Overheard on a bus in Malta

I just got back from Malta yesterday though it will probably take a day or two to get back into posting. But for now a funny interaction overheard on a bus, between two young English women (apparently working in some kind of gym or spa).

Life’s struggles continue, even here…

There was a rundown of various co-workers and a subtle struggle for bragging rights between the two with one clearly the more dominant (we’ll call her Marcia) but the other doing what she can to chip away at her armor (let’s call her Jan).

“What about Arthur?” said Jan.

“He’s a strange old prick!” said Marcia in an exasperated voice.

“Yeah, but I rather like him…”

“I love him!” said with a firm nod and “end of discussion” tone of voice.

Game and set – Marcia.

 

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I’m Still Standing (just not better than I ever did)

Haven’t been posting cause I’ve been busy catching up on some work and preparing for a trip to a Mediterranean Isle (leaving very soon for a week or so). I’m bad at posting and running so I put this last on my to do list. Anyhoo, I’m off but will resume sometimes after the Easter holidays.

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Mirror, Other Mirror….

On the surface of it, large scale immigration to Europe from Middle Eastern and North African countries doesn’t make a lot of sense. They haven’t been economically necessary since the 1970s (or 1980s at the latest) yet the numbers keep rising. Their academic record is poor, their economic contribution is modest and offset by the enormous costs that they run up though welfare and imprisonment. They tend to be poor at meaningful integration as even those born in Europe often show less than native mastery of the language of their new countries. There is no outmarriage and they only interact with the local population when they can do so entirely on their terms.

Hiring someone ‘with an immigrant background’ from the Middle East or North Africa is liable to be headache as they’ll start agitating for special concessions to the dress code or work schedule (so most people find reasons to not hire them). A rational immigration policy would start looking to turn off the faucet but they still keep coming. They’re obviously doing something that important people want, filling a niche that locals don’t.

Then it hit me. One reason (there are others) European governments are keen on continuing Muslim immigration (despite their generally terrible track record) in because they provide a handy, domestic Other (yes, partly replacing Jews in that role). Europeans of different countries may hate each other historically, but they can and do commiserate with the hopelessness of their Muslim immigrant population and the headaches they cause (I’ve seen it happen).

Self and Other

Both at the individual and collective level human interactions have their own specific algebra that is all about equations and keeping things in balance. There is no way to make everybody closer without making anybody more distant. More allies in one direction means more enemies (or at least non-allies) in another. One way of making old enemies friends is by creating a new common enemy.

Rather than create an international dynamic with an enemy country which could lead to war, importing a minority to be a constant thorn in the side of the native population is perhaps a sound strategy (as long as the numbers are kept reasonably low). A population which has been notoriously unsuccessful of any kind of organized political opposition in their own countries is seen as unlikely as challenging the established political order. What could possibly go wrong?

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Spain…. ¿Do I Need to be Worried About You?

In the last two weeks or so I’ve seen two short Spanish horror/thriller movies and I’ve gotta say…. I’m concerned. The first was La Cueva (The Cave) from 2014 and then there was El Cadáver de Anna Fritz (The Body of Anna Fritz) from 2015. Both are among the most disturbing movies I’ve seen in the last ten or so years.

The Cave is mostly a found footage nightmare about a group of youngish adults on vacation in the Baleares who impulsively decide to take a look into a cave and then go a little deeper and then a little deeper and then things turn to predictable shit.

The Body of Anna Fritz is about an orderly in a hospital who takes a picture of a beautiful dead celebrity who’s been taken to the morgue and then sends it to his friends, then the friends arrive and want to see her for themselves and things rapidly devolve into depravity and worse….

What’s surprising is that both are so unsettling without resorting to anything remotely supernatural. There’s a very short moment in the Cave where the viewer relaxes and thinks “Okay, now the weird things will start happening” but.. nope. The horror here is all too human. The Body of Anna Fritz depends on an unexpected and unexplained in the movie event (but which most viewers have presumably heard of).

I reccomend both movies for those with strong nerves (and stomaches) but they also make me wonder about Spanish collective mental health. Spain has produced some disturbing movies before (think Tras el Cristal) but the nature of these movies don’t seem like typical shock fare. There’s a…. thoughtfulness behind them that points to the idea that the directors are communicate more than fear or dread or disgust.

It could be that these have the artistic function of safety valves, allowing the audience to purge stress and anxiety, or they could be symptoms of a society on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown. I’d kind of like to know which is the case before I take my next trip to Spain.

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Poland’s Missing Other

This has me thinking a bit more about the Other. Of course all people’s have multiple others that exist at different levels of abstraction. When I said that Poland’s Others are Russia and Germany (usually in that order though sometimes Germany outdoes Russia in Otherhood) I meant it. But that’s only at the international level.

As Others neither works without the… other. They complement each other as Others. As a Polish person explained to me years ago, Germany is often admirable but the language and customs create no feeling of common connection while Russia is never very admirable but the similarity of language (and some cultural features) mean there is often a feeling of common connection.

But that leaves Domestic Others – the people Poles not want to see when they look in the mirror. Of course prior to WWII Polish people’s domestic Others were the Jews. After WWII during the communist period most people’s Others were (roughly) Party Members (among which Jews were thought to be wildly overrepresented).

Modern Poland is an example the dangers of not having a familiar Other. Since the end of communism, Poles have no common collective domestic Other which is maybe why politics and opinions have become so divisive and divided and why so many Polish people struggle to find the Jews among themselves. The Jewish presence is both idealized, demonized, longed for and hated and the general lack of overt Jewishness (a visible Other to use a negative role model) leaves people disoriented and they lash out at each other politically in more and more destructive ways.

What’s weird is that from an American perspective, Jewish appearance and some stereotypical Jewish behavior are both very common in Poland and many people have some trace of Jewish ancestory (usually from converts to Christianity, often very long ago). East Germany was once described as a place where at any given time half the population was spying on the other half. Poland at times seems to be a place where at any given time half the population is hiding its Jewish roots from the other half.

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Feminism…. is still Dead

This gruesome spectacle (warning: the worst graphic in the world might induce seizures) provides more evidence, as if any was needed, that feminism is dead. Just two sample quotes from reporter who originally reported this case (including reporting the suspect’s desire to be referred to as ‘they’ instead of ‘he’).

“I was like, ‘Holy shit, I don’t want to be misidentifying Pablo”

A woman was killed by a biological man and the reporter is concerned about his pronoun comfort level.

“I look back to the person who had written me, and she was like, ‘Thank you so much’”

Two women with a common goal: Making sure the pronouns used about a probable cold-blooded killer (who’s biologically male) don’t cause him discomfort.

This is a pretty far cry from Sisters Doing It For Themselves, it’s Sisters Doing It For Him.

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Let’s Shake…. Your Hands! Your Hands! The Horror! The Hooooorrrrrooooorrr..

Since people were commenting on Trump’s very weird behavior with Merkel I thought I’d share my theory thanks to a bit of info I recently found out (apparently old news in Germany).

Merkel is a compulsive fingernail biter, apparently to the point where sometimes there is blood around the cuticles (I’ll spare you the picture) and Trump is well known as a germophobe. Put the two together and… he was probably grossed out by her hands.

Not a nettes Bild!

He could manage an initial handshake (after which he probably boiled his hands in chlorox) but was not anxious for a repeat. The idea of shaking a hand that had been in her mouth and that might have traces of saliva and blood… the body language looks to me like he’s shutting down.

He’s retreating to his happy place.

Please note that this is not a defense, not being able to overcome one’s issues is not very presidential. Part of the job description is participating in pointless public rituals that no sane person would want to have anything to do with. And part of that is petty mind games, I wouldn’t put it past Merkel to realize what happened (it couldn’t be the first time) and played with it, like Putin tried to scare her with his dog.

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