouldn’t even look like I was cheating. How about:

  • befriend a bum
  • bond with a bird, like a true Disney princess
  • Go to a music festival for free

This won’t do though. It defeats the purpose of the bucketlist and does no justice to the anecdotes…

So I did the only right thing and added “Chuck the list” to the list.

Three historic dinners

Who in history would you dine with?

This question was asked (and answered) in last week’s post on “Why evolution is true”-blog.

I started coming up with a couple of names, but got lost in semantics at some point. I mean, I think most people would answer that question by naming interesting characters they would like to have a chat with… right?

But the question is “who would you dine with?”

So then I ask myself, are there people with whom the specific setting of a dinner table would make the meeting more worthwhile? I suppose that would be the case with someone from the culinary world. But then again, I don’t care much for cooking myself, so I wouldn’t know what to ask a top chef or dietary guru anyway…

So then I turned it around: Are there people I would love to have a chat with, but would prefer not to do so over dinner?

And I guess there the answer would be yes.

gandhi eating

Take Mahatma Ghandi for example. I can imagine meeting him would be amazingly inspiring. Life changing maybe. But the guy hardly ate at all, and if the food is tasty and plentiful (like Indian food can be) I tend to eat like an absolute pig. The food would just make me look like a shitty individual and make me feel so self-conscious that any chances I had of saying something smart would’ve evaporated in seconds. Just like the food placed in front of me.

Or what about Stephen Hawking; super duper interesting guy, who I’d be super honored to meet. But over dinner?? I think I might have to pass on that one… Or actually no, I think he would have to.

And then there’s Donald Trump and his off putting dietary preferences. But I’m actually not really worried about this one, because I would never really consider putting his name on my dinner invitation…

I asked my boyfriend just now who he would invite and he actually didn’t have to think very long. His answers: Aleister Crowley, Copernicus and Michelangelo. He didn’t mind not speaking their exact languages and was sure he would find a way… He’s so much braver in these things than I am. 😛

So, I’ve probably given this way too much thought, but here goes:

 

Mary Magdalene

I was named after the very first woman, according to most mainstream Christian sources, Eve. A lot of women came and went after that but none has been so controversial as Mary Magdalene. I am not a religious person myself, but I do believe that many of the events described in the bible and other holy scriptures are based on true events and historical figures.

mystery-images-0-ivanov-38_1008_post_media_1VKB-998x734

I can imagine a visionary man named Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth at some point and I can imagine he did not stay single. I can imagine Mary Magdalene was his spouse and I can imagine that she was demonized after Jesus’ death for all sorts of reasons, earning her the title of “prostitute” in many tellings.

I would love to hear her side of the story. Break some bread, drink some wine, you know how it goes…

 

Sylvana Simons

Another demonized woman. I have written about Ms Simons and her tragic position in Dutch society in previous blogs. Cruel jokes and racist remarks are still part of her daily life, proving her point that Dutch society has something rotten at its core but not really getting her anywhere close to fixing it.

sylvanabuitenhof

She still fascinates me. Or rather, the fact that she has managed to get nearly every single Dutchman and -woman to dislike her, fascinates me. I have done my research and am no longer completely in the dark as to why and how this situation has come to be, but I would still love to look her in the eye and hear her out. Over dinner, sure.

 

Mercedes Sosa

La negra, which translates to “the black woman”. To most of us, she would not be considered to be black at all. It is actually a very common nickname given to those  friends and family members in not-so-black circles that have slightly darker or thicker hair or a slightly darker skin.

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I have written about Mercedes Sosa in several of my music related blog posts. Her voice just never ceases to amaze me. The chills she manages to send down my spine, every. single. time. can not be ignored. I love her.

Her death was a slow process that happened in plain sight. She suffered from a parasitic disease called Chagas; every backpacker’s worst nightmare. As her body lost its strength so did her voice, all though she sang and recorded until the very end.

I don’t know what I would say to her if I had the chance to raise her from the dead and enjoy a meal with her. I would just want her to feel my appreciation for her. I don’t really know that much about her nor feel I need to. She is not even human to me. She is just that voice.

Yeah I know, sitting at a table with her would be super awkward…

So there you have it. Three dinners. Three women. Two dead. I’m ready!