Thursday, 21 February 2019

Me, myself and I

There is an expression we use in Ireland to describe those who put themselves before everybody else. We call them 'mé féiners', putting an English ending to two Irish-language words, 'mé féin', meaning 'myself'.

Basically, you could say these are a type of fundamentalist individualist. 'The greater good for the greater number' only comes into play if it means a significant gain for them. Otherwise, it's not a runner.
Bogotá's car-free day, 'Día sin carro', has been somewhat successful over the years.

The selfish gene
Of course, in many ways, we are all a bit like this, we are quite selfish beings. Many often talk a good 'community game', but on a normal day-to-day basis, it tends to be the self and, maybe, close family that occupy our minds rather than that 'bigger picture'.
“Many wealthy people aren’t prepared to see their living standards drop.”
Take all those wealthy leaders and job creators, be they on the left or on the right, who live in a world far removed from the people they claim to help and represent. They are usually very reluctant to reduce their costly living standards, something that might help society as a whole.

Accidental goodness
On many occasions, that self-centred interest, more by accident than design, is favourable to more than just those closest to us. We, most of us I like to think anyway, work hard to have a better living, add more meaning to our existence, and others who we don't know, who we've never met, benefit from this.

This work ethic contributes to the greater good — this applies less so to some areas of employment than others. (Again, what are those politicians about?)

However, on other occasions, and more frequently it could be argued, this self-centredness doesn't add anything at all to the collective good.

Here in Bogotá, a city with considerable traffic congestion, you have those who insist on taking their private cars to work even when they don't really need to. What's more, the wealthier types have a number of vehicles at their disposal in order to circumvent some well-intentioned measures aimed at reducing traffic volume.
“No matter what we do, we’re doomed anyway.”
For sure, similar to many other places, public transport is far from ideal in the city. Yet, if more people started using it coupled with a resulting greater revenue generated to be pumped back into it, it would be better, more efficient and, keeping with the zeitgeist, greener. That's the theory anyway. The practice in these parts is usually a long way off the mark.

Lap it up
There is the whole "Who cares?" mentality in all of this as well. Referring back to my Saving ourselves post from a while back, the argument can be made that no matter what we do, we're doomed anyway.

Our way of life is going to drastically change soon, whether that's in our lifetime or not, so let's just enjoy the ride and lap things up as best we can. "Why inconvenience myself for future generations when the chance of the very existence of these future generations is in grave doubt?"

Fair enough. But there are 'greater good' measures we could take now that would result in an almost immediate benefit. How we commute on a daily basis is just one of those.

If we'd fewer vehicles with only one or two people sitting in them clogging up our highways and byways, practically everyone would benefit from that, even, nay especially, those currently in said vehicles.

Some people are just a bit too "mé féiner" to realise this.
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Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Colombia caste

"You can take the man out of the barrio, but you can't take the barrio out of the man." OK, that old saying doesn't really apply to me in its entirety.

For Bogotá's 'barrios populares', the working-class neighbourhoods are still 'where it's at' for me, in a living and socialising sense. So, for better or for worse, I haven't removed myself from them.

Brendan 'Wrong Way' Corrigan in La Perseverancia, Bogotá, Colombia
At home in barrio tienda ...
Moving on up?
The most significant change in the last few months, outside of the new trial podcast, has been the addition of a full-time, relatively well-paid job, the first time I've had a proper 8-6 gig in Colombia (Dolly Parton would have to change the lyrics of her 9-5 hit to suit these parts).
"Most aren't from very rich backgrounds."
With that new employment have come, unsurprisingly enough, new colleagues.

Now I think it's safe to assume that none of these, or at least very few of them, are from uber-rich Colombian backgrounds. No, the majority would appear to be associated with that growing — so the government here like to tell us it's growing anyway, being as it is a sign of a country on the up and all that — middle class.

So, in this regard, I'm paddling the same canoe as my new workmates. Earning more than the majority but still a good bit off the strata five and six living.

The thing is, when it comes to socialising, while I'm happier to do that in these aforementioned barrios populares, a lot of my colleagues prefer the swankier and — as far as I'm concerned anyway — unjustifiably expensive parts of town.

Penny-pinching?
Yes, I've been banging on this drum for some time now. The situation isn't going to change in the near future, if ever.

Nonetheless, to restate the point, some people see my reluctance, nay refusal, to socialise in said swankier parts of Bogotá as being tight, 'tacaño' as they say here.
"It's like paying over 20 euros for a pint in Europe."
I have no problem paying more for something that I feel is worth it. However, when it comes to socialising or more specifically nights out, what is anathema to me is paying multiples, perhaps over five times more compared to what I'd pay in my barrio, for practically the same thing, "la misma miér...coles" as they'd say here. In all honesty, it makes me uncomfortable. And a little bit angry.

Barrio is best
Now just to put that in 'First World' terms, when you compare the price in a barrio bar/tienda to Bogotá's 'plush' places, it's like paying over 20 euros for a pint of beer in the latter. How many of you would be willing to do that?

This isn't a case of 'knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing' in relation to the fancier establishments, especially so when it's pretty much the same bloody product, often delivered with a poorer service. Fair enough, the price of this 'service', i.e., the extra staff, has to be taken into account.

What's more, there are generally higher utility charges and the like (this is where government action is needed to provide a reasonable middle ground).

That being said, handing over what I deem to be excessive amounts of cash is not my idea of a good time.

This is why I'll be largely sticking to socialising in 'my' barrios for the time being.
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