I know those words in my headline are quoted from the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen‘s songJackson Cage. After finishing the post below I happened to think of this song and those words in particular. To me the song is about being or feeling trapped in a life with no or few options and to not feel very good about that life while it still remains all you’ve got. This I relate to my own life where I often feel that I am my own worst enemy.
Now I was going to write this in order to let the cool of the night take the edge off the heat in my previous post. So I’ll just do that then.
My Saturday started early.
I never went to sleep on Friday night. Although I’m certain I must have slept at some point during the night. However I woke up to take part in a fun time in a chatroom of a friend. This lasted all through the morning and into the afternoon of my Saturday. I felt very happy to be there as I always do.
After it finished I felt to high on the good times I’d had to be able to do much of anything but I managed to get some chores done.
Well, only managed to drive my mother to the graveyard in order to light a candle at my father’s grave. The usual weekend routine. Then on to the grocery store for some food and back home for some relaxing, tweeting and daydreaming until the night.
Oh, I almost forgot I had a rather good dinner on Saturday. Steamed cod fillet, creamy fish sauce, jasmine rice and some fresh tomatoes on the side. Delicious!
At night I ought to have slept but I didn’t go to bed. Instead I seem to have fallen asleep in my chair at times while listening to music and even having my webcam on. Very strange. However at one point I did go to bed for a nap. Woke up again feeling cold and went back to my chair in front of the screen. Sat there until dawn and then some.
Took a break when my uncle came by to visit. Took another break when it was time for dinner. Frozen TV dinner heated by microwave. Tasted like one can expect from such a dish. Not much but at least it was warm. Also had one half of an avocado. That was more to my taste.
Spent the rest of the evening watching my screen until I finally couldn’t hold my eyes open and decided to sleep around 6pm. Slept without dreaming to around 9 pm. Got up, got back to my chair and here I am now. Writing blog posts, watching tweets and writing a few. Thinking I should not be so caught up by my own small problems when another dictatorship is about to fall and history is being written, but still can’t help it.
My surface might not reveal it but underneath there are lots of conflicting emotions running around. I feel weak trying to make sense of this turmoil. I might not even try at all.
What I’ll do the rest of tonight I don’t know yet but I’m sure time will tell.
I remember the early February days back in 1986. Last half of the last year of highschool had just begun. Walking home from the bus station after having gone through another day of school. Probably thinking of some movie I had seen – or some book I was reading. Hearing the sound of some song in my head. Softly singing the words to myself. Might have been some tune off of Jackson Browne‘s album Lives In The Balance but it may also have been one from Steve Winwood, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. The full catastrophe of our prime minister being shot dead in the street while on his way home from a cinema had yet to hit the nation. Things were pretty good and as normal as normal can be.
Why do I think of this now ? I was watching music video clips on YouTube today and suddenly had some flashbacks from when I first heard the songs.
In those days I was often thinking of some story to write. Settings, characters and themes, bits and pieces of dialogue were floating through my mind while I walked the 2ooo meters back home. Also I was most likely thinking of a certain blonde girl in my class whom I happened to have a big crush on at the time. I had just begun to communicate with her through old-school hand-written letters sent by postal mail. That’s what people did back then. They actually sat down with a pen and paper and wrote letters, folded the paper, put it in an envelope and mailed it. Then they waited a few days for the receiver to read and respond to the letter. It wasn’t all instant like today’s email, chat, twitter and Facebook. Anyway, I had probably just gotten a letter or just sent one and had to think about what would happen next or what the response ought to be. It would still be more than a month before I would get the letter that would shatter my hopes and dreams but for the time being I was happy to have the connection I had.
What else was I thinking about? Probably politics. I had just recently begun to take an interest in political matters and my freshly formed and rather shallow political views were decidedly left-wing. That was one reason why I bought Jackson Browne’s album. Also I had begun to pick up on some political currents in the music of Springsteen and Mellencamp.
Sweden back in those days had a political climate dominated by the ruling Social Democratic Party (Arbetarepartiet Socialdemokraterna) and the mood of the society has since been described as rather dull and bland. However , I liked living in Sweden back in those days. Unemployment was almost zero, taxes were high but the standard of living was also at the absolute top among the nations of the world. Things worked back then. Life was safe and secure and you didn’t have to worry as much as today. Sure there were only two channels of national public service television available and not too many radio channels. But it worked. It was stable. The future looked bright as a job would not be too hard to find once school was finished.
While being a rather dull and bland society, Sweden was and is heavily influenced by American popular culture. To the degree that some critics were saying even back then that Sweden ought to be the 51st state of the United States of America.
We have most of the fast-food franchises (not as many then as there are today), are influenced by American cuisine, we listen to American music, read American books and magazines, follow American sports, watch American TV-shows and of course lots of American movies. We wear clothes influenced by American fashion and we are generally skilled at speaking English.
Being a teenager in Sweden was hence not much different from being a teenager in the United States. At least that was what many of us believed since not many had actually visited the United States or had any real knowledge of what it actually is like to live in the American society. Our image of American life was formed by TV, music and movies and while not entirely false it was by no means realistic. It was a dream or perhaps a kind of illusion we all willingly indulged in. Even those of us who were opposed to the American influence upon the rest of the world.
I’m not sure where I am going with this post so I might aswell end it before I digress further. At least it is a sort of glimpse of a time long gone. Perhaps. Maybe only a lot of words.
Ok, I promised to return to the topic of why I wish this year to end quickly. Well, here I am and its New Years Eve. All ready to type away. I have made a previous post about how my life turned out this year for those who might be interested to read it or perhaps read it again… But, there are other reasons for wanting this year 2010 to end. Reasons that have more to do with the world outside than my small and insignificant life.
Let’s start off easy with the place where I live. This little community located not far from the big capital city of Stockholm have this year seen the rise of a political party with only one goal: to break this small community away from the municipality and form a new one. All this has to do with money and taxes. The people living in this little community are for the most part ordinary people with decent income who seem to think that the taxes they pay should only benefit this little community and not also the rest of the municipality to which it belongs. I do not support this egocentric way of thinking and hope that this new party will not succeed in their mission.
Next reason for why this year should end quickly is located at the national level. Our government. This years general election did not end well for the party I support but what’s worse is that a small right-wing party which is considered to be racist in its political views gained enough votes to win seats in the parliament. I am sad to see this happen in my country.
The ruling alliance of parties who were elected to govern Sweden four years ago remains in power after this years election but with a loss of the majority in the parliament. This has had very little effect so far and the alliance has continued its policy of increasing the differences between rich and poor, employed and unemployed and last but not least healthy and sick. This is done through tax cuts and other measures for the wealthy, healthy and employed and through decreasing aid to the poor, unemployed and ill. This policy has affected me a lot during the past four years and will continue through the coming years if I don’t get lucky and manage to find someone who will want to employ me. I had high hopes for a change of policy in Sweden if a new government had been elected but this failed. There were not enough people who wanted a change to take place. Solidarity has more or less fallen by the roadside during the last decade or so. Egoism seems to be rule from the top to the bottom of society. Maybe this will start to change by next year but I seriously doubt it will.
Last but not least: the world. No end here to finding reasons why this year 2010 sucked and needs to end quickly. Wars, escalating conflicts, terrorism (even in Stockholm), social tensions, religious conflicts, fanaticism, global financial crisis, banks going bankrupt, increasing unemployment, volcanoes erupting, floods, famine, snowstorms, ice storms, heavy rain, strong winds, freezing cold, heatwaves, Wikileaks controversy, several nations economies collapsing, global warming, climate change…
The list goes on and on. Of course the end of 2010 will not mean the end to or solution of any of the above and the start of 2011 will not affect any of these things right away but perhaps the new year can bring with it the notion that everything eventually has an end and that change is and always will be not only possible but will also be coming and happening whether we like it or not.
Jackson Browne has been a favorite of mine since the mid- 1980’s. This song is among his very best in my opinion. Other favorites include Running on Empty, Take it Easy and I’m Alive . I first started listening when I bought the album Lives in the Balance 1986. On that album there are many great songs but it’s a bit sad that the political and social dimensions of the lyrics of many of the songs caused Browne’s audience to shrink. Maybe some people were surprised that a singer/songwriter with a laid-back style like Browne’s would suddenly write and sing about political and social issues. During the 1980’s I was a teenager and had started to be interested in the world around me and begun to form my own opinions on many political and social issues. My choice of music reflected that, so I started to listen to such performers as Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Little Steven and Jackson Browne.
What shall we do with it , this Monday ? I don’t know. There’s a new one every week and yet they’re all the same. Strange. In a way that’s a good thing. Would be worse if there were days with new names each week. Or if the weeks were something else each time. There has to be some order in the world, a schedule, or life will not go on. Maybe it would anyway. After all, order and schedules and rules are fairly new to the human experience. For ages there were not much order at all and people still made a life that was worth living. I think there are too many schedules these days and too much order. We could all benefit from some chaos from time to time. Shake the world a bit and see if it comes together differently, maybe even in a better way. Because it’s so easy to think that this order of things, this system we have now, is the only possible one. That it will just go on and on without any change or disruption. Like history has come to and end. Some conservative and liberal minds seem to wish this to be true, mainly those who find the system to be working for their benefit. The rest of us might have a different opinion on this matter.
when there are too few of them, being only a question of how well you write the CV and how you present yourself towards the company that might decide to employ you, is a very popular myth in my country these days. This myth is spread and supported very often by members of our government who seem to think that if you only try hard enough you will succeed. That may be true to a certain point. I mean, if you don’t try at all there is very little chance of success, and if you do try then there’s a chance. However it is still only a chance. But, the government seems to think that it is more than just a chance. They seem to think that the rise in unemployment can be stopped and reduced by having the unemployed try harder to get a job and becoming poorer while doing it. In the world of politicians there seems to be another logic than the in the rest of the world. If I try as hard as I can I may still not become the fastest man on Earth. In fact, given certain conditions, there is a much greater chance I will end up dead than be able to run faster than anyone else. But, that sort of negative thinking is not allowed. If I only think positive and try hard enough I will get a job. Eventually. No matter that there are not enough jobs to go around and that everyone who is out of work is also trying as hard as I am. There are ten times more people wanting jobs than there are jobs available. This means that one out of ten who are trying hard will get a job. The remaining nine will have to keep trying and hope that they hold the winning ticket next time. Because what it is most of all is a lottery in which you bet your life. Yet what would be a better solution than being told to try harder is to give the unemployed a chance to learn something that would make them more interesting to employ. Learn a new trade, or move to higher education or simply get some training at a real workplace, and a chance to show an employer that they are able to work and are skilled enough for the job.
Try it. If you think it’s easy enough. If you are on the ground it can be difficult to reach up and touch it. But, if you are under the ground then it’s another matter for sure. You can reach the ground if you try to enough. Once you have touched the ground you can slowly begin to climb up to it and then maybe find yourself standing on it again at last. Not saying it is easy to reach the ground after having fallen through it. And not saying the conditions of life are not creating more ways of keeping you down once you have fallen. To be able to survive at the very bottom of society in the Sweden of today is hard work, because to get there is easier than ever, but to climb back up again is almost impossible. For the people not at the bottom this means nothing more than to work harder to keep in place and for those at the top it means life is becoming better and better as if it wasn’t already good to begin with. Some of the top people say that this development benefits the people under the ground the most. Because if the bottom people become poor enough they will climb faster to get up to the ground and if the top people get richer, the bottom people will have a longer climb to get to the top and be even more motivated to reach the top even if they mostly never get there. What the top people have to do to remain at the top is as usual the same as always: nothing special. Why should they, after all they make the rules, they control the money, they govern, they have all the real power. Why do they have all this ? Because we, the rest of the people, have allowed it be this way. Somebody, or some people, have to lead, have to rule all the others – isn’t that true since the beginning of mankind ? Why, then, do most of us rather follow than lead ? Because it’s much easier to follow and because we can hide in the crowd when we follow our leader(s). If we don’t like the road the leaders point out we can also switch leaders and take another road or break away from the main group and form new groups with other leaders. However, most of the time we simply follow without much protest or real efforts to make changes in the leadership. Instead we are often more than willing to make the changes to us that our leaders demand. Changes that can be difficult and sometimes make our situation worse than before. Yet we accept. Most of the time. We play it safe. To conform to change is not as dangerous as it is to confront it. So we trust in our leaders wisdom. If you rise up and tell your leaders you have a better way to do things or even only a different way, you must be ready to prove your way is the way to go, to win the people for your idea. And the leaders might try to stop you from making your ideas heard if they somehow see your ideas as a threat to their position of power. So it takes a lot of guts to speak up and that’s one reason why so few actually do and that so many willingly follow their leaders anywhere they go not matter what. How else to explain so many of the things that has happened throughout human history ?