Opposing world views.
First there’s little old me.
Fucking clueless until I hit my late twenties.
I grew up among workers. I saw workers get home with burns all over their bodies. There were alcoholics everywhere. Parents didn’t know you couldn’t let small children watch horror movies all day long. We drank our first beer when we were four, if they didn’t use alcohol to put us to sleep before we could walk.
We grew up speaking a fat dialect that was labeled ‘marginalized’. This was only tolerated when the teachers thought you were smart. Like when you were witty and could memorize facts.
Nothing bad every happened to me directly and in this pile of misery I was given the feeling that I was special. I was pampered. I had to rebel at home to stop pampering me. When kids got grounded (???) my dad came home with bags full of liquor for me and my friends. My parents at several points begged me to drink. I got so much freedom that when I was 18 I lived like a monk for one year. Wasn’t fun. The excess of freedom would come to haunt me later in life.
Little old me was a mess although – again – nobody ever put something in my anus or any other orifice without my consent. And I went to church a lot until I was 12 because my mother’s side of the family liked to gossip there.
People around me were wrecks. Heavy smokers. Very heavy drinkers. Even our insurance guy had to be driven around by his teenage son on a small motorcycle because he got loaded, no just totally wasted, while he visited clients.
And there were suicides. And suicide attempts. And people constantly talking about their intention to commit suicide. And people were all the frigging time saying: ‘life is a battle’ or ‘life is a struggle’.
Talk of self-fulfilling prophecy.
We grew up feeling a tiny clique called our the shots in our tiny country. A country that had spit us out and closed its door for us. We were the salt of the earth, just good enough to do dirty work, consume and vote for the same free loaders every four or six years.
I grew up hating everything that reeked of officialdom. Everyone with a title, a uniform or a spot in the mainstream culture was suspect. People who had just got lucky.
Much later, in my early twenties I slowly allowed some positivity into my world. Maybe things weren’t all that bad at all. I got to be so positive and gullible that I even thought establishment pawn Obama was a good thing. God, 2008 seems light years away now.
When I go back home I still see the debris. People laughing at reruns of Flemish sitcoms that weren’t even funny the first time, let alone after the 25th view. People with broken backs either from factories or from botched suicide attempts.
There is not one intellectual left in my entire family and none of their friends are. My village is pretty much the same. Full of people with lousy degrees who got a cushy job at a ministry because they helped out at a luncheon organized by a local politican (am not inventing this).
A celebrated (even though he was a pedophile and rapist) writer from my home town once said: ‘The greatest challenge in life is to not become bitter.’
Most of my days I am not up to that challenge and it seems only people who grew up with me seem to understand just how deep this resentment towards the world runs in me.
So to sum up:
- I am wired to distrust anything or anyone mainstream and also rebels who gain some notoriety, am wired to distrust anyone except the underclass, the precariat, the misfits, I feel safe in a slum and a back alley at night and I feel very threatened at a fancy dinner party with people who are well-off
- Most days I wish the drudgery of life with all its sad stories would simply pass me by
- Since I grew up feeling an entire country had rejected me and family I have grown to hate my native language, it’s the language of the enemy. Why do you think I have written far more in English than in Dutch and all my thoughts have been in English for years?
- I am also wired to sympathize with the oppressed, Palestinians, the broken, the marginalized, the homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc, although I am not one of them. I am not one of anything. I am just alone with my thoughts. I pour them on this website, but only my sex stuff gets read.
- When I meet a good person, and I meet a lot of good people, I am still shocked. I am wired to believe everyone is just pretending to be a sorta functioning human being.
- I am so bitter that I choose not to befriend too many people, because even though I am a wonderful therapist and an ok teacher, I am also toxic when I can return to myself. The toxicity is only ever a nuisance if you get too close. The vast majority of people probably think I am a cheerful guy.
Enter random Flemish girl Joke.
Joke is a very typical Flemish girls’ name and the fact that it can be read as the English word ‘joke’ is of course pure cooincidence.
Joke grew up in rather privileged circumstances. Not rich, but privileged. She’s intelligent enough to find a place in our system and not intelligent enough to question it too much. She got to read pretty much the same newspapers as a child, but she didn’t get fed negativity. She got fed a shitload of psychobabble and so did I, but at my place the conclusion was that humanity is hopelessly rotten. In her universe things were possible, if you worked a little happiness was there for the taking. She did not feel she pas part of the disgruntled, ignored, redudant stinking crust of society. This makes her far less sceptical and lets her feel part of the general culture, she can accept the mainstream, because she feels she can thrive as part of that mainstream. This does not mean she does not have her hick-ups. She is plagued by the unlived life of the parent. Everything her ambitious mother is not she has to be ten, twenty more than her mother in her wildest dreams. That’s quite a burden, I got the same burden from my father. She just got it from her mother and her mother didn’t kill herself whic keeps the dream alive.
You could say that the biggest and perhaps only difference between me and Joke is that I am acid inside, angry, down-trodden, and she is almost childishly optimistic and jolly, jolly Joke, as I once was.
What she will be when she gives up? I don’t know. Probably not enough to compensate for the unlived life of her mother. When I gave up trying to be special I became a lowly teacher/therapist.
There are certain similarities between random girl Joke and myself. Let’s list them:
- We have outread most people. That’s easy to accomplish since most people do not read
- We both have one crazy parent and one totally sane parent
- We both get severe panic attacks because we fear we are not good enough
- I suppose that on the political spectrum we land sort of in the same spot, more or less
- we both grew up with a parent with a writer’s dream
- we know a lot about each other without ever having a conversation
- am fairly sure we would stand up against bullies and help outcasts
The biggest difference is that she has hope she will be someobody while I have given up that hope, and instead I am bitter. This colors my world view, lowers my frustration tolerance and find most human interaction thoroughly obnoxious.
She sees things in a very positive light, may even think that society is not spiritually bankrupt (according to me western society has fallen asleep in its material comfort) and is probably annoyingly upbeat and young (the kind of young that bugs older people who have already settled for less than they hoped for) and I am annoyingly bitter and frustrated.
How two very similar people can end up feeling radically different in the same world, same society, same culture.
I regularly feel bitterness bubbling up and then I have to vomit it on the page. Joke finds solace in reiki and calls that spirituality.
We see the world not as it is, but as our parents made us feel about the world.
I wish I was like you easily amused (Cobain).