Thursday, 1 August 2019

Wonder women

I recently received a somewhat fitting, reassuring reminder from Twitter (see image below). It was a notification informing me that my report of 'behaviour unbecoming' from a particular user was deemed to be a rule violation under "hateful conduct".
"Hateful conduct" violation by @NanaMGNS on Twitter. A rare "victory" against the radical feminists!
A virtual slap on the wrist. That'll surely teach her! 

This 'nasty' episode happened quite some time ago that I can't fully remember exactly what the woman in question — @NanaMGNS is the handle, very much a former friend/acquaintance now — wrote but she basically went on a virtual tirade, calling me a misogynist (and then some) following a tweet I posted. (Unfortunately, Twitter doesn't provide the tweets in question when giving its response to complaints.)
"They say what they like about the other 'side' and this must go uncontested. This is their version of 'equality'."
From what I recall, my tweet was in relation to an incident I'd had with a Colombiana, in a dating sense I think. It was probably along the lines of previous blog posts where I've detailed what I see as some common traits in women I've encountered in these parts. See A prostitute by any other name or Ignoring is bliss for an idea of where I'm coming from in this regard.

Radical logic
The offending, nay 'offensive', woman, a radical feminist by all accounts, took umbrage at the line I was taking. Contrary to what she seemed to believe, however, I wasn't having a go at all woman. I was merely commenting on experiences with, on this occasion, one particular individual whose conduct I'd also witnessed in some other Latinas.

Again, not all that is to say, but some and enough to notice a connection among such types. My bad luck that I keep meeting them. Or kept meeting them really; I'm largely managing to avoid them these days. So this was my perspective on real events that happened to me. I wasn't making it up or just trying to have a cheap, unsolicited shot.

I say this notification from Twitter labelling @NanaMGNS comments as "hateful conduct" is 'reassuring' because in terms of verbal or written attacks against men by women these days the general attitude is to laugh it off. To lap it up even. "Sure you're a man! Suck it up lad, grow a pair."

Fair enough, I guess we are the stronger sex. Oh no, wait, isn't that the thing these radical feminists are raging against? We're only the stronger sex when it suits their narrative to say so. And how dare a man comment about women in the first place. How discriminatory and sexist. Only women can talk about women. What's more, they can say what they like about men and it must go uncontested.

This is 'equality' for 21st-century radicals, of all shapes and sizes. 'Careful now, don't nonchalantly refer to their shape or size. You might get yourself into trouble.'
"I do more practical stuff to help feminism than most feminists."
The thing is, I'm more on the side of the feminists and the quest for gender 'equality' than the campaigners might care to imagine. For example, I pretty much demand 50-50 when it comes to paying bills. Or, on the rare occasion where my earnings are more than the woman I'm sharing time with, I suggest we pay the appropriate percentage based on our income.

For the first couple of dates I don't bother bringing assets and the like into it, I'm happy to let that slide at the start. One wouldn't want to over-complicate things.

'Equality on our terms'
I also don't go out of my way to be extra special with women on a day-to-day basis, that is to say, treat them any differently to men when it comes to engagements in the office or in public life (if a woman, um, takes advantage of me in a private setting, things could play out differently, closer to the way Mother [and Father et al., for equality's sake] Nature intended).

Unlike a lot of other men, especially here in the Latino world, I don't condescend or patronise.

Yet, in the female-dominated advertising/marketing job I'm currently engaged in, I've been talked down to, indeed screamed at on one occasion for simply explaining, calmly, why the use of one English word worked better in a certain context over another, by a colleague who is of the not-so-fair sex, so to put it.

It's safe to assume that had it been the other way around, a man carrying on that way towards a woman, disciplinary procedures would have been instigated. But we're men, we're meant to take all of this on the chin whilst constantly being told how everything is fixed to our advantage.

For these radical feminists, it's a case of 'be careful what you wish for'. Equality, "the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities" to give it its dictionary definition, is just that.

What some women appear to be looking for is the complete subjugation of men. They might just find that the status quo in many liberal democracies is already tipped in their favour. If it goes any further, we could all tumble over the edge.
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Listen to The Colombia Cast podcast here.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Facebook, Instagram: Killing us softly

A few weeks ago on CNÑ (CNN in Spanish that is), in a discussion about social media, an Argentinian expert on the subject predicted that in years to come we'll view our use of Facebook and the like in the same way that most of us view smoking today. That is, a dirty, unhealthy habit that we can't believe we actually used to find "cool and sexy".
Is our current use of the likes of Instagram doing severe damage to us?
Insta-life. Or is that Insta-death?
Some people might view such an opinion as rather dramatic. Exaggerated scaremongering from the Argentinian fogey. Maybe so. The jury is still hearing all the evidence on this one, it's not even close to being sent out in order to come back with a verdict yet.

One thing we can say with certainty is that the arrival of social media has led to a seismic change in how we communicate and interact with each other. Save for the invention for real of teleportation, it's hard to see how more virtually connected we can become.
"Physically meeting those we might envy often allays any insecurity issues."
That's the crux of the issue here really: A growing virtual contact at the expense of face-to-face interaction. Worse still — for those on the social-media-is-bad side of things that is — virtual communication, or using our digital gadgets in some way, is dominating even when we are in the company of others.

We've all witnessed it. A group of people at a bar or dinner table or wherever, all with their heads stuck in their personal electronic devices. We shake our heads in disapproval. Yet there's a fair chance we've been looked at disapprovingly doing the exact same thing on another occasion. Practically everybody with a smartphone gets "caught" at some stage or another.

A new (dis)order?
The question is, "Is it actually doing us any harm?" Well, we do now have a social media anxiety disorder. A cynic — of which of course I am not one — might say that the fact we've "invented" a disorder for it means very little in this day and age.

We've disorders for all sorts of things now where in the past they were simply conditions that required nothing more than a stern "for goodness sake lad, would you pull yourself together", or something to that effect. It's all much more softly-softly now, for better or for worse.

That being said, as documented before, the false impression that social media platforms create of the lives of others can be quite damaging to those susceptible to the "keeping up with the Joneses" condition. "Oh look, there goes Mary on another amazing adventure and here I am stuck in my crappy job." Or, "Bob seems to be doing great with the ladies and I can't hit it off with a single one."

For sure, being envious of others isn't something new, only arriving with social media. It's part of being human. However, our new way of interacting has made it more prevalent, exponentially so. The scale of it has been blown way out of proportion it would appear.

Physically meeting those who we may be resentful towards for whatever reason and, quite literally, seeing "their warts and all", will more often than not make us feel a little less insecure about ourselves. Social media not only takes that away but it puts us in daily contact with people who we would otherwise know next to nothing about and, I wager, care little about.

Take these (and please, do take them and send them off to some other planet) Instagram influencers. Young, pretty people — it's highly unlikely they'll either be the "wrong" side of 40 or not physically attractive — who make a living out of simply posting about their lives.
"Facebook and the like are dumbing us down."
Fair play to them. They're working the system. It's those who follow them, who give them this platform, those are the ones I question.

OK, if it's somebody who travels or the like, somebody who has interesting, informative snippets to share, there's merit to that. The thing is, many of these influencers don't. White, or whatever colour you want, trash.

Before I'm accused of being a hypocrite, I am fully aware that I play this game as well. As an unpaid blogger and podcaster, I need to use all outlets available to get the messages I write and talk about "out there". The hope is that what I do will reach more and more people, eventually putting me, brand "Wrong Way" so to put it, in a position to be a conduit for companies to advertise via me and such like.

Obviously, time is ticking on that one. Or maybe I'm already past my "use by" date. I'm just refusing to accept it. Perhaps I should go underground now, back to unspoilt nature.

Whatever the case, I like to think that I use and take advantage of social media — the ideal scenario — more than the other way around. I like to think that, that is. I could be wrong.

Light up, dumb down
We mentioned the seismic shift that has taken place with social media. As a species, we've gone through this before. The printing press, the advent of radio and TV. Massive game-changers.

So rather than seeing the "new kids in town" as dangerous, perhaps we should take a more benign view. After all those older three, although TV to a lesser extent, in my opinion, haven't done us any real harm, have they?

The key difference for me is that all those, in their more dominant days, were agents of positive social change and largely educational.

At this remove and considering how the majority of us currently use social media and, just as importantly, are used by them, we can't view today's dominators in the same light. On the contrary, they seem to be dumbing us down.

They might leave us feeling a bit lightheaded, even sick at times, but the high is worth it. Gotta light? I need my fix.
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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

It's the service, stupid

Picture the scene. You're a checkout operator and you've just finished with one customer, a lady who left a small bag of vegetables at the cash register, something she decided she didn't want. There's only one other person to be served in a largely empty fruit and veg shop.

Do you first attend to that other person and return the unwanted product to the shelves later, when there's no one else left in line? Or do you nonchalantly return the product to the shelves telling the waiting customer you'll be back in a moment?

Scene of the latest crimes against the service industry in Bogotá, Colombia.
Scene of the latest crimes against the service industry ...
I think it's fair to say that most people with an ounce of customer-service wit about them would choose the former option. An inanimate product, in most cases — unless it's causing an amount of inconvenience or the like — should play second fiddle to a living customer staring you in the face. If not, you run the risk of eventually having no customers at all to serve. The product won't be much good to you then.

Director of Disservice
The thing is, taking the second course of action mentioned above, or something along those lines, is what happens in Colombia far too often to make it an insignificant anomaly. Many working in the "service industry" here just don't seem to get what that actually should be.

A regular sight is seeing employees focus on what is a non-urgent task, leaving customers waiting. For example, in a restaurant or bar, they'll clean the floor while there are people looking to be served. "We've no clientele but at least the floor is spotless." Excellent.

There is no understanding of priorities — if anything is prioritised that is.
"The service industry in Colombia would be a nice idea."
Linked to this is that very annoying practice of not respecting a queue. While the general public must be berated for this, it is a culture thing, employees have to take some of the flak here as well. If somebody is known to have jumped the queue, simply don't serve them. Make them wait. And wait. That'll teach them. (Well, it probably won't, but ...)

Now while we can make excuses for a shoddy service from very poorly-paid employees working in establishments that they don't really care about, we can't do the same for self-employed business owners. You would think that they'd be more attentive to the needs of their customers. Alas, even these types are often found wanting in this respect.

"Not bovvered" 
We're not even asking for a customer-is-always-right" approach. Needless to say a lot of the time they're not and it's not always best practice to kowtow to all their demands. The problem here is that at times it's more like "we don't give two flying figs about the customer".

It reminds me of some miserable bar lady types back in Ireland. You go in for a pint and they make you feel as if you are disturbing them from their soap opera viewing. "What do you want?" "Sorry, I thought this was a public house, I was merely looking for a drink. I didn't mean to be an inconvenience."

The miserableness doesn't tend to be a feature in Colombia, it's more a general "couldn't care less" demeanour.

To borrow from Mahatma Gandhi when he was once asked for his thoughts on Western civilisation, the Colombian service industry "would be a nice idea." We live in hope, slim as it is.
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Listen to The Colombia Cast podcast here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Rednecks rise again

Back in my early secondary school days, as a country lad heading off to mix it with the townies, it was common for the latter to mock us. We were farmer boys, or rednecks, as they say in some parts. It was generally a bit of innocent slagging but no doubt it had its origins in the long-held belief that workers of the land were a bit "behind", simple if you will, compared to those from urban settings.

Some city grazers in Barrio Santandercito in the north of Bogotá, Colombia.
Cattle on Bogotá's northern limits: Bringing a bit of the country to the city.
Of course, the townies of Ballaghaderreen, along with everybody else from "down the country", were derogatorily seen as bog folk, "culchies" being the precise word, by those from the capital Dublin.

Zoom out even more and the whole of Ireland was traditionally viewed as being backward by our "superior" neighbours in Britain. "Strange specimens those Irish, aren't they?"

City fat cats
Modern, advanced, "rich" societies emanate from urban strongholds with their schools of excellence and such like. Rural areas only get the crumbs, enough to keep them ticking over, from the power brokers seated around that grandiose table. So it goes anyway.

Nonetheless, keeping those seated at the urban table well-fed and content with "affordable" food is nigh-on impossible without the simple country folk doing their bit to provide it.
“We’re just a few consecutive disasters away from very troubling times.”
The irony here is that while the great advancements in communications and technology have made the world a smaller place, many urban dwellers have become quite removed, mentally at least, from the rural areas that they rely on to stay alive.

OK, they have other, "more complicated, complex" concerns to worry about. The country serves simply as escapism from the concrete jungle. Engagement with it is at a superficial level only.

What's more, aren't the technological improvements in agriculture and the like, urban brainchildren as most have been, resulting in greater yields and reduced workloads for those who farm the land?

There's merit to that.

Yet, to continue providing for the growing urban masses, more engagement with, and investment in, the countryside are required, not less.

Misplaced priorities
Whether one believes in man-made climate change or not (Donald Trump, considering his age, doesn't have to concern himself with it), we can't deny the fact that we have been experiencing extreme weather events that threaten our precious food supply. We could be just a few consecutive disasters away from quite troubling times.

How many of us would be able to survive in a kind of post-apocalyptic planet, something akin to what we often see portrayed in Hollywood movies?

It would seem fair to say that a majority of "First Worlders" have become too reliant on our modern comforts, on a lifestyle where we can get pretty much anything we want when we want it.
"We won't be too concerned about our mental health when our very existence is under threat."
As a species, we could also be accused of vastly overvaluing non-essentials at the expense of the essentials. Think Hollywood again, that whole world of showbiz and fame.

Heck, I left the land I was reared on (as the majority of rural-born people do these days) to go on to pursue a career (can I call it that?!) in media. Fair enough, journalism plays — or at least used to play — an important role as the fourth estate, it can be a force of positive change.

However, the counter-argument here is that this vocation has lost its way and relevance in recent times (whisper it, "#FakeNews". Thanks Donald). And don't get me started again on the evil incarnate that is marketing!

On a similar note, a Colombian psychologist friend told me how he wanted to get "back to the land", fearing that without preventative action now he would be useless when faced with a future scenario where one had to fend for oneself for the bare necessities.

As he put it, when it's a simple matter of life or death, very few people will be looking to take the time to think deeply about it all, teasing out the pros and cons. His profession would be practically surplus to requirements.

Basically, and as much as I'm not a fan of Christianity (or any religion really), the old mantra of 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust and dust you shall return' rings true.

The land, the planet will have the last laugh.

Those old backward rednecks who understand it a little better than most mightn't seem so repulsive then.
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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Colombia's not-so-magical realism

Back in the heady days of the Republic of Ireland's "glorious" run at Italia '90 — fair enough, the team reached the last eight but did so without winning a single game in 90 minutes — it practically amounted to treason to question the side's approach or not to be fully supportive of "the boys in green".
Róger Martínez celebrates his goal for Colombia against Argentina at the Copa América 2019.
Relax, la Selección is winning, everything's fine! (Image from
The one pundit who did go against the national zeitgeist, Eamon Dunphy, was temporarily banished from his role with the state broadcaster RTÉ. He dared to criticise the Irish performance after a drab 0-0 draw with Egypt.

He wasn't really wrong with what he said but the country didn’t want to hear such harsh truths in the flood of bonhomie and giddy excitement that a first-ever World Cup appearance swept in.

Don't rock the boat, baby!
This was pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Much poorer and, it could be said, more innocent times. The nation badly needed a pick-me-up and Jack Charlton's heroes delivered that (some people have even attributed it to playing an important part in the economic boom that was to follow). Clear-headed, unbiased analysis wasn't wanted.

Nowadays, however, it's pretty much a national pastime to be critical of the Republic of Ireland soccer team. It could even be said that some of it is over-the-top.

Nonetheless, as a nation matures, its people, in most cases, are better equipped to carry out some introspection, as difficult as it may be.

Looking at Colombia from a self-governing perspective, it's older than the Republic of Ireland. Yet in many aspects, it hasn't quite mastered the art of self-criticism.

This can be seen clearly enough in the soccer (or football if you will) world, for the beloved Selección.

Now I've never really believed in the impartial reporter malarkey, especially when it comes to sports commentary, but you'd like to think that such professionals could at least try to bring a semblance of balance to proceedings. Not here in Colombia.

The lads and lassies commentating and analysing on Colombian games see things solely through yellow-coloured (or blue or red when the side is playing in its alternative strip) glasses. Their heavily-biased approach only adds further fuel to the fire of an already highly-strung watching public. Win, lose or draw, all sense of realism is lost.
"It was the euphoria that led me to stab you. Que pena!"
Take the opening, and fully merited, Copa América win over Argentina. Yes, the Argys have a number of individuals of truly world-class standard. Yet, the reality is, the collective has been much less than the sum of its parts for a couple of years now.

Their form of late against fellow South American teams, for one, has been patchy to say the least. That should be factored into any proper analysis of Colombia's victory. However, on the whole here, it's not.

This isn't to say that it was a "nothing win" for Colombia, not at all. You can make a case for them to go far. Colombia's performance was as solid as what we've seen thus far. But let's just take it game by game for now, keep things in perspective.

Going backwards, at speed
Of course, a country losing the run of itself over football "success" is harmless really, save for the odd violent incident that happens post-match. ("Oops, it was the euphoria that led me to stab you. Que pena!).

In politics and the general running of the country, on the other hand, overlooking facts, ignoring certain obvious signs that things may not be as you're saying they are, that's a recipe for disaster. For more balanced commentators on Colombia, there's a feeling that the country's on the slide (two years ago, in Colombia's comedown?, I touched on some of these challenges).

The right-leaning president, Iván Duque, not quite a year in the post, hasn't done much to steady the ship. On the contrary, for many observers, things are in reverse.

There is a theory that keeping the country on the precipice suits certain powerful interests. One wouldn't want to unlock Colombia's great potential to the masses or those of a different ilk. A "jobs for the boys" kind of approach. Considering this land's history, you'd have to say there might be something to that.

But hey, as long as La Selección keeps on winning, everything's wonderful, isn’t it?
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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The accidental gomelo

"You're a posh boy now, a gomelo." So go the jibes from my old barrio buddies now that I find myself living in a "swankier" part of Bogotá ('gomelo', for the uninitiated, is the Colombian word for what you might call preppy types).
Entering Santandercito on Carrera 16 just off Calle 183 in the north of Bogotá.
Santandercito: Out of sight but by no means out of mind.
Yes, it's true, my move a few kilometres south from my beloved San Antonio/Santandercito sees me placed in plushier surrounds.

The thing is, however, when my hand was forced to move, the chance to live within a more reasonable walking distance — 4.5 km versus 10 km — of the office appealed (I'm still in that full-time job, somehow). Save time and, potentially, money.
"Perhaps I'll embrace the gomelo guise."
For, as surprising as this may seem, the rent in my new Cedritos Lisboa location is comparable to what I was paying out on the city limits. What's more, it comes with much more in terms of furnishings and appliances.

Having a well-kitted-out place is a bonus of sorts considering I still, after almost eight years based in Bogotá, have a backpacker mentality when it comes to "settling down" and making a house a home.

The state of the kitchen in the new abode could yet become a contentious issue, as it often tends to be when sharing. I have to revise my theory that all elderly women always keep their homes in pristine condition. The situation is more than manageable for now, though. 

The biggest drawback is that it's pretty much right in the middle of "Poshville". That is to say, you have to walk a bit of a distance — not a big deal for me, in fairness — to get back to the barrios populares for the "proper" panaderías, tiendas and all that kind of good stuff.

Some of Bogotá's other upper-class areas, in contrast, find themselves stuck next to the riff-raff. Closer to the centre, La Macarena bordering La Perseveranica, my spiritual home in a way, is one example of this.

On top of being "stranded in salubrity" so to put it, these richer neighbourhoods tend to be a little sterile. There's no real life to them. They're bland at best; the barrios, on the other hand, have a buzz about them.

Go gomelo
Nonetheless, for as long as I have this full-time office job, staying in such a stale sector with its proximity to work is fine. During the week, with the current eat, sleep, work, repeat routine, I don't really have the time like before to enjoy the barrios in any case. It's purely a weekend delight these days. That's OK. Too much of a good thing and all that.

Or who knows, maybe I'll adapt to my new environment and take on this gomelo guise. "What say you, güevón?" "Osea, Lord help us!"
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Friday, 31 May 2019

Let's talk (reluctantly) about sex

I came across ... ... No, let's use a different phrasal verb considering the subject matter here. I stumbled across — much better — a quote from John Bayley, the (long-suffering?!) husband of the late Irish-British novelist Iris Murdoch. Bayley thought that sex was "inescapably ridiculous", in contrast to Murdoch who, it is said, had multiple affairs with both men and women.
A beer is very often more enjoyable than sex ...
Indeed ... (Image from
Bayley's "inescapably ridiculous" reference to sex resonated with me. I've had a number of sexual partners, the majority being more one-night stands than anything more regular albeit, and I struggle to remember a time when I found intercourse truly enjoyable. Most previous 'engagements' were more like jobs that had to be done rather than immensely pleasurable acts.

More by accident than design
This isn't to say I was purely "selfish" about it, just in a race to reach my climax, to heck with her. Well, perhaps it was less so than by design in all honesty, but I did satisfy my playing partners before I was "done" on a number of occasions — unless they're good fakers/liars, which would never be the case, surely?

Of course, the men's problem, if we view it as such, is that when we reach the "point of no return" so to put it, we have to wait a while to get going again. Women, so it goes, can have multiple orgasms if men (or whoever) can be bothered to take them there.
"Having sex is not the be-all and end-all."
The thing is, referring back to Bayley, I don't tend to long for sex. When I see friends basically fretting about how long it has been since they last did it, I'm rather indifferent. It's not, quite literally, something that keeps me awake at night.

It could be that I just haven't met the right person to properly "get it on with". I could equate it to the time I explained to a friend that my feeling when taking a certain drug was usually unspectacular at best, he suggested I hadn't been getting it at the right potency.

Yet, my own experiences and the relationship hardships I've seen other acquaintances deal with would make me believe that the "right person" is a bit of a fantasy. You have to let a lot go, settle for certain things if you want to convince yourself he/she is the right person. The way it is for many things in life, really.

Avoidably ridiculous
Now my rather conservative Irish Catholic background undoubtedly plays a part in this sex indifference (Colombia is traditionally a Catholic country as well, but as I wrote before, that influence has manifested itself quite differently here in many aspects).

The mere mention of the word makes Irish people of a certain generation somewhat uncomfortable. This doesn't mean, however, that they don't enjoy it.

For me, it's certainly not the be-all and end-all as some of my peers seem to believe.

Unlike Bayley, though, I view it as "avoidably ridiculous" these days. For now at least.
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