“Don’t be a dick”. Easier said than done. We grow up and in the process acquire ways of thinking that very often conflict with other people’s points of view. Rather than trying to reach a compromise, we try to beat them, to win them over. We put our side of the argument over theirs. We mock them, we deride them, we call them names. En bref, we behave like “dicks”. Even, when truth is on our side, when we can present evidence and this evidence is real, palpable, physical, we still behave like “dicks”.
Could 2016 be the year when we do less of this and we behave more humanely? I know it is difficult to keep a straight face when a Donald Trump-supporting voter lets rip into Muslims, Mexicans and black people. But we need to understand that, just like in Britain the likes of Nigel Farage and his merry band of immigrant-bashers won’t go away any time soon, in the States it is not Donald Trump who is the problem but the system that supports him. You can be a “dick” all you want towards his supporters and yet, the only outcome will be an enhancement of their sense of disenfranchisement.
Based on my personal experience, I can vouch for clear communication, respect, talking and a willingness to compromise as fundamental conflict-solving tools. Most of the time, of course. For a dialogue to take place you need two or more people. And one or more of those people willing to listen to you. But we should also be willing to listen.
|Live life to the full, without fear
We do not have all the answers. Part of what makes us human is that eternal search for the meaning of our lives. Not just from a philosophical point of view, but also from an emotional, spiritual and mental one. 2016 has already kicked off with a fear-inducing mood. Some of it is real. Indonesia, as I write, Paris last week, Istanbul in Turkey a few days ago. Some of it, however, has been manufactured: more armed coppers on the streets of Britain (how will they stop an act of terror?), Denmark telling refugees to hand over their valuables in order to pay for their accommodation, a German town banning male migrants from its public indoor swimming pool. The message is clear: be afraid, be very afraid, they don’t look like you, they don’t sound like you and they don’t behave like you.
Sadly, every time this happens we lose another little bit of our humanity. Men do not grope because they are born in a particular country or belong to a specific culture. They do it because we still live in a patriarchy-ruled world. In most countries. That means developed and Third World nations and in between. Robbers are not gender-, or nationality-, or culture-specific. They are robbers, criminals. See them as such. Try them as such.
Since the beginning of the year I have gone out on more bike journeys around London, details of which will be included in future posts. Every time I go out it never ceases to amaze me how open and carefree people are in this mind-boggling (on a bike, it is) but gorgeous city. I see very little fear on people’s faces. I have seen resignation, doubt, uncertainty but not a lot of fear. That has made me even more resolute in my decision to choose life over fear. Yes, I know that the worst can happen to me just like it could happen to anyone else in another country, or city or town. But, I cannot allow politicians, such as Donald Trump, or David Cameron, or Nigel Farage, to manipulate me, to make me believe that we live in the worst of worlds. And whilst I will politely disagree with their supporters and will try to engage them in conversation and will attempt – with every single fibre of my body – to reach a compromise, I will carry on believing that we live in the best possible of worlds. In fact, it could become even better if we follow Laurie Penny’s advice: “don’t be a dick”.
When I was still in college (high school for US readers), a friend of mine played me Space Oddity on his battered stereo. I didn’t think much of it at the time, to be honest. It was only when I was in uni and visiting another friend that I got hooked on Bowie on the spot. My mate used to live right next to the Japanese embassy in Havana and in those days people used to place a metallic coat hanger strategically outside their houses to try to get a signal from foreign (mainly American) channels via embassies (they had their own prerogatives, don't ask). It was the only alternative we, Cubans, had to the all-powerful, Fidel-run media. The images on the telly were fuzzy at best, but on clear days (and nights) the reception was decent enough to get a good image. MTV and MLB became our new “addictions”. One evening the video of Life on Mars came on and… well, the rest is history. Starman, Heroes, you name it, I sang them.
The death of one trail-blazer like David Bowie, is an accident. But when you lose such a versatile actor like Alan Rickman, then the whole thing could be thought of as carelessness. As it happens, on Christmas Day just gone, we all watched Love Actually,. This is a film that still manages to make me feel sick without any actual vomit coming out of my mouth. Even for someone with a sugar tooth like me, this sucrose-coated film is too much to take. Yet, the standout scene for me is between Rowan Atkinson and Alan Rickman in the jewellery section. This moment encapsulates everything I learnt when doing improvisational theatre: the constant status-swap (Rickman in control at first, Atkinson reacting and then both actors reversing the roles), the timing, the shortness of the scene (just under three minutes). It is pure magic and it is how I want to remember the man who has made me watch Die Hard more times than I care to admit. Rest in peace Bowie and Rickman, you will both be missed.
Photo taken by the blog author
Next Post: “London, my London”, to be published on Wednesday 20th January at 6pm (GMT)