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Tag: Reflections

Begreppsförvirring

by on Oct.28, 2010, under Reflections

Jag fascineras emellanåt lite över hur vissa personer, organisationer eller politiska partier från tid till annan gör anspråk på tolkningsrätten kring vissa begrepp. Ett favoritexempel är arbetare. Enligt Socialdemokraternas definition är en arbetare en arbetstagare som är fackligt ansluten till (helst) ett LO-förbund, en definition som jag kraftigt ifrågasätter. Alla som tvingas sälja sin arbetskraft för att tjäna sitt uppehälle är rimligen arbetare (jag vill minnas att det t.o.m. är den definition som Marx använder). Dvs. om du inte är ekonomiskt oberoende och har en anställning för att klara ditt uppehälle är du en arbetare. Så varför räknas inte ej LO-anslutna som arbetare i Socialdemokraternas värld? Är det arbete jag utför på något sätt mindre värt?

Ett annat bra exempel är rättvisa. Det är tydligen rättvist att i solidaritetens namn omfördela pengar mellan fattiga och rika, något som de flesta – även jag – håller med om. Frågan är dock i vilken utsträckning och vilka krav på motprestationer som ställs. Det kan ju t.ex. tyckas vara självklart att om man lever på andra människors bekostnad så gör man det med mössan i hand och under en begränsad tid. Om man jobbar mycket ska man tjäna mycket och om man jobbar lite ska man tjäna lite. Det tycker jag är rättvist.

Gratis är också en favorit. Gratis i som att en del människor propagerar för gratis kollektivtrafik och/eller gratis förskola när de i själva verket – med mycket stor sannolikhet – egentligen menar avgiftsfri; det är trots allt få människor som inbillar sig att busschaufförer, konduktörer, spärrvakter, m.fl. jobbar helt ideellt, att bussar, tåg m.m. servas och tankas gratis, osv. Så för vem är det gratis? Egentligen. Är gratis i det här sammanhanget måhända en förskönande omskrivning för skattefinansierad? Jag skulle tro det. Varför ska inte de människor som utnyttjar en tjänst också vara de som betalar den?

Det är idag svårt att ducka för begreppet jämlik men förbluffande många har svårt att förstå skillnaden mellan jämlik och lik. Det är trots allt en ganska stor skillnad. Påfallande ofta ser man framträdande genusteoretiker, ibland på akademisk nivå, ha tydliga problem att förstå denna skillnad. Män och kvinnor ska vara jämlika, det håller de flesta med om, men män och kvinnor är allt annat än lika. Om jag ger mina döttrar en leksaksbil att leka med så kommer de genast att bädda ned den i sin docksäng, köra runt med den i sin dockvagn, osv. medan min systerson garanterat genast skulle sätta sig ned och leka bil med leksaksbilen. Detta vet alla föräldrar. Det bara är så och har inte ett skvatt med jämlikhet att göra. Det har med likhet att göra. Så hur länge ska jag behöva finna mig i att vara med och finansiera en professur vid anrika Uppsala Universitet där den uppenbart könskvoterade professorn inte förstått ens detta? Allvarligt.

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My favorite road sign

by on Sep.21, 2010, under Reflections

Slippery when wet

Also being the name of an excellent Bon Jovi album, this road sign is my all-time favorite and I finally managed to capture a picture of it with my camera. This one is from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn bridge.

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Only in America

by on Sep.08, 2010, under Reflections

I took this picture in Central Park, NYC a few Saturdays ago and… …I can’t find words for how funny this is: nowhere else would anyone dream of putting a dog (an ugly one too) in a stroller and take the two to the park. Look at how satisfied the owner is. Click to enlarge.

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Beträffande statliga plansocialistiska försäljningsmonopol

by on Sep.08, 2010, under Reflections

Hur kan det komma sig att jag som fullvärdig, fri (dock hårt taxerad) svensk medborgare tvingas finna mig i att stå med kölapp och mössa i hand för att få köpa en flaska vin? Fortfarande. År 2010. 15 år efter att vi sent omsider gick med i EU. Det finns absolut risker med alkohol och det är trist och tråkigt, i synnerhet när det drabbar andra, men det är ju knappast så att vi – trots hårda restriktioner – är befriade från detta i Sverige. Åk till valfritt Systembolag (gärna där de är placerade i närheten av T-banan, t.ex. Hornstull) och se efter själv. Här tycker jag det blir intressant att titta på måluppfyllnadsgrad, dvs. hur länge har vi haft försäljningsmonopol i Sverige och hur kommer det sig att vi inte är ett dugg bättre än andra länder på att hantera alkoholmissbruk? Tvärtom brukar framförallt svenska ungdomar sticka ut i statistiken över länder med alkoholrelaterade problem (och sett till minderåriga vad är det som garanterar att Systembolaget gör den kontrollen bättre än någon annan? – det finns ju ganska gott om exempel på när nämnda monopol ertappats med att sälja alkohol till just minderåriga). Så varför ska vi som inte har problem med alkohol tvingas stå ut med sämre service (tillgänglighet, öppettider)? Statliga monopol äger inget existensberättigande i ett fritt, demokratiskt samhälle. Det är dags att kliva ur ankdammen nu, Sverige, det är hög tid att förpassa de sista DDR-relikerna till historien och Systembolaget toppar listan.

Detta inlägg har även publicerats i Svenska Dagbladet i en något förkortad version som ett svar på en annan insändare (texten ovan var den som skickades in).

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Positivt för vem?

by on Sep.07, 2010, under Reflections

Kvotering, eller "positiv särbehandling", är en förskönande omskrivning för en vilja att på ett legitimt sätt och på falska grunder gynna någon eller några som inte på egna meriter själva klarar att nå en viss position i samhället. Positivt för vem? Samhället putsar på statistiken och kan säga att "vi har minsann X% av den och den minoriteten inom den och den samhällssektorn". Till vilket syfte då? I själva verket är hela angreppssättet självdestruktivt för ett samhälle av den enkla anledningen att den person som var bäst lämpad för jobbet inte fick det. Det brukar till och med ekonomer förstå. Sett ur ett litet större perspektiv växer problemet ytterligare med detta angreppssätt genom att mer meriterade personer får sina karriärer åsidosatta i denna "positiva" anda. De har all rätt att ifrågasätta denna politik.

Detta inlägg publicerades också i Svenska Dagbladet den 15:e juni 2002.

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My recent American (re-)discoveries

by on Sep.01, 2010, under Reflections

Don’t get me wrong. I love America. Whenever I visit, I feel right at home and that I belong. INS/DHS records will show that I am a frequent and regular visitor (or, if you prefer, “legal alien”) and my year as a foreign exchange student grants me the lifelong title Former Volunteer American (with all its privileges). It’s just that Americans do some things a little… …different than the rest of us. Not wrong, but not necessarily right either. Just different. Different can be good and different can be downright funny. Here’s a few examples of what I mean:

  • Americans play football with their hands. While hilarious and extremely difficult not to laugh at, this somewhat more padded version of rugby is in fact, once you get to know the game, very entertaining and much more strategic than what meets the eye. But why call it football?! There’s not even a ball involved, is there? Padded Rugby, Toss that Bean or Beantoss all seem like more appropriate names. Feel free to adapt! For the love of the game.
  • Surprisingly few people in America know how to eat with a knife and fork. Among those who do the approach where the food is first processed into tiny food cubes and then consumed one-at-a-time using the fork only (then shifted from left to right hand) dominates. Baaaaad manners! How do you get to respect a person (maybe even do business together) who doesn’t eat with a knife and fork?
  • While often being the subject of debate, it is apparent that America wouldn’t last ten minutes without its vast illegal immigrant work force (Mexico being overrepresented) and that this labor – by European standards – is dirt cheap. How else can there, on any given day, be more store attendants/sales advisors than customers in a typical Footlocker store? People who’s job description essentially consists of “arrange lines” (which, by the way, most of the time is executed by perfection). Being guests at a more upper class restaurant in NYC recently, we noticed that even the waitor had assistants (notice the plural). Unbelievable. And yet we read about self-appointed sherriffs – complete with sidearms – patroling the southern border in the hunt for illegal immigrants, the same illegal immigrants who – like it or not – constitute a cornerstone of the American society. If illegal immigrants are so unwanted, how come it is possible to work, live, go to school (!), see the doctor, etc. in America (as long, ofcourse, as you pay for it) without blowing the cover of your (non-existing) immigration status and face immediate deportation? America wants you. America needs you. They just don’t know it yet.
  • Tipping is not included. Becoming more and more common, restaurants nowadays typically add 15-20% “gratuity” to your restaurant bill. The reason is obvious. No other country in the world has the tipping culture that America has and, consequently, America has somewhat of a problem explaining (in a begging but yet non-begging way) to visitors that the price on the check is actually not the price but in fact something else (much lower). Let’s face it: if American employers would pay their employees decent salaries, this wouldn’t be a problem.
  • The size of the portions served at restaurants are… well, they are unbelievably big. To an extent that it becomes ridiculous. Appetizers are generally a small serving of food served before the main course, but imagine that the appetizer is so big that there is no room for a main course to get my point. Or that the side sallad is served on a full size plate and would easily go for a main course in Europe. Finally presented with your main course, it is all too obvious that the size of the serving is obese in itself and that even if you take that dog into consideration (their favorite excuse) there is enough food on your plate to feed a school class. See a problem, anyone?
  • American beer has a far nastier reputation than it deserves. While there are still plenty of undrinkable crap (like Bud Light) in circulation, good American beer actually does exist (and I’m not talking about semi-drinkable beer, like Miller) in for instance Samuel Adams from the Boston Beer Company (who even have the good sense of complying with the reinheitsgebot of 1486) or Brooklyn Lager. It’s just that you rarely see Americans drink it. While still funny, the following old joke may simply not apply anymore: Q: “What does American beer and making love in a canoe have in common?” A: “It’s fucking close to water.”
  • While we’re on the subject of beverages, American coffee deserves a special note. Everywhere else in the world a coffee Americano is known as a brew consisting of hot water in a cup being brought in to the same room as one coffee bean for a maximum period of 30 seconds. It’s see through. Looking down at your mandatory cup of coffee at any given hotel breakfast in America you can actually see the bottom of the cup. Yes! Really! Coffee is not supposed to be see through. If it is you didn’t do it right. When my mom – a coffee drinker of rank – visited me in America she brought instant coffee from Sweden “to compensate things”. She would ask for a desert spoon in the restaurants we visited and then bring up her instant coffee which she kept in a pill jar (my dad is a pharmacist) in her purse and spoon up her coffee to a drinkable standard. It’s that bad.
  • Driving in America is simple and straightforward. Roads generally hold very high standards, although toll roads exist (make up your mind: either collect through taxes or by use – not both), everything is well signed and parking is a breeze. Both in finding parking spots and in the size of them – most will fit a regular sized boat and still have plenty of room to spare. They used exit numbers on highways several decades before us. But only a short distance outside the downtown area of any American city you are expected/required to drive a car. Walking is unheard of and public transportation is both severely underdeveloped and generally regarded as very suspicious. The first step in any activity in America always is “bring out the car”. Why is that? I once walked from home to the local Kroger’s for groceries, a distance of 2km/1.2mi, and more than one car stopped and asked me what the problem was (in very friendly and curteous ways). To Europeans, that is very funny. But then in Europe there were first cities, and then came cars. It’s the other way around in America.
  • Hotels in America generally also hold a very high standard which is far, far ahead of France or Britain where that indiscrete smell of dogshit and/or mould tend to greet you (I travel a lot so don’t argue with me on this one). Flat iron in the room and the morning newspaper to your door is standard, of course. However, breakfast and wifi are generally not included in the price and especially the more upper class hotels will try to rip you off on wifi while it’s free and fast(er) down on the corner at Starbucks (or even in the lobby). Most retailers in America also carry free wifi, but rarely out of respect of your integrity. Be aware of when hotels boast with “continental breakfast” – in America this translates to coffee (see above) and donuts…
  • When most countries have tried to unify standards, America stands out as our not-that-standard (and not-that-interested either, for that matter) neighbor in the west. It takes a while to get used to their old school measurement system (pounds, feet, ounces, etc.) that no one else uses. I mean, who knows what a yard is? Or how many ounces there are in a pound? And once you do figure it out you can’t help but wonder why they don’t simply abandon it. Immediately. Learn from the Canadians! It’ll be worth the effort, trust me. They have even kept the “AM” / “PM” way of indicating time of day and refer to the 24h clock used in the rest of the world as “military time”. It’s get downright funny when you realize that they don’t even know that they’re the only ones not using the metric system.
  • Americans understand and appreciate the concept of comfortable better than most of us, and consequently there are cupholders to be found literally everywhere which, ofcourse, is outstanding. A clear sign that the bartender has spotted you as European is when he/she asks if you’d like a glass to go with your beer. It’s with beer glasses as it is with knives and forks; few Americans use them. But it also hits on the American dress code which is, shall we say, casual. Men dress in oversized suits and expect to be taken seriously and women wear sneakers with their dresses. Show up at the hotel breakfast in your sweatpants or gym clothes? Wear your baseball hat indoors? No problem in America.
  • Online banking in America means that you generate a check on the bank’s website and then you print it on your own printer and post it to the recipient by snail mail. For real. No, seriously. This is not a joke. A check?! In 2010?! Please don’t tell me you use fax machines too? Exactly how online is this approach? And here we thought they were civilized…
  • Although legend has it that the first credit cards saw daylight in America, their use is peculiar enough very limited in your everyday life. Cash is king, although most department stores and restaurants will normally accept credit cards (don’t be deterred when the cashier brings up the 1950s style carbon-copy card reader from some disclosed corner of the counter beneath the cash machine). But not taxis, McDonald’s or the newsstand down on the corner. No chance. Forget it. Not even American Express. Not even in 2010. Retarded. Unexpected.
  • One thing I particularly like with America is the fact that the price on the price tags states the price of the commodity excluding taxes. I admit that this was annoying at first, but it’s actually very good as it makes the size of the tax burden transparent. Everyone will immediately become very aware of a tax increase, a fact that most people find very appealing. On top of that, it gives you a math exercise everytime you buy something.
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