Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

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A few thoughts around Christmas and myself

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Some semi-random thoughts that have gone through my head the last few days:

  1. Christmas is one of the rare cases where I can feel a certain degree of loneliness: Normally, I am perfectly happy on my own;* however, the mixture of the family-centric holiday and a fair bit of nostalgia (cf. the next item) puts matters of family on my mind. Even so, it is only partially an actual (fleeting) wish for a family—the bigger part is a feeling of being too different and/or of having (in some sense) failed at an aspect of life.

    *For as long as I can remember, I have preferred books and TV (and later e.g. the Internet) to people.

    This is radically different from my thinking on regular days, where I tend to view the prospect of children and the associated responsibilities and problems with abhorrence, while being ambivalent* or even negative towards the idea of a wife. The one prolonged exception to this was a period of a few months after my mother’s death, when I seriously contemplated looking for a wife, likely as a reaction to the shrinking of my “old” family. (I postponed this until my sabbatical, but the urge was long over by the time that I finally was able to begin this, long delayed, sabbatical.)

    *I like the idea in principle and would be very happy, should “Miss Right” stumble into my arms; however, my experiences with women, current divorce rates, whatnot, make me seriously doubt my chances of finding someone with a sufficient long-term compatibility that we will both be happy for the duration—not just a few weeks, months, or years. Most women turn out to be obviously incompatible quite soon. (Going into the why would double the length of this text, but I stress that compatibility is not an absolute value judgment—it is a statement about how well two or more entities suit each other.)

    As for “being too different” (etc.): This is something that I normally consider irrational—I live by my own standards, not those of others. However, when I am exposed to how large the differences are, as with e.g. Christmas, it can be hard to not feel “off”.

    More generally, Christmas appears to bring out a similar contrast in life or a feeling of “being on the outside looking in” among people with no or little family. I can only imagine how it is for those who actually are lonely to begin with…

  2. Nostalgia is by its nature bitter-sweet, being a longing for something lost and (usually) unrecoverable. Mostly, for me, the positive parts outweigh the negative, either be it through pleasance of recollection or through the opportunity to learn something about myself. Christmas appears to be different, because my main Christmas memories (cf. a text from last Christmas) are so far back that I was a radically different person (e.g. at age four, while I am now closing on forty-four), and I am not just faced with my-life-as-it-used-to-be but with myself-as-I-used-to-be. While I would not wish to go back and lose what I am today, I do have a strong feeling of loss, as if I had had a little brother who died or as if I somehow could look back into a past life* with the knowledge that this past incarnation was dead.

    *I do not actually believe in past lives, but the idea is quite useful in this context.

    This feeling also makes me re-evaluate my take on Time Lords (a potentially good further illustration): I watched a lot of “Doctor Who” a few years ago and was particularly fascinated with the idea of multiple (recollected) lives—imagine the understanding and wisdom that could be gained through having lived a dozen-or-so lives, all with a different personality, preferences, skills, experiences, … By now, I fear that the risk of pain would outweigh the positives—imagine having all that nostalgia and “self-death”.*

    *To which at least the extrovert must add the deaths of countless friends, companions, lovers, …, that simply had a shorter life-span—an aspect sometimes mentioned on the show.

  3. I tend to view holidays as “nothing special”*. Indeed, I have ignored almost all holidays since I became an adult—no decorations, no special food, no special activities, no whatnot. My everyday life is good enough as it is, so what would be the point of going through the effort? Christmas and/or New Year’s** is a considerable exception. It is true that I go through less effort than many others;*** however, what I lack in effort must be weighed against the thinking that I usually end up doing. (Also see a much older text.)

    *And did just yesterday claim in an email that Christmas did not feel very special this year, with all the other free time that I had through my sabbatical—it appears that I was wrong.

    **After my parents divorce, I usually celebrated Christmas with my mother and New Year’s with my father, which caused both holidays to take on a Christmas character.

    ***I put up very little in way of decorations (or, like this year, never get around to them at all), have special food only in as far it can be bought ready-made, do not go to church, do not go caroling (not that a Swede would), etc.

  4. When Christmas, other holidays, vacation periods, sometimes even weekends come, most people appear to stop writing and reading blogs, participating in online forums, and similar. This is highly surprising to me: They have the time and energy to do such things on work-days, but when they finally have a bit of spare time and really* should take the opportunity to increase their activities, well, then they decrease them or cease them altogether… Some might, obviously, be stuck somewhere without an Internet connection, but this is bound to be a minority. Some might be more swamped than usually, but how much extra stress does it take to outweigh not having to work?** Ditto those who want to prioritize family—push the freed work and commute hours onto the family and there will still be plenty of time to go around.

    *I assume that most of these enjoy such activities. Those, presumably a small minority, who for some reason force themselves are obviously given a pass. (Then again, if they have to force themselves, would it not be a better strategy to keep the post-work evenings free and reserve such tasks for weekends and vacations?)

    **A sub-category are those who do not have extra days free and just have the extra stress. However, this is again likely to be a minority, and does not explain the phenomenon during weekends, vacation periods and more low-effort holidays than Christmas.

    Each to his own, but, even after close to twenty-five years on the Internet, this still puzzles me.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 25, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Encounter with a real-life leftist feminist

with 2 comments

As the recurring reader knows, I am less than thrilled by some of the people I meet online. However, based on my experiences so far, I have assumed that they are more moderate or more varied off-line—just like a basket-ball player does not run to-and-fro, jump up-and-down, and throw balls around in daily life. Even when I was myself politically active (and had a greater in-person exposure to others active in a variety of parties), I found this to be the case.

Yesterday, however, I encountered a woman who was a caricature of a leftist feminist—to the point that I actually considered the possibility that she was an actress trying out a character on the group (the participants of a one-day seminar).

Picture a middle-aged woman; hair semi-unkempt and tied behind her head; little make-up, but a contrasting red lipstick; horn-rimmed glasses; an odd red dress; and an unhappy, often angry, face.

During the individual presentations, she mentioned that she had once been a member of the German autonomew movement (known for its extreme opinions and methods—including violent confrontations with the police)—but that this was a thing of the past, from which she had repented.

As the day proceeded, however, it became very clear that was still strongly convinced leftist, who turned every discussion onto some angle of a leftist or feminist agenda—regularly interrupting the leader of the seminar and, on balance, talking about as much as he did (and more than the other participants put together). Now, I have nothing against a discussion or an excursion into an interesting side-topic (quite the contrary, as those who know me can testify); however, she moved off the actual topic and went off on long rants with such persistency that the situation become untenable. Without her presence, 1–2 hours of the 6-hour seminar could have been saved or filled with more valuable content (even allowing for other discussions ensuing). Further, her aggressiveness often made it hard for other participants to get a word in.

As for the content she provided, the general impression that I have from leftist and feminist blogs was affirmed, including:

  1. An underlying anger/moral indignation and little insight into other perspectives than her own.

  2. The stating of very trivial insights as great truths that needed to be brought to the people. For instance, she correctly, but tritely, stated that the concept of a citizen as a “customer” of a governmental agency differed from the common connotations of the word—and then forcefully went on about how this was something that needed to be explained to the masses…

    (As an aside: While I too find this use of “customer” annoying, it can possibly be justified by considering it an abstraction. Notably, I have seen academic discussions where even those selling have been considered customers, e.g. making both the person buying an apple from a store and the company selling the apples in bulk to the store “customers” of the store.)

  3. Jumping to negative conclusions about what others said and meant. Most notably, the seminar leader related an anecdote about how he had once been confronted with an epileptic attack in one of his employees. As he stated that this was something he hoped never to witness again (with the clear contextual meaning that he merely wished to stress how unpleasant such a situation was), she immediately accused him of not wanting to hire more epileptics… This interpretation was not only far-fetched (and explicitly denied by the him), but also effectively the opposite of Hanlon’s Razor.

    At some point, she even started to discuss how she disliked how several of the other participants were sitting quietly, without “revealing anything about themselves”. (Her emphasis on the latter part was heavy, leaving the impression that she saw this as more-or-less immoral.) I only barely managed to refrain from citing the adage that it is better to remain silent and be thought an idiot than to open ones mouth and remove any doubt (implying that she, herself, would do well to heed this statement). As I did try to explain to her, there are a number of reasons why hers is an unfair sentiment: Different people learn in different ways—and we were there to learn, not to reveal ourselves to strangers. (In a deeper discussion, there would be a number of other factors involved, including that some may simply be shy among strangers, unwilling to interrupt others, having had a sleepless night, which negatively affected their abilities, whatnot.) Certainly, her own participation brought a negative net value to the group, and we would have been better off, had she kept quiet.

  4. Showing signs of great prejudice and indoctrination. For instance, she went on at length about some phenomenon she did not like (I was a bit tuned out and missed the details, but the area was unethical or illegal business methods) and ending with the (incorrect) claim that this would be neo-liberalism. Similarly, she went off on a rant about how the immigrants in Cologne were to insecure to stand up for themselves (something I have not noticed…) and too willing to adapt to the German way (ditto), and how Cologne was unusually “patriarchal” (a word that is one of biggest red flags around).

Oh, and she was also very loud and waved her arms around well into the personal space of those around her—often without even looking in the direction of the wave.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 28, 2010 at 7:10 am