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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Faith Hope & Love

2015 has been another remarkable year for me. In its final days, a present has been given to me in the shape of a book and in the shape of its author. It feels like a present for not giving up on Faith and also for not giving up on Hope. In these same days, I received a farewell message from two people whom are - and will remain - dear to me. Doors close, doors open. 2016 is about to open itself.

I am puzzled by what the Universe is telling me. Essentially, all 3 women whom approached me on that dating site, and to whom I subsequently spoke, are related to the Church. Two of them are even a Preacher. One of them makes me feel very good and it's mutual. Nevertheless, the probabilities of such a "coincidence" are less than remote. I am puzzled by this big fat wink. To some extent, I feel that it relates to the teacher/preacher role that I seem to fulfil myself nowadays.

Faith is very important to me although I seldom go to Church. I just hope - and pray - that Roman Catholic Pope Francis will be given enough time to clean up his stables. Perhaps he will even be able to reinstate my hope and love for "my" Church. Nevertheless, true Faith is in the heart and in the soul while its questions are in the mind. Fear rules in our minds but not in our heart and soul. 

I have never lost Hope, partly because of Faith and partly because I met Love, once. In Dutch we have a saying - "Hoop doet leven" - which officially translates as "Life is Hope". A more subtle translation from Dutch would be: "Hope provides Life". The absence of Hope from our daily lives brings us closer to despair (in Dutch: wanhoop) each and every day. Despair is clearly family of Fear as both make us humans act in strange ways. 

When I think of Love then I automatically think of these famous words: "Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love" (Corinthians). Yes, Love is the greatest of these three but we should not forget that it is ultimately built on Faith and supported by Hope. Together they constitute a house in which love can live.

The triangle of Faith, Hope and Love is a most powerful one. Each element reinforces the other two elements. And it also comes with reciprocity. Once you have connected these three dots in your life then - I think and feel - you are complete.

I suddenly realise that this triangle also plays a vital role in my concept which I refer to here in these blogs as the 7 Belief Systems.

The inclusion of Knowledge and Power was already a major breakthrough but this additional triangle of Faith, Hope & Love separates these two elements.

Essentially, the triangle Faith Hope & Love also separates Good from Bad.

I couldn't have ended 2015 in a better way.


Luther Vandross (1951-2005) - Stop To Love (1986) - artist, lyrics, Wiki


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Censorship in online dating

To my surprise there is actually censorship in online dating - by the website and by its members. Recently, I received a rather harsh private reply to my public online dating profile. The private reply was actually a very interesting one: I needed to change my public profile text as it was much too personal, and I had to throw out 3 out of my 4 (favourite) pictures. Perhaps then I would stand a chance in online dating, according to her. She also added that she was already active for 4 years and had had 13 dates. I replied to her that her advice to me apparently did not work well for herself.

I did amend my profile with a public response to all women out there. My key message was: If you pretend to be someone else than you you really are then you must expect disappointments in real life dating. However, later that day my public profile text was partially deleted by the website. Clearly, I was not allowed to express any kind of criticism. I reinstalled my old profile text of several days ago and added a note that my previous text had been deleted by the website and that criticism was clearly not allowed here. Within minutes that additional note was deleted by the website.

This experience is actually becoming a very interesting one. Obviously, the website is a commercial business and needs paying clients. You get 3 free contacts after registering. I used them all the next day. Two out of three did not respond to my message so far. One did review my profile again. The third one replied that she was already busy with developing other contacts and subsequently sent another message that I also did not fit her profile. I replied that I appreciated her honesty.

The longer people stay active on this website, the better for the website. A website without many active members will soon lose its remaining members and will then be out of business. Essentially, there is a need for a large active pool of members. To some extent, the success of its members is a loss for the website. In that view, it makes perfect sense that any criticism is censored away. It may actually make people consider what they are doing there.

Essentially, the female member profiles all look and feel the same. Each profile provides a collection of self-censored positive personality traits. After reading several of these profile texts, you stop bothering reading the others. You just focus on the pictures as it is more difficult to hide the truth in pictures. Some of these women look plain arrogant, some eternally sad, some provide far away views, and some actually dare to show their eyes - the mirror of their soul.

SPOILER ALERT: The female target is often a man whom I have never met or seen in my entire life. Apart from in the movies or in TV commercials. In that context, it is logical that women need many dates to find an 80% match. For a man it is much easier: there are women for short term affairs and other women. It is not unlikely that the first group gets most male attention. Essentially, an online dating service is a perfect database for getting short term affairs. The danger is that you may fall in love. Nevertheless, you can't really lose, as a man.

Showing the real me in my profile text, my messages, and also in my telephone call was clearly not appreciated. Somehow I feel that it scares women. They claim that they like sensitive men but do they really? As Paris Hilton once stated: "Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything."

The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now (1982) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Darlin' you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I'll be here 'til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

It's always tease tease tease
You're happy when I'm on my knees
One day is fine and next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on an' let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

This indecision's buggin' me
If you don't want me, set me free
Exactly whom I'm supposed to be


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Meisje

MEISJE

Ik zie ons nog fietsen over de brug
Duw ik jou met m'n hand in je rug
En ik weet nog precies hoe opwindend dat was
Wat ik toen voelde behalve je jas
Alles wat juichen kon, juichte in mij 
Nu heb ik een meisje, nu hoor ik erbij 
Jij bent onderhand alweer jaren m'n vrouw 
Maar ik, ik zie nog altijd het meisje in jou 

Ja natuurlijk wat minder naïef
Maar nog steeds net zo gretig, nieuwsgierig en lief
Je bent en blijft voor mij na al die tijd
Vooral m'n meisje 
Meisje, dat ben jij 
Meisje, meisje, dat ben jij 

Geluk is niet niks, het komt ergens vandaan
Je moet er aan werken, het waait je niet aan
Zo werd je een vrouw, een vriendin voor altijd
Maar toch raakte ik m'n meisje niet kwijt 
Soms zijn de nachten zo helder en licht 
Dan kan ik niet slapen en streel je gezicht 
Dan maak ik je wakker en zeg goeie nacht 
Wil jij met me gaan, ik zie dat je lacht 

Ach natuurlijk wat minder naïef
Maar nog steeds net zo teder, verwonderd en lief
Je bent en blijft voor mij na al die tijd
Vooral m'n meisje 
Meisje, dat ben jij 
Meisje, mijn meisje, ooh dat ben jij 
(meisje, meisje, meisje, ja meisje) 
Dat ben jij

Rob de Nijs - Meisje (1978) - artistlyricsWiki (UK)Wiki (NL)



Mia Martini (1947-1995) - Donna Con Te (1975) - lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2



Auteurs Donna Con TeVito Pallavicini & Alfredo Ferrari. Vertaling: Joost Nuissl

Monday, 28 December 2015

Frauds - auditors vs lawyers

Last week, I received an email from my professional institute, the Royal Dutch Professional Institute of Auditors - NBA, and it featured an interesting debate about how to deal with fraud. The debate was triggered by a NRC newspaper article by the former Chief Legal Counsel of Royal Ahold, Mr Peter Wakkie. The email news letter featured an article in which a public auditor, Mr Peter Diekman, expressed his sour opinion on Mr Wakkie's recommendations.

This - to a large extent mutual - sourness is not uncommon between lawyers and auditors. Perhaps because both are well paid professionals and somehow feel that they are in competition with each other. Quite ridiculous in fact as auditors and lawyers are mostly each other's opposites and especially when it comes to (im)partiality and (in)dependence. Even competence and diligence could not result in competition as they are both merely prerequisites for doing a good job.

Mr Wakkie's 5 recommendations in case of a fraud are quite valid for any company management: 1. shut up, 2. take your time, 3. do not confess, 4. control your lawyers, and 5. secure adequate cash. Clearly, Mr Diekman does not like this as he concludes: "The NRC article gives a very partial and especially a very arrogant view on current corporate governance. The current generation of directors and advisers should benefit from outweighing the principles of soft controls over this advice from one of the past generation advisers".

To be honest, I do not like lawyers very much given their notorious partiality and fundamental lack of independence. I have spent 4 years in court and actually hate their ongoing lies on behalf of their clients. Being a Registered Accountant myself, I would not even have the luxury of lying to court even if my morals would have allowed that - which they do not. I perfectly understand the phrase "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" by William Shakespeare (Wiki, WSJ). I have never heard anybody suggest to kill all the auditors. Usually auditors are quite harmless.

Nevertheless, during my entire working life I have appreciated the professional advice by corporate lawyers. Usually we retained the best advisers available in the market. They are largely overpriced but I never had to pay them from my own pocket, as a CFO. The best advisers usually advise you to settle quietly and not to go to court. After spending 4 years in court - personally, not for business - I fully agree by now. Unfortunately, that advice requires two sensible parties.

The fundamental reason why I agree with Mr Wakkie, and not with my audit colleague, is that the essential goal of any business is continuity and not communication. Any fraud is often a major distraction for management and the money is very unlikely to return. Moreover, frauds are usually very hard to proof - let alone in court. A very unpleasant side effect of frauds, is the suspicion against certain colleagues. Not being able to trust your own colleagues is a terrible thing. I have been there. And any person is innocent until proven guilty. So, all in all, Mr Wakkie's advice is smart.

I could mention some further technical arguments: soft controls are merely preventive, auditors unlike lawyers may show a CYA approach, an identified fraud may be part of an even bigger fraud.

I have said several times in my blogs that one of my biggest disappointments in (business) life, was my transfer from audit to business. I realised how little I had known of my clients and even felt a little ashamed about my prior audit recommendations to management. My transfer from audit to business also made me realise the truth in a joke by a former headhunter: "Leon, do you know where the letters RA stand for? Redelijk (Dutch for "pretty") Arrogant".

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Damaged goods

A few days ago, the 8PM news on Dutch TV warned again about dating scams for men and women of, say, 50+. I remember a similar warning in previous years. The Christmas holidays are a good moment to look for a new love. Nowadays, this search is online. Scammers have noticed this huge online dating market and hunt for vulnerable men and women. A little attention is often enough to put their claws into people craving for new love. Love leaves many blind spots and soon financial help will be on its way to support the new found love.

I might have been one of those people if the request for financial help would not raise lots of red flags, loud horns, and flashing yellow alarm lights inside me. Once I did help a Kenyan friend with a hospital bill but the amount was very affordable and I had plenty of reserves back then. When she came back a second time for financial support, I advised her to approach someone else. The Kenyan woman whom I have dated never asked me for money although it soon became clear that she had an overdue rent. When I left Kenya, I gave her money for the overdue and upcoming rent. For her it was a lot. For me it wasn't. Why not help a friend in need if and when you can afford it?

A few days ago, I registered myself again at an online dating site. So far I have had lots of profile visitors and the visiting women range from 35 to 68, while I am 55. It's amazing. A few of them - and of my own age - actually approached me. Apparently, I am not very skilled in dating and what to say and especially what not to say. I think that I am far too open and transparent about myself. And it's probably best to avoid any sensitive topic while dating. I am not very good at that as I am proud of what I have achieved over the last 5 years. I am a survivor, not a victim.

I do not consider myself as a vulnerable person. I am sensitive but I am not vulnerable. And I am not desperately seeking for female attention as desperation - like love - also results into many blind spots. Yet I do understand these 50+ men and women. They are damaged goods just a I once also was. I survived after a heavy fight with myself. You can't expect someone else to help you sort out your own problems. First and foremost you must help yourself. And desperation makes you an easy pray for people with good or bad intentions.

There can be so many reasons for ending up as damaged goods. I suppose that bad experiences as a child are the number one reason. As a child you have little tools to defend yourself. Dealing with those experiences as an adult is far from easy as they have long been buried deep inside in order to being able to survive. Getting those experiences out in the open may be too much. It's much easier to continue pretending that they do not exist. And if you do not talk about it then it does not exist.

I suppose the number two reason for being damaged goods are divorces and/or break-ups. As I wrote in my 12 December 2015 blog, lessons in love are seldom learned. We treat each failure in love as unique and hurry towards our next relationship. We ignore that we bring our same personality into that new relationship. And the older we get, the less flexible our personality becomes. A divorce or break-up is the result of a clash between two personalities. Understanding yourself (ie, personality) is key in not repeating mistakes in life - and also love.

I think I have learned my lessons of life and love. And the last few days I have once again learned that online dating is not meant for me. And as Elvis Costello once sang:

Now I have nothing
So God give me strength
'Cos I'm weak in her wake
And if I'm strong I might still break


Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach - God Give Me Strength (1998) - lyrics


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Father and son

Christmas is a difficult period for me, in so many ways. Today is my father's birthday. I miss him for 21 years now as he died at the young age of nearly 62. I can still recall that day in March that I got a call from my younger brother that my father had been taken to hospital in Alkmaar. Several days later, he was diagnosed with a brain cancer. He was transported to the Amsterdam VUMC hospital where they operated him successfully.

I still recall us talking outside in the sun about the usual petty things of life, not knowing that the brain cancer would soon return. He died in September after living like a vegetable for several months. The brain cancer had grown so much that many brain functions had shut down. I still remember the evening of 13 September 1994 in which we said farewell to him. I told him it was okay to go and to leave us. He must have still heard us talking to him as he passed away within an hour or so.

My father worked hard all of his life. It was very hard not to like him as he was a pleasant, funny and positive guy. He loved his friends and had loads of fun with them. They joined him several years later. At times, I envied his fun approach towards life. That envy was shallow though as I knew that we were different. It took me many years to realise that we had far more in common than I had ever assumed. My father was boyishly good looking, a sharp dressed man (ZZ Top video), a smooth talker (Sade video), popular with women, and skilled with his hands (hairdresser) and his feet (soccer).

As kids we were smothered with his love. At times, it even felt too much but I was a kid and I was wrong. With hindsight, it can never be enough. Although my brother and I never entered the family business, I cannot recall any disappointment. He was smart enough to realise that the family business would only limit our potential. I think he was proud of our achievements although I do not recall specific conversations on that topic. Sometimes words are not required to express emotions.

I have passed on his legacy by smothering my kids with my (his) love. They reacted the same way as my brother and I had done, so many years ago. Sometimes it's indeed embarrassing to be smothered with parental love. He was my role model and I just copied his approach as I could still remember how good it had made me feel so many years ago: Gimme All Your Loving (ZZ Top video).

His early demise disturbed the family balance, in my view. Yet you only know what you miss, once it's gone. Before that moment, it was just too hard to see for me. Although I am the oldest son, I have never ever wanted to take his place or role. I think my younger brother has stepped in. I couldn't and still can't. I had underestimated his importance. And to use the lyrics of Gino Vannelli: It took me so long to recover from the pain of having denied the love I once relied upon. And perhaps I am still in a process of recovering, even today.


Once in a life there comes a man like you
And you bear a son so much like yourself
It's hard to believe that he's a grown into man
But pop I understand

Once every night I thank my lucky stars
You've given me some guiding light
But there comes a time when a father and a son
Can no longer be one

It took me so long to recover
From the pain of having denied the love I once relied upon
It takes more than time to discover
That for both the young and old the truth is sometimes cold but right

This is my life and I've got to hold my own
Even if it means hurting us both
And the wrongs become right when we stop and wonder how
Look at us, we're better friends now

Gino Vannelli - Father & Son (1975) - artistlyricsWiki-1Wiki-2

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Anouk

Men zegt wel eens dat je iemand pas echt leert kennen middels zijn/haar gedrag in een spelletje. Dat geldt zeker voor mij. Ik speel om te winnen, niet om te verliezen. Als ik zeker weet dat ik niet kan winnen dan speel ik niet eens mee. Ik geniet van de rivaliteit. Ik ben overigens geen slechte verliezer. Als mijn zoon wint met sjoelen dan was hij gewoon beter en ik gewoon minder. Een volgende keer zal ik beter opletten en met minder bravoure spelen.

The Voice of Holland is ook gewoon een spelprogramma en 3 van de 4 coaches begrijpen dat goed. RTL4 heeft - onbewust? - een gouden zet gedaan door een coach in te brengen waardoor er nu zelfs een spel binnen een spel is gaan ontstaan. Dat nieuwe extra spel is echter meer met het (TV) publiek dan met de kandidaten.

Ik vind Anouk een prima zangeres en iemand die goede platen maakt. Ik interesseer me niet in haar privé leven omdat ik het omgekeerde ook niet op prijs zou stellen. Bovendien heb ik geen mening over haar want ik ken haar niet. Tot de Voice of Holland. Sindsdien heb ik een kijkje in haar karakter gekregen: een gedreven persoonlijkheid met een vilein karakter.

Wat me enorm verbaast in haar dat ze niet inziet hoeveel antipathie ze oproept met haar uitspraken. In elke uitzending maakt ze antireclame voor zichzelf. Misschien heeft ze inmiddels Fuck You Money en kan ze ze zich dit gedrag permitteren. Zij kan echter ook - net als Marco - verkeerde zakenpartners tegenkomen en weer van voren af aan moeten beginnen. Dan is het Fuck You.

Ik kan me niet voorstellen dat Anouk zich laat gebruiken door RTL4 om de boeman te spelen. Dat zou niet bij haar karakter passen en - nog belangrijker - niet in haar commercieel belang zijn. Ze blijft tenslotte gewoon een ondernemer die geld verdient met muziek. Ondernemers zijn tegenwoordig heel benauwd voor reputatie schade. Anouk echter niet, vreemd genoeg.

De enige verklaring die ik zie voor haar gedrag is haar concept van "eerlijk" zijn. Zoals mijn moeder ooit tegen mijn ex vrouw zei bij onze aankomst: "Kind, wat zie jij er slecht uit!" Ik kon wel door de grond zakken van schaamte. Ik denk dat ik toen nog heb voorgesteld om meteen weer terug te gaan naar huis maar dat vond mijn ex niet nodig. Dat heeft ze later echter ruimschoots "goed" gemaakt.

Er is echter toch wel een groot verschil tussen het hart op de tong hebben en "eerlijkheid". Het eerste is impulsief en openhartig, het tweede is beredenerend en calculerend. Met beredenerend bedoel ik dat het met argumenten is omkleed. Met calculerend bedoel ik dat de "eerlijkheid" een dubbele agenda heeft. Er kunnen meerdere doelen zijn voor die "eerlijkheid". Die meerdere doelen zouden echter nog altijd positief kunnen zijn. Bij Anouk overheerst het negatieve.

Ik vind het jammer dat een artiest die ik hoog had zitten, mij als mens zo enorm tegenvalt. Er zullen ongetwijfeld legio excuses voor haar gedrag zijn maar die vallen uiteindelijk in het niet bij het beeld dat ze achter laat over zichzelf. Dat het live publiek inmiddels boe roept bij haar uitspraken, dat zal ze wel naast zich neer leggen. Toekomstige tegenvallende muziekverkopen misschien ook nog.

What goes around, goes around, goes around
Comes all the way back around

Justin Timberlake - What Goes Around ... Comes Around - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Hate speech

The mayor of Eindhoven has forbidden 7 imams to speak at an islamic conference in a mosque in his city. Reason: these 7 foreigners have given hate speeches against minorities (eg, gays and jews). Their visa will be cancelled by the Dutch authorities. The chairman of the organising islamic foundation Waqf wants to go to court as he objects to this breach of "religious freedom" as he refers to this issue. Sources: DutchNewsNU.nlOmroep Brabant.

This is an interesting (legal) debate: is a right of freedom (eg, expression, gathering, religion, speech) a legal excuse to express hatred towards other human beings? To be entirely clear, in my view it is not. And not even for that group that often allows themselves that same privilege: politicians.

Defining hate speeches isn't aways easy. Geert Wilders still has a law suit against him for a public victory speech in which he asked his followers whether they want more or less Moroccans in The Netherlands (eg, DutchNewsNL Times, NOS). In my view, there was/is no hatred at all in that speech. His party is against mosques and against islam. If his party is allowed by law then that same law should also allow him enough leeway to express his party's views. Abusing the law to keep him quiet is unacceptable and - worse - counter productive.

In case of Donald Trump things are different. His public speeches do express contempt - if not hatred - towards many minorities in the USA. While his hate speeches seem to be welcome in "politically correct" USA, he is no longer welcome abroad. There is even a popular petition to block Donald Trump from accessing the UK (petition, BBCCNN, NYTWSJ). Chancellor (ie, Finance Minister) George Osborne criticised Mr Trump's comments but rejected calls for him to be banned from the UK. Remarkably, there appears to be no law suit against Mr Trump for his hate speeches (Quora).

To extend religious freedom from practicing religion towards practicing hatred is wrong and should never be tolerated. Any religion is about Love and not about Hatred. In case of doubt about the extent of our freedom of religion then we only need to look at the reciprocity concept: Are we allowed to build Christian churches in the home countries of the people complaining? We should never let such people abuse our laws for their questionable purposes.

Moreover, it has become entirely normal in Western media to ridiculise or insult Jesus, a prophet in both Christianity and Islam. Applying reciprocity has had terrible consequences (eg, assassination attempts on Kurt WestergaardCharlie Hebdo shooting in Paris).

Our tolerance for the rights of minorities and their views, and especially religious ones, is the core of our Western European culture. However, these rights should never be allowed to use against us by people who do not even believe in these rights and only abuse these rights to promote their minority views. Reciprocity should be leading in such dilemmas.

To worship Allah, God or Yahweh for the enduring love for His people - in a church or mosque - is the key of religious freedom. Nothing else matters.

So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Metallica - Nothing Else Matters (1992) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

+2 degrees? So what???

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who considers the current climate change debate as utterly ridiculous. The only positive result following this debate is a decrease of the use of fossil fuels and an increase in the use of renewable energy. Our planet's ecology will benefit from this change.

Yesterday I read an interview in a Dutch newspaper called Algemeen Dagblad with Richard Tol, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex. He is also professor of the economics of climate change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. For several years, he contributed to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. For Dutch interview see link.

Mr Tol states that there is no reason to assume that climate change is actually that horrible. He subtly adds that this is quite different for fund raising organisations like Greenpeace or certain politicians who want to save the world. They benefit from exaggerating. The reality is that the climate hardly affects our well-being and our prosperity. Neither is climate change our most important environmental problem today. Air pollution kills some 4 million people annually. The IPCC reports assume a maximum of 1 million deaths by 2100 due to climate change.

Mr Tol says that there is mass hysteria when it comes to climate change. Climate change is a very complex subject which has only been researched for a short while and we just do not know much about it. The only thing we do know is that there are more greenhouse gasses in the air and that temperatures are rising because of that.

Mr Tol states that the IPCC reports assume a maximum temperature increase of 5 degrees while the difference between morning and afternoon temperature is some 8 degrees on average. The mere fact that a certain period of year is warmer than normal is not necessarily an indication of climate change. And even if it would be then the consequences would be subtle rather than dramatic.

In relation to the recent climate change summit in Paris, Mr Tol is critical. There are no surprises. There is no link whatsoever between the climate goals and the climate policies until now. These climate goals are like world peace: It would be good if there would be peace but until then we continue fighting. The climate agreements stipulate that a parliament should indicate now what it should do by 2100. This is obviously meaningless, in Mr Tol's view.

While thousands of civil servants are dealing with the subject of climate change, Mr Tol has a very pragmatic solution for reducing greenhouse gasses: introduce a carbon (emission) tax and reduce wage taxes at the same time. This would just require 3 civil servants in the Finance Ministry.

The reporter is curious if Mr Tol is not worried about the future of his children due to climate change. "Not at all. [] The best estimate is that the sea level will increase half a meter this century. [] The Netherlands has the money and the knowledge to do something against it. The most poor people will be hurt by climate change. It is about the grand children of people in a country like Bangladesh which indeed runs a risk due to an increase of the sea level. But why are we suddenly interested in the grand children of people about whom we do not care. Poverty is a bigger problem than climate change. Do you help the poor by reducing greenhouse gasses or by fighting poverty? It is an important question to which no one has a clear answer".

Final note: all translations from the Dutch interview to this English language blog have been done at my best efforts and any mistake is entirely my sole responsibility. Italic marking is also mine.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Call a spade a spade: Refugees? Migrant workers!

Politicians from left to right are getting worried over refugees. Some countries act irrationally, like Denmark (eg, DailyMail, WP). Germany may be on an ego or a guilt trip (eg, Bloomberg, Guardian, Reuters). And in other countries, like my own, the left side of the political arena is now also waking up and is noticing that our welfare state is at the verge of being eroded: "Mr Dijsselbloem said his aim was to preserve the Schengen zone, but if countries did not shoulder their fair share of refugees the principle foundations of the EU’s generous welfare states would be undermined and could not endure" (ReutersTelegraph).

The solution to the refugee problem is however far less complicated than everyone assumes it to be.

Europe should just treat all of these people as migrant workers who come to Europe to earn money. Migrants get a 1-3 year work and residence permit, directly on arrival. They have no choice but to integrate ASAP within their new society in order to make a living. Migrants will become calculating citizens like every other citizen. As long as their income exceeds their cost of living, there is reason to stay. If the cost of living becomes too high then the migrant will find a better option elsewhere.

Refugees need to be accommodated, clothed and fed and all at their host country's expense as they are often not allowed to work, not allowed to send their children to school, and hence not able to integrate in society. Once refugees are accepted as citizens they are entitled to municipal social housing programs and social welfare. Dutch government studies indicate that unemployment levels amongst non-Western migrants (eg, refugees) are problematically high (eg, MinSZWRTL, SCP). The 2014 press release of the SCP's annual report on Integration is actually quite gloomy (PDF).

It is impossible to stop the influx of new refugees as long as refugees realise that they are "entitled" to a house and social welfare once their refugee status is accepted. For the local population this social welfare may be a minimum but this minimum may still be rather generous for a refugee who left a situation in which there was hardly money to feed the children. Once the refugees are accepted then they are on their own. Integration becomes their sole responsibility. But why should they bother??

There are two basic and simple options:
  1. Treat people like refugees and do not allow them to work, or to attend schools, or to integrate in local society until all paperwork has been cleared. When refugees are finally accepted then often their initial enthusiasm has been replaced by bitterness over their host country.
  2. Treat people like migrant workers and issue (temporary) work and residential permits and immediately on arrival. A special tax status may increase their chances on rapid employment. 
Essentially, Europe would do what the Gulf States and other countries have been doing for decades. Use external - and often cheap - labour to boost the local economy. No undermining of the welfare state, no social tensions, no voting rights, and no complex immigration procedures. It is really that hard to see which option is the best??

As Groucho Marx would say: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Letting go

I am surprised by my current emotions. Somehow it does not make sense at all. In my view, she betrayed me. After asking her 5 times "Why???" she finally admitted that she wanted to hurt me. That revelation caused a quick mutually agreed-upon break-up. Within a week she started dating while she was still living with me. That hurt. So I started dating too. Out of revenge. Big mistake. Much too early with hindsight. Back then it had looked like a smart way of recovering.

Initially, I felt no grief over the break-up. Mostly anger. In my view, there was no reason for her to hurt me that bad and to betray me. Yes, I had fallen in love 1.5 years earlier while being alone on a 3 week vacation. I had never wanted to go alone on that vacation but she had insisted to go alone. She blamed me for falling in love. I have long denied being in love. My main argument was: How could I be in just three weeks? Ultimately, I had to admit that it must have been love as nothing else could explain my 18 month heartache after I noticed the (written) betrayal on me.

I think that her deepest resentment over what had happened was that I had fallen in love with another woman and not her. She felt betrayed by me. I think that reality finally sank in with her: he will never love me and I am wasting my time with him. My deep caring for her was suddenly no longer enough. The fact that I didn't love her was no surprise to her. I had said that to her on the very first day that we had met. She was somehow convinced that she could make me love her.

My grief over the break-up came much later. Probably almost a year later when she was preparing to leave this country. Perhaps then reality finally sank in: I wouldn't see her again. All my half hearted attempts to reconnect and to reconcile had failed by then. Bitter words were exchanged during a brief encounter in which we returned some goods that belonged to the other person.

For many months since the break-up, I have not been able to reach out to her as I wasn't able to stay calm in her flood of anger and hostility. I didn't really know how to approach her. My words became like a red cape in a bull fight. Everything provoked new anger. All I wanted was to retain the best friendship I had ever had. All I did/said was creating the exact opposite of what I was after.

The irony over the various betrayals in love has never escaped me: from me towards her, from "the other woman" towards me, and finally from her towards me. And probably the "other woman" is even far worse off than the two of us. What goes around comes around (Wiki).

I have wondered if my reluctance to let her go could have anything to do with a possible feeling of guilt towards her. I sincerely doubt that. My falling in love was totally random and was never ever planned - let alone intentional. It just happened to me for the very first time in my life. The prize was very high though: I lost my love after being betrayed by her, I had a subsequent 18 month heartache, and on top of that I was losing my best friend. So far I have been very reluctant to accept letting her go although I know very well that I am losing my best friend.


You and me 
We used to be together 
Everyday together always 
I really feel 
That I'm losing my best friend 
I can't believe
This could be the end 
It looks as though you're letting go 
And if it's real 
Well I don't want to know 

Don't speak 
 Don't tell me cause it hurts 
Don't speak 
I know what you're thinking 
I don't need your reasons 
Don't tell me cause it hurts


No Doubt - Don't Speak (1996) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Fragile

My previous blogs of December 17 and 18 have taken a toll on me. Writing them was necessary but it came at a prize. I am now stuck with a question on my mind: Why??? I was almost sending a WhatsApp message to her new number which I am not even supposed to know. Fortunately, I noticed a quote by Francois de la Rochefoucauld: "In friendship as well as love, ignorance very often contributes more to our happiness than knowledge". I realised the futility of my question. Deep down I may even now the answer although it's hard to face it.

Yesterday I have deleted several persons from my contact list. I have closed some more chapters in my life. I was never able to delete them before as they have long been important to me. Yesterday, I suddenly realised that indifference had already taken over some time ago. I had just been reluctant to accept that. Deleting them was actually easy. I wonder if I will be able to delete you too, one day.

Although I felt no regret or remorse from yesterday's action today, I have had some difficult moments today. I may have gained a lot but I also lost a lot. And it is very difficult to compare priceless intangible assets to former high value tangible assets. And I do realise that the Old Year makes you reflect on the past and on your losses and that the New Year will bring new opportunities. Nevertheless, sometimes you just wonder: Was it all worth it??

For several reasons I feel fragile today and I am not particularly pleased with these overwhelming emotions. Before I would lie with my head on her lap, eyes closed, and she would stroke my hair with her fingers. On such moments, I do not even need to hear the words that all will be well. I miss these moments. I hope and expect that someone else will "soon" fulfil that role again. All is well that ends well (William Shakespeare).

I don't like my current state of fragility. It makes me do foolish things and - almost - do silly acts. I know that I have not been at full capacity since my cold, flu, hay fever or whatever. But that's not an excuse. I know that I have to let her go but I am fighting with myself over that. Moving away from caring to indifference will not be easy. In another case it took me some 30 months. She was once very special to me. Yet I finally managed.

Unfortunately, these Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (IMDb) seem to haunt me whenever I feel alone. Although I am alone 24/7, I seldom feel alone. Usually my own company is more than enough not to feel alone. It is actually quite remarkable that there is a difference in being and feeling alone. And I am not even talking about loneliness as I never feel lonely. I love my solitude.

My current state of fragility makes me realise again how much I miss having a best friend in real (non-virtual) life. Not necessarily 24/7. Although that is still an option as long as I can continue with my new passion: writing. 

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Bill Withers - Lean On Me (1972) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Friday, 18 December 2015

The Silent Treatment

I am smiling while I am writing this as I realise that you are using my most powerful weapon against me: the silent treatment. I am an expert in using the silent treatment on people whom I no longer like. I only fall out of my role if and when you make me laugh and make me realise its silliness. Perhaps I can now use that same counter tactic against you. I think it worked in the past.

The silent treatment is like psychological warfare. Similar to any other war, starting it is easy but ending it is difficult. It may not even be clear if there will be a winner. Actually, it does not even matter if there is a winner as the silent treatment is about power. The balance of power in any relationship: husband-wife, father-daughter, employer-employee. Using the silent treatment in that delicate balance does not indicate the existence of a healthy relationship.

Between former lovers the silent treatment makes sense but only when it is based on indifference. Not when it is deliberately used for payback or revenge. I just realise that the opposite is also true. It is conceivable that communicating to a former lover could also be an intentional (conscious) - or even subconscious - act of revenge. It prevents the other lover from forgetting about you. Latter realisation is a little worrisome as I may have applied it on someone else - albeit subconsciously.

Although I now receive the silent treatment from you, it was still good to notice that yesterday evening's blog was read 4 times in your country and shortly after publishing. I wrote that blog in a flow and its words were still lingering on my mind while I was trying to catch the night train. My sadness resulted in taking the last available ride to the great oblivion of sleep.

Apart from receiving the silent treatment, I am also giving it to others: some out of sheer indifference, and some for reciprocity. I do realise that reciprocity may not be the best reason but every other tactic has failed. They hurt me with their silence and now they get what they give. Seems fair to me. The only danger that I do notice in myself is that I am moving towards indifference. Indifference is only great when you no longer care about someone.

For the record, the silent treatment is not equal to a lapse in communication. Any communication benefits from silence. It makes a new conversation only more joyful. You just know when you are getting the silent treatment. It is hard to miss unless you lack any social intelligence.

There is another danger in the silent treatment apart from growing indifference. It's quite well worded in the famous Simon & Garfunkel song - The Sound Of Silence: "Silence like a cancer grows". Wiki: Garfunkel once summed up the song's meaning as "the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other".

I think Art Garfunkel is referring to couples whom you often notice in public but who have nothing to say to each other anymore. The Sound Of Silence may even be worse than the silent treatment. The silent treatment may be overcome but the sound of silence is to stay.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound Of Silence (1964) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Thursday, 17 December 2015

I miss you

Perhaps it is because Christmas is approaching that I miss you. I hope you are better off without me and I know that I am better off without you. Nevertheless, I do sometimes wonder whether we tried hard enough to retain our special bond. I gave up on you after you pushed my most sensitive button. You must have known what that button would do to us. You accepted my giving up without any hesitation. With hindsight, I can only imagine that is what you were after.

When I play back our movie in my mind then I feel that we were never meant to be. Each year there was a lot of drama. Nearly each year, there was some kind of separation. Each time, we reconnected again though. I have mixed feelings about my last (written) words to you: I hope you never come back. To some extent, I still mean them and to some extent it was like a case of reverse psychology.

I wonder how you are doing. Did you find a job or are you studying again? Do you live with him now or do you live alone? Do you see your children more often now? Do they accept your choices? Silly questions from someone who still cares about your wellbeing despite everything that happened.

Replacing you will not be easy. Yes I did try and yes I did fail. So far. You know very well that I never give up. I just go on and on and on. Someday I will find someone like you but a positive one. To some extent, I was able to work on your dark side but never enough to make you change. I suspect that you did not want me to change you. You fought me in the end. We both lost.

Long before we broke up you said to me that you could never be like me. You saw me staying in touch with people that were still dear to me then. You said that you could never do that. Over is over. I have learned from you in that respect as I have also closed several chapters. I think I failed to see that the past should remain the past.

I am not sure why I make an exception for you: you may be out of sight but you are not out of my mind. Perhaps it is because you made me a better man than I was. Perhaps that is the reason why this Paolo Nutini song felt like a slap in my face when I recently played his album Caustic Love again.

It is still hard for me to recall the reflection in your eyes when we last looked in each other's eyes.

She makes me smile
She thinks the way I think
That girl makes me wanna be better

And you'll either love me or you hate me
'Cause I can see you've got no time for the in-between
But the reflection in your eyes gonna look so much better


Paolo Nutini - Better Man (2014) - artist, lyrics, Wiki


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

VW / Audi fraud - part 5 - fear management

I am puzzled how VW / Audi wants us to believe that the emission scandal is the responsibility of a few managers while at the same time blaming its culture of fear within the company. These two do not mix well unless these few managers are actually very senior executives within that group. Otherwise, it's merely looking for some fall guys in order to minimise the potentially massive legal consequences following that scandal. Also see part 1, 2, 3 and 4 in this series.

These fall guys will be portrayed as rookies who took decisions that hurt an entire automotive group very badly. The company is the victim, the fall guys are the bad guys. In essence, the company defence tactics look awfully familiar to "Wir haben es nicht gewusst". This was the exact same excuse that German officers used at the Nuremberg war crime trials after WW2. Please also see my 18 February 2015 blog called Victim role - politicians, bankers and corporate bosses.
Managers follow orders in a fear management culture. They are too afraid to lose their job. It is utterly ridiculous to expect that a manager would take such (ie, emission device) decisions without the prior consent of top management. Such prior consent is likely to have been entirely verbal in view of a future strategy of plausible deniability (Wiki) by top management.

I would not even be surprised that the famous Bosch letter was requested by VW/Audi managers as a last attempt to convince top management of this future wrongdoing. Fear works in mysterious ways. In this Bosch letter, VW/Audi was warned that the device should only be used for test purposes and that it would be illegal to use the device for other purposes. Despite sending this letter, Bosch sold 11 million of these devices. This could well imply top management involvement at both sides.

NYT: "In the years that preceded a marketing push that began with the 2009 model year, there was an intense internal debate about what kind of emissions technology to use, according to a former executive who was involved and asked not to be identified because he did not want to offend Volkswagen". Note: italic marking by LO.

To some extent, the above has already been acknowledged by Matthias Müller, the new VW/Audi CEO, in his recent press conference. NYT: "Mr. Müller also said he wanted to change the company’s culture so that there was better communication among employees and more willingness to discuss problems. His predecessor, Martin Winterkorn, who resigned after the scandal, was criticized for creating a climate of fear that made managers afraid to admit mistakes". Note: italic marking by LO.

A mistake is an event. A series of similar mistakes is a trend. An ongoing trend is part of a culture. Culture is defined by top management. Fear management is a tool used by some executives to put their stamp on an organisation. One of my former bosses once said to me that he had the habit of firing 1 or 2 persons in the first month of his tenure. It would make people afraid of him and they would follow his orders without too many questions. Interestingly, this was also in Automotive.

Some relevant quotes on fear:
  1. Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy. Star Trek and misattributed to Sun Tzu
  2. Fear is the only true enemy, born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate. Edward Albert
  3. And the things that we fear are a weapon to be held against us. Quote by Ian Rush
  4. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. Ambrose Redmoon, a pseudonym for James Neil Hollingworth 
  5. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Quote by Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Growing old - part 2

Quite recently I congratulated someone with her birthday. She is my age (55). She replied by saying: "At this age, I wish that I could turn back the clock, but thanks anyway." I said to her: "Really ?? I do not have that wish at all at 55." Her reply came as a surprise: That's because you are not a woman." I asked her: "Age is only a female thing?" She said: "You haven't experienced what I have experienced with the men on this site. The older men prefer the younger women in many cases. They make me not even want to get in another relationship".

Research at Psychology Today did not reveal at all that the above is common for women - or men. Perhaps even to the contrary. It did reveal an article "15 Wise and Inspiring Quotes About Ageing" by Susan Krauss Whitbourne. Two of the quotes that she used were actually very good and may even explain our individual perception on ageing:

"The wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind." William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

PT: "There are several layers of wisdom embedded in this quote. One is that as people get older, their wisdom is expressed by focusing on what is most important. Second, those adults who do focus on loss will be less able to maximise their mental powers, even in areas that traditionally seem vulnerable to the effects of ageing. Third, by concentrating on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, your more positive mental set will allow you to take advantage of your mental powers, even if they're not quite what they were when you were younger."

"He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden." Plato (427-346 B.C.)

PT: This wise observation from Plato harkens back to the findings of "Big Five" researchers Costa and McCrae, who observed that the most discontented younger adults were the ones most likely to experience the so-called "midlife crisis" in their 40s. Although personality change is possible at any time throughout life, people high on the trait of neuroticism seem to have disadvantages in adapting to the challenges of midlife and beyond."

Contrary to my 19 May 2015 blog, I am quite pleased now with my current age, personal situation, and look forward to (early) retirement in order to fully dedicate my time on writing my book. It's too difficult for me to start writing that book now and then losing my "flow" because of work commitments. I estimate that my book will take me a year or so. And I prefer to finish what I start.

On 9 Dec 2015, the FT even published an article about a study that retirement is good for you, both mentally and physically: "The study looked at German survey data from 1994 to 2012 and found that retired people were more likely to say their physical and mental health had improved since retirement. They managed an extra 40 minutes of sleep every weekday and were more likely to exercise. They also visited the doctor less often. [] The researchers said release from the demands of work, more time for exercise and a feeling of greater personal autonomy seemed to improve mental health".

Aaliyah - Age Ain't Nothing But A Number (1994) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2



The Beatles - When I'm Sixty Four (1967) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

When I get older losing my hair. Many years from now. Will you still be sending me a valentine. Birthday greetings, bottle of wine? If I'd been out till quarter to three. Would you lock the door? Will you still need me, will you still feed me. When I'm sixty-four? The Beatles



Frank Sinatra - It Was A Very Good Year (1965) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

But now the days grow short, I'm in the autumn of the year. And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs. From the brim to the dregs, and it poured sweet and clear. It was a very good year. It was a mess of good years. Frank Sinatra - It Was A Very Good Year


Monday, 14 December 2015

Technological Revolution (1800-2100) - part 2

Recently, a friend and former colleague made a joke about my business background in Automotive and Banking. He asked me to write a blog about that. After some reflection I had to conclude that I have indeed never written about the parallel between both. Nevertheless, I have often talked about this parallel in meetings or phone calls with headhunters/recruiters.

For many years, I have earned a (very) good living in Auditing, Automotive and Banking. Ironically, the industry decline seemed to follow me after each transfer. Today I am faced with a business background in 2 (perhaps even 3) industries which both continue to reorganise to adapt themselves to a world in turmoil. The human impact of these continuing reorganisations is huge.

FT 9 December 2015: "Dutch lender Rabobank is cutting another 9,000 jobs, shrinking its balance sheet by €150bn and refocusing on domestic lending in another bid to silence questions about its viability. The co-operative owned bank, which is the Netherlands’ biggest lender, announced its five-year strategic plan on Wednesday evening. The job cuts amount to almost 20 per cent of the bank’s full-time workforce".

Today I create something out of nothing. As a Finance guy you never really create anything. Usually you just solve the mess created by others, apart from reporting on it and often in carefully chosen words. Nobody will be able to replace me in my current blogging activities, partly because my writing does not (yet) earn me anything, but mostly as creativity is a unique process. 

Many jobs do not require human creativity. Essentially, these jobs could be automated and robotised with some - limited - human supervision. Auditing could be largely automated. Automotive is a perfect example of ongoing robotic automation. Banking could be automated far beyond the current human belief. Small competitors, including tiny start-ups, prove that each day.

In my view, we are in a Technological Revolution that started some 200 years ago. As stated in my 23 March 2015 blog called Technological Revolution (1800-2100) and a New Renaissance (2100 onwards): "I am convinced that historians in 1,000 years from now will say that we were in a Technological Revolution from 1760 onwards. Our Technological Revolution may well end after developing an eco system that is no longer reliant on the depletion of natural resources (e.g., food, fossil energy, metals). Let's assume that to be the year 2100".

Any business that thrives on human care, human contact, creation, creativity and imagination should be able to survive. And to be entirely clear: a cab ride usually does not qualify as "human contact". A hairdresser does and it's also a creative job. Many jobs that were once considered as safe, are now being replaced by an intriguing "toxic" cocktail of (robotic) automation, internet (of things), and consumer electronics (eg, smartphones).

Essentially, the classic human front-mid-back office structure of businesses is being replaced by smartphone apps that are integrated in a 24 hour order-to-delivery cycle. Human involvement is no longer required and - more importantly - no longer desired. Human labour is expensive, slows down operations, and often the cause of miscommunication and errors.

Krezip - Plug It In & Turn Me On (2007) - artist, lyrics, Wiki

Sunday, 13 December 2015

How to forgive our parents

At the request of a friend, I'm writing this blog on how to forgive our parents. I asked her if she meant forgiving them for being our parents. I was wrong. "For doing such a crummy job of raising us", she replied. I asked her if this could be a universal feeling. She said it applies to lots of people. I am afraid that this topic may actually be some kind of taboo.

Digesting her suggestion wasn't easy. I began seeing the bigger picture after she sent me an Oscar Wilde quote: "Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” The real reason for accepting her suggestion is that I may have said something to her which led her to this topic. Obviously, she shares this Oscar Wilde quote despite calling him a fool in an earlier discussion on the (im)possibility of male/female friendship (my 19 Feb 2015 blog).

I suppose her question is ultimately about maturity. When we are small we idolise our parents as if they are heroes or Superstars. Growing up - both in size and maturity - makes us realise that we are able to compare ourselves with them. We ignore and neglect their sacrifices in raising us, partly due to a lack of knowledge and partly due to a lack of willingness to gain such knowledge.

Our increased self-awareness, from child to adult, does not automatically bring "an accurate view of your skills, abilities, and shortcomings, as well as understanding how other people perceive your behaviour" (HBR). We tend to overrate our own importance and underrate theirs, partly because we lack comparison to others, and partly because our brains are less mature than our bodies (BBC).

In all fairness, all parenting comes with errors in judgement as no parent has ever had any parenting training. For many activities you need a license but not for parenting. Errors in judgement are quite likely and especially with first born children as parental fear often takes over from logic and reason. Also see my 2 May and 3 October 2015 blogs, Extreme Parental Guidance and Parental love.

Essentially, parenting is always on a "best efforts" basis as parents cannot give "guarantees" with respect to the upbringing of their children. Best efforts in parenting are based on role models and clouded by good and bad memories about our own upbringing. By definition these experiences are incomplete and most likely also biased by certain particularly memorable events. 

The challenges in parenting can only be understood once you are a parent yourself. Before that it is impossible to comprehend the full dimensions of parenting. Seeing best and worst practices doesn't make you a parent yet. The proof of the pudding is in the eating (meaning).

Blaming your parents is "normal". The process of forgiving them for their "mistakes" is likely to start happening as of the moment you are raising your own children. In exceptional cases, there will be no forgiveness. Unfortunately, that comes at a prize. Please refer to this tiny buddha blog.

Recently, a good friend taught me a new subtle ancient Dutch saying: "Jij leert je kinderen te spreken, de kinderen leren jou te zwijgen" (source). I did not find a suitable English equivalent (eg, children should be seen and not heard). I would translate this Dutch saying as follows: "You teach your children (how) to speak, they learn you (how) to be quiet". Essentially, forgiveness works both ways.

The more I know, the less I understand. All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again. I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter. But my will gets weak And my thoughts seem to scatter. But I think it's about forgiveness, Forgiveness. Even if, even if you don't love me anymore. 

Don Henley - Heart Of The Matter (1989) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Can you love someone else if you don't love yourself?

In my view, the biggest accomplishment in life is to love yourself for who you are. Certainly, not what (eg, role, position) you are as that tends to be of a temporary nature. Before writing this blog, I heard the John Legend song All Of Me on the radio. He sings: "Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections". I am pretty sure that these words are meant for his lover. However, it could also apply to himself - or yourself. Accepting all of your imperfections isn't easy though.

This topic is the result of a discussion with a friend. I believe that you can only love someone once you love yourself. She doesn't. Deep down, I have always known that I didn't genuinely love myself - or anyone else - until my early 50s. Possibly as I lacked role models. My divorce (at 50) was the start of finally standing up for myself and becoming independent - in my "mind". During that process I also finally accepted my imperfections and learned to love myself for who I am.

The difficulty with this question - Can you love someone else if you don't love yourself? - is the definition of love. Depending on your definition the answer is a yes or a no. Once you add the word unconditional to the definition of love then the answer gets more complicated and will - in my view - tend towards a no. In my view, unconditionality is a key word in any definition of love. 

I think and feel that people who do not genuinely love themselves, expect something in return when giving their love. Essentially, their love is conditional. Once the love is over, the self-hatred (or self-loathing) returns. However, it is easier to project that hatred - or loathing - onto the other person. Hence, the ferocity in their behaviour as they feel betrayed.

Conditional love is about receiving something that has been missing: admiration, attention, caring, respect - and even love itself. In exchange for that you give something that you may label yourself as love but which does not genuinely feel as love to the receiver. It may even feel like desperate "love". Essentially, conditional love is unilateral love. Genuine or true love is unconditional and bilateral. 

A conditional unilateral love is doomed to fail. At least one person is likely to feel this - or worse: to find out about it - and will test its boundaries. Unfortunately, testing the boundaries of a unilateral love comes at a very high prize - a loss of respect for the other person. Actually, I have been at both sides of this equation. And one of these sides hurts a lot.........

The above will continue as history usually repeats itself and we seldom learn from our mistakes. We make the mistake to view lessons in love as separate from lessons in/of life. Hence, there seems not much to learn. We ignore that our behaviour is causing our mistakes in love and life.

Love is a unique chemistry between two unique personalities. Each person brings his/her imperfect behaviour into that mix. True (bilateral) love allows for unconditional acceptance of mutual flaws. Unilateral love does not. Understanding our flaws in love and life is key to not repeating mistakes.

I'm not proud, I was wrong. And the truth is hard to take. I felt sure we had enough. But our love went overboard. Lessons in love. When will you ever learn. Lessons in love. When there's nowhere left to turn. Level 42 - Lessons in Love

Level 42 - Lessons in Love (1986) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Friday, 11 December 2015

Sleeping American Beauty

Yesterday I received a remarkable comment from an American friend: "The people living here are so blind. I think people are so into themselves they care about nothing, and one day they will wake up but it will be too late". The words which my American friend then added by and large confirm the European view on our main ally: "If you really look at it, that is just what is going to happen!! Americans are selfish, greedy, uncaring people, they think about themselves and what will benefit them, they don't seem to ever look ahead".

After those comments, the first image that came to my mind was Sleeping Beauty (IMDb). Then another image popped up: American Beauty (IMDb). After visiting the USA for some 10 times, I consider it a country of immense natural beauty. I am stunned how American solidarity has been replaced by self absorbedness. This inward focus resulted in a loss of touch with the outside world. Hence, Sleeping American Beauty.

The awakening of Sleeping Beauty has several versions, some more brutal than others (source). 9/11 could have been the brutal awakening but it wasn't - with hindsight. It has only further increased the nation's dividedness and polarisation. It is hard to see who or what will "kiss" America awake from her sleep or "sleepwalking".  

We may just witness another example in the rise and fall of nations. As already mentioned in my 11 April 2015 blog, the USA is just a mere 100 years in 5,000 years of (global) superpowers. For the majority of the past 5,000 years, Europe has been the leading region on Earth (my blog). In this context, a special note should be made to the mid-American Maya culture which reigned for some 2,500 years. The Black Death (1400-1500) wiped out the then ruling nations in each region.

We should also not forget however that the 2,500 year Maya culture represented native "Americans" whereas the current USA is largely based upon European immigrants / refugees. In 1664, The Netherlands sold New Amsterdam to the Brits who renamed it into New York. Essentially, the USA was a British colony until its independence in 1776. The historical animosity between England and France most likely played a vital role in the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783.  

To some extent, I feel that these European immigrants / refugees took something essential to the USA: drive, determination, passion and risk taking. What Europe lacks, the US has too much. The reason for this may be hidden in a recent Harvard Business Review leadership study: "Surprisingly, the most effective leaders did not have the highest level of self-awareness. Indeed, the more they underrated themselves, the more highly they were perceived as leaders. We assume this is caused by a combination of humility, high personal standards, and a continual striving to be better".

Calling yourself the "greatest (or most powerful) nation in the world" is the opposite of humility. It is sign of overrating and vanity. Vanity and compassion do not seem to mix well. Compassion seems to fit well in leaders who underrate themselves such as the 2015 TIME Person of the Year: Mrs Angela Merkel. The USA used to have great, humble and serving leaders. Those times are long gone but could come back once humility and high personal standards are seen as virtues rather than vices.

The only reason why I will remain optimistic about the future potential of the USA is its unrivaled resilience which is rooted in its drive, determination, passion and risk taking.