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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Discussing some platitudes

This was written on 26/8/2012. I've just edited and added some bits. As young people often share, on facebook and tumblr and weheartit and wherever else, what they call inspirational quotes, I see many of them as overused, pointless, childish, even idiotic. Whenever seeing one I always have that strong urge to twist it, to tell them to look at the other side. This post is merely a touch on these platitudes. 


The most common one is probably be optimistic/ look at the bright side/ be grateful for what you have/ you're luckier than lots of people/ what matters is your attitude/ be happy... No need to explain, I've written a long post about it, titled "Half full chủ nghĩa". 
[Which reminds me of an article I read in August which also put the focus on attitude, but which wrote about confidence, saying confidence was the key to success. The exact words I can't recall, but the main point was that the author seemed to prioritise confidence over competence, especially the last paragraph that sounded as though confidence were all that mattered and competence were nice to have but wouldn't be very important.]
Another one is be different/ they laugh at me for being different, I laugh at them for being the same/ don't be the same as other people... 1st, I've always said, everyone is different and everyone is the same. 2nd, as a self-proclaimed nonconformist I of course don't advocate being the same, but the point is, many people do something different only for the sake of being different, whether it's a good choice or not. Such people are anticonformists, who most of the time do the opposite of what the majority do and therefore call themselves special, unique, independent... whereas they in fact are not. My principles are simple: I don't do something only because everybody does it. I don't do something only because no one has done it. I don't stop doing something only because everybody does it. I don't do something only because someone dares me to do it. I don't stop doing something only because someone threatens me, or forbids me from doing it. When I like, want, need to do something or feel that something can do me good, I do it. 
A similar one is, if someone says you can't do something, do it. Does that mean, when someone dares you to do a stupid thing, you have to prove yourself, too, even when you're aware of how stupid, dangerous, risky and/or pointless it is? 
Or, another one, who you are is what makes you special, don't change for anyone/ be yourself/ you are perfect exactly as you are, all you need to change is the thought that you have to change. Does this mean no matter what happens you keep all of your negative traits, characteristics and habits only because they make you who you are? Does this mean you don't have to change, improve yourself, adjust yourself or get rid of something that isn't good for you? Does this mean when someone politely tells you what you should do for your own good, you ignore them and say you are who you are? A similar platitude is, I'm a bitch and I blah blah blah, blah blah blah, but that's who I am. That makes me think of those girls who share this quote by Marilyn Monroe “I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.” It should be clarified at this point that I do like Marilyn Monroe, I've read many of her other quotes and seen "The misfits", "Some like it hot", "Gentlemen prefer blondes", "Niagara", "The 7 year itch" and "All about Eve". I'm afraid, however, many of those girls sharing the quote haven't seen her in any film and don't know very much about Marilyn other than that she's a sex symbol and a cultural icon, but they use the quote to compare themselves to Marilyn or to give an excuse for their behaviour and manner- "But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." Or, further, there's a reason I am who I am, don't judge/ you know my name, not my story... Of course, judging is not good, and people usually don't understand each other until getting close enough, but it doesn't mean that you can be impolite, rude, mean, violent, bad-tempered, irritable, arrogant, conceited, untrustworthy, 2-faced, abusive... and then say that others don't understand you and shouldn't judge you.  
The statement above, in a way, is related to another common one: I am me and I do what I want and live the way I want to and don't care what you think/ I don't give a fuck... The funny thing is, people who really don't care simply don't care. And they go on with their lives without actually giving a fuck. Whereas people who go around and shout at people's faces that they don't care, see, they don't care, are showing that they do care and care a lot. 
Never let go/ don't give up/ risk everything/ follow your heart... are variants of another platitude. I believe the middle way is the answer to everything, at least, most things. To me sometimes people must be intelligent, wise and determined enough to get out of something that they know will lead to nowhere, to know that any further effort is no more than a waste of time and to know that there must be an end. People who keep clinging to something in spite of its pointlessness are simply blind, and this act might even be disastrous or fatal. And risking everything is idiotic too, what will happen if you actually lose everything? You will call it experience? There can be situations where the consequence is too bad for you to even start all over again from pieces, let alone get any experience and succeed later on. 
Then, sometimes, I hear some people say, whether something is good or bad is in your mind alone, which is similar to beauty's in the eye of the beholder. The last time I heard that was in the discussion between me and a guy about universities. Oh, and there's no such thing as bad taste. Well, there are good schools, bad schools, good films, bad films, good designs, bad designs, good pictures, bad pictures, good combinations, bad combinations, good singers, bad singers, good actors, bad actors, good books, bad books, good taste, bad taste, etc. If I like sushi and you like McDonald's, I can't say that I have good taste and you don't- there's no standard. The things I've listed, however, aren't like food. Take literature for example, it doesn't matter if you don't like Shakespeare, but if you say Shakespeare was a bad writer no one would say you just think differently. Again there should be a balance- the fact that there's room for disagreement doesn't necessarily mean there's no distinction at all between what's good and what's bad.
The tendency to quote beauty is skin deep/ don't judge a book by its cover... as an excuse of focusing entirely on the inside and treating appearance as completely insignificant, in my opinion, is silly as well. It's true that the content of a book is more important than the cover and the personality, behaviour, manner and virtues are more important than physical appearance and outfits, but it doesn't mean that you simply throw away what you consider less important. Book covers can be simple, but I can't stand ugly ones. The 1st example I can think of is the cover of "Hồi ký của 1 thằng hèn". Look at the sizes, the fonts, the colours, the compositions. Talking of people, it takes us a while, at least, to understand a person, which is not always possible. Occasionally for various reasons the 1st impression is crucial. And when meeting someone the 1st time, what do you see? Can you see the personality? 1st you see the appearance, the face, the hair, the body, the clothes, the gestures... and that's all. I repeat 1 more time that I don't only care about appearance, but saying beauty is skin deep is a poor excuse for being casual and careless with your body and outfits.
Finally, another cliché I've seen quite often is, money isn't important/ money is nothing... The truth is, people who say money is nothing either are too rich they don't know what it means to live with little money, or simply don't know how to spend money. I do agree that money isn't the most important thing in life, I also agree that money shouldn't be the goal, the aim, but the means, and I agree that people shouldn't throw away their dignity, self-respect, relationships... only for money, etc, etc. But money is important- 1st, for your survival, 2nd, whilst not being happiness in itself, it can give you what brings you convenience, joy and happiness. In sadness, if having money, people can buy books, go to restaurants, go shopping, buy a new house, build a swimming pool, study, travel, do charity, help those who are unluckier... There's a great deal of pleasure in money. 
Linked to this cliché are the questions asking you to choose between 2 things, money or love, money or happiness. Simplistic, more like the type of questions for kindergarten kids and 1st graders, and forcing people to think in black and white, these questions are ridiculous and thus not even worth discussing.
This "negative view" of money leads to a "negative view" of rich people. Around the internet I've seen lots of (leftist) people express an aversion for rich people in general, for no other reason than that rich people are rich. In August for example, I saw someone put up this quote by Confucius "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." Nothing's wrong with being rich, even in a society that has a huge gap between the rich and the poor. Yes it disgusts me when politicians in undemocratic regimes like Putin in Russia or Nguyễn Tấn Dũng in Vietnam live on people's money. Yes it disgusts me when some people prioritise money and benefits over anything else, exploit their workers, and give nothing for charity. However, if people have talent, work hard, take the opportunities, have a good job with a high salary and become rich, they simply get what they deserve. What's wrong with that? 

There are more, much more. But I guess these are enough for today. 

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