Archive for » September, 2010 «

So nowadays we box up men, objectify them, and we market them. Ever since the 80s I’ve had a feeling that things will change. In the 80s and 90s women were marketed and objectified, but nowadays it’s turn for the guys. So, what’s wrong with the picture: from a marketing point of view – it draws attention, but it’s silly; from guy’s point of view – offensive, because it is not only a girl’s toy (I know at least a few men who would be interested in such toys), and from aesthetics point of view… blah… :)

Men objectified

Men objectified

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I am an immigrant and will always be.

I was born an immigrant.

Immigrant is a state of mind.

State of the being.

A philosophy.

Way of existence.

I will be an immigrant even in my country of birth (see, on purpose I am avoiding the expression “my country”).  Anyway, on immigration later; this blog post is about something else.

Social media is a neat tool. Like a hammer. Or a pitchfork. Or like a blender. Or like something unheard of before.

Today I got a hefty flashback of my early immigrant days, when I was still an ‘immigrant in training’. As I was browsing through some social networking site, I noticed a status update of a friend stating: “It’s challenging ordering a sandwich from someone who not only speaks English poorly, but is also an idiot.”

And here comes the flashback flying like a boomerang. Smack on the head like a clumsy pancake. With a sound effect even: blioinghhhhh.

So, when I was a kid (in my 20’s, so yes – a kid) I immigrated to the US. And as I was busy surviving, it turned out to be a good idea to get a job at a coffee shop. Not too demanding of a job, decent hours, not much of money, but at least they were letting me keep the bagels which didn’t sell during the day, since they were supposed to dump them in the trash anyway.

So this is how I pretty much got through college. Bagels for breakfast every day – I think I have eaten a bagel in any possible way known to man, but that’s a different story.

Here comes the flashback: one day a client of the coffee shop approached the manager and told him that it was very hard to understand my English with my thick accent and that I should be fired, since I do not provide customer service up to the standards. The manager looked at the client, (by the way, I was still on my shift when this was happening, so I know for sure) to make sure that the client was not joking, laughed at the client and asked them to leave.

Then the manager came to me and said “Don’t worry about it. You know I need you.”

So at the time this story didn’t impress me much. After all, the client was stating the truth – in their eyes I was an idiot with a thick accent. Years later, though, as I revisited the story I realized that the manager and the client were both right, but still the manager was more right: I was needed more than the single client was needed as a paying customer. It was hard to hire proper English speakers for this position, and even if they would come to work at the position, in about 2 to 3 months they would either leave or ask for a higher position.

It turns out that from an economical perspective, the manager had no choice, but to laugh and cover the story with a 5c raise per hour to my paycheck. And yes, speaking proper English while serving the cup of perfect coffee is not something the tax authorities were preoccupied with.

Go figure.

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I am not an expert on political topics, I am not even that good in history (I spent countless hours sleeping in the history classes in high-school), but I sure am expert on social shame, guilt and stupidity.

And this is how I got a déja-vu moment yesterday, around 12.30 am: …

Wait, a few other stories first. From when I was growing up.

Growing up in Eastern Europe wasn’t easy, let me tell you. I remember the green passports, where with large font was written the owner’s city of birth, right on the first page. And people were not allowed to travel to other cities just like that, and they were not allowed to live in other cities than where they belonged. (The only way to avoid this internal discrimination was to get a job as a bus driver in the capital). And yes, you can imagine how people would discriminate against each other, based on where they come from. Later on this ban was lifted, and years later the huge tsunami of internal immigrants flooded the capital. After so many years the suppressed love towards the big city had burst into… filth and unemployment, as it turned out later. But at least the dreams were materialized. And until today, the cars in Bulgaria have the new EU-style registration plates and the typically bulgarian-style letters indicating where the car is from. So, that’s that: long time suppressed love turns into a tsunami, then the feelings of discrimination remain for generation(s).

Another great embarrassing story in Bulgarian history (and yes, one that makes me be ashamed to call myself “Bulgarian”) is the story of the “big trip”, or the “Big excursion”, as it is known in Bulgaria. I remember how one day my parents told me that they had to go work in some other town for a while, because the Turkish people had fled the country. As a kid, this seemed kinda rational at the time – yes, they left, there is no one else to pick the crops from the fields, so the government at the time had a campaign to pay anyone to collect the tobacco, potatoes, corn and so on left behind by the bulgarian turks. I remember when my parents came back after a month of hard work and my mom told me how they had been told to go to village X, and how they were allowed by the government at the time to use the houses and the belongings of the vanished Bulgarian turks in order to live and work. I remember the story how some 300,000 people had left Bulgaria over night and had left most of their personal belongings, their houses, gardens, animals… And the reason why? Because someone had tried too hard to assimilate the immigrants by changing their names to strictly bulgarian ones. Go figure. (By the way, according to this law I would have been in trouble as well, since my name is not Bulgarian either. Ha ha, right? )

And then, later on, in the 90’s, I remember the birth of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (ДПС), which slowly creeped into the political life, and slowly got into the parliament, and slowly grew to be the 3rd and the decision making party in the Bulgarian political life. And both the lefts and the right were ready to ignore the problem, ignore the party, ignore the integration.

So, here I am, in the most democratic country and the most politically sane one, looking at the party leader’s announcements after the election results. And looking at the faces of the people being surprised that the newly born extremist left party (SD) has received 21 seats in the parliament. Here is the picture: the leaders of the major parties are bitter, dueling on who is a winner and who is a loser, and screaming that they are not going to work with the new ones from the SD and will look for decision making votes for quotas from other parties.

So, let’s follow some basic logic here: if a party can get 300,000 votes (which gives them 21 seats), then this means that there are people which are interested in their ideas and proposed methods of implementation of these ideas. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the only difference between the political parties is their proposed implementation, otherwise, the parties all have one goal. So, where was I? If a party can get N number of votes and gets into the parliament, then this means that the party has audience and that implementation methods involve problems which concern certain number of people. And when the ‘certain number of people’ passes a threshold, then the party goes in the parliament. This is simple: the political system is based on this rule.

Now, if there are 300,000 people involved into a circle of thoughts, that indicates that there is a need for attention in that area. I personally will not take sides, will not make a statement on the immigration situation in Sweden, nor whether Sweden’s membership in the EU should be reconsidered. I am not a specialist, nor am I well educated in the field. It’s just that last night, seeing the bitterly-angry faces of the politicians and the spectators made me feel a bit … How should I say it… silly, or guilty, or ashamed, just as I was feeling long time back as a kid.

Think about it: screaming that you will ignore something / someone (an idea, a person, social group, a party, and so on) just will not do it. After all, it has been proven on many levels a long time ago that the ‘Ostrich’s head in the sand’ solution does not work. And yes, I think that it does not matter if it is an extremist left, extremist right, extremist cosmic party – the mere existence of it and the fact that people get to vote for them indicates that there is a boiling chain of thought which cannot be ignored.

Let’s grow up now.

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So, the political circus ends tomorrow. No more stunts, no more show for the masses. And I guess everyone, including the politicians will go back to their gray routine.

Even in a society, where everyone is individually smart (on average) and where people are collectively stupid as a large group, there are many items in the system which just do not make sense.  So, this show repeats every 4 years, promises and accusations fly around, faces get printed on posters. And even though the single person realizes that not even half of the promises from 4 years ago have been even touched, the socially stupid masses rush into the state of excitement and line up to vote. And a day after the voting circus is over, everything gets reset and starts from 0.

Why? Because after the results are announced, a big part of the politicians’ work depends on who else was elected and their points of view.

The promises and the platforms the groups stand behind vary, and sometimes even compromises can be made in order to get a bigger piece of the pie. Nowadays the political stage is dominated by great speakers and actors, presentable men and women, verbally savvy people who generally know what the masses want to hear and what promises would get the most seats.

The worst part is, that the biggest part of ideas are overlapping anyway, even between the supposedly opposite parties. It is just the intention for the implementation of the ideas which differentiates them. Lets see: they all talk about better schools, they all want more jobs, better welfare and so on. There is no party which would not want to promise any of these items. And the entire society wants the best outcome of the work put into building a better country. And there is no party which will neglect too much or too many of these essential assets of the society, for the fear of not being re-elected.

So, here is how our political system reminds me of a Vegas casino craps. The individual voter goes to the poll, votes for a person from a party, which they do not know much about and hope that things get better in the next 4 years. So, basically, voting and Vegas casino games have similar chance of voters / players success. Think about it: only part of the people go to vote, the rest are too lazy or ignorant; then from the ones that go to vote, only a very small part are really interested into what is happening and who is who, and actually only very few people would know what the difference is between the implementation ideas of the different parties, let alone the ideas of the different individual candidates from each party.

Actually, what I would personally hope to change very soon in our political system is the following: voting should be mandatory, and before the voting people should be given quizzes on who is who and what their ideas are, as well as history questions. :)

Also, voting should be done online as well as in person – this way much more people will get to vote, especially the very busy younger generation (and the one that should be most interested in the decisions made in the political and social spheres). Also, there should be elections much more often than every 4 years. And there should be online voting (mandatory!) on important decisions taken by the parliament.

Who would want that? And who wouldn’t? Imagine if the politician’s work was 90% to listen to the voters and 10% to come up with ideas which serve the nation, and then the nation itself gets to vote on the politicians’ proposals? Not bad, but then it would be much harder to get funds and bigger pieces of the pie as a politician.

Go figure.

One more thing, though: imagine (not that it ever happens, right?) that your politicians’ top priority is who is going to drive the best model of Mercedes, or imagine that in front of the voting hall there is a certain person with a notebook taking notes of who voted and who didn’t… But things like this happen only… in some other reality. Not here, and not now.

Anyway, the political parade is over tomorrow. See you in 4 years again.

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A sunny day in Sweden. It’s a blessing. Just ditch everything else you have to do and go out and take pictures! Yea, start by eating a smörgås. Then eat some more pancakes. Then add some coffee. And then go for the action pictures… :)

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It is so great when you try to cook something, and the result is completely unexpectedly better!

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