Haters gonna hate- but here is why they should stop already

Sometimes I feel like Milla Jovovich in The 5th Element, speed-watching human history and starting to cry because all that humankind seems to do is basically destroying each other. I think Bruce Willis tells her something about love being the motivator to carry on nevertheless. Or maybe I just want to remember this because it makes so much sense. However, wouldn’t it be awesome if we actually lived up to this?

On Sunday, we had elections in Germany, and, unfortunately not very surprisingly when following the developments over the past years, we now have a populist right-extremist party with more than 90 seats in the parliament. I wrote something about the possible reasons for people choosing such politics already when Trump got elected, but what worries me even more at the moment are the reactions of my non-AfD-electing friends and acquaintances. Yes, this outcome is bad. The AfD openly campaigns racism, homophobia, anti-women-rights, and a lot of other stuff that is detrimental for a progressing and forward-looking democratic society. Given our history, it might be even worse than if it had happened in a different country. It was, however, foreseeable, and I do claim that it is not just the politicians’ duty to prevent this from happening. We all have this duty as a society.

Everyone can vote in a democracy. You don’t need an election-license, even though some might half-jokingly suggest it could benefit the outcome. The problem here is threefold: For once, politics is a complex process, and complex things require thorough understanding in order to take an educated decision. That’s one thing. The other thing is that, even though there are many parties out there, the tendency goes towards a moderate mean with little change and more or less the same politics over time. That’s how our political system is shaped, and how our political parties have changed over time. If you’re not happy with that mean, you have to go to the extremes to suggest a change. That’s what the AfD took advantage of. Just like Trump, they listened to the dissatisfied, and promised them to solve all their problems. This is when the third problem enters the equation: In order to understand fully the complexity of an economy, and how to solve its problems, you need not only constant discourse, a diversified view on media, and formal education, you also need to be able to push past your basic human instincts. Otherwise, scammers like Trump and the AfD have an easy game at promising you exactly what you want to hear, without any logical grounds, and you’ll buy it. And once they got you, they even may utter the most outrageous, racist, human-rights-violating statements, you don’t hear them anymore. You stopped at “I hear you, I know your problem, I have a solution”, and give them your vote.

One of the basic human instincts, besides the one of wanting to be heard and not ignored, is fear. The majority of the votes for the AfD came from regions with low immigration rates. Humans are xenophobe by nature, I reckon – it’s what kept us alive back in the cave-days. Traveling, interaction with strangeness, reading about it, getting to know other cultures and people, is what opens the mind towards otherness. Experiencing it and seeing that it is not a threat. Thus, I find it only logical that in those regions where people are very homogenic, the fear of otherness is bigger. It’s the fear of the unknown. It cannot be discussed away easily, and certainly it won’t disappear by being judged for having it.

Now let’s add some other factors. High unemployment rates. It’s the same regions, by the way – in East Germany, unemployment rates are higher than in West Germany. Not to forget that for roughly 40 years, this part of the country was completely isolated from the rest of Europe – that’s a bunch to catch up with, anyways. Unemployment and job insecurity leads to less financial security, less security in general. People feel ignored, they get frustrated. They fear for their own future. Fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate – Yoda already told us. It’s the path to the dark side.

This is one side of it. People sliding onto the dark path unknowingly, while on the other side the ones that are still on solid ground could help them. So, how are they gonna stop the sliders? I would now expect the open-minded, tolerant, formally educated non-AfD-voters to act reasonable and rational. But they don’t. They also react with anger. They try to fight fire with fire, hate with hate. They, prior to the elections, already lashed out on everyone who dared to even mention they could maybe vote for the AfD – and now that it has happened, they (thousands of Germans, including leading newspapers) brag about how they are the smarter, the better, the wiser “87%” that did not vote for the Nazis to enter our parliament again.

Fact is, the voters of the AfD are the ones with the highest percentage of disappointment-driven votes. While other party-supporters elect ‘their’ parties out of belief, or maybe because it was the best they could get, 60% of the AfD-voters gave their votes because they felt left behind from the rest of the political system. Let’s look at this in the big picture: roughly 72% of the voting-eligible people actually did participate in the elections. Now I might be completely off, but I do think at least a part of this 28% that did not vote is demonstrating frustration and disappointment over the political system by refraining to make use of their democratic rights, too. Less than 6% of the eligible voters were so disappointed that they decided to give their vote to the AfD. Only 3.7% of all eligible voters actually believe in the concepts of this party. Around 62% voted for the other parties. Now it might not be impossible, but definitely very hard to change someone’s beliefs about the world, so let’s forget about the 3.7% for a minute here: These 6% plus whatever is left in the 28% non-voters are the ones we have to pick up again and start listening to. In numbers, it means that of 62 million eligible voters, more than 20 million feel overrun. 3.5 million so much that they saw the AfD as the only way out of this desperation. Isn’t that sad?

A well-functioning society only works as a whole, not as a power-play with the strongest making the rules for everybody. Power can change, easily, it just takes the right people to come along, promise whatever one wants to hear, and harvest disappointed voters. And if we keep on splitting our society into “them” and “us”, logically, there will always be disappointed ones. And “we” keep on driving “them” towards the vote-harvesters. Just like in any human relationship we need to find compromises where everyone is listened to and heard.

We have to stop insulting each other. If we call all the AfD voters a bunch of idiots and racist pigs, we are doing exactly the same the representatives of the AfD are doing, when they call all foreigners criminals and rapists and job-stealers because of some outliers which exist in every society. Sure, you might argue that the voters still gave their vote to a racist party, but re-read the part I wrote about hearing only what you want to hear. Plus, you cannot tell me anyone is 100% satisfied with the entire program of the party they voted for. If you now take into consideration the individual frustration- or desperation-level, you might, in a real hypothetical thought, far away from everything you yourself believe in, understand that it could eventually lead to giving the vote to a party that promises improvement. Maybe they are even anticipating a split from the far right, much like it happened in Finland, resulting in more of an ‘alternative’ without all the extremist, discriminatory thinking.

Whatever the motivations of those supposedly secretly voting for AfD are, generalization is the dangerous tool these populists use, and we ought to be better than that. If we insult someone for voting a destructive party out of desperation, with allegories like throwing a Molotov-cocktail into your own house if you have a water damage (or something), we can just as well go to people who injure themselves because they are depressive, and start laughing at them. Yes, human reaction does not always make sense, especially not when emotions are involved. The boundaries for what one is willing to sacrifice for their own well-being are set individually. Banning those that don’t conform to what we would do, what we would say, if we were in their situation, is not only wrong and destructive, it also is very irrational. We cannot possibly know what we would do.

I understand the frustration over the election results. I understand the anger. But fact is: This happened. This is our country today. There are more than 30% among us that feel left out – what are we gonna do about it? We can call them stupid and stop talking to them – where does that lead to? How can that possibly change anything into something better?

In the end, the big decisions are up to the politicians, that’s right (you can, by the way, become one of those yourself. Just join a party if you really want to change something). But we cannot give up on conversation now. Even if it might not lead to anything – what’s there to lose? You won’t make it worse by arguing. You will most likely make it worse by banning the people that you disagree with – or then you won’t change anything, in the best case. Neither will you change your own well-being, by the way, because the anger will also bring you closer to the dark side. Yes, there are dark sides both left and right of the way. It’s time to fight hate with love and live up to Bruce Willis’ promises.

 

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Chicken or egg? Or: What comes first, solution or problem?

Sometimes it might not be obvious which event comes before another one. Sometimes, however, it is very very clear. If you want to ride in a horse carriage, you put the horse in front of the carriage and go.

Then there are people who ‘put the cart before the horse’. That’s commonly an expression for someone approaching the solution to a problem from the wrong way. Now, of course there might be many right ways to solve a problem – but there is indeed usually (at least) one way that clearly is wrong. In German, the idiom goes a bit different – we talk about ‘putting the headgear of the horse on its head, but starting from its butt’ (I swear it sounds more smoothly in German). Go ahead and picture that in your mind. Are you ever gonna ride in that horse carriage, with the carriage in front of the horse and the headgear somewhere stuck on the huge butt of the same?

Probably not too soon. However, in real life, people blinded by the fast success and exponential growth of businesses, people who also want a piece of the cake and think they deserve it, increasingly seem to try exactly this approach. They don’t care that it sounds insensible, they want the outcome so much that they believe if they just try hard enough, they will manage to squeeze the horse’s butt through its headgear some day.

Take “entrepreneurship”, for example. Pronouncing the term correctly is the first step on the ladder of success towards your own shiny business. The next step is taking as many courses on how to become a successful entrepreneur as possible. And then you’re basically there. Wait, except for this one tiny detail… ah right – what are you going to provide the world with?

When listening to people planning their start-ups, this seems to be a neglectable redundancy. It seems way more important to know exactly how many employees one would need for a hypothetical business in *something*, and which office chairs to use for the first own office. When googling “how to become an entrepreneur”, Forbes magazine suggests that there’s nothing more to it than simply “starting a profitable business”. And if the first one fails, starting another one. When I read such things, the big question mark forming in my head is usually preceded by thoughts like “why would anyone want to start a business if they don’t even have an idea in what” and “how is there an entire business of its own trying to encourage people to proceed with such nonsense”, amongst others. It reminds me of the talk you have in elementary school, when your world is simple and you have no clue of anything, but you do know that for sure you want to be famous one day.

Now here’s the thing: People who end up being famous usually just did the things they wanted to do, and found enough appreciation. Yes, even the Kardashians, if you think about it. And I reckon it is the same with starting your own business: If you have a good idea, if you noticed there’s something missing in this world, and no one seems to be taking care of it, you start doing it yourself. And if people like it, they’ll want a piece of it. For me, being an entrepreneur, just like being a researcher, is more about engineering a solution, trying to fix a problem, and answering questions. Like, please come up with the research question first, before you think about your publishable paper with a sophisticated approach and really fancy data. There are so many “results” out there that no one manages to tell a story about, because some significant correlation in a random regression just happened to pop up. Not only do I morally disagree with the backwards-approach of “finding a good answer” and then trying to force-fit it on a random problem, I also really doubt it works. It’s like playing jeopardy in real life – here’s your answer, now try to find a question.

If your idea is actually the solution to a problem, chances that it might be of use to others are pretty high.

Of course, people who start up their own business, after having decided to generate value not only for themselves but also for others, are benefitting from courses on how to get funding, how to structure sales and production and distribution, how to employ people if it grows. But nowadays, these courses don’t seem to be taken by people who already have an idea and now need to find a way to bring it to the world – no, these courses are usually full of those who simply ‘dream of having their own business’. Not long ago, I read a post by someone revelling in the idea of having a start-up, or many, because they were caught by the so-called ‘start-up-fever’ (comparable to ‘baby-fever’). They don’t want a business to generate value for the world, they want something nice and warm that’s their own and that they can love, and it loves them back. Also kinda the wrong motivation for reproducing, one would think.

No, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to create a business and generate value. It might be that you saw some businesses doing a horrible job, and you are of the opinion you can do it better. Or you saw something in a different country, and you would like to see it in your own, too. Or really you just wanna hop on the profit train and bring it to your own country, before someone else does. There are many reasons for coming up with the idea. But no matter what, I bluntly claim that the idea must be first. There really is no such thing as the chicken-egg-problem in entrepreneurship – if you have chicken, sell the eggs on the farmer’s market. If you have eggs, hatch them, and then make more and sell them on the farmer’s market. If you have neither, don’t rent a booth on the farmer’s market.

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USOddities – and some explanations.

The biggest thing I had with me when coming to the US for the very first time some weeks ago was probably my curiosity, which luckily fit very well in my three luggages. We all “know” this place, even without having been here ever – after all, no other country is this present in the news, TV series, and movies. We know how college life works, how working life works, and that the American dream means if you just slog away, you can become super rich, extremely successful and smoking hot. This, plus the fact that the US labels itself not seldom as the number one country of the Western world, or in general just the entire world, in terms of innovation, opportunities, and development, had my expectations sky rocket. I imagined something similar to Europe, just bigger, better, faster – and more efficient.

As big as my curiosity was, as huge grew my confusion when I discovered everything to be very different. From basically anything. The first US-impressions were still nailing it in terms of media-created expectations and stories my friends told me about the food-hunt, but then it was also so different from any other daily cultural aspect that I knew from Europe. It’s odd: Europeans once went to conquer this country, not even that long ago; they built their own little version of Europe over here, and then things must just have gone crazy. Isn’t it surprising how the seemingly same people come up with completely different solutions to the same problems, only because they are put in a different spot on earth? I heard Spanish people say that about Latin-America and the language development there – I think now I kind of get it. Trying to understand how to fit into this country, survive here, find my way around and especially, find out what I can eat here, will still take a while, I reckon. But still, I can’t stop pondering and speculating why on earth everything is so extremely different here.

For starters, capitalism might be an explanation. Sure, that doesn’t account for the Americans having decided to invent a weird string running through the entire bus that one can pull, instead of simple stop-buttons. A string that you can only reach when you manage to reach the windows. Try reaching the windows in a crammed 8-am-school-bus, good luck (but I don’t wanna complain, it is a nice and probably city-borne feature that the buses are for free)! Or for the green light being actually white and not green. Or explain what is going on with the toilet flush: Why is there a little swimming pool in the basin? I now know things about myself that I wasn’t even interested in and I desperately wish I could unsee again.

While these things might remain a mystery forever*, capitalism can help explain many other oddities. For example, that everything here is so extremely complicated. Of some things I know only through media and second-hand-reports, like how difficult it is to find a proper school for your kids, or how bureaucratic the voting process is; and other things I experienced first-hand. Finding food, for instance – it’s a challenge to get any non-processed food. While you do find restaurants at every corner, it is immensely hard to find grocery shops. The closest one to my house is about 1.5 kms uphill, and close means usually super expensive. I am talking Norway-and-beyond-expensive. Not even Finnish prices can reach up to the US ones, and that’s not just food, but also soap, washing detergent, bike-locks – anything one might need in their daily lives. If you really want to do some grocery shopping, you need to travel further – 3, 4 kms at least, it might be more around 6 to the next Walmart, which has ‘cheaper’ prices. Cheaper still means Finnish standards and slightly more – which is odd given the fact that Finnish prices bear a 24% VAT that is not implied in the prices here, and yet they are even higher.

You might wanna win the lottery first if you plan on buying some vegetables.

This means whenever you are in need of a pack of butter, but you don’t feel like making a day-excursion to a Walmart because you also need to eat, sleep, and work, you go and buy the butter for 4 dollars in the “closer” shop. Or then you just stop preparing food altogether and instead buy a hamburger meal at the nearest fast food location. Those are everywhere. And it’s like 3 dollars. Yes, you can get an entire meal for less than a pack of butter. That’s another weird thing: Products that seem to have undergone additional processes are cheaper than the raw version. My ground coffee is more expensive than the same sized package of the same ground coffee with chocolate or vanilla flavour. How, I am asking? Does the coffee actually come naturally with a sweet flavour, and in order to make it neutral, little coffee elves need to manually pick all the chocolate- and vanilla-pieces out, and get paid for it?

Right, why I wanna blame capitalism for this: Let me tell you about that one time a friend of mine asked me to help him with his homework. He does not study business, but had some finance-related classes to take. We had an argument about what the ultimate goal of a business is – my suggestion was to increase shareholder value and maximize the profit. His was to satisfy customers. You see, there is exactly the problem. Contrary to common beliefs and wishful thinking, the purpose of a for-profit business is ultimately to make money. Satisfying customers is just one of many tools to achieve that. Caring about the environment and how employees feel are just investments into making more profit due to better reputation. Yes, unhappy customers leave and buy their stuff at a different business, sure – but how about if they didn’t have any other option? Do you still need to care about their satisfaction as a successful business? Probably not. Making others happy is lots of work, right? Everyone who has ever been in a healthy relationship knows that painfully.

So here’s the thing: The population of the USA simply and firstly seems to be its own customers. The people being inhabitants, citizens, members of a society, comes second or third. Primarily, this country built its entire system on capitalism, a successful business with its population as one of the input factors and a few powerful institutions being the shareholders that collect the harvest. Healthcare? You can buy it, feel free to choose whichever provider you want. Education? Same thing. Private schools, chartered schools, home-schooling for the ones who prefer that – an equal quality of education seems to be rather secondary, the main purpose is to make profit with students and pupils. So, let’s see, what else do humans need? Food. But if they want it, they have to buy a car first in order to reach the supermarkets. So now you can also sell them car insurance, gas, drivers licenses. It’s a perfect system – for the profit-makers. And the customers won’t even leave, because where would they go? To a different country?

If the focus is on generating quick profit instead of satisfying the customer in the long-run, you as a consumer end up with huge ads trying to mislead you, a system that is mainly designed to take care of profit and not so much your well-being, and, in the end, a very shitty buying-experience.

I know I said after my Rome holiday that I have never been in a place where so many people so obviously wanted my money, no matter how much they would have to scam me for it. I take it back. It’s way worse here. You constantly need to be on edge to not make a mistake and accidentally pay more than you should. And it’s everywhere, in every daily situation. When you order something online, there are promotion codes which pop up to be used at check-out – you feel like you save money, but in fact they just earn money with inattentive customers. Because if the code is available for anyone, why not make the product cheaper in the first place? Right, because you gotta earn it! This is America, you have to earn everything here. If you want to buy stuff in a supermarket, you should know approximately four different types of sales taxes. Per state, or even per county. They are not included in the prices displayed, they come extra at check-out. You never really know how much money you are gonna pay until you actually pay it, and if you want to bring your friend something, good luck figuring out how much they essentially owe you now.

There’s advertisement everywhere. When I was in China, I was amused by the constant noise level that was omnipresent, each shop playing their own music over speakers facing outward, to the street. Here, the noise level comes in the form of flyers, emails, adverts on Spotify and TV, and in the shops, covering the actual prices. They might say something like ‘only today, save 1 dollar’, or ‘50% off the second item of the same kind’ and people see only the big 1 and buy the chocolate bar for 3 dollars instead of 4, and it doesn’t even taste good because apparently there’s no cows in this entire continent, so who knows what chocolate is made of here.

Whenever you leave your email somewhere (everybody wants your email. I am expecting at least 50 greetings for the next holiday from government and administrative offices, if not more), you’ll end up on two to five new mailing lists that you then actively need to unsubscribe from. Opt-in is not a thing here, and opting out is a major challenge. Even Amazon tries to scam you – that shows how protected we must be in Europe, by freely being able to order something and not subsequently receiving tips and ads and suggestions via email three times a day. I had to actively unsubscribe from every list of every Amazon-department there is after my last order. And then they have extra items there, so-called add-on items that don’t add to the accumulated price and only are shipped when you reach a minimum accumulated price before you add this item. I tried for 45 minutes to get free shipping by even adding the entire stock of drugs I might need in the next eight months, and then gave up and just paid the shipping costs.

Advertisements on Spotify that should discourage people to drive drunk or intoxicated don’t talk about the dangers – they address your moral system by warning you from ending up a loser without a girlfriend (she’s gonna leave you) and without a job (you’re fired because you don’t have a girlfriend, or something), if you drive drunk and get caught by the police. Yes, only if you get caught. It’s a wonder they don’t also advise you to do a hit-and-run in order to avoid the getting caught part. Status, money and achievement seem to be the ultimate goals here, and the ones who are successful don’t even hesitate to walk right over other people’s feet and heads for that. And the ones left behind nod in confirmation, and think to themselves that they probably just didn’t work hard enough if they are not at the top yet. And proudly sing their national anthem before every ordinary college football game.

It doesn’t always have to be so hard to master your daily life…

I feel a bit sorry for the people living here who got used to life being so complicated, who might not even know there could be an easier way. Who think that one day, they will also make it to the top and have an easier life – while the entire system is built so that only a few can survive at the top, because they need the heads of the others to stand on. I wanna take them by the hand and show them that it is also possible to have a daily life without the system throwing obstacles in one’s way constantly. It’s possible to actually focus on the real struggles in life, like family and hobbies and career achievements, instead of how to prepare a dessert for your friends’ dinner party in three days if you don’t have a car and no time to spend half a day on buses to the next Walmart and back. For me as a European it is for now slightly incredible how people simply accept being treated like customers in a really shitty monopoly, gulping whatever gets poured on them. Why don’t you stand up for your basic rights?* Go and complain to the customer hotline!

And, I really hope I get used to it quickly myself so that it doesn’t feel so damn hard anymore.

*suggestions and explanations are welcome by email. I do not wish to subscribe to your weekly newsletter, however.
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American Friendliness meets Finnish Oho-mentality – a comparison.

So here I finally am, in the Free World, the Land of Dreams, the country where anyone can become whatever they want if they just work hard enough. So much have I heard, so many movies seen, and even though I come from a Western culture myself, it’s all different. And new. And strange.

This was three weeks ago. By now, it’s even more strange, though I slowly get used to it – but that’s material for another blog entry. For now, let me stick to the initial impression I had when setting foot on the southern grounds of the US of A. The first thing I noticed was everyone being extremely friendly. Waiting for the cover to blow to reveal the commonly known myth of American friendliness as totally superficial, I might be overly excited too early. But three weeks in, it still feels very much as if the friendliness is genuine. If it’s not, well, then the people I’ve met so far are damn good at faking it. And, to be honest, I actually don’t care much whether it’s real or not, cause it still feels nice, for now. Really.

Especially when you come from such a long period of living in Finland. Somehow I kind of got used to the fact that my friendly greetings and head-nods and smiles are mostly ignored, equally by neighbors, colleagues, and superiors at work. That it is no rare event to be run over by a shopping cart and receiving merely a half-heartedly grunted “Oho!”, if anything, while your lifeless body is lying in pain on the ground and the offender is already far away in the next aisle. That a stranger rather slams the supermarket door in your face and quickly gets out of the same one, rather than waiting, holding the door, and thus eventually risking any sort of contact with you – even if it’s just eye contact. Beware! Contact to others, an underdeveloped concept of human interaction (inter- what?) in the cold north, where a minimum of private space is defined as at least one hectare of forest around an isolated cottage, is pure evil!

OK, yes, I sort of got used to that. But sometimes, just occasionally, a little bit of compassion would perhaps be nice, just a little bit of empathy… Well, little did I know what kind of huge culture shock I should have prepared myself for, changing environment so drastically: Here in the States, people are apologizing to you even if it was you who bumped into them (I always thought that was kind of a Canadian concept)! They already excuse themselves for taking up your space when still away at least two metres, and constantly everyone wants to know how you are doing! So even if you’re from a country with less contact-avoiding and introvert people, you might be up for a positive surprise when you enter the United States.

Because here, everyone seems to be content, on a general level. Grasping and believing this concept proves in difficult especially for me with my German complain-background – after all, there’s always something to improve, being content just stops evolution, right? But here, if nothing happens, the base-mood is a positive one. Passing strangers smile at you. The world is a happy place. If anything happens, and it’s bad, the rage about it doesn’t last very long. Strangers greet you, and complement you on random things while they are passing by. They ask you how you are, and yes, they expect you to give an answer (and ask them back). People constantly try to be supportive and considerate of one another. Cars wait till you cross the road, or stop to let you go first if they see you’re torturing yourself up a hill on your self-fixed seventy-years old kid’s bike. In Finland, even if you’re ON the zebra crossing, a place that should be safe for pedestrians, you better run when a car is approaching. Not only would they not stop, rumors have it they would also make you pay for the accident that might subsequently result. Because what the heck are you doing in the middle of the road? Everyone has to watch out for themselves! It’s a tough world out there!

Exaggeration aside, I admit that not all is bad in Finland, and not all is good in the States. But I’m not here to count you the numerous examples of advantages and disadvantages of each and every country. Let me instead point out the good things in one, and suggest to transfer and adopt them a little bit in the other one. It is indeed a fact that one of the things that bothered me the most in the past years in Finland was the focus on oneself and the reluctance to acknowledge those around you. I do enjoy the fact that in Finland, I can mind my own business in a supermarket, head down, not having to talk to anyone if I don’t want to. And it might be that after a while in the States, not being able to do that here will start bothering me. But as relaxing as this solitude can be, as frustrating it is when you enter the coffee kitchen at your office, and greet those that are already there, and they simply ignore your existence. It admittedly does get a bit better for a while if you’re the one who bribes them with cookies; but people forget, and not everyone likes cookies. Especially in the land of the glutenfree people.

I would wish for a Finland with a more American attitude when it comes to acknowledging the people around you. Give them a smile. Hold the door if you notice they are just two steps behind you. Oh yes, try to at least be friendly and kind when a customer asks you something, if you happen to work in the service industry (this one goes out to the flight attendants of my favourite airline – you know it’s you! Yes, I am literally scared of you!). If you don’t wanna greet strangers, at least greet back those people that greet you. Oh, and you might wanna redefine the term strangers – not everyone who has not exactly breast-fed you might be one.

This is my American Dream: When I come back to Finland, I want people to be nicer to each other. I know no one is deliberately evil and ignorant there, and I don’t expect the Finnish language to create an equivalent for the word “please” just yet. But the times of seclusion in the woods are over for most of you/us during 11 months of the year, so if you happen to live in a city, try to acknowledge the fact that there’s other humans living in the city, too. If everyone just watched out a little bit for each other, all should be taken care of easily, right?

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Walking In My Skin

whatsapp-image-2017-02-07-at-17-49-28“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

This is just one of the many brilliant philosophies inserted by Harper Lee into her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. And even though it’s a slightly unconventional alteration of the ‘walking-in-your-shoes’-metaphor, it should be considered frequently by us, much more frequently than we probably do. What it implies, however, is even more important: All we see, all we hear, all we perceive, is filtered by our personality, and coloured by our own bias. Someone offending us with an allegedly ego-hurting statement (let’s be honest, it doesn’t really hurt anywhere else than in this inflated construct blown up around our actual self), could not have an impact without the sting added by our individual filter. It is highly likely that the very same sentence that brings us in rage would not affect any other person ever.

whatsapp-image-2017-02-07-at-17-53-54Sure, sometimes manipulative people know about the characteristics of our filter, and they abuse those by adjusting the message they want to give us. They might specifically customise the message according to our personal weaknesses. But hey, the problem is not that they know about our weaknesses, or that they are able and willing to exploit them. No – the problem is that we let them! If we re-ran any message consciously and purposely through another, neutralising filter, one that takes away all the colours our perception had added automatically, it could not do much harm, could it?

I only lately realised that very often, when someone seems to use depreciating comments towards me, the actual depreciation is formed in my own mind. If someone assigns me to a certain group of people, the evaluation about this group being “good” or “bad” actually happens through my own bias. Naturally, I don’t see it that way, as I consider myself as the most tolerant and open-minded person there is (right?), so my first thought is “Why does this person diminish me like this?”, and based on my straight-forward personality, this is then also the first response the person gets. Only in the subsequent argument it turns out that the person in no way finds this specific group any less worthy than any other group – this was exclusively made up in my head. Only in my head, based on cultural values, past experiences, family background, or whatever, this group is worth less than any other. Yes, I know, I am working on getting rid of these prejudices, believe me.

everyone-has-a-choiceSo, by being assigned to the group I feel less respected by the person who assigned me. However, in most cases, people who “do” this to us mean neither harm nor are they aware of our prejudices. Yes, actually people tend to try to avoid conflict, and had they known about our bias, they probably would have thought twice before throwing such a mind-bomb. Especially if a reaction to such a thing is remotely comparable to my reactions to being (seemingly) treated unfairly… No, probably no one in their right mind would ever do this on purpose, unless they really like doomsdays.

We cannot change people, and we cannot constantly tip-toe around their feelings and perceptions. I am not saying we should ignore other people’s perspective – but what is even more important, is to understand our own. Because that’s where it starts. How we perceive things, positive, negative, good, bad, this is all made up in our head. Even if someone means us harm and wants to desperately hurt us with a comment, it is still our own choice how to perceive it – we can even turn the meanest comment into a compliment in our head, and live on happily. How cool is that?

So next time you find something that is said inappropriate, disrespectful, diminishing – think about your own values (I swear I’ll do the same). Why does it show little respect? You don’t know anything about the values of the other person, maybe for them it means something great, and only for you it is disrespectful because you yourself are biased and prejudiced.

And as soon as you detect a detrimental filter like that, it is about time to get rid of it, don’t you think? Happy 2017!

 

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The Gloriousness of Growing Up

riesterIt is feared, awaited with horror, and anticipated with disgust about who you are going to be. We try to postpone it as much as possible, push it away from us and try to cling as hard as we can to the status quo. No one wants to be this responsible, dull, fun-less adult that cares about future savings and loyalty points in their local supermarket. But you know what? Screw all these images, forget about these cliché connotations some boring-ass TV-ads implanted in your heads – growing up is amazing!

I wanna say it again: Growing up is awesome! I don’t mean the actual entire process of growing up from being born to the very end (let’s just call that life, for simplicity reasons?), but the point where you realize you actually managed to grow up now. That turning point, that threshold between being a naïve youngster and a fully responsible adult. Because yes, there is a line, and one day we all gotta cross it, sooner or later: Just imagine yourself crossing a finishing line at a marathon, imagine that moment you reach the goal as the first, and you run through this paper band (I have never finished a marathon first, but it surely is like that?), and everyone applauds you because you made it, and you are great and the best – YOU GREW UP!

Once you start caring less, your life becomes so much more

Once you start caring less, your life becomes so much more

But how can it be amazing, you ask? Don’t we have to stop being childish, or having fun, and isn’t it a shitload of work? Hell, no! It’s not! It’s just awesome! Ok, maybe it won’t be with an audience and a finishing-line-paper-band, but this moment in which you realize that some things are just not so important, and other things are, and the most valuable character in your own personal movie is and will always be yourself, you instantly become so relaxed. Less stressed. You can trust in yourself, and nothing should be going wrong. Welcome, now you grew up.

Like, do you remember all these times when you wanted to do something, but none of your partners in crime had time to join? Or when you really wanted to go to this concert, but no one else seemed willing to pay an extraordinarily amount of money to see what you claim to be the one and only hero of music – so you ended up not going, either? Well, here’s the good news: Once you grew up, you realize you can actually do stuff on your own! By yourself! Yes, and it will still be fun – or even more so!

But it is the company that makes the event worthy, everyone knows that – right? Well, yes, but there’s also hundreds of other people who go there for the actual event and not just as company for someone who goes there for the actual event, so how about you let them be your company? Go, suck in the atmosphere, be part of a group of people you might not have known before and might not see ever again, just for that moment – because hey, that’s what life is about, anyways! Friends come and stay and then leave again, some after some months, some after years, some maybe at the end of a lifetime. They are just visitors in your life. You can value them, you can appreciate them, but your life does not depend on them.

Alone but not lonely

Alone but not lonely

If you want to go out for a fancy dinner, go out for a fancy dinner. If you want to see a movie, go to the cinema. If you like snowboarding, you can also just go by yourself and snowboard. You don’t need to start doing everything alone now (unless you really want to), but isn’t it nice to know that you actually could? Cook, eat, sports, travel – there are no limits. You will be alone, but you won’t be lonely – it can be very relaxing to spend time only with your own mind and no one else. You don’t even need to talk things out loud, and most of the time you agree with your own thoughts – how awesome is that?

Also, you become so much less stressed about finding company once you realized that you don’t necessarily need any. If you want to do something, you can still announce to your friends that you’ll be doing this, and that they are welcome to join, but now you don’t need to wait for an answer anymore. If someone wants to join, they can. But if they leave you hanging for days and rather wait for any other, maybe better opportunity to pop up, screw them – it might be too late for them then, and next time they’ll know better. Or not. Who actually cares?

Yes, caring less about unimportant stuff is probably the most awesome feature of growing up. You can stop caring about not having company for things you want to do, and you can stop caring about people who are trying to bullshit you. You simply have neither the time (another feature when growing up: being so busy with work that you automatically stop caring about unimportant things simply due to the fact that a day has no more than 24 hours) nor the insecurity left to be thinking about what people might be thinking about you.

You might stop me from using bouncy castles, but you can never take cotton candy away from me!

You might stop me from using bouncy castles, but you can never take cotton candy away from me!

So what leads to this actual crossing-the-threshold-growing-up-feeling is you being busy with work and life and responsibilities you hopefully get a decent salary for. And the side effects are you becoming independent, self-confident, and determined. I have to stress this self-confidence thing again: Being an insecure teenager/early-twenties-er/mid-twenties-er/late-twenties-er wasn’t so much fun, after all.

And the best side-effect: You end up doing mostly only things you really want to do. See, growing up is SO MUCH fun! And now I gotta go and find myself an ice cream, some cotton candy, and a Gin Tonic – just because I can. Later!

 

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The fish is rotting from the head – whom to blame for elections_gone_wrong?

So here we are, it’s Wednesday morning in Europe, and our biggest nightmares have come true. The day that will from now on be remembered as the darkest November 8 in American history since it was taken from the Natives.

This is not supposed to be yet another analysis on politics and how things could have gone wrong, no, this is just a simple reflection on life and how we as humans treat it. When Trump started getting increased media attention all over the world in the beginning of the year, people still considered it as a joke. When I talked to my friends who study politics, they just said ‘no way this person will ever make it far enough to become president – let them make fun of him’.

I never studied politics. I have a rough understanding about what is happening in U.S. politics and how their president is elected. I don’t know the motivation behind politicians’ strategies and who exactly would benefit most from having a dumb puppet in the lead, someone who is easy to steer and to manipulate. I haven’t read into conspiracy theories, and I don’t want to because most probably, there’s a bit of a truth to each of them.

But what I understand is how angry humans work. It is happening not only in the U.S., it is happening everywhere. In my country. In my country of choice. The ‘small’ man is angry, because he feels treated unfairly. And probably he’s right. We live in a dog-eat-dog society where only the strongest win, but where becoming strong depends on so many factors you cannot influence yourself that fairness is merely a theoretical concept that Disney movies like to adapt. And the worst (and most dangerous) thing is that we don’t even notice. We might be hard-working, hard-studying, thinking that we deserve this because we earned it, because we fought for it, ourselves. But think back of that one slow kid in your class in elementary school, or the other one with the 7 siblings, or the one that never seemed to understand what was going on. Other kids made fun of them because they were slow. These kids’ answer was anger. Back then, there was no need to worry about it. Kids fight. It’s normal.

And then every day, school ends, and all the kids go home, and while you get a warm lunch and are monitored to do your math homework, maybe even assisted, these kids go home and watch TV. Or worse. Their parents don’t care, or maybe they are working double shifts to afford the rent. And no one cooks for them, but maybe they find some junk food from their older brother who also shows them how to smoke a cigarette.

Life is not fair. You think a 7-year-old kid knows that when it grows up, it will earn less, have less chances because it is less educated, and understand less, if it doesn’t change something now? You were prepped to be privileged from the start, that’s why you read this article now in a language that probably isn’t your mother tongue, and because you like to reflect on things and like to understand the reasons behind occurrences.

But you are not the majority. The majority has less chances and will end up with less education. Less understanding of things. It is easy for you to make fun of angry ‘dumb’ people because you see deeper, wider; but it won’t change anything. It will only make them angrier.

Ignorance is the biggest punishment we can treat someone with, and as long as we keep on ignoring those who are less privileged than ourselves, we will pay the price in the end altogether because we share this planet. If people feel discontent but they lack the capability of understanding what let them into this situation, they develop anger and try to find someone to blame. So if a loud, raging guy (in my country, a loud, raging woman is at the top of the populist-anger-parties) comes and starts pointing fingers, of course they will love him. They will feel heard, finally, and finally someone seems to be wanting to take care of their needs. They don’t understand that what he claims does not make sense. Is not feasible. They have a problem, and he promises a solution. And that’s all that counts. And with every smartass, witty, seemingly very funny and sharp (but only to the clever people) comedian making fun of the loud hoser, his supporters feel reassured in supporting him – because it’s ‘the others’, the ones that have more money and better living conditions, the ones that look down on them, who bully their leader. And even the people that had not heard of that guy before, suddenly they will. Because by being made fun of, his media presence is just emphasized. Showing clips of his speeches that make no sense only make no sense to those who understand more. Those who understand less might have not seen the speeches up to that point – but now they do, and they like it. Maybe, if Trump had been ignored just as much as the minority elite ignores the needs of their counterparts, he wouldn’t have won today. Or maybe he would have nevertheless.

Perhaps he is just another one of the less privileged people who failed to invest in his own education. Perhaps, if he was less ‘white trash’, and a bit more literate instead, he would not create anger and hate, point fingers and blame innocents, grope women and talk non-sense the entire day. But we will never know what is going on in his head (after all, this could just be a strategy). Yet there is one thing we know for sure: as long as we behave like a two(or more)-class-system that feeds a small group at the top and kicks down to the mass at the bottom, we will have to lie in the bed we made ourselves. The fish is rotting from the head.

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