This is the only shamanistic strategy I know and use but it works every single time, so I highly recommend it.

I always lose or misplace things. Once, I turned over the entire house in search of my passport. It was nowhere to be found, and I was getting really worried. Feeling exhausted after hours of searching fruitlessly in all the places the passport was likely to be found, I decided to have a snack and continue the search. Of course, the moment I opened the refrigerator, I found my passport right there, on the top shelf.

This is why now I don’t waste time looking for things. Whenever I lose anything, I use my shamanistic strategy. This is what it entails: close your eyes and try to relax as much as possible. Try to avoid thinking and wait for the white noise to come. When you reach that state, open your eyes and immediately run in the first direction that occurs to you. That’s where your lost object will be located.

This is neither an atavism nor voodoo science of any sort. When we look for misplaced objects, we often guide ourselves by the knowledge of where the objects are likely to be, according to logic and reason. These reasonable expectations prevent us from remembering where we actually left the object in question. Our memories of events often are erased and substituted with what we think must have happened. This is precisely why witness accounts are so unreliable.

Through the Eyes of a Stranger: Children As Salespeople

What I find really weird is when people send out kids to sell chocolate bars, magazines, magnets, or any other kind of junk to collect money for charity. I think this is a very disturbing practice. Isn’t it too early for small children to be involved in the whole selling and buying ideology? They have the rest of their lives to feel like failures at selling stuff. Do they really need to be exposed to that as early as 5 (or 8, 10, 12)?

Also, is it really necessary to inculcate the idea that you can only be charitable if you manage to sell a lot? Then these kids grow up and it never even occurs to them that shelling out huge sums of money to feel self-righteous and good has nothing whatsoever to do with charity. People just sign monthly checks to charities in a completely mechanical way. Often, they even compete through the size of their donations.

We already have sales strategies invade too many areas of our lives. Is it really necessary to expose small children to sales under the guise of teaching them to be charitable? If instead you, for example, take a kid to the old folks’ home and get him or her to read a book or chat with a lonely elderly person, wouldn’t this do a lot more to develop this child as a human being than any amount s/he can bring in by selling stuff?

If I do decide to have a child and that child is forced to participate in this by their school, I’d just buy the entire stock of candy or chocolate bars or fridge magnets with my own money. And then I’d walk around with the kid distributing the stuff to people for free. Otherwise, I’d just die of shame if I see my (imaginary) child trying to sell things to people at an early age.

How do you, dear readers, feel about this phenomenon?

I was reminded of this disturbing phenomenon by this post.

Zizek and the Occupy Movement, Part II

The reason why I love Zizek in spite of all his outdated Marxist rhetoric is that he is great at coming up with pithy statements that summarize the issue perfectly. Take the following for example:

They are called losers – but are the true losers not there on Wall Street, who received massive bailouts? They are called socialists – but in the US, there already is socialism for the rich. They are accused of not respecting private property – but the Wall Street speculations that led to the crash of 2008 erased more hard-earned private property than if the protesters were to be destroying it night and day – just think of thousands of homes repossessed.

This is, in my opinion, a perfect response to many of the superficial critics of the movement.

Zizek also has something crucial to say about the false friends of the movement:

The protesters should beware not only of enemies, but also of false friends who pretend to support them but are already working hard to dilute the protest. In the same way we get coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, ice-cream without fat, those in power will try to make the protests into a harmless moralistic gesture.

I couldn’t agree more. There is nothing more potentially dangerous to the #Occupy movement than the attempts to drown the legitimate economic grievances and the important political message of the protesters in the sea of moralizing inanities about the evilness of greed. I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but this is a central concern. Morality cannot and should not be addressed by political means. A political movement that has any chance of succeeding needs to abandon the weepy personal stories (many of which are not even that weepy and make the protesters look like spoiled brats) and exhortations about compassion and voice concrete factual demands. These demands should be addressed solely and exclusively to the elected representatives of the people, not to some private citizens who have no obligation whatsoever not to be greedy or to show compassion.

Zizek, of course, disagrees:

What one should resist at this stage is precisely such a quick translation of the energy of the protest into a set of concrete pragmatic demands. . . What one should always bear in mind is that any debate here and now necessarily remains a debate on enemy’s turf; time is needed to deploy the new content.

I understand what Zizek is saying and why he believes it is too soon to begin to formulate what the practical demands can be at this stage. However, I’m not convinced that there is time. Winter is coming and it sounds like it will be a pretty harsh one. In Montreal, we are promised the coldest winter in 20 years, and New York always gets whatever weather Montreal does. Then, the holiday season will be upon us with its triple whammy of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Who can judge the protesters if they decide not to show up when it’s cold outside and there are things to celebrate?

The #Occupy movement is the most hopeful, promising and wonderful thing to happen in the US public arena for a long time. People are waking up, getting angry, getting engaged. I watch the coverage that shows the protesters magnifying the voices of the speakers by repeating what they say in a ripple effect and I feel that finally, finally we are seeing the children and the grandchildren of those Americans who stunned the world with their dedication to social justice in the 1960s and 1970s.

Those of us who wept with joy during Obama’s election victory speech and then listened in stunned horrified silence to him appointing Summers and Geithner to key positions almost immediately after that don’t want another major disappointment. We bought into the vague rhetoric of hope and change but as soon as our “hopey-changey” leader got elected, we realized that hope and change meant completely different things to many of us. We need to abandon the meaningless feel-good slogan-making of “99% vs 1%” and “greed is bad” and start voicing concrete demands.

If we let this opportunity to get something done go to waste, we might not get another one.