Regaining momentum

The time I spent apart from the blog has been dedicated to research and meditation: research so that the future topics I’d share would be substantial and useful, and meditation, so that I could fulfill my purpose without treading on anybody’s sensitivity.

What I found out during my brief hiatus gave me many a mixed feelings. For instance, I still couldn’t sleep with the thought of the sterilized indigenous women in Peru during the ’90s. Yet at the same time, I am inspired by the forceful solidarity shown by the country’s women groups and the strength of the victims despite being abandoned by their husbands and being impoverished in the process.

I was also saddened upon realizing how many lives of Jewish people cost the preservation of Paris and its monuments during the II World War. But I am currently amazed at how the Jewish community seems to have overcome the betrayal and chose to live peacefully with the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

I am so disappointed at Aung San Suu Kyi for her non-reaction to the Rohingya persecution in Burma, but I am hopeful that the refugees could soon build a new life in a new place where they will be respected and accepted regardless of their religion and beliefs. What’s more, I have faith that the effect on the following generations may be the emergence of more open-minded people, tolerant and willing to embrace diversity.

I am frustrated at the  Philippine Government where the current president Rodrigo Duterte is proving only to be a different Chief of State (not PNoy Aquino, not Erap Estrada, not Gloria Arroyo, and so forth), but is not really intent on constructing a different society. His actions divide the country instead of uniting it, he is a classic populist who has to resort to creating an enemy so he could stay relevant, and his supporters seem like blind, rabid dogs who are unable to objectively evaluate his actions. But all these have given me the chance to prove once again how resilient the Filipinos are. It just makes me wonder at what point a genuine revolution would take place, not to repeat historical patterns of dirty politics, but to really bring about change that would benefit the people.

I am flabbergasted by the Catalonian situation and quite worried about the future of Spain, the country that has hosted me for almost half my lifetime and who has given me what I have now. I’m sorry but I’m still on the process of thinking what good this is doing or bringing to me, personally. It still hasn’t occurred to me as of the moment. People are currently stressed, the uncertainty is depressing a lot of them, and logic seemed to have disappeared from the minds of the separatists. It’s heart breaking… it’s like seeing one of your siblings disowning your family and not wanting anything to do with you anymore.

Other news have had the opposite effect: making me happy at first, and then at least pensive after some time. Like the time I read that the Philippines will send a candidate to the Reina Hispanoamericana beauty contest. I was happy to think that finally, my country’s common history with other former Spanish colonies is being recognized. I’ve always believed that Philippine schools should at least incorporate 4 hours in the Philippine History curriculum talking about the many parallelisms between us and the Latin American countries. But then I asked myself: beauty pageant? Really?

Feminism and gender equality are on the rise, much more than in the past thanks to social media awareness along the entertainment industry’s efforts to boost such awareness.  And this thought made me so happy I slept really well for weeks. That was until I started to keenly observe how some feminists keep on imposing their beliefs on their fellow women. I thought that the basis of this movement was empathy? This made me feel disillusioned (and  made me decide to not be a feminist but be a humanist instead).

I’m glad that Trump is so dumb, he can’t actually help but show his true, stinking colors reacting the way he did about the plea for help coming from San Juan’s (Puerto Rico) mayor. I’m glad that people (especially his voters) are having a chance to see it for themselves. But I am mad at how many vulnerable people (babies and children, old men and women, the sick and handicapped, etc) are suffering more than they should because of this person’s uselessness. And I also realized that most of his supporters would just be blind apologetics anyway…

At this moment I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t even classify my feelings towards the oppressed Venezuelans, our Muslim brothers who thirst for peace as much as we do, the victims of the Mexican earthquake, the online bashing received by the infanta Leonor because of her taste in books (or something to that effect), people doubting about Karl Marx’s relevance to modern economics, the absurd fragility of the coming generation, why nobody (read: developed country, most probably European) is taking responsibility of how f*cked up Africa is, how come the worst judges of women are her fellow women, the beautiful but complex rainbow that is gender, how people claiming to be Communists could live in a capitalist society (how do communists live in Madrid, Spain, for example?), and finally and building on that, how come so many people defend neoliberalism yet they can’t find any artist to sing about what they fight for (this one I read in Facebook)…

These are just few of the topics that keep me up at night. What about you, dear reader? Would you like to share what you’ve been up to lately, and what tickles your mind these days?

– The end –

Despite a huge technical setback (a broken computer), I do hope to regain momentum and be back in the blogging sphere. Thank you for understanding. I missed this, too. 

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Personal Interview

It was a fine Monday morning when a dear colleague from Human Resources approached me quite excitedly. I honestly thought she was going to ask or share some tips about child rearing, as we are both first-time moms. Never did I imagine that she would ask me if I wanted to be interviewed for the official, internal blog of the Foundation where I work.

Clearly at this stage of my life, I have already had various interview sessions both as the interviewer and the interviewee. However, this is the first time I got interviewed with the aim of sharing the content (ergo, my thoughts) to the public! I had to pause with disbelief. I’m a very opinionated person but then I thought, “Who would want to bear with me and my craziness on purpose?” I mean, would you dare, dear reader? If you would, then without further ado, let me share with you the translated version of the said article. (For those of you who wants to read the original version in Spanish, just click the following link: Entrevistamos a Karessa Ramos, Comunicación y Relaciones Externas _ Nos-otros)

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We interview Karessa Ramos, from the Communications and External Relations Department

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L-R: Leo, Carlos and Karessa, taken along the Coulée Verte (Paris 12ème)

Briefly tell us: how would you describe yourself?

According to me, I’m flexible. According to Filipinos, “Marunong makisama” which roughly means someone who knows how to get along well with others. Lastly, according to my family and friends, tenacious.

Imagine that you could only have one hobby. What would it be? and why would you choose it?

Cooking and baking. I love the whole process, from going to the market to buy the ingredients, to tasting the finished product (of course). I don’t know exactly why I like it. Perhaps it’s because sharing food is vital within the social life of us Filipinos.

How did you come to work at the BBVAMF (BBVA Microfinance Foundation)?

I started out as an intern, hired to work for a few months in Bancamía (the Foundation’s entity in Colombia), with the Finance Department in 2010. Luís Germán Linares was still VP for Finance at that time. (Did you know that I got an offer to work for them?) When my “apprenticeship” ended and I had to return to Spain, I consulted  whether there was any vacant posts I could vie for in the Foundation. It turned out that a vacancy just opened up at the Finance Department and that was where I started: collaborating in the elaboration of the Annual Consolidated Financial Report, with my first mentor, Ana Nogueras.

Come on… Tell us a funny moment you’ve had in the BBVAMF.

It was during one afternoon in the office and I was checking some PPT templates. I had my headphones on and was listening to ’80s songs and when Kylie Minogue’s song played, I started singing without realizing it, and my officemates started to stare. I suddenly saw some of them turn their heads down smiling, or maybe they were laughing. Later on, I understood that it was because I sounded like a cat… Well, for me it was funny, but maybe for the rest it was annoying, hehehe! (Let’s ask Victor H.)

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The lessons I learned are my greatest achievements. And among them, I really treasure having learned to be more assertive and empathetic (although a lot of work has yet to be done). If I may add another thing: I am also very proud of the relationships I’ve established through the years. I’m surrounded by good, kind, intelligent and trustworthy people. They help me think, they laugh with me (and at me, I suppose), they cry with me, eat with me… they offer excellent company and I learn a lot from them.

What has been your happiest moment?

When I survived my son’s birth in France. There was a moment when I was actually thinking of leaving final instructions to my husband because I already accepted I wouldn’t last for very long. So when the doctors announced that they could solve my issues, I felt really happy. Most of all, that wave of happiness came when I started realizing I was going to live for at least another day!

Where would your ideal vacation be?

In my hometown, in the Philippines.

If you could learn something new, what would it be?

I’d learn how to ride a horse.

If  you could transform into another person, who would it be and why?

I would like to be transformed into my grandmother, and experience how it is being my own mom’s mother, HAHAHAHA! Seriously now, my maternal grandmother was the first enterprising woman I’ve ever met. She was strong like no other: she separated with my grandfather, taking charge of her four children with a teacher’s salary, she learned how to cook many kinds of plants so her family wouldn’t go hungry… when she retired, she improved her cooking skills and started a catering business so she wouldn’t depend on her children for her expenses. Furthermore, as a teacher, she would stay until late in the school, tutoring the students for free and she wouldn’t go home until they caught up with the lesson. I would like to be a woman like her: committed, intelligent, creative, generous and with the desire to transform her environment. The reason is because I’m seeing the legacy she left behind, the values and principles my cousins and I possess. And I also see how we are trying to pass them onto our own children.

A dream?

I wish for women’s situation to be normalized. That is to say, for us to stop feeling pressured to prove ourselves as valid as men; for us to fearlessly express our femininity whichever way we want to; that our happiness, value and aspirations not be measured with masculine metrics; that we stop judging ourselves and the competition that supposedly exists among us be converted into solidarity and cooperation.

While we’re dreaming… What would be your super power?

I would like to have the power to teleport. Is that how you say it? I like traveling a lot and that would cheapen the fare, hahaha!

Anything else you want to share about yourself?

I love eating. And you know it!

The former interviewee would like to ask you: if you could travel to the past, where and insist period would you have liked to live?

I would like to travel to the Philippines during the precolonial era.

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What do Motherhood, Women’s Issues and International Cooperation on Development have in common?

While the smarter lot of you mentally ennumerate the common denominator of these three most important aspects of my life, let me get ahead and share what’s on my mind: MEDDLERS. I’m thinking about meddlers.

1. Motherhood and meddlers

I’ve only been a mother for 20 months, and one thing I can tell you for sure is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the same problem suffered by babies and mothers. Despite of this fact, there are those who still insist on imposing their beliefs, recipes and answers on other people.

Generally, I’ve observed that mothers are usually open to suggestions. Yet, I can’t help but notice the initial reactions to an advice they reject: insistence, further display of proof on the recommendation’s effectiveness, openly unfair judgement and finally, criticism. Surely, one should not have to go through all these just because they decide not to follow an advice. As for the “well-meaning” purveyors of knowledge… don’t they understand the fact that each of us is molded by our particular circumstances, pasts, beliefs and aspirations? Therefore, the solutions or remedies we end up choosing are adapted to our unique situation.

I always wonder whether “wanting the best” for the mother and the baby is the real reason why some people really force their opinion on others. The way I see it, if somebody truly desires the best for the other, then there must first be comprehension: of the problem, of the context and most importantly, of the diversity. This would allow for a better flow of communication. This would facilitate the process of achieving that “best” for the person in need.

In my short experience in motherhood, I learned that happy babies (a common goal for parents) result from being well-fed, well-rested and being around happy caretakers. Equally important is the confidence with which their caretakers do their jobs: if the caretaker is relaxed, the baby is most probably also going to be relaxed. So basically for me, what would really help mothers taking care of a baby is to feel empowered, to have self-confidence and be convinced that they’re doing a good job in raising a human being. The rest can be learned from books and online fora.

I’m lucky to be living where I am, to have resources that I could tap and people who truly support me. This period of my life would be much tougher otherwise.

2. Women’s Issues: when the champions become the meddlers

Currently, I find that that the foundation of women’s rights movement from the past has been eroded in time. I’m talking about solidarity and compassion. These two characteristics are strongly present in the feminine and have fueled the fight for women’s freedom and equality (equity) with men. Lately I’ve been noticing though, that a lot of arguments supporting the advancement of women’s rights sound more of a modern-day colonization than a genuine concern for our sisters’ well-being and progress. By “wanting the best” for all of us women, the very champions for our rights and development are forgetting that even though women may have the same basic needs and rights, the manner of procuring what they need, and the way with which they exercise their rights (if ever they choose to, at all) should be delegated to them- they know better than us what it means in their own societies to advance and progress. They know better than us how they want to live their own lives.

Consider how women’s rights movements started locally, where women gathered and started the battle for a more just treatment socially, economically, and politically, to name a few. When globalization came about, it was only natural for these initiatives to be projected onto other territories, crossing the national frontiers. Even though the intention was (it still is) noble, the explanation of its necessity as well as the method of implementing it are both flawed. Flawed because I believe some activists skipped a couple of vital steps in order to practice solidarity and compassion: inquiring and then listening. One can’t help but think some simply assumed that women in Sub-Saharan Africa have the exact same concerns as the ones living in Phoenix, Arizona.

From then on, a certain type of mentality has been imposed and women who did not adhere to such beliefs were criticized and in some cases, even marginalized by those who were supposedly fighting for their sake. Ironic.

3. International Cooperation on Development: helping or meddling?

When I graduated from college, the main lesson that really stuck was: “There is not a ‘one-size-that-fits-all’ solution to the same problem experienced by two or more different groups/communities. The answer should always be adapted to the specificities of each situation. “

The goal of exerting efforts towards cooperation for international development is to redistribute resources: from those who have them to those who do not. Obviously. Easy enough to understand. Now comes the dilemma of “how” to do it.

Studies have already proven that solutions imposed by developed countries with no grassroots basis usually end up becoming a waste: of money, time, effort and natural resources. Any Developmental Economist would agree that the solutions must come from a collaborative effort between the one who’s helping and the receiving end. That’s why it’s called “cooperation”, right?

However, it has always been the donor “wanting the best”, the donor’s criteria that seemed to dominate in this field: what they believe is “just”, what they think is “effective”, and what they “know those people need”. Thankfully, times are changing and workers in international cooperation are more sensitive to this topic. More and more, the aid given to a target community takes the form of enhancing the existing, local capacities rather than imposing a foreign technique. There is still a long way to go but awareness of this issue is already a big step forward.

Conclusions

While motherhood is a relatively new event in my life, it has deepened many notions in me, and is currently opening up other aspects of my understanding that I never even thought existed. On the contrary, women and development issues have always been part of my life, having grown up in a family whose bread and butter comes from the intent to make this world a better place.

Knowing what I know, I try to believe that it is truly the sense of compassion that moves people to torturously insist on the reliability of their solutions. I try to convince myself that they simply wish to see in others the same fruitful effects of their applied techniques.

Unfortunately, no two situations are equal. So basing on this, the person receiving the advice may consider that the proposed solution doesn’t fit his situation.

In my constant need to map out methods, this idea occurred to me: within the framework of “helping”, I suggest that under the “advice” category, two sub-categories be opened in the form of advice accepted and advice rejected. Help that was given or offered doesn’t have to end in relaying an opinion and leaving it as that. A person with a real concern to help, to make a change, would see if the other would take up on his counsel or not. And in the case where it is rejected, he would try to find out why; perhaps not to annoyingly try to solve the problem, but to learn.

Advice

Learning would mean the world between the meddlers and the “legit” bearers of help. An informed person in front of another who’s in a dilemma could do more by simply listening, than one who would blindly exert an effort to achieve a change in the situation.

I encourage you to think about it.

Adulting and Money Management 4: The Money that They Owe You

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Image courtesy of: http://www.luckymojo.com

This article is inspired by several Facebook posts pertaining to the irony that it’s the money lender who feels shame when asking their money back, instead of the other way around. Especially when it comes to following up a late payment.

At first, after a talk with one of my friends, I thought that the main problem lies in assertiveness, or the lack of it. And then I thought that perhaps certain cultures encourage assertiveness, more than others but it really is not the question. I didn’t do the numbers, but it’s clear how what I thought was a cultural aspect in lending money, is actually a very personal choice of each son of a man. That is, the choice whether to “donate” or “collect” the amount of money that was lent.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because even before a payment could be followed-up, there must have first been a pledge to do so.

I myself have rarely lent money to anyone, perhaps because I give the impression of being riff-raff (hahaha!). But whenever I did, I made sure both parties understood and agreed that the money being exchanged was a loan, and not a gift. And in the case where the money were a gift, I also made that very clear.

Risking to state the obvious, the difference between a loan and a gift is that the former has to be returned to the money lender at a given time, with a given interest rate. The latter is simply to be graciously accepted and appreciated.

Now, the problem with some people is they are easily caught by surprise and instead of thinking twice before lending money, they immediately agree to “giving” something that is to be returned “in the future”, “without haste”. In 98% of these cases, no payback ever takes place.

In the world of adulting, taking time to think before acting is basically lesson number 1. In the more specific town of adulting and money management, this moment for reflection becomes as necessary as breathing. Every cent counts, whether it be a past, present or a future cent of a currency. As thus, lending money means sacrificing having the “cents” today with a guarantee of getting them back in the future. In the case of giving, the former sentence would end after the word “sacrificing” and that would be it.

Personally, what I usually do when asked for a loan is to:

  1. Ask how much they need
  2. How urgent they need it
  3. When can they repay me
  4. How will they procure the money to repay me

If I’m satisfied with the answers to the former questions, I tell them that I’d think about it. Afterwards, I ask myself:

  1. How will lending a certain amount of money affect my budget until it gets repaid?
  2. Will I be alright if I never get to see that money again?

If, after analyzing my own situation, I still choose to lend my money, I make the following very clear when I finally decide to go ahead with the transaction:

  1. I make sure they understand that the money has to be returned
  2. I make sure that we both agree on the date of repayment (with or without interest)
  3. I would make them understand that although I don’t need that money now (and that’s why I can lend it to them), I would need it in the future.
  4. Depending on how much I trust the borrower, I would make him sign an agreement including a clause which mentions a possible collateral

(Are you still wondering why people don’t borrow money from me?)

You might be asking: what if, at the agreed date of repayment, the borrower refuses/cannot/does not return the money?

This is where the importance of assertiveness comes in. Being firm in reclaiming what is his own actually helps achieve the goal. And in the case they still refuse to pay you, then this is where a signed document would be useful.

In some instances, no amount of assertiveness can ever get a borrower to pay up. No matter how many touching, beautiful speeches are delivered, they wouldn’t budge. Because the truth is, the list that I wrote above- it’s just me. In real life, and depending on many other factors, the things I just said would be easier said than done.

So what is best advice I could give? be wise, and before you lend an important amount of money, make sure that your finances are sound enough in case you don’t get it back.

Happy lending!

 

10 Inputs for Rookie Employees (Fresh graduates, I see you!)

As I celebrate 10 years since my first employment, please allow me, dear reader to give unsolicited advice for those who, for the first time are reveling in the wonderful world that is: the workplace.

1- Just how urgent are urgent tasks?

They are pretty urgent. However, a common rookie mistake is to be stressed because their superiors would give them five tasks that are simultaneously labelled as URGENT. The more prepared interns/fresh graduates would pause and actually ask, “Okay, but which of these is the MOST urgent?”. To which the manager would respond, “All of them are equally urgent”. This is a lie. Because even if you, little grasshopper, are a wizard of all sorts and were able to finish all the tasks punctually, your manager CAN NOT POSSIBLY revise them all at the same time.

This is why I would suggest you rather ask, “Which of all these urgent tasks would you like to revise first? Could you give me a deadline for each of them?”. This means that your manager would have to sit down for 5 minutes with you and decide, say, Task 1 should be on his desk in 1 hour, Task 2 to be submitted in 2 hours, Task 3 in 2 hours and a half, etc… And if he refuses to do this, then feel at liberty to prioritize the work yourself.

Tip from my mother: If your manager DID sit down and classify the tasks with you, remember to write him an email confirming what you just talked about. This would be your safeguard against any future “misunderstandings”.

2- Gossiping is One Train You Should Not Hop On

Avoid gossip. Even if you’re only a “listener” and not a “contributor”, do not be around people who gossip. It’s a waste of time and it only brings distraction. Besides, being a “listener” is just as bad as contributing because it means tolerating trash talk about somebody who can’t give his side of the story.

If you want something cleared up, talk to the person face to face. Also, don’t criticize anyone behind their backs unless you’re 100% sure you can repeat the same words in front of them.

Most importantly: Don’t use gossip as a weapon if you’re not sure you can take the fire.

3- Doubts Will Arise

I know 40-year olds who are still not sure what they want to do with their current lives, let alone their future. So be kind to yourself and consider that as a young person starting to explore a new world, it’s only natural to feel doubtful and undecided about things.

NEVER be afraid to take a step back and evaluate your situation. If you feel the need to go back to studying, take a sabbatical, change career directions, or whatever you feel that could make you grow, go for it.

Still, it’s absolutely important that you be clear on your purpose. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Is it for the money? for personal needs? for professional fulfillment? or for sheer curiosity? Afterwards, ask yourself again, “Would this change be able to sustain me until I get my bearings back?”

4- Is it Wise to Mix Personal and Professional Life by Making Friends at Work?

Personally, I think it matters little whether this is wise or otherwise (pun intended). Human beings are social animals so whether we like it or not, we will always be drawn to gatherings, socializing and eventually consolidating one “favorite” group of people from work. What is wise though, is to choose your work friends prudently.

In this light, think 50 times over whether it’s worth “hooking” up with an office mate. ‘Nuf said.

5- Honesty Really IS the Best Policy

Be as honest and frank as possible with your direct manager. Even if she isn’t totally honest with you, be transparent with them with whatever issue you have that might affect the quality of your work.

Your manager’s lack of “honesty” could be explained by the fact that some work-related subjects should remain only in the hands of the “upper crust”. I’m not talking about this kind of honesty. Any topic that relates directly to you or your work is a topic you have the right to know about. Similarly, your manager has the right to be informed about anything that could directly affect the accomplishment of the objectives she set for you.

In my case, I opened up to my former supervisor regarding my problem when I get hungry. You might think this is an exaggeration, but “cranky” is an understatement in this case because I would suffer a complete shut down of all my systems: I become a friend of none and an enemy to all, I make bad choices, I start remembering past offenses… try to get the idea of that kind of co-worker.

6- Drop the Delegation Drama

KNOW that it is your manager’s obligation to properly train you for whatever is written under your job description. He should know that whatever mistakes you (or anybody else under his supervision) make would directly reflect on his performance. So if he’s wise, he would adequately teach you everything you need to know to deliver a quality output. If he’s not, he would hoard all the tasks while you sit on the sidelines- that way, the deliverable would be quasi-perfect and he would not risk his attention being called.

One of my former managers was like this. I described the experience in this post.

As a newbie, it would be normal for some time to pass before some major decisions or operations are to be delegated to you. But don’t lose heart: it will come. And the first step towards that direction is to reflect the seal of excellence in every deliverable that bears your name.

7- The Value of Knowing Your Place

When you argue with your boss, LET YOUR OBJECTIVE BE TO BE HEARD and not to win/change his mind/make him side with you. While you’re at it, be as eloquent, as respectful and as precise as you can be when letting yourself be heard.

Trying to get into an argumentative battle with a superior will only leave you badly wounded and demoralized. Think about it: managers have had years and years of “training”, having had more experience in almost any type of arguments in this life. Sometimes, a smile is the best response. This way, you save time which you could use later on for whatever you wish for! PLUS, you save energy and keep your happiness.

8- Commitment Issues

It’s okay for you not to love your job. However, don’t make it an excuse to under perform.

It’s very important to leave a good impression in your job, especially if it’s the first one, and you achieve this by committing to produce the best results you possibly could.

Talking to a friend the other day, we both agreed that nothing is forever. But if we want something to last, there should be a conscious effort from our side to wake up each day and make a decision to get through the day, everyday. Work-wise, it’s the same.

In my opinion, problems could arise the moment your job starts to go against your values. A friend once told me she turned down an offer from a company that manufactures weapons for war. Another one told me that he had to leave his former company because ethically, he didn’t agree with its new strategy. When this happens, thoroughly weigh your options and be realistic about how you’re going to pay the bills and fund your dreams when a regular flow of income gets cut off.

9- Understand Your Contract

Back in France: each time I signed a new contract, an HR personnel was always beside me and ready to answer any questions I might have. Even if I took my sweet time to carefully read the 12-page document, they would patiently wait without interrupting me. They would explain anything, from something as simple as the personal tax deducted each month, to something more complex such as the legislation applicable to my situation.

Even more necessary is for you to understand your paycheck or pay stub. Keep track of your monthly expenses starting with the automatic deductions from your revenues. Don’t forget, you’re “adulting” now!

10- LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS

This final advice is the toughest one I’ve learned, because I’ve known it to be true for quite some time now.

I know it works for everyone who has tried it. However, I just wasn’t able to apply it in my own life. Now that I’ve started to do so, I’m much more fulfilled and happier than ever before.

The key to peace of mind is: not to expect anything. One thing is to bear in mind things like: scheduled meetings, DEADLINES, patterns of behavior and so on… but another thing is to be open-minded enough to ACCEPT THAT EVERYTHING IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO CHANGE. Remember, disappointments only exist because they were pre-determined by an expectation or two. So in this equation, the less we expect, the less we tend to be disappointed!

“One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present”- Golda Meir

Two things came to my mind upon reading Meir’s words:

  1. The past as we know it, has been documented and told by those who were “left standing” long enough. Others would simply say that “history is written by winners”.
  2. The only permanent thing in this world is change, so why shouldn’t we expect history to change as well? I’m not saying that it’s right, I’m saying it’s how things are.

On February 1944, George Orwell wrote a piece on how history is written by the winners. In it he stated that should his side win the war, they would tell fewer lies than their adversaries. Because the reality, as a TV show protagonist once said is that, “Truth is a battle of perceptions.”

Orwell further added that he would choose the most verifiable among the millions of instances which must be available. But wouldn’t the process of verification also be subject to the particular point of view of those participating in it?

The problem with the past as we know it is that no matter how many “facts” and “objective” measurements we are presented with (eg: the fact that a country had been under martial law, and the number of people who disappeared during the same period), they will always be laced with human perception. Such perspective will always try to slip past our critical and analytical minds, to reach our hearts and stir equally human feelings of either affinity or disdain to the initial observation.

The humanity in us easily makes us forget about the numbers, the facts, the objectivity of the past as we know it. And that is how we end up fighting and sometimes even insulting others- not to establish a fact, but to prove that we are right: that what we feel is THE legitimate and correct feeling, that what we believe is THE thing to believe in… within the uncontrolled realm of social media*, the famous “keyboard warriors” make it seem that suggestion outside of what others perceive is a lie, an idea forced through bribery or worse, a mere invention of creative minds.

Isn’t it sad? that instead of enriching ourselves in debate and trying to learn from an opposing perspective, our discussions on socio-econo-politic and especially in historic topics end up tallying who’s right and who’s wrong?

However, going back to erasing the past to fit the present…

On the one hand, I don’t agree it cannot be done. As a matter of fact, even if what already occurred can’t be undone, those living in the present can still modify data and information bit by bit until the desired effect is achieved. Even in those cases when data can be maintained intact, the interpretation of the said information can still be subject to the analyst’s own thinking (or agenda). So yes, this CAN be done.

On the other hand, no matter how improper it is to erase or alter the past as we know it, well, who doesn’t do it? the human mind is feeble and highly suggestive, while the soul can harbor various motives as well. And so no matter how many registered facts there are, no matter how many recorded events are available, people will always choose to believe what is convenient for them. So, even if it MUST NOT be done, human beings will always serve their best interest at the end of the day and overlook this little misdeed. (In fact, who’s to say that Meir was not guilty of this type of act?)

Dear reader, you might not notice it now but allow me to save you time: everything boils down to resource allocation. 

The “winners” who will proceed to write the story– ultimately turning into history- possess the power to influence which portions of the society get what percentage of resources. These could be time, money, attention, alliances, exposure, etc…

A very good example of this is the passing of the Spanish “Historical Memory Act”. Without embarking on a discussion of its relevance or utility, suffice it to say that this law was able to channel Spain’s limited resources into sectors which would otherwise be left in a state of disremembrance. (Some examples are: the identification and eventual exhumation of common graveyards, granting the Spanish nationality to families of the exiled and the removal of any symbol commemorating the military uprising.)

Due to the very nature of history (or the past as we know it), different interest groups will always resort to revisionism to establish their own version of truth.

This is what’s currently happening in the Philippines, where young Filipinos are being taught that the Marcos regime of dictatorship was the most glorious period of the country. Once again, it simply boils down to resource allocation; this time the resource being a seat in the political arena. For why else would these parties bother to convince a whole generation about the goodness of the former dictator, if not to reinstall his family and allies back to the Philippine politics?

The lesson I gather from this reflection is that we must be very vigilant of the kind of past being insisted as “what really happened”. We cannot and must not change the past what about the rest? we don’t hold anybody’s deeds and desires but our own. Yet, we can exert a small leverage in our communities even as we are neither historians nor big influencers.

Starting with ourselves, we should never lose sight of our past: the past as we were told, and the past as it is currently being recounted. Let us be indefatigable seekers of information, and let us be annoyingly non-conformists with the kind of facts lain before us.

More importantly, let us take ownership of that history. Let’s make it ours: just as we find ourselves to be part of a family, let us also make ourselves part of a town, a country, a global community.

With the knowledge that we have, we can then proceed to inquire, debate and refute any efforts of revisionism that we feel is not right.

Finally, let us exert a massive effort as a community, to reach out to the children- our future. Not only must we pass on to them the gathered knowledge that we have. We must also teach them how to collect the necessary information, where to get it, what questions to ask, to whom they should ask, how they should ask and to never be afraid to politely discuss anything that doesn’t satisfy them.

Golda Meir was a diplomat, politician and the fifth Prime Minister of Israel. Not wanting to question neither her sincerity nor her intentions for uttering those words, it is obvious that she has every interest in wanting to preserve the historical memory from her ancestors. But she was not alone in this task. Ever since the post-war period, every awareness creation effort has been made so that this dark chapter in human history will never be forgotten. And it must be said that this kind of tenacity is admirable, considering how many generations have passed and nobody has ever questioned the integrity of records about the violent pursuit of the Jewish community.

The past of her people, as well as her very own, made her understand the importance of preserving history: to learn from the past as we know it, allowing for hope in the achievement of a greater future.

 

* Social media is a fantastic platform for knowledge-distribution and idea-sharing initiatives.

Sources:

  1. The Economist quotes, available at: https://goo.gl/vWzDx3
  2. “History is Written by the Winners”, by George Orwell, available at: http://alexpeak.com/twr/hiwbtw/
  3. “All People are Living Histories- which is why History matters”, by Penelope J. Corfield, available at: http://www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/why_history_matters.html
  4. “The Face that Launched a Thousand MiGs”, The Guardian, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/aug/16/biography.politics

 

What’s on a reader’s mind (2)

A very dear reader from Canada wishes to share his experience in “adulting” and money management.

However, before I move on to divulge his wise words, let me first mention how I have never met anybody online as kind and as frank as Mr. Edward Hillyer. We met in Facebook. We have a common friend who used to actively publish politically-flavored posts in his wall. It was in the comments’ section where we started out politely arguing about the different topics we enjoy. Now I believe that I may proudly say that we are friends… friends in the sense that I would seek his advice, and he would generously give it; friends in the sense that he would tell me nice stories about his childhood and his family, and I would ask him for more similar anecdotes.

I used to be reluctant in having a social media life but with a great discovery like Edward, I believe it’s worth all the trouble of meeting the weird and creepy people that roam around the internet.

I thank this dear friend for supporting my blog through actively participating in its Facebook page, as well as in my personal page.

I truly hope that you can learn as much from him as I do.

Thank you, Edward!

(The following comment originally appeared in the Colorfulifesite Blog’s Facebook page, dating 6th of February, 2017.)

My first comment on adulating [sic]* and money: If you have ever had a credit card, you will have noticed how a little here and a little there, (ten dollars for a pair on sunglasses, 20 dollars for a new top) will cause your receive your credit card bill with shock. How could just a few dollars here and a few dollars there add up to such a large bill? On the door to my father’s office was a quote ‘It all adds up’. You see this in your credit card bill that shocks you each month. This is the reality, it all (even small amounts) add up. With this knowledge as a given, why not be smart? It 2 +4 = 6, then 4 + 2 also = 6. This information is reversible. If you save a few dollars here, and a few dollars there, IT ALL ADDS UP, just as spending does on your credit card. This is a given. If you save money in your daily life, it will add up.

This was my reply, dating 8th February 2017:

Thank you for this simple yet monstrous truth, Edward. My personal experience with credit cards is quite nil because having been raised in a frugal household; we have always tried to avoid expenses (present and future). We only borrowed money if we didn’t have any other option at all. But I had a similar experience with my day to day life before my husband and I got married. We had good jobs and were living in the city center. So the temptation to get a beer here, have a bite there, etc… was always near. And we would usually give in to the “little” ones, until we realized that the 3x a week trips to have tapas at 2 EUR a glass of beer (we would end up having 3-4 glasses each) would sum up to 192 EUR a month! Imagine how much that would be in a year! So we started to save small coins and also stopped eating out too much. This was one of the ways we were able to save for our wedding (for my part, I was able to save for my dress, shoes, earrings and head accessory). Yes, we’re proud to say that we financed that marvelous celebration of our lives!

In a reply to one of my posts, (this time, in my personal Facebook page dating 22nd February 2017), Edward recounted an advice given to him by his father. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t prepared to be blinded by the light.

I joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens at 17 years old as an apprentice. I was paid half the salary of a corps de ballet dancer ($75.00 a week). I managed on that fine. It was tight, but I did it. However, after three months with the company, they tore up my old apprentice contract and gave me a corps de ballets contract. I wrote to my father with excitement. ‘My salary has more than doubled. I now earn $155.00 a week!’ My father expressed his pleasure but mentioned… ‘If you got by on $75.00 a week, this means you could now save one whole salary each week.’ What a brilliant observation. However I did not follow his advice. I adjusted my standard of living to my larger salary. I had not ‘adulted’ yet. In youth, there is a tendency to spend all the money we have before our next pay day. It really does not matter what the salary is, we will be out of money by pay day. I was poor, then rich, then poor, then rich, then very, very poor, and now I am financially independent. Like others, I have been through it all. And, I learned from it all. When the endless value of money is recognized, we will prefer the money (security) to the fancy shirt, the latest shoes, the newest gadget and the expensive restaurant. I used to live in a three story house on two acres of land with a swimming pool and three cars for two people. Clearly I had far more than I needed. What do two people do with an acre of land each? Why would two people need three cars? Why would two people need three stories? I was working two jobs and was sick with the work. I felt I needed to reward myself for working myself to the bone. How very stupid of me. I earned $90,000 a year and was always broke before pay day! Now, I have no car, no smart phone, no cell phone, no television, no house, no iPad, no IPod, no MP3 player and no cell phone. What do I have? financial security and peace of mind. The value of this is far greater to me than any material thing.

*Edward’s computer would automatically and stubbornly replace the term “adulting” with “adulating”, and so he spent the whole time with the latter word. Colorfulifesite edited the rest of the typos.

-The End-

Don’t hesitate to comment on Edward’s ideas, or share your own experiences in “adulting” and money management!

Remember that you can write to: colorfulife@outlook.es, or use the Comments’ Section below, or you could also use this blogsite’s Contact Page to tell us your stories. Thank you!