Skip to main content

"That's just the way things are." and other cultural traps.

My college buddy just cancelled hanging out with me because it was going to be after 8pm and he didn't want to go out that late because he was worried about crime. He didn't excuse himself for feeling this way, or explain why being worried about crime would be an issue, he just texted me:
Ok. Puerto Rico. Crime. A reality. I'd rather reschedule. Sorry to be an old man 8(
And we're the same age! (By the way, as a close friend I understand what he means. He's got a young daughter and would rather stay at home with her than leave her alone.)

I've been encountering this over and over. "That's just the way things are here." Or the much worse: "It's like that everywhere." (The Japanese got "shikata ga nai", "it's no use.") 

I'm still not sure why people don't see the huge trap going around like that is. Let me make a parallel.

This morning I was watching a TED video from Lisa Bu, who talks about her parents during the Chinese Cultura Revolution and how for them happiness was a good job, didn't matter if you liked the job, just that you had it. That is a job deprived of meaning for you. And this reminded me of my childhood. And it was because of the attitude.

I call it in my book How Environmentalism can Succeed, the poverty of the mind. It's like a desiccation of the psyche, an inability to see the seed grow. I just recently read about this in a book talking about the importance of meaningful work:

Every time people in the company do something new that was formerly thought impossible, they contribute significantly to the company’s culture, and to the sense that much will be possible in the future.
Stanley, Vincent; Yvon Chouinard (2012-05-05). The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years (Kindle Locations 567-568). Patagonia Books. Kindle Edition. (emphasis mine)
This expectation of increasing possibility is huge driver in the economy. Yet here in Puerto Rico the emphasis is on a kind of Cultural Revolution Devolution where the perpetuating of an unworkable reality is cemented by acceptance and resignation to it.

That thinking is dangerous. It's like finding a fork in the road and seeing neither of the bifurcating paths leads where you want to. Then bowing your head and giving up on your destination, resigning yourself to what what Lisa Bu calls "second class happiness" on her Ted talk. Let's not do that. Let's realize that "la voluntad abre caminos" ("where there is a will there is a way/path") and lets go off-road. And if the way is fraught with mountains. Then "pa' encima", "onward and upwards." These are not empty slogans. If they available paths don't lead where you want to, it is not the fault of the destination but of the path maker. How do you know that you must not then set out on a path of your own?

When my friend then texted:
How quickly we grow old.
 However hard it maybe to keep a fertile mind in a sea of desserts, and somedays I loose it too, I will remain fertile and see much possible in the future (or die trying).

I replied:
Speak for yourself.    :P




Comments

  1. Excellent post!

    Personally I like to keep the following attitude: When George Mallory was asked "Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" he calmly replied "Because it is there".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loved it! Most average Puertorricans suffers not from pessimism but from defeatism. This is pointing the finger at the root of the problem.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to configure Ubuntu's keyboard to work like a Mac's

Typing accents on a PC is a complicated Alt + three numbered code affair. One feels like a sorcerer casting a spell. "I summon thee accented é! I press the weird magical key Alt, and with 0191 get the flipped question mark!" For a bilingual person this meant that writing on the computer was a start-and-stop process. With Mac's it a whole lot easier, just Alt + e and the letter you wanted for accents and alt + ? for the question mark. No need to leave the keyboard for the number pad and no need to remember arcane number combinations or have a paper cheat sheet next to the keyboard, as I've seen in virtually every secretaries computer in Puerto Rico.

Linux has a interesting approach to foreign language characters: using a compose key. You hit this key which I typically map to Caps Lock and ' and the letter you want and voilá you get the accent. Kinda makes sense: single quotation mark is an accent, double gets you the ümalaut, works pretty well. Except for the ñ, wh…

Fixing Autocomplete in Github's Atom Text Editor for Ruby

I really like Github's Atom Text Editor. I really like that it's multi-platform allowing me to master one set of skills that is transferable to all platforms and all machines. 

On thing that just burns me of the default set-up in Atom is the Autocomplete feature that seems to change my words as a type them. Because Ruby uses the end of line as a terminus for a statement you usually finish a word with pressing the return button and you get really annoying changes to your finished typed word a la MS Word. I find myself yelling "No that's not what I wrote!" at the screen in busy coffee shops.

I disabled autocomplete for a while but it is a very useful function. Then I found out they changed the package that gave the autocomplete to a new one called "Autocomplete Plus" that gives you more options. All that I needed to change to make autocomplete sane again:

1. Open Atom's Preferences
2. Search the bundled packages for "Autocomplete Plus"

3. Go to t…

Contrasting Styles of Writing: English vs. Spanish

There is interestingly enough a big difference between what's considered good writing in Spanish and English. V.S. Naipul winner of the 2001 Nobel prize for literature publish an article on writing. In it he emphasizes the use of short clear sentences and encourages the lack of adjectives and adverbs. Essentially he pushes the writer to abandon florid language and master spartan communication. This is a desired feature of English prose, where short clipped sentences are the norm and seamlessly flow into a paragraph. In English prose the paragraph is the unit the writer cares about the most.

This is not the case in Spanish where whole short stories (I'm thinking this was Gabriel Garcia Marquez but maybe it was Cortázar) are written in one sentence. Something so difficult to do in English that the expert translator could best manage to encapsulate the tale in two sentences. The florid language is what is considered good writing in Spanish but unfortunately this has lead to what …