Comment on LIVING THE DREAM and ETNOCENTRISM
Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Tue 16 Jul 2013 17:08
Pim and Hanneke are sailing up in the US right now. We met them in Porto Santo first time. Then we sailed the ARC.
Most of us can probably relate to a word or a sentence said in the right moment. Something that made you see things in a different perspective. Well that's what happened in the start oc the ARC. We had be working like mad to get ready. We even had our generator hanging from the boom 3 days before the start! On top of that there was so much going on, so much to learn. And this was going to be our first ocean crossing. Then the start is postponed due to extreme bad weather, 2nd time in the history of the ARC.
But two days later it is time to go. 200 something boats get going in high seas and hard winds. We where soaked in rain, and at least my eye brows where deep down, very seriously taking the task of crossing the Atlantic.
Then suddnely there is Pim shouting on the radio: -AREN'T WE HAVING FUN!
And I thought to myself, -No, but I should, this is a dream coming through. At that time I had no idea I was going to be knocked together we the rest of the family (stomack illness) and Salsa had to enjoy herself... Well those words have been haunting me ever since that start. When I take things to serious I hear Pim shouting.And now we got this wonerful mail, please enjoy:
Hello Staffan, Ellinor, Erika and Andreas,
You keep me thinking. Sometimes that's good and you help me to put things into perspective, other times you come up with an open ended question that I can't bring to a satisfactory conclusion. The living of the dream question firmly falls in this last category. Ethnocentrism however made something fall into place. I've been working on an article called 'Condescending'. i believe many people have natural tendency to make themselves (ourselves) look good by being condescending when looking at others. That is fed by ethnocentrism. It could be very beneficial if we learned to admire the way people manage to be different or just are different. I don't know if this makes sense, but it cleared up a few things for me.
The living the dream thing is a bit harder. I think the responsibility that comes as an integral part of our chosen way of life, for as long as we roam the seas, really disqualify that life as a dream. When you live in our very structured Dutch or Swedish society, a lot of responsibility is taken a way from you; making life a hell of a lot easier. You're told how fast to drive, what time you have to be in school, how to dress for an occasion, and so on. All this comes at the expense of your personal freedom, but that freedom we now enjoy definitely also has a price. I tend to see our lifestyle more as very rewarding than as living the dream. Your own powers to motivate yourselves, to make the right decisions, to keep going, make me think of the time I used to run marathons or climb mountains. It was the sense of achievement, of making it to the finish or get to the top, that seemed to make the effort worthwhile.
At the same time, that comparison is totally wrong, because running a marathon is hard work whereas a great sail is totally relaxing. Although, you can really almost never allow yourself to relax. It may bite you, although it usually doesn't. That's where the strange tension lives. I, and I think I may speak for Hanneke, love the choice we made: doing this. However that is also because it compares so well to the alternative and that would be sitting at home waiting for the next dinner engagement, opera or concert, or just having a beer with friends. All that whilst enjoying the regulated society whilst bitching about it. Maybe our style of life ….. And that is where I stop, because it is not living a dream. It is living life on our own terms. That can be hard, but at the same time also very rewarding. There is a societal lesson in there, that I cannot seem to grasp.
We are now very much travelling in a - self acclaimed - civilised society; the United States of America. You are travelling in what we call developing countries. Boy, can we be more condescending than that? I could very well believe, that in the Pacific you see people living very rewarding lives, good lives, without great material comforts, health care, high life expectancy and other benefits of our western society. People with a clearly defined self interest, but with a much better balance with community spirit. I am afraid, that our ethnocentrism makes us look at the world from a very egotistical or egoistic point of view; maybe it sounds friendlier if I say from a hedonistic point of view. However when it comes to happiness, or a chance for happiness, I don't know who's better off. Asking that question of course implies, that I do think I know the answer to that. In that respect it is especially relevant to look at all levels of society. In the USA poverty is nowadays a very real thing.
We live in a society, where having fun is starting to replace or is at least being confused with being happy. Fun is something you always need more of. Happiness is a rewarding emotion in itself with a lasting effect. Fun is something you may have at the expense of another. That can never be the case with true happiness.
Our sailing is a fun adventure, however it is what we make of it, that may contribute to our happiness. Saying that it is living a dream can only be said by people who haven't done it.
Am I making sense? Please debate it in your next Monday meeting, whenever it may take place.
Warmest regards from a beautiful country with some very serious social problems.