16 Feb 2018

The Deconstruction of the West: A Warning (Part 1)

Turbulent times afoot! Is our fast-changing world changing for the better? Does your past suddenly embody 'the good old days' and you're starting to sound like your grandparents while your kids haven't even started high school yet?! You are not alone on this. It is getting increasingly clear that the deconstruction of our modern Western civilisation has been masterminded from way above, by the nameless, faceless upper echelons of the multi-layered cake that symbolises the intricate hierarchical global governance nerve centre whose scope of influence and decision-making via institutions, institutes and foundations criss-cross regions, nations, continents, faiths and cultures in ways unfathomable by us the commoners. Yet it appears that a warning of things to come had been intimated as far back as 1969.

Minotaur, gypsum sculpture by Emil Alzamora (2006) (pict source)

If you are in your forties like I, you will have enough scope to be able to draw up a rough comparative study between what you remember from your childhood years in terms of societal environment and the way society has turned out to be. Your elders will probably have brought enough food for thought to you through observations of their own. Compared to my early experience of it, I do not recognise the West - and this I say without exaggerating.

I had noticed a shift (although I couldn't formulate it at the time) as far as the early 1980s, when disindustrialisation became prominent, and the textile, steel and coal industries were blitzed out of existence from their production centres. I witnessed it first hand in my French northern textile hometown of Saint-Quentin. And it became increasingly apparent that political figures all the way up to the President had been complicit in the demise and let those production towns down like a bad memory: they saw them as an embarrassment. We were silenced, urged to get used to it sooner rather than later, there was no turning back. And when I say let down, I mean a total collapse of the local economy and high unemployment rates (20%+) as a direct consequence, that shot up almost overnight. The powers-that-be coined a word, a magic word, that would explain it all and reassure us, and most importantly which we could blame for all our misfortunes: 'recession', the new normal.

Model: Cloud, sculpture by Maggie Casey (2006)

Oh, the governmental bureaucrats, business analysts, poncey economists, know-it-all journalists - and even your own boss or auntie Céleste after hearing their lecturing speech on the telly - wouldn't leave it at that. They shifted the goalpost. They pointed the finger at the unemployed and the soon-to-bes. Those were the culprits! They were criticised for having been too greedy, for demanding less working hours, better working conditions and higher standards of living. Can you believe that it was ultimately their fault if the factory had to close down altogether or relocate its operations to the Far East?! They had to pay the price and fellow countrymen became divided over the hot topic. And the bureaucrats nailed their despise for the Labour Force further by accusing the French of shunning factory work like it was beneath them. That only foreign, emigrant workforce were willing to work on the assembly lines now. Another fallacy and a sure dividing point that would fracture further the nation. 

Rule of Thumb No.1: Divide and conquer.
if you seek to rule, create division and chaos.

During the 'recession', swathes of working- and middle-class took a hit and lost their jobs before they could even save for a rainy day. Those who yesterday (i.e. after WWII) had rebuilt the country up now found themselves in forced redundancy. They became redundant from work and from life. They were forced to exchange their usefulness, their skills, their craft, their trade, their experience, their diligence, their dedication, their pride, for a cheque from the government. Forced to leave their neat little semi-detached whose mortgage they could afford no more for the 'joys' of subsidised housing, stacked up like unwanted goods on shelves. They had become unwanted goods. Now they had to learn to become invisible.

 The world is a bottle blonde, except the deception it spuns is mass-scale toxic! (pict source)

Public-private partnership agencies mushroomed out of the woodwork. Those were supposed to come to the rescue of the unemployed. All they did was skewer the job statistics by shunting them from one category to another, through retraining schemes more akin to a brainwashing session to realign their psyches so they became acceptant of their fate, and live by on governmental aid and be thankful for it. The industrial West was becoming a thing of the past. The skilled guipure operative was urged to retrain as a supermarket shelf stacker. And her husband, formerly a steelworker, to do part-time pizza delivery. That's where the demand was at.

In my life journey, I have come across much wasted talent, countless wasted lives, lives that could have accomplished but whose talents were stunted out of existence or side-tracked. Graduates like I who didn't want to end up on the dole had to export themselves overseas for work and not be choosy. Is this the way for a nation to operate? Waste its homegrown talent away or force it out of its borders?

Encyclopédie de la Vitesse, Editions Hachette (1956)

In the Western society model, strong precepts had prevailed until the 1960s/ 1970s. In France we had a glorious moniker for it: les Trente Glorieuses, three decades of full employment and buoyant economic activity (approx. 1945-1975), boosted by the aftermath of WWII (reconstruction) and the move into the consumer-centric technology-savvy model, a boon!

This was held together by an unshakable moral, socio-economic code of conduct. Back then, our society structure would put strong emphasis upon the Nation State: civil rights and civil duties, undefected pride in one's nation. Patriotism was embraced unconditionally, not derided.

No knees were taken when the national anthem played: 
you stood up and honored the fallen and the living 
under one flag!

Respect for Law and Order was tantamount to a functioning society, where the State ensured the protection of its people and the people paid their respect through national identity and pride, and served their Nation when national security was threatened (war). Rights and obligations of the people towards their Nation and of the Nation towards its people, a strong economy and buoyant industry sector, with wares manufactured locally/ nationally. All of these concepts, still prevalent in the 1960s, incrementally deliquesced to the point that they have now been turned on their heads.

Family and religion were still strong in the 1960s/ 1970s but the communist, marxist, trotskyist, socialist, atheist, feminist and other activist movements did not help the cause; if anything, they fragilised it. In fact, neither do they unify nor pacify: they instead harbour division and disfunction. Bingo, all that the elites want!

As we are getting more enlightened to what really is happening to us and refute the mainstream media's fabricated truths, we come to the realisation that the economic decline of the West had been orchestrated all along. And some of the evidence points out as far back as 1969. (to be continued)

5 Feb 2018

Dressing the Part

Albert Einstein reportedly used to keep a panoply of identical suits in his wardrobe so that he didn't have to think about what to wear. The wardrobe dilemma was instantly solved. The ingenious hack is employed today - in reverse - by a host of entrepreneurs, CEOs and other influencers in the public eye, to various degrees. Mark Zuckerberg is a prime example - and exception to the rule at the same time. As the product of a generation where social codes, rules and etiquette have been questioned and shunned and 'anything goes', he might consider dressing down as a positive, which indeed hasn't been as detrimental to him as it could have. Yet for anyone else this ultimately is a disservice, especially if aiming high in the career stakes. The social code the hierarchy commands plays the safe card of tradition rather than sloppiness (or eccentricity!) in order to achieve and sustain respectability, credibility, trustworthiness and integrity, the very cogs in the wheels of professionalism. Personal brand image is thus everything: it defines you in a way that either enhances your career and persona or damages them.

Soundsuit #2 by Nick Cave, via ArtSpace

When you resemble a forever teenage dirt bag stuck in the middle of a video game, with a smile like the dork encountered a unicorn on his way to the donut stash, you cannot expect to be taken seriously. Call me old-fashioned and a conservative, but nothing will ever beat an attire that matches the occasion. And in doubt, dress up rather than down. You can always dress down if you are too dressed up: remove that tie, undo that collar, take off that jacket... How can you dress up when all you are wearing is jeans, tees and plimsols?

Jeans, tees and plims are Zuckerberg's trademark. He believes this is all he needs to wear, in a fluid environment that has blurred home, the workplace and the after-hours of socialising. He travels light yet don't be fooled! His bank account is heavy. Those who view Donald Trump as part of the elite (based on his fortune alone) should cast a long hard look at Zuckerberg, worth $76.7b. This rates him 4th on Forbes 400 and the world's 5th richest billionaire. Get the calculator out: he's 25 times wealthier than the US President (#248 on Forbes 400)!

Now I agree that basing an opinion upon looks alone is misleading: looks are superficial and deceptive, and clothing fashion fickle and skin-deep. What truly matters is what is under the hood, the engine (value system, ethics, beliefs, accomplishments, ambition). Though it remains that appearances are the first port of call when meeting somebody. Look at it as a book cover. Is it enticing enough for you to find out more... or do you just walk past in search of something more appealing, more interesting? Or worse, do you run in the opposite direction? Jeans and tees might define a certain segment of fashion but a suit will always defy the vagaries and fickleness of fashion always, and remain a staple that every wardrobe should have - mostly if you are a manager, director, CEO. This includes Zuckerberg.

Untitled (Soundsuits) by ibid, via LA Times

Multi-billionaire Zuckerberg is only fooling himself and his copycat teen lookalikes when pretending to be 'one of us' the populace, wearing slacks day in day out like he has no care in the world and only a few dollars tucked in his pocket. The only reason he has been able to get away with it is because he is putty in the hands of the governing elites. They saw potential in his Facebook creation and dictate to him how he should fine-tune his algorithms in order to skewer free speech into a tool of surveillance, propaganda and subversion - a topic for some other time.

Look at rapper Jay Z: he understood long ago that the three-piece suits, crisp white shirts and a bow-tie would take him places within the corporate music arena that the ghetto-fabulous diamond-encrusted sneakers and the massive gold chain dangling over a pair of low-cut baggy jeans would not...

In The Godfather series, the mafia bosses and their underdogs are all dressed up in suits when they conduct business. They understand that in order to gain credibility, no matter how dubious and downright criminal your motives - businessman or con artist - you must look the part. Indeed the dress-up code works at both ends of the respectability paradigm. In both cases they help you get things done.

Soundsuit #6 by ibid, via Artspace

Dressing up sharpens your attitude: it lends you poise, and gives you presence and clout. What applies to meanswear applies to womenswear. By dressing up, you will instantly behave in a more professional, more restrained, manner. It fine-tunes your mindset, tweaks your general frame of mind. It sharpens your thought and your word. Try this blind test: conduct one business phonecall (from home) wearing casualwear, and one dressed up. You will notice that when dressed up, your body holds a certain way, your voice projects more and you come across as more assertive and focused. Now translate that to a face-to-face situation. You are on to a winner.

You need to know when to push your affairs in terms of dress code. Classic, conservative attire will always be a winner. It will not let you down: it will serve you right.

25 Jan 2018

Rush Hour

What does your rush hour look like? Mine looks like this:

The long and winding road...

At first glance, it tells you that I live in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the maddening crowds, the urban pollution, the sprawling suburbs, and the stress of modern life. It implies a certain quality of life that I am able to enjoy around the rural environment: oodles of space, no crowds, little to no noise, panoramic views, closeness to nature - not to mention low crime figures.

But a rush hour like this comes at a cost.

It means either I live far from the town and city, and still endure long commutes to work - not an enviable option. Or my work is land-based: farming, agricultural - and what should be an a labour of love has turned out to be hardship because this is how the State rewards those who feed the nation: crazy legislation (especially under the EU), heavy taxation, red tape, long unforgiving hours, and low pay - because the food distribution channels have squeezed out your profit margins. That means added pressure on your land for it to yield more (using fertilisers and hybrid GMO-ready seeds) and for your livestock to yield more (demanding more milk from the dairy cows to make up for your losses, expanding your chattel, taking up loans and moving the farm under an industrial model, while pumping your animals full with antibiotics and growth hormones). On your side of the game, there is no winner: your land wears itself out, your livestock wears itself out and you eventually wear yourself out. You'll consider yourself lucky when the State finally catches up with you with a cash lump sum for your farm, rase it down and have a motorway built through it.

With a rush hour like mine, one might assume that I am a stay-at-home mum or I work from home, maybe as a freelancer? Would money be no object? Either because I am financially secure... or I parted ways with the rat race!

Tickle is up for it!

I parted ways with the rat race years ago. A rush hour like mine comes at a cost maybe more to you than it does to me. Firstly I gave up on the lure of the materialistic way of life I used to enjoy. A carefully thought-out and wise decision because those material mirages were taking me nowhere down the road to happiness and fulfillment. In many ways, I feel happier now: no longer a slave to the wage, to the mortgage, to the loans, to the designer apparel.

This doesn't mean I am now living the life of an ascete or I am destitute. It doesn't mean I do not treat myself or my husband, or buy things for the home. It just means I do not follow the whims and craves and fads and trends of the market that influence life all the way to the check-out. This is a lifestyle choice.

It means I do not keep up with the Joneses either. What Joneses? We are the only residents in the hamlet for virtually half the year. What Joneses anyways? We live on a flipping island!

How about feeling deprived? Because no matter how much I sugar-coat it, a rush hour like ours comes at a cost. We live in an old family house where comfort is rustic and certain modcons like gas central heating and a fitted kitchen are lacking. This is the price to pay when you come off the rat race: it depends upon what you can now afford and adjustments inevitably have to be made.

We are cut off from quality services and conveniences that we took for granted back in UK or USA or mainland France. We live in a system that is politicised. And living as virtual hermits is in no way healthy. Humans are naturally gregarious. Birdsong is divine, and silence is golden - but too much of it rusts your spirits away.

A rush hour like ours may be a blessing to stressed-out urbanites seeking refuge from their urban shortcomings but beyond the eye-pleasing scenery, the reclusive life we live sooner or later takes its toll. A change of scenery would be most welcome.

What does your rush hour look like?

Lisbon, Portugal