Minimalism and why it doesn’t work

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about ‘Minimalism’ lately, and they’ve been jarring my nerves for a while. Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught to only buy what I indeed needed, and to recycle or give away things which I did not need any more. This, after all, is mere common sense. Yet these days, plain common sense is so rare, that people seem to need to gird it in newer fancy words, and make a fuss over it, in order to distinguish themselves.

Minimalism is a trend which has been slowly infecting our Maltese shores, among others, during the last few years. The precepts of Minimalism embrace the aim of achieving freedom through the voiding of materialistic trappings which are accumulated in relation to a capitalistic-minded society. Originally, the onset of Minimalist per se originated as a term describing visual arts in the post-war Western world of the 1960s and 1070s.

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Personally, as I said, I understand the concept in moderation, however putting an unneeded emphasis on it, not to mention trying to adhere to its more extremist tenets, only ends in showing up that the Minimalist agenda is not only unpractical, but actually going against its own targets. While, of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning material possessions, equating one’s own personal value with how much money is in one’s bank account, what car one drives, or what mobile phone one uses, is obviously self-deceiving. This however, is not the issue which is actually tackled by Minimalists, whose main tenet endorses having no more than 100 possessions in total. One could for example, still own and brag about only a few costly items, while having less than 100 ‘things’. So, in actuality, having a few items does not necessarily mean disassociation from the idea of material gratification. Attaching meaning solely to ‘things’ rather than people, personal experiences, or emotions, is the seeming crux of the Minimalist credo, and yet, having chucked all but a few of one’s possessions in the bin, does one really end up forsaking the company of his/her pc, or the fascination of an XBOX (if one keeps one of course), for human contact? Not likely.

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Others maintain that Minimalism targets excess, that it leads to better prioritisation, and that it ultimately leads one to spend less. It advocates discipline and de-cluttering, yet its oppressive regime and illusion of control sees one stressfully trying to get by without certain commodities, which, instead of leading to some kind of transcendental ‘freedom’, actually ends, in many cases, by causing an even bigger backlash of ‘materialism’. Minimalism is anxiety-inducing in that one ends up feeling a failure if one cannot conform to it. Optimising the use of minimal products can lead one to over-technologize one’s lifestyle in a bid to use tools or IT systems which do more with less, leading to the conclusion that Minimalism is a movement targeted towards those who are well-off, and not towards the majority, since it also actually results in more money being spent. Once you chuck something you are keeping in case you might needed it in the bin, you cannot get it back – meaning that you’d have to re-buy the item when you actually do need it. Again, this goes against the aim of ‘spending less’ targeted by Minimalism.

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Yes ultra-capitalism is a sickness. We are not our things. Yet, if the other end of the spectrum offers only extreme austerity promoting a Spartan repressive lifestyle, this is just as detrimental. In the end, human beings need to express themselves, they need to optimize their own style, and feel free to overindulge in moments of tension, in order to be fully at peace with themselves. 

Minimalistic decor can have a therapeutic effect, especially if one suffers from OCD-related problems, however there is an invigorating liberation in a spontaneous carefree use of space. Feeling comfortable and at home in one’s own personal space definitely leads not only to creativity and freedom of expression, but also to a more inspiring and eclectic outlook. Wealth is not how many things you have, or how expensive they were, it is the ability to have options and to be able to fulfill them.

If you want to give more worth to important things, try creating certain tools instead of using mass-marketed ones. Try to jazz up or individualize your space instead of latching onto an easy conformity. Re-use and re-cycle instead of chucking out ‘outdated’ stuff you haven’t looked at in a while. Don’t limit yourself or your options. Instead, embrace a more positive and DIY attitude.

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Clutter and chaos is not something to strive for. On the other hand, living in a wasteland is not conductive to an energetic outlook either. In the end, extremes are not beneficial to anyone. There is nothing as healthy as balance.

A slightly different version of my article was published in the online magazine LivingInMalta.

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Living in Fear – Terrorism and Death

Political and economic turmoil have led to a number of issues with possible reverberations throughout the globe. Apart from this, during the past few years, the percentage of terrorist attacks and unrest in the streets all over Europe has also increased dramatically. Some people have elected to chuck their passport at the bottom of a drawer and resign themselves to never travel outside of their own country again. Others read the news assiduously in order to try and find some pattern or conspiracy theory whereby certain countries are deemed 100% safe from such attacks, during certain months or periods of the year.

I personally refuse to be intimidated.

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Yes, one must obviously take precautions, both in the streets and abroad. In fact, one must be careful not to squander away one’s life, or the life belonging to others, no matter what the context. Every child knows that, and it’s plain survival instinct. That doesn’t mean that we have to stop living. It certainly doesn’t mean that we have to construct a self-imposed cage for us to cower in, beset with fears of all types, instead of being free to live our lives as we choose.

Accidents can take place anywhere and at any time – in the home, while at school, at work, or on a bus. So can episodes of violence we have no control over, or even natural disasters. We could get sick, fall down the stairs, be the victim of an earthquake. Such is the frailty of human life, which, as we all know, is finite. Our days, in a word, are numbered, which is why it’s so important to enjoy and make the most of each and every one of them.

We could, keep ourselves hostage.

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Would it really be worth it? It’s one thing to be cautious, and quite another to let the fear of the unknown transform us into shivering pieces of fluff.

Of course there are bad people in this world, just as there is violence, and you can come across these issues everywhere. The point is not to transform terror into the focal point of your life. Don’t let anyone dictate how you should live, think or feel. Be independent, be self-assured, be happy and friendly with those you meet, travel the globe and enjoy yourself.

This is an abridged version of an article I wrote, which was published on the magazine EVE.COM.MT. For the full article, please go to http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/12/31/why-we-shouldnt-live-in-fear/ 

Order

In the beaming of the Moon
the stars go on arolling
under his patriarchal eye
healthily aglowing

A stream, a glade, a shallow reef
they all spread out on yonder
beneath his benign fragile gaze
in fearful harmony and wonder

Nothing could ever break that look
surrounding them, so strictly
Nothing could ever distort the order
regimenting them so thickly

For his stern paternal gaze
is what keeps them in line
willy-nilly, it’s always there
ever controlling their shine

For what would happen without the Moon
in the dark of the endless sky?
What would the twinkling stars do
all alone up above so high?

How could their light reach over it all
with no shepherd there to guide them?
How could they find the way to go
with no sergeant to deride them?

It would be chaos! It would be wild!
There would be no end to it!
How they would dance, jump and cavort
for sure the globe would be too brightly lit!

No no, such things are not to happen
no play or song, no laughter or brightness, ever
The Moon is there as it has always been
Set the clock, turn around, yes forever

©M.A

 

Sacked for a Facebook Status!

Is it fair to be sacked for a status one posts on his personal Facebook account? What if this status hurts someone? What if this person works in local media? Then again, where is freedom of speech? Or is it all just a political game?

Here are the facts:

Last Sunday, many people attended a local charity motor show. During this event, unfortunately, a speeding Porshe (this was part of the show) lost control (let’s not go into why, I’m not a car expert) and ended up injuring 26 people, 5 of whom in a life-threatening critical way. This caused an uproar as many of the families, friends and acquaintances of those injured were obviously concerned. In a small country like ours, cases like this are quite rare, and touch everybody. Everyone was worried, however help was close and the Malta Police Force as well as Health Force, coordinated a manoeuvre which caused the injured people to be cared for quickly. Roads were closed as needed and Maltese media gave updates of the situation as they took place.

Now here’s the issue – one particular person, to be precise, a DJ who works for a radio station belonging to one of the two major political parties in Malta, in his usual satirical way, posted a couple of Facebook statuses about the accident. The statuses were not, as such, particularly violent, they did not accuse anybody or point at anyone, however personally I feel that, so close to the fact and with people still hurt and in danger of their lives – they were superfluous. More than that, they were hurtful to the families of those fighting for their lives, and those who had been at the event and had been frightened, as the huge vehicle speeded up and crashed into the crowd next to them. Satire and sarcasm are all well and good HOWEVER one must also be careful where and when to say certain stuff. When in doubt, better keep silent instead of blabbering to all and sundry.

That being said, there was an uproar. This person was lynched, sent hate messages, and blatantly shredded to pieces by everybody. And that was ‘fine’, since, let’s face it, he made a mistake.

Then he was sacked.

And I’m still not sure why. The reason would seem pretty straight forward, but is it? Here are some issues which should be taken into account:

  1. The Political Aspect – keep in mind that in Malta, almost everything has a political aspect. Or, let us say that many people give a political aspect to everything. Be that as it may, in this case the DJ in question worked at the major radio station held by a specific political party. Since in Malta most people can’t seem to differentiate between a private individual and his opinions, and a political party and it’s opinions, equating the opinions of one to the other, many people seemed ready and happy to point fingers and say that since this guy was deriding hurt people, his party was insensitive. Which is why his political party, in a bid to disassociate itself from the guy, promptly sacked him – maintaining that they were shocked at his behavior and lack of values and that they themselves thought nothing of the kind since they were good Christians and people and respected other people’s sorrow… yada yada yada So, in other words, he was sacked because of politics… or was he?
  2. The Media Aspect – one must remember that it is quite one thing to say something as an individual, and another to say something as a member of the media. The guy in question has, it is known, a kind of ‘image’ as a sarcastic and sharp critic of society, therefore I assume he wanted to shock and attention-seek, which is why he posted said statuses. This was a mistake. Particularly so close to the event. If he had, perhaps, waited a couple of months and slowly introduced the idea, coupling it to the lack of security at the event, that would have been one thing. However, when one works in the media industry one must be doubly and triply aware of how one places words, since that person would be not just speaking for himself, but representing his radio station too.

slide13. The Freedom of Speech Aspect – And here we have it – here is the crux of the argument – WHERE OH WHERE IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH? Yes this guy was an insensitive ass. He spoke without thinking about an issue which is very delicate and deserves respect. BUT isn’t that what Freedom of Speech is all about? Don’t people have the right to say and write what they think? Keep in mind that Malta is a country where censoring movies and theater productions is the order of the day, not to mention lyrics within popular events like the Gozo Carnival (I remember when around five years ago, a number of songs were scratched out from the programme because of the lyrics), as well as Carnival costumes. So, it seems that as a country we still have yet to define that elusive line between freedom of speech and, well, shall I call it dictatorship? Censorship? Or respect? Hmm. In this case, where is one to draw that line?

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Again, I do not condone what he said in any way and that is not the issue I am writing about.

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Point is, was this guy sacked because of politics, because of media-related reasons, or just because his opinion and mode of expression was not a ‘conventional’ one and one shared by others? And by the way, these were just Facebook statuses posted on his personal space for Pete’s sake – why all the fuss?

Three Years – Changes in my Life and the House of Parliament… lol

Three years ago, the Maltese government started building a new House of Parliament in Valletta, our capital city. At the time, I used to work near this new construction and would walk past it twice almost every day. Three years seemed so far away during March 2012, and I used to wonder where I would be when the new House of Parliament was finished in 2015, and what would have changed in my life. It seemed a lifetime away.

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Well, here we are. The new Parliament building is finally ready and it will start being used later on this month. So much has changed in my life since the moment it started to be built! I am not even the same person any more! I look back and marvel at the fact that this has been the most productive, important and evolutionary part of my life, and it happened at the same time as this building was being constructed. I wonder if before I die, I will see its destruction as well.

Morbid thoughts aside, in March 2012 I was still a child. Now, I am an adult I guess, but still with a faerie look about me, if you know what I mean 🙂

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1. I fought my way to freedom and became independent – in other words, I left the parental jail (or ‘that hellhole’, if you prefer even more honesty), and finally started to live on my own.

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2. – I went up the career-ladder – I’ve earned two promotions during the past 3 years. Needless to say, my position at the moment is much better than it was, not to mention my salary.

3. – I found my soul-mate – In March 2012 I was dating someone else, a person who definitely was not my match in many things, and being also aware that we did not actually have a future togather, the relationship was quite pointless. Later on that year however, I met someone whom I was to really click with, and after two years and a half now, we are in the process of buying a place together too. THAT’s a nice jump right!?

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4. I got published! – Although I have not totally abandoned the mentality and fear that once a story/poem is out, your heart has lost it forever, at least now I am writing freelance for a local magazine, as well as for a Polish tourist website. So, no I have not published any books yet, but am slowly getting there… I hope!

5. Self-esteem – All these experiences have led me to become a stronger and more determined person. While before I was more conscious of what other people thought of me, and how society viewed me, I am very happy to say that today I literally could not give a damn. Of course, I appreciate the companionship, advice and thoughts of loved ones, but I am not so gullible, naive, and pliant as I once was. I carry myself proudly and am happy of who I am. And whoever does not like it, can bite me 😀

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Personal Information

Something about me – I graduated four times, I have a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English, a Post-graduate degree in Education, a Post graduate degree in Interpreting, and a Masters in Contemporary English Literature and Criticism.

That being said, apart from writing free-lance, my full-time permanent job has nothing to do with my passion for books at all.

I am a Data Protection Analyst, more simply put – a Senior Principal Officer.

My job is interesting in that it offers different opportunities to appreciate not only the importance of freedom, but also shows up how dearly bought this is, especially within a society which struggles everyday to be fair and just, while at the same time cater for individuals’ greed and ignorance. To cap it all off, like many other countries, Malta is mired up in bureaucracy and slow-moving structures, which it changes at the pace of a snail. In other words, we try to fit in with the rest of the European Union, while at the same time embracing mentalities pertaining to 50 years ago (if not more).

My time is mostly spent giving other employees awareness – that is, training people who are not really interested and who would rather be somewhere else, and trying to explain to them that giving someone’s personal data to all and sundry is WRONG. Apart from that, I also investigate other departments and ministries and write Audit Reports illustrating where and how they are breaching the Data Protection Act…

Sounds boring? It kind of was at first, I admit, but after a couple of years, I’m starting to be interested… I wonder if that should make me happy, or afraid… hmm…

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