tirsdag den 17. juli 2012

Dear Diary, my Facebook doesn't Understand Me!

Dear Diary,

What do I mean by stating that my Facebook doesn't understand me? 

Well, several things, as a matter of fact. Computers, information technology, and not least the Internet have meant a fundamental change to the way humans communicate, relate to and entertain themselves and each other. The newest sprout in the virtual garden of Humanity is Facebook which on the one hand presents fantastic possibilities for reaching out and on the other hand entails frightful consequences for our possibility of reaching deeper than a few inches of topsoil, as it were.

It began with small groups of “friends” connecting either due to previous acquaintances or the need of “networking” at least semi-professionally or because they shared a cause, an interest, or a debate that they wanted to delve into more. But today Facebook is a rapidly becoming not only a commercial machine abusing people's personal information for profit but also a completely unstoppable, uncontrollable and actually unpalatable 'mal-stream' of would-be consciousness and conversational litter from the chattering classes, which by the way seem to be threatening to engulf just about all humans on Earth, including the once-thinking ones.

I've already let you in on the fact that I'm a Dane. Well, Danes have another informal Constitution besides the laws of Jante: 'The rules for Happiness'. And yes, the rules are FOR happiness as no Dane will easily get by expressing any kind of anger, frustration, sadness, sorrow or just moaning at the sometimes cumbersome existence on Earth. Express but one critical concern, let alone one ounce of dismay, and the 'Happiness Police' will be all over you! That's actually an additional and a fairly good reason for writing in English, it occurs to me now …

And Danes are reportedly the happiest people on Earth – at least when you ask themselves in a public-opinion-poll kind of way and compare their answers to well-prepared questions with the replies of people of other Nationalities. Much has been made of the fact that Modern Danes may be regarded as almost a tribe, after losing our little yet not unimportant Empire in the parts of Europe around us and various slave colonies that we prefer to forget about, and before we in the late 1960's began receiving about as many non-European immigrants and refugees as well as their families in about 30 years as we received in the 300 years preceding that, i.e. since the Danish Nationality and Naturalization Act had to be introduced as we were left with ourselves and to our own devices.

That "influx", the results of which is well under 10% of the entire population, made for quite some rumble in the Danish jungle and meant that a former anti-tax party, the so-called Progress Party, turned from being ultra-liberal bordering on libertarianism and right-wing anarchism to being extremely nationalistic Conservatives and most of the party went on to form the so-called Danish People's Party – a party that almost 15% of the electorate vote for because of its mix of populism, xenophobia and a self-imposed role as the guardians of Danish welfarism, but few will publicly admit to what they are doing in the voting booth.

This brings the Danish 'Happiness Rules” into a somewhat different perspective, as the Danish People's Party embrace some of the traditional Danish “happiness” but is careful not to extend that to non-European foreigners … Moreover, the party presently commanding almost 35% of the likely-to-vote respondents in the polls, the so-called Liberal Party, has not only been building a political coalition with the Danish People's Party but is also claiming to share their core values. So, quite a lot of Danes are in fact not that satisfied, at least not with their neighbours, and that actually goes for certain tribe members that are out of bounds as well.

Much has also been made of the fact that Denmark has a fairly large degree of equality compared with other countries and of the fact that the Danish national welfare state provides for the now world-renowned flexicurity – a unique combination of state-provided social and economic security combined with a high degree of flexibility in the job market - which many politicians and economists around the world see as a great act to follow, and I suppose that most social scientists and just generally sensible people will surmise a certain connection between flexicurity and equality.

It's something of a pity, then, that the Danish political (and economic and cultural) elite has more or less decided to dispense with both equality and flexicurity, and they have already made extremely important inroads into the very social fabric as well as the law that underpin both concepts. I suppose that to a Liberalist, flexicurity and equality in a society based on Capitalist principles, albeit with a “human face” and a democratic state with separation of powers, must seem like the bumblebee that flies even though science until recently viewed it as totally unable to do exactly that.

And yes, Scandinavia was probably fortunate in having a key strategic importance during the Cold War where the nuclear capability on both side would mean an almost assuredly extinction in case of war and where any kind of social bribe was allowed as long as we stayed in line against the terrible Communists. That together with our tribal nature, the terrible memories of the World War II that actually did bring both Capitalism and Humanity close to extinction, and the necessity of making ends meet without an empire but with a strong tradition for seafaring and trade probably made for a general consensus between classes and groups that we all stood to gain from banking on education, stability and a certain degree of social tranquillity. That understanding began to crumble under the two so-called “oil crises” in the seventies and ended altogether when the Berlin wall tumbled down.

I'll also let you in on another fact about myself: During my first fifty-something years I have moved between classes, as it were, and in the later years I have come dangerously close to the bottom of the Danish happy-go-lucky welfare society. When people in the societal elite make a point, people down here turn it into a punch! What for a publicly renowned scholar may just have meant as a whiff of an idea is quickly turned into a whack when people at the bottom take their frustrations out on each other at being both the in the underclass and at same time being blamed for not only having caused the banking crisis by in general living as “fat cats” beyond their means (whatever that means). Sorry, did I say “frustrations”? Naturally, I meant their happy and noble savage instincts that are made especially keen by living in the sewer of the so-called Modern developed world …

Having to do battle with about 17 chronic illnesses as well as the publicly paid 'compassion workers' (strictly nine to five!) and my fellow 'bottomers' does sometimes make me moan. I admit it. And as I as a perfect gentleman or at least a man that has made my way through countless encounters without being careful to have money, official position, network, children or at least friends to show for it (except sometimes my Ex-wife), I have from time to time been using Facebook to vent and ventilate my darker thoughts – among various philosophical, political, ironic and more commonplace statements and links to my undoubtedly ingenious writings (!)

I have been careful, though, only to vent such feelings to what on Facebook is known as “friends”. More general statements or even writings I am both courageous and foolish enough to make in public, hoping that someone will listen sometime. However, my Facebook friends do not seem to care for my intimating sides of my soul that I don't feel should enter a wider public. On the contrary, they either shun me or shame me. I have been taken to school many a time by some person that I knew to some degree at some time – or somebody that I would like to know or – it does happen – would like to know me, apparently until they do - know me, I mean …

A good example is a man that I once studied political science with and who has had a relatively successful career as a University Senior Lecturer with a more or less comfortable life resulting in i.a. two grown boys and an estranged wife, a nice house and considerable tax-supported pension savings and an all but theoretical knowledge of illness. He got enough of my moaning and told me in mail sent from his comfortable University office that it ill behoved anybody to be bitter whatever their particular fate and (mis)fortune...

On my Facebook profile – which few if any read – I have as a favourite quotation Shakespeare's remark put in the mouth of Benedict in the third Act of his Comedy “Much Ado About Nothing”: Every One can Master a Grief but He that Hath it!

Unfortunately very few seem to know the quotation, let alone having understood it, including my now former friend above who probably did have a point but who also grossly mistook my pitch-black humour for something else. However, I can back my claim that few have understood Man and World as well as Shakespeare with the experience of another of my Facebook friends, actually a guy I have yet to meet in person but know from a patient organization and with whom I have exchanged experiences about an illness that we are 'happy' to share.

Some time ago he wrote that he had had to move home and go under cover because of a steady pursuit of a woman scorned … Apparently this woman had for a short while been having an affair with him – and he with her – and she among undoubtedly many things revealed to him that she had a problem with rejection. I'd say!

After a row she had told another former boy friend that my Facebook friend had threatened their mutual child, bringing the boy friend in such rage that he made his way to my friend and demanded to be let in lest my friend wanted to be killed. My friend showed outstanding nerve and presence of mind by opening the door and inviting the enraged parent in for a cup of tea! They had a nice chat about common experiences, including those with the former boy friend's former girl friend, and the father left in relative peace.

However, my friend now decided that his relationship with his present and obviously emotionally frail girlfriend should end and told her so. After that she arranged somehow to have him attacked in his own flat by somebody wearing ski mask who first smashed down the door and proceeded to try so smash my still half-sleeping friend with a very blunt instrument. My friend ran out of his apartment ASAP but the attacker caught up with him and tried to finish the job. A third party, a woman who seems to have everybody's mutual friend, occurred at the scene and persuaded the attacker that my friend had had enough.

My point is this: When my Facebook friend mentioned in a status update (i.e. a sort of statement, once of the week, then of the day, and nowadays about about every half hour) that he had had to move due to an attack arranged by a former lover, I was the only one to express sympathy with the poor man and his predicament. Some “liked” his move – or the status reporting of it, and to yet uninitiated non-Facebookers I would like to explain that this means clicking a button that says “like” under the “status update”. Others, especially woman friends, made jokes about the cost of moving, problems with former lovers and the like. I hope that my memory is playing a trick on me but I seem to remember one comment in the nature of “That'll teach ya!”

The Happiness Police have done their job well! Together, I am tempted to add, with the general decay of any meaningful message being able to penetrate the Facebook network as it grows thicker and thicker. The problem for my friend was not only that he too is a Dane and subject to the whims of the Facebook owners that keep changing the rules on people, but also that being a relatively unknown personality only few saw let alone thought about his update in the Facebook maelstrom.

Moreover, in Denmark we are still living in the Dark Ages when it comes to realizing that women are actually capable of being just a violent and mean as men. Surveys in other countries like ours, especially among our Norwegian 'brothers' but also the UK and the Netherlands, have shown that the two genders are rapidly approaching a tie as to the score on physical violence. Not to mention psychological violence in which I doubt that a company like Ladbrokes would even considering taking a bet! However, in Denmark violence of women against (male) partners has yet to be examined and in the midst of more than fifty shelters for battered women there are four shelters for men – that batter their women ...

But back to Facebook: A public figure or a pundit or any other member of the true elite, contrary to a relative obscurity like my friend, can basically write “fart!” and will instantly receive umpteen “likes” straight away, either because some “friends” want to flaunt their friendship with a well-known person, because the person is their (potential) boss or because they think they know what is meant or because they are afraid to reveal that they don't know what is meant by “fart!” in this case, let alone disprove of such a comment for any number of reasons that we shall never know.

In Denmark, the combined economic, political and cultural elite consists of approx. 5000 people that are in the Media all the time already - only now on Facebook too, sometimes with their latest whiz kid - but not, they claim, because they are notorieties but because they know and say everything that is remotely interesting in the Danish debate … Because despite the laws of Jante Danes are bowled over by "Celebs" the best example of which can be seen in the popularity of an outdated and undemocratic and illiberal institution such as our Monarchy and the attention that is paid to every move, including wrong ones, they make.

Some have tried to convince me that all this could and should be solved with – of all things - an “unlike” button on Facebook… This suggestion seems to me akin to suggesting that we should both explain and counter the dramatic rise of diabetes - all across the world and with both types 1 and 2, by the way – by inventing another name for sugar! (Disclaimer: This was not intended as a pun on the name of the Facebook creator ...)

It is fairly easy to predict what would happen if such a suggestion was carried out: People would be clicking “like” more eagerly than before, thinking now they have a choice, at every utterance by somebody who 'is' somebody, while those that risk the wrath of the Happiness Police and the Facebook Light Brigade by merely suggesting that the Emperor has no clothes on – and what is worse nor have millions of starved children in the world – or even hinting at a personal problem would be “disliked” from here to Eternity … Not to mention how mobbing would entail a completely new and very virtual meaning!

So, dear Diary, I have told of my first problem, apart from being ill and poor, which contrary to International belief is much more closely connected in the so-called welfare state of Denmark, as well as being bereft of e.g. a job network as well as a family of my own: Only having Facebook “friends” left. Soon I will probably only have Facebook left! What should I do? Is there a life beyond Facebook? Is there any substantial meaning that doesn't require a Facebook link? Is there life on Earth?

Yours truly,.
Claus Piculell - in some semi-detached part of Denmark ...

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