Monday, February 24, 2014

A world ruled by money

I watched the Olympic Gold medal men's hockey game on Sunday -- Sweden vs. Canada (Canada won the gold). I cheered for Canada but the way Sweden played it really seemed like they gave up half way through the game. As my Canadian friends all cheered all over Facebook at 5:30am Pacific time, and the Swedes sulked in disappointment (not a single bad word or criticism mind you), I couldn't help but feel something was off.

The broadcast of this hockey game in Sweden would be equivalent to the Superbowl in the US... 70% of the entire nation probably had their eyes glued to the TV.  I was therefore interested in the types of commercials they would play. I was expecting usual brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald's, maybe something Swedish like Volvo or IKEA or H&M commercials? Nope. Instead, there were endless commercials from online betting websites.. I counted at least four of them in total, shown repeatedly at almost every commercial break. I think it says something about today's sports.

Next, I found out one of Sweden's major players was disallowed from playing the gold medal game a few hours before the game started because he was tested positive for pseudoephedrine usage. Um, that's what I used when I have a stuffy nose. I think losing a key player right before a game can certainly significantly affect morale. I was chatting with a friend about it and she said the IOC, FIFA and all the major sports organization committees have always been corrupt, so what else is new?

I think what's new is how much MORE money is involved in the sports games compared to before. With online gambling, new riches in Russia, China and Latin America, there are even more cash at stake associated with the outcome of each game.

I guess many people just accept the fact that the big players in the world shove money around and control almost all aspects of our lives -- our food choice availabilities, our entertainment options, the news shown to us (and the biased angles), our shopping habits, our relationships. I guess most of my life I've been kind of avoiding the entertainment giants.  I barely purchase any music; I rarely watch Hollywood blockbuster movies (I prefer artsy indies); I don't often watch much sports, nor do I play video games (an industry that is surpassing movie industry in terms of size and amount of money to be made as I've been told).  In other words, I've been a total loner for most of my life. With my new relationships (friendship and romance), I learned that most people demand entertainment to be as available as tap water, heating system and electricity. They want it cheap, they want lots and lots of it, they want high quality, and no-hassle total convenience. These as-a-matter-of-fact desires fill the pockets of corporations with billions and billions of dollars, at the expense and negligence of so many other things in the world that I think are more important.

People think rich is rich, doesn't matter if you are a millionaire or a billionaire, since most people cannot imagine themselves ever to be in that position, having so much cash lying around. I've even heard people say that they wish they could become a millionaire so they can give most of the money away, because being a philanthropist makes them feel good. Um, if you give most of your money away, you can do it once and then you're back to where you started, ie. not rich any more. As to the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire, well, if you are a millionaire, you can live comfortably and have nice things around in your house (or, if you live in Vancouver, you can't even afford a house, LOL). If you are a billionaire, you can start influencing the stock market, business deals, the media, and politicians. So there IS a huge difference in terms of how much money you have at the super rich level. Money = Power  = Influence when you have enough of it.

Sometimes I think I was born into the wrong time period or I just don't belong in this world. I'm sure there are similar minded people out there but they sure are hard to find since they are such minorities. If they weren't, then this world would look very different from what it is right now.

I act like such a mouse most of the time because most people dismiss my opinions so easily, which makes me think I'm always wrong, or at least my opinions do not matter. It's tough to have the whole world against you every single day. My mother would say I should just stop having opinions and agree with everyone else all the time. That should make people like me better. But it's the worst advice to give to your child. Then people say you're a push-over and have no personality. The only way to survive being the oddball is to be quirky and charismatic I guess, so that at least you're somewhat entertaining and fun to have around even if people never agree with you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bachelor's degree = marriage material?

The other day I read on Facebook a problem statement from a relative, describing her friend who asked her for advice: Given her daughter has failed grades in almost every course, with the lowest scores in English and math, which university she should attend. The friend mentioned that her daughter wants to study management.  Given the current education system in Taiwan, many crappy universities in Taiwan will still accept her daughter. The obvious thing is that the daughter will probably have trouble finding anything but minimum wage jobs after getting her degree.

Another relative commented that instead of going to university, this girl should probably learn a trade instead. However, if she wants a university degree for the purpose of increasing her chance of finding a suitable husband, then the problem of career prospect does not exist and she should just attend any university that she thinks is suitable for her.

I can't begin to describe how many problems I see with the above statement. It is precisely because of the above mentality (University degree = a better person/more suitable marriage), that the Taiwan government approved the conversion of hundreds of trade schools into universities. I can't blame them though as Canada does the same thing with many of its colleges, NOT for the reason of producing more marriageable people though, but for being able to claim that Canada has more college grads than any other countries in the world. Is that a better reason for creating more universities? Probably not, but at least the reasoning is less convoluted. How the hell does a B.A. make you better marriage material anyways, unless the school offers cooking courses and relationship guidance? (which are probably good ideas by the way)

The above conversation helped me understand something about my mom's logic. Because I didn't pursue a medical degree, then my education was garbage in terms of career building. The main function of a Bachelors degree, as far as she was concerned, was to signal to other Chinese parents with sons that I am a piece of suitable marriage material. This explains a lot of the strange actions that she performed over the past decade that were extremely puzzling to me for the longest time.

As for that girl and her parents, somehow I would say that at that age, "management" just sounds like a good career. Who knows what it actually involves? I can only say that before asking around, they really should have an honest conversation with her daughter first, gently informing her that people in management positions often have to outcompete other people in some way, either in terms of grades at school, performance at the work place, work/life experience, or exceptional skills at convincing the boss they are somehow the best candidate for management. I mean, I think she can pursue the path if she really wants to, but maybe, she should pay more attention in classes, and start working summer jobs to observe how managers do their jobs. But I am not surprised or upbeat about her situation, because my parents also prefer to discuss with anybody and everybody in the world except with me about my personal future. Go figure.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Negative thoughts tracking with smart phone app

I recently pay $4 to purchase an iPhone app called "Reporter", written by the creator of Facebook timeline -- Nicholas Felton. It nudges you at random times of the day, asking to report some information about yourself that you would like to track. I'm using the app to track the frequency of negative thoughts and approximately how long they last (as in, am I still pissed/sad/frustrated/paranoid at the next reporting session?). It could be useful to help me combat my overall anger and depression.

Perhaps this can help me avoid blogging while feeling random anger and help me see how my mind works in an extended period. Yesterday while watching the second Hunger Games movies a nagging thought came up and I started crying. I manage to hide it from the bf. Being who he is, he was able to comfort me anyways without knowing I was crying. Today I suddenly got really angry at my whole family. These random anger pop up, making me feel like I'm a total nutcase.

Extended time away from family helps; having a job helps; having a sweet bf helps (though sometimes I get mad at him too as he can be difficult too occasionally); I just need to exercise more regularly and find a social activity that will help me make more friends and I'm all set on healing. Work is kind of driving me mad though... I've been working late almost every day but my project is not going as fast as I would like. I am hoping to set up a meditation/nature vacation once I get to some sort of project finishing point.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Struggling with authenticity

I realize this is supposed to be a yoga blog, but the past year's obsession has been blogging about how I feel about my life and my family instead. The thing is, many people start to do yoga for exercise benefits, and then fall in love the spiritual aspects of yoga. You will commonly hear that people say yoga helps them uncover their "authentic self".

For the first year I started yoga asana classes, I indeed felt like I was re-discovering myself, becoming aware of my tendency to hold my breath, various tensions within the body, my weak lower back, my samskaras, my ruminating thoughts, my tendency towards negative thinking, and so many more details about myself that I had never been aware of. I felt like I was in paradise practicing yoga among friendly, supportive, authentic teachers and students, learning how to be a better person, all while being pampered in a fancy studio, complete with saunas, massage rooms, yummy herbal teas, and gorgeous heated classrooms smelling of calming, healing essential oils.

I took it all for granted, thinking people are nice everywhere, and moved myself to Europe for my career. On the plus side, I landed in a much larger institute and am exposed to much bigger scale of scientific research; I found a bf I really get along with and who seems to enjoy hanging out with me occasionally. On the down side,  I'm finding it quite difficult to make friends here. Lately, the inauthentic boss and colleague are really getting to me. It seems like the boss and the toxic colleague are all about pleasing people by the means of pretending to know more than they actually do. I feel like I'm being alienated in my lab because I am too uncomfortable to go along with it.

The struggle with family and with work colleagues are about the same thing: being ask to behave in a way that makes me feel extremely inauthentic and uncomfortable. At home, my bossy and insecure mother wants me to shower her with praises and obey her every request (she orders people around non-stop all day long).  At work, my boss wants me to say yes to everything he asks and to suck up to him, even if I don't actually know how to do the things he asks me to do.

My mother has tried to shape me into a people pleaser my entire life. She "buys" friendships by showering people with gifts and praises. She was still trying to hint at me how my cousin is so well brought up because she knows how to say the appropriate phrases at the right situations to please people. Seems like the single most important value in this world, for my mother, is the ability to please people, which is a complete clash with what I view to be the most fundamental value that I can't compromise: being authentic and not tell lies. This fundamental clash of values seems to be what causes so much misery between my mother and I.

This article "Dare to be yourself"discusses exactly what I've been struggling with the past years. Whether I like it or not, some of my mother's teachings have rubbed off on me after living at home for almost 30 years. While I tend not to bribe people with presents and praises, I do try to follow people's suggestions and have a tendency to not voice my own opinions. This behavior, also known as being Miss "Goody-two-shoes", seems to piss a people off, achieving the opposite of desired effect.

At the moment, asana practice isn't helping me discover my authentic self, which is why I've greatly reduced my practice and instead blog about my life, trying to understand what I am doing wrong. I'm trying to examine my darkest sides, and experimenting with behavioral and thought changes, to see if I can be more at peace with myself. Right now I feel like I'm digging into the bottom of the pit, discovering the worst aspects of myself (selfishness, self-centeredness, lack of compassion, fear of confrontation, the list goes on). I hope I will climb out of the pit soon. Until then, I apologize for this dark period of sh*t digging.