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Life

Eurovision

The Eurovision Song Contest was held this evening in Rotterdam. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s the annual competition that launched ABBA into the stratosphere in the 1970s, and was the subject of the wonderful movie starring Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell last year.

While I wasn’t surprised at the outcome of the competition itself, I was surprised at the reaction to the outcome by a number of people I know.

Before getting around to that, it’s worth noting that in my mind the Eurovision Song Contest has some significant problems.

Because of the number of countries now involved, “Semi Finals” are held – meaning many of the more original bands are filtered out by juries of “professionals” that select the finalists. Unfortunately those juries tend to vote politically – meaning that neighbouring countries vote for each other.

Thankfully half of the vote in the finals is made up by a public vote – which often redresses the balance – but it’s too late for the bands that have already been removed from the competition by the afore mentioned biased juries.

There’s a damning phrase about committees (called juries in this case) – “designed by committee” often means the end result is a watered down mess that nobody actually wanted, but they are willing to live with if it means they don’t have to do anything more.

Getting back to the actual subject of this post, I headed to Facebook and Twitter after the competition finished, and started reading people’s reactions. I was stunned.

“The winner was terrible – nowhere near as good as (insert winner from 30 years ago)”

“Everyone in Europe hates us – what do you expect?”

“Most of the music was terrible – nothing I would ever listen to!”

“Did you see what half of them were wearing? I would be embarrassed!”

I could go on – for quite some time.

I suppose I’m just surprised (and not surprised at all) about the blinkered, insular view that seems to be so prevalent throughout a wide cross-section of people here.

So many people seem to think that their opinions are shared by the majority, because they are shared by the small circle of people that re-inforce their often bigoted, prejudiced, narrow minded, racist, sexist, or outdated opinions on music, fashion, style, culture, and everything in-between.

The social networks have a part to play in this of course – I’ve written about this before – about the algorithmic timeline surrounding people with concordant views. It’s dangerous. Unless we are challenged, we do not learn or grow. Plato wrote about it sixteen hundred years go in his “Allegory of the Cave”. It seems many people still haven’t learned.

How do I turn this around?

Perhaps with the admission that our entry into the competition was really, really awful – and that I loved many of the more spirited, individual acts that performed throughout this year’s show.

I just wish there were a few more people with open minds, and open hearts taking notice of the direction the world is headed, who might make a quiet stand against it with me.

Categories
Life

Loud Thoughts on a Quiet Weekend

It’s been very quiet indeed around here for the last few days. After a scare mid-week where my youngest daughter had to do a COVID test, we have stayed holed up in the house for almost the entire time. I walked to the supermarket last night to get groceries, but other than that we have gone nowhere and done nothing.

I’m beginning to understand what Stir Crazy really means.

Of course the huge distraction this week has been history unfolding in America – and I’ve been trying to do my usual fence sitting act – to read and watch a variety of news sources. It’s so hard – trying to have any empathy at all for those I know that think of themselves as republican. Their ideals and values pretty much go against everything I know – and yet I try not to say anything untoward.

While reading an interview yesterday expressing disbelief that so many people believe the stream of lies, falsehoods, and fraud coming from so many in positions of power, I couldn’t help thinking about all the religious people I know, and thinking how two faced everybody is. How is believing in election fraud any different than believing in a magical creator figure in the sky that gets credit for anything good, and is escaped from the argument for anything bad?

People believe what they want to believe, and there’s nothing we can really do about it.

The world is just tremendously broken. Perhaps we’re fortunate that it doesn’t go spectacularly wrong more often.

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Life

Comfortable in my own Skin

I decided about an hour ago that it might be a good idea to update my profile photo everywhere – to better reflect what I have looked like for the last six months or so. It struck me while posting it that something unexpected has happened in recent times – I have become more-or-less comfortable in my own skin. In my thoughts too. Things haven’t always been this way.

When I was young, I was always the gawky kid that didn’t quite fit in. I found it difficult to make friends, and then difficult to maintain friendships. I thought about things too much – I still do – and worried about perceptions of actions and words by those around me.

I wouldn’t say I’ve started to care less about what other people think – I think perhaps I’ve just become a little more confident that my view or outlook is ok – that I’m not a lunatic or monster. If somebody else wants to have an agenda, or a mission, that’s up to them – we don’t have to share opinions, ideals, or world-views. Differences are almost always what make people interesting, and a chance to learn from. I suppose the only problem with that is the most vocal are often the most resistant to other points of view.

It doesn’t help that historically I have sat on the fence about so many things.

For years if questioned about my religious beliefs, I would say I was agnostic – because I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. These days when questioned, I will freely admit that I have no faith or belief in any sort of higher power. That’s not the same as atheism – by the same logic that you can’t prove the existence of a higher power, you can’t disprove it either. Just because you haven’t observed something yet doesn’t mean it’s not there.

A few months ago I probably lost a few friends while defending J K Rowling’s defence of women’s rights, in the face of an opinionated mob weaponising social media against her. When a public response against such attacks on social media was then signed by several hundred of the foremost writers and thinkers of our time, I will admit to exhaling somewhat.

A similar situation happened about a month after the COVID19 pandemic had swept the world. For a time our prime minister was in hospital, being treated for the virus, and the people were behind him. Then slowly but surely, all manner of keyboard warriors and armchair experts started weighing in on every decision, both past and present. I commented about it on Facebook, and spent an afternoon defending even the thought that I might defend our government. Somebody I used to work with eventually saw my point, and commented “see that’s the thing – you’re a nice person – you’re calm, objective, and reasonable – so you expect others to be too”. There were no more comments after that.

Stepping away from blogging over the last few months has caused quite a bit of reflection – about why I write, what I write, and who I write for. Although I have often stated that I write for myself, if you know any sort of audience is out there, it obviously influences you to an extent. I’ve begun to wonder if I now care less about that audience too – not in a bad way – but it’s difficult to express why.

Maybe it’s a realisation that everybody has their own story – their own journey – and it’s not about worrying what others think – it’s more about being true to yourself, and affording others the chance to do the same.