30 July 2008
29 July 2008
24 July 2008
23 July 2008
The doctors seem to say that boys have peculiar problems of a psychological nature of which we need to gain empirical knowledge, so that they can be dealt with. (There is another charitable reading I will say more about later: that we look away from the way masculinity is oppressive, not only to women, but also to men.) It's time to talk about things that we normally keep quit about, they most probably suggest (the insufficient, sublimating state of vittuperkelesaatana). The first part of the quoted sentence, "Grown men [....] are needed in ordinary life, schools and in healt care." Why do they put it like this? Well, it might not be too far-fetched an interpretation if we take them to say that there is something about grown men, their sex/gender that makes them more insightful with regards to the troubled minds of young males. From this can be derived a pretty essentialist idea about sex/gender, according to which these are something we, in a very simple and concrete sense, have. Thus: males have their peculiar problems, and guys are, because they are male, more well-prepared to understand the nature of these problems (and perhaps take appropriate action? - "role models").
Girls and women have, for a very long time, been the object of psychologizing and diagnoziation. One might even go as far as proposing that some ways of talking about "women" and femininity are internally related to talking about something as a psychological tic, a diagnosis or a psychological phenomenon. (Do I have to mention examples? PMS, hysteria, self-indulgence, "empathy", "tears come so easily for women....") Well, are we seeing the same development, but a male set of psychologisms? Yeah maybe. But the interesting thing, of course, is how these "psychologisms" are used. "Boys with psychological problems need understanding from other men." Well - what might be the point of saying such a thing? "Little Teddy is prone to act aggressively. His dad, who is a baseball player, will teach him a few things about turning his aggression into something creative. After all, boys will be boys." In this example, Teddy's anger, gushes of rage or what it might be, is treated as something that does not express anything about him, about his life, his relation to others. No: aggression is some sort of force that may be directed against different objects, some of which are more socially accepted than others (it's much nicer to be a baseball player than a serial killer).
The assumption here seems to be that there is a "male nature" that needs to be understood (and the next assumption is that males have a direct access to this understanding). The folks from "Befolkningsförbundet" claim that "there is a lot of pressure in growing up to be a man. You are either a winner or a loser. These models may be prohibited by means of recognitions of [boys'] need for help." Again: if we opt for a charitable reading, we may give these doctors credits for talking openly about the way people are crushed under stupid gender patterns. But there is still something in the article that makes me doubt whether they would say this. I hint a trust in "the good masculinity".
The common idea (and I don't necessarily want to ascribe this to the doctors in question), anyway, is that there is a lot of anguish because males are confused. Why? Because of the changing gender roles. It is no longer (here we go again) socially accepted for men to treat women as house slaves and sex slaves, thus, they must adapt into something else - but what? The problem is, many would say, that there is no clear model of what to be "as a man". Males are confused because there are too many masculinities. And hence the psychological crisis of young boys (but according to this argument, grown-up men would be in no better position to offer guiding to their juniors). You might ask why I am critical of this way of talking about "men in crisis". One reason (and it is a weighty one for me) is that social acceptability, combined with some hypothesis about "male nature", seem to be presupposed here. As if the main purpose in life for men - the way to harmony & happiness - is spelled a solid masculinity. Well, folks, if you ask me, that is fluff. One may be confused about what kind of person one is, about what kind of person "one should be". But I would say that a part of this confusion is that one is worrying about being "a particular kind of person". Instead of, you know, living the best one can.
At present, I am reading Paris-Dakar by Jens Liljestrand. It is a good book precisely because in it, Liljestrand questions the idea that there is a form of untainted, absolving masculinity in which troubled men takes comfort during hard times. His point seems to be that men are tormented by masculinity, that masculinity is a hang-up, a ghost, a false escape. In a next to perfect pitch, Liljestrand goes through the gendered clichés. In one of the short stories of Paris-Dakar, the author presents the respectable man who is seen as boring among his friends but who is good at organizing stuff. When he can't even hold on to that picture of himself, his entire existence is breaking down. Liljestrand's stories are packed with men who "feel miserable". But to use the psychologistic language that I referred to above would not fit the perspective he writes from. The pain he masterfully depicts is not dissolved by pointing at the dream of a solid masculinity. The problem is, I agree, Identity. But the book provides an argument against it. Every form of it. Identity is the problem (sickness unto death, if you will).
22 July 2008
Sometimes just a scene depicting a guy playing ping-pong by himself is loaded with the force to express so much. The explosive, mesmerizing, character of the pictures is difficult to put into words. In one scene, a middle-aged couple are having dinner. In that small scene, we watch the facade drop while their lives fall apart. But even though there is an "explosion" here, it is treated carefully. The aftermath, the stretched-out picture of two agonized faces. Two pair of hands holding on to a fork and a knife for dear life.
Sequences from the news are shown repeatedly. We watch the same sequences - about the war in the former Yogoslavia, and the Michael Jackson child molesting scandal. Jackson & genocide. In the setting of the evening news, they are presented as being of equal interest, as "information". "This happened today". (This particular aspect of the movie could easily have become extremely tasteless and - you know - cheap, but I think there are some redeeming traits of his "media criticism") I suppose one thing I came to think of while watching 71 fragments is how pictures do move us, shake us, but that there is no given form of how to give an honest account of something that is evil or corrupt. The violence that is included in Haneke's film is not graphical. It is only hinted at, or it takes other than physical forms. I find this film being a slightly more rewarding, much deeper, account of violence and cruelty than, for example, Funny games (1997) even though they might share some themes in common (a discussion about how to portray violence without it becoming exploitation or entertainment).
"Haneke is a purveyor of contemporary alienation". That expression is off-putting. But maybe there's a hint of truth in it nonetheless.
21 July 2008
20 July 2008
17 July 2008
Once, it was his life. Gösta had contacts. Gösta knew things. He was around. He recalls the lunch breaks; kauppalehti and the curvy worries of the stock market. Bad Chinese food. CEO:s and delicious coffee. Coffee stomachs rumbled and the clock was ticking. Like a bad sign: time is money. You are but the embodiment of it. Deal with it, kid. They told him stories about India, the outbacks of the jungle, the endless seas. The arctic steppe. The heat of the southern sun. These stories were jokes, edification, moral guiding, professional advice - spiritual numbing. A disclosure of realism. He was driven towards it. It felt good. He surfed the wave. "If you intend to work here, you must not grow soft-feeted." said Boss, eyes of blue steel. "Don't take it personally." "This is the way it works." Boss wants them to believe they will change everything. There's endless possibilities, endless challenges. His voice is infectiously sweet, alluring, seductive. You have to leave everything behind, Gösta. Forget everything you learned. Forget everything. Step into the room and look into the light. Look into my eyes and try to look like you believe it. You want to. I know it. You do.
Gösta listens to the hum of the document destroyer. Serious business, it is. Gösta learns a word: clandestine. Gösta learns the rules: this is important shit, one step in the wrong direction, and you've destroyed everything. Everything. It will destroy you, too. This is not for the eyes of the world to see. If you're involved in serious business, you can't run around telling everybody about it. You understand. The professional knows when to keep quiet. The professional never forgets who he represents. He keeps an eye open. Keep an eye on the next guy. Close the door, will ya. Let's talk. We're in for something BIG. The whole place is in a frenzy. Nobody eats, nobody sleeps. Nobody counts the hours. It's happening.
The distinction between soft values and hard values is glued into Gösta's mind. Hard values are hard facts. Tangible, real, concrete. But we are only humans. Humans are tricky. Humans get in the way of stuff. Machines, projects, plans. Humans are silly. But they can be managed and management takes on different forms. Business is a whole, consisting of many parts. Gösta reads books about human resources. Gösta writes masterpiece reports. Team building, Capacities, integration, core values, value creation. Gösta grows deeper into nu-speak, biz-speak, no-speak. Gösta's mind is a blank. Gösta is afraid of himself and what he has become.
Gösta jots down figures. Gösta sweats and makes things up. Gösta falls asleep on his desk. A nap. Nobody will notice, too busy. Gösta drinks 8 cups of coffee. In the afternoon, he sneaks out of the office. "An errand". Gösta and Gösta's mate hole up in a cafe nearby. One of them is smoking. One of them is complaining. Gösta eats a donut. It's another quarter, Gösta. It's another round. The leaves are changing color, and Gösta realizes something. He packs the bag with the computer, the documents and his coffee mug. His Powerpoint conclusions (five points about morality & management). It's a cloudy day. There's no wind. He throws all this shit into the river. Gösta's history rests in the company of rusty bikes and rubble. Gösta walks down the street.
15 July 2008
Jansson & Pietilä spent many summers in the Pellinge archipelago, on an island inhabited by nobody else - Klovharun. Jansson writes about their day-to-day life on the secluded island. She talks about the surroundings, but there's no hints of pastoral sentimentalism. Her observations are dry, and very evocative. There's joy, melancholy and grief. Ordinary things: how they grow more quiet, as there is so little to talk about, how they talk about the weather, how every small change of weather becomes interesting. Having grown up in the archipelago, I am familiar with this enormous fascination with weather. That it can mean different things. That you can say: "there's northerly wind" in a thousand ways, all of them expressing different things, depending on the context.
But it is the pictures, the clips, that truly make the text come alive. The transformations of nature; wind, sunshine, rain, but also the daily activities of fishing, resting, boat trips - dancing.
When I read the book, my immediate reaction was that this is one of the most moving accounts of love I've ever come across in my life. That impression stuck with me as I was watching the film. There's the way one of the women films the other, gently. Watching their faces, usually smiling, cracking up into a hearty, beaming smile. It is very beautiful. They are very beautiful. Just watching the pictures and listening to Jansson's matter of fact tales of Pietilä's skillfullness with regards to machines, their inventions, their boredom - convey so much.
RinneRadio, an excellent Finnish jazz/electronica band, performs most of the music of the film. A tasteful choice of music, if you ask me. The only thing that puzzled me - amused me! - was the use of Scott McKenzie's "If your going to San Franscisco (wear flowers in your hair)" in combination with pictures of one of the women's joyous dancing movements. It's a long way from Frisco to Pellinge. But maybe that's the point.
I also want to recommend the documentary about Pietilä's and Jansson's travels together, "Tove & Tooti i Europa" (2004).
12 July 2008
Religious knives - not familiar to me until recently. The group has been making music for a while and the members are, so I've heard, involved in a lot of other hip projects. All I've got is It's after dark. For the moment, I don't need anything else. This is: The Doors at their druggiest, Morrison-the-crazy-shaman / Panda bear (Young prayer) or Grizzly bear-ish otherworldliness / Suicide's Suicide / Slow, slow, slow / Droooones. Sweet drones. Turn it up, let the speakers explode!
11 July 2008
I found the right bus stop. It was not difficult, as there were groups of tourists waiting. A group of people were carrying McDonald's bags. On the bus, the stale smell of burgers & chips made me feel sick in my stomach. The ride took about 1 1/2 hour. The sun was shining, and I observed the small, quite neat-looking, villages that surround the concentration camp. I wandered around the area in silence, having declined the offer of an audioguide. There were enough voices in my head. Is this a museum? No, and yes. No. I looked at the mountains of glasses, hair, and kids' shoes that were on display. The barracks. At one point, I was overwhelmed by it all and my head started to spin. I sat down on a doorstep while a never-ending stream of people walked by. Some were quiet. Some were talking incessantly.
Another bus took me to Birkenau. It was a trip of about 15 minutes. On that bus, there was dead silence. Most of the tourists came in groups, but they were not so many. It was quite windy, and the sunlight had the bleakness of late afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the tower and the entrance. I walked. I walked fast. I walked through the open fields, the nakedness of the landscape forcing itself upon me, until I reached the edge of the woods. That felt like a relief, somehow. Looking out on the fields, the place felt huge, the railtracks worming their way into eternity. Most of the buildings are gone. Many were destroyed by the Germans in 1945. In the woods, there were some rusty rubble, a wooden table, a spooky glade. I felt empty inside, and turned back. An American, elderly woman passed me by. "I noticed you a while ago. You're really having a walk," she said, cheerfully, as if we were on a hike together. I nodded, and found my way to the bus stop, which was situated outside the camp, maybe 500 meters away. All the same, it was an altogether different world. I sat down on the asphalt. There were a lot of kids on the bus. They were not tourists, they were living in the area, going to town. I listened to the sound of their happy voices, and maybe I fell asleep for a while. Back in Krakow, I headed straight to my shabby lodging, and spent the night looking at the wall in front of me. It was a nunnery that accepted foreign (not religiously affiliated) tourists. At 2 am, a group of noisy Americans stumbled in. Their steps and their voices resonated in the whole building. I think I took comfort in a book, but I can't recall which one.
I just watched Night and fog by Alain Resnais.
9 July 2008
Speaking in Hokkaido yesterday, the Prime Minister admitted that Britain was facing a "difficult economic time", but insisted that it was not a fault of his leadership. "Every country in the world is facing a difficult economic time because of what has happened in oil prices and food prices," said Mr Brown. "I think I am the right person to take people through these difficult times."
Mr Brown's "reassuring words" illuminate a thousand reasons for why I feel more and more pessimistic about politics & politicians. If the concerns of politicians are primarily directed at convincing potential voters of why they are not to blame for the present economic situation, then the future does not look good. And I strongly doubt that the economic crisis of the world is resolved by the Genius of Mr. Brown.
8 July 2008
2 July 2008
On the way home from Arkipelag, the streets are empty. Gösta & research assistant eat hot dogs at Rökka (the new Rökka). Gösta eats two. Gösta wonders whether life should be this way. He plays with a cat before hitting the sack. The research assistant's cat. Gösta goes to sleep and has a dream about you. You ask something about bars and Gösta bends forward close-close to whisper all he knows in your ear. In the elevator of his house, which is not really his house, Gösta howls a song by Blind Willie Johnson. "I know his blood can make me whole."
Gösta looks at the bright lights. If there's a car, there's a driver. Or a ghost. Gösta's head spins with bad dreams and Viking Line liquor. Gösta's mind is soothed by poorly written political prose about hegemony and the global power of the US.
Culture & congress house of Mariehamn. There will be doors that lead nowhere. There will be music that is stone. There will be no blood. The building will be painted pink and it will be decorated with flags.
Gösta sniggers at the crazy word "självstyrelsegården", the "parliament". That's a building that looks like it was built in DDR. Åländers nurse nationalism of a sort that is hard to pin down. It's unclear whether all the fuss is about money, or sheer, you know, need for collectivity.
Gösta packs his bag with Det Åländska folkets historia, band 1-5, and sits down in central Mariehamn to show off the depths of his knowledge and the benevolence of his attitude. Gösta weeps in front of Julius Sundblom, the liberator, the founding father of the autonomous people of Åland (which has, of course, existed as long as time itself, as the world itself). "Erected by the Åland people" ("rest av Ålands folk") is written on the plinth of the statue.