Are our dreams vanished?

At 17, I had to write and orally present an argument essay on a topic of my choice. It was 1979 (the age of Aquarius?, some cynics might gibe) and I chose a subject related to nonviolence being a remedy to most of our international issues. I remember taking the examples of three different countries and three similar emblematic figures: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Thirty-seven years later, I still remain inspired by these three pacifist leaders.

martin-luther-king-180477_1920Even today. As Berlin mourns for the loss of German citizens, I wonder where humanism, compassion and tolerance have gone. When I was a teenager, I thought I was living in troubled times but I had this confident hope that new Kings, new Gandhis and new Mandelas would peacefully stand up for the rights of the oppressed. I somehow had faith in the advent of a fresh awareness era. I do not know whether it is because I am at the change of life but I have lost that conviction. My high ideals have been drowned in the present sea of mediocrity. The world today leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It seems like our ability to think, dispute and buck the trend has substantially been shrinking. Where have our dreams run away?

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” (Martin Luther King)
pacifist-71445_640All those powerful speeches, all those words of wisdom still echo in my mind. Though I sometimes feel like we have been giving up our visions for a better world. Excessive capitalism and greed have caused more pollution. We are consuming in order to keep others busy producing and we are producing in order to keep others busy consuming. Why? Not sure we know why. Things are not making us happier. They are keeping us busy and preventing us from thinking and being profound. Things are depriving us from our humanity. And filling the gaps in our lives. We are scared of the void are we not?
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
Reading this quote from Gandhi, we must believe that kind people are everywhere on this planet. They may be few but but their voices cannot be silenced by bombs and killing truck drivers. Their words will never be erased from human hearts. Now is the time to listen.
“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” (Nelson Mandela)
non-violence-1160133_640As Mandela states it, poverty and injustice are the stumbling block and as long as inequality persists, violence will devastate our societies. Words like equality, tolerance, peace, justice or freedom may sound like hackneyed notions to those who have deleted the term “human” from their vocabulary. Let us keep on rejoicing, dreaming, smiling and laughing, resisting and questioning, thinking and learning because these are acts of bravery nowadays. And because it is thoroughly human.

100 light bulb moments

Lately, I have installed Wattpad on my tablet, mostly because googleplay reviews seemed so passionate. Often referred to as the YouTube for writing, Wattpad looks like a huge writing workshop, allowing the user to improve writing skills and even more interesting, get feedbacks. 45 million accomplished or not so skilled writers and avid readers are using this social platform worldwide. At first, I was rather puzzled over the very young average age of the users. I kind of felt like an underdog. So I chose to blend in with the crowd and keep up with what was going on.

Looking for more substantial works, I firstly came across many vampire stories (and the bloodsuckers are miraculously looking like boys bands’ stars), and many romances involving thugs (let’s say toughies or gangstas) or bad boys. On top of this, spelling and syntax mistakes were burgeoning. But I kept looking for more substantial works and found some gems that made my journey on Wattpad very much enjoyable. Once you start to master the app, you will discover nuggets. Some creations have not only a solid storyline which is well carved out but also a correct spelling and a smooth flowing style.

Wattpad is a refreshing experience, because young writers are nice and helpful. They see your work from another perspective and notice mistakes or weaknesses that you would otherwise have disregarded. If you are older, you will feel humbled, which is a great lesson to be taught to when streaks of grey appear in your hair.

The good thing is reactions are swift, which is quite stimulating when you think that Wattpad offers hundreds of millions of written material. Readers will act as incentives for writers and will give advices, be critical, give tips to improve your works. Besides, Wattpad is not only stimulating, it is also inspiring. Writing alone can be depressing sometimes because there is no feedbacks. Being in a community is definitely boosting your inspiration. This app proves that young people are still passionate readers and a lot of them are good writers as well.

Another world

So, hate, contempt, ignorance, racism, xenophobia and such are now generally accepted and politically correct opinions. This is the kind of world we are now living in, I suppose. And all I have been taught at school or at church was nothing but a pipe dream. Is success incompatible with compassion and respect?

What is wrong with humanity? What can’t we think of ourselves in terms of inclusiveness? I listened to Hilary Clinton’s concession speech and could not help but get emotional. I thought that she sounded thoroughly softhearted and genuine. She delivered a well-proportioned message nourished with class, tolerance and benevolence. I was particularly touched by her humbleness and wisdom: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power.” When Donald Trump raises truculence, cynicisn and profanity to some kinds of twisted values, she proves that intelligence is stepping off in style.

I was really looking forward to witnessing the first female president of the United States. What a powerful message it would have been for all women who in many countries are still considered as second class citizens… And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams”, she said.

“The world won’t get no better, we gotta change it”. So the lyrics of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ song go. I still find myself dreaming of a better world where each one has a place, where everyone owes respect to others, where tolerance is a moral duty.

But not this time. Not yet.

The talking typewriter, an early computer

almanach69I enjoy flipping the pages of old almanacs. You learn so many things history books or even the Internet may not tell you about. Just details about everyday life in the past or forgotten fun facts.

Roughly speaking, computers were invented at the end of World War II. So in 1969, people knew about computers but very little if compared with 21st century kids. Little did most people of this era know that computers would actually be part of their future family circle. In fact, it was not until the 70s that the microcomputer appears.

Now this picture comes from a 1969 French almanac. This kid is contemplating a talking typewriter which was a pioneer educational tool created Dr. Moore circa 1962. There is an interesting article in the July 31, 1966 issue of the Chicago Tribune about this invention HERE. Dr. Omar Khayyam Moore is a professor of social psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and wanted the youngsters – mostly coming from illiterate families – to be able to self-teach reading. It is a computerized electric device with visual and audio potentials. Full description HERE.

Buy a smile

He is ringing at the doorbell. He is young. He is arrogant and wears that grin on his face that makes you think he is about to fall on his prey. And you have that unpleasant feeling that you are the prey. “Gas, electricity,” he mumbles. “Did you switch to another energy supplier yet?” I raise an eyebrow. He scribbles something in his notebook and says: “We apparently haven’t come to you yet. Did you you know that prices are increasing by 15% next year?” He is not impressing me and I am not interested. “Well I see you’d rather pay  the price … I can’t believe people!”

I feel like a moron. I’d better slam the door in his face but I don’t. Instead, I bite back: “I’m free to do whatever I want and I like to think by myself.” The guy has definitely wiped out all hope to  convert me into a customer.

“Am I speaking to Mrs *?” By the noise and the distant yet recognizable voice, I hear it is a call center. It seems she is always reading the same lines. She makes me nervous and I should hang up but I don’t. “Dear Madam, you are invited to a VIP day at a store nearby.” I am not interested but she insists on changing my mind. “I’m not selling you anything. This is just an offer.” Come on, you’re not going  to decline, are you? Yes I am. I clearly point out that I do not wish further phone calls from her as I will not buy anything. But I know she will call back someday.

I have heard that new selling techniques are very provocative. Uninvited, the seller gets into your house, sits down at your table and in a laid-back tone, asks for a cup of coffee. Do marketing geniuses up there in their towering office really think that customers are harpooned this way? This would certainly irritate me. Aggressive sales techniques will scare the customer away.

Maybe this is just a game and the one who wins is the funniest one. 

“Mrs. *?” – “I’m so sorry but she just died.” – “?” – “Sure, it’s her talking.” And they will hang up on you. “I never buy anything, ma’am. I’m not eating, I’m consuming myself.”  Or: “Whenever a call center gets hold of me, I’m having an allergy. So please, stop calling or you will get me to the hospital.” Being weird or funny will probably relieve aggravation on your side and make someone smile on the other end of the line.