WHY CAN’T I DO SMALL TALK?!

bigtalk

Do you ever get so excited about something that your nose starts to tickle, your eyes start to water a little bit and you really, really want to make this sound: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

This is not a rhetorical question. I’m seriously interested, so please leave a comment under this one, pleaseyesthankyouverymuch.

I get so light in the head over things I’m passionate about that I sometimes wonder if it’s normal. Knowing me, it probably isn’t. But I can’t help it and in a way, I’m only half embarrassed by it. The other half… is the nose-tickling feeling all over again.

Teachers and lecturers frequently overlook my stretched out hand and ask things like “Maybe anybody else has an opinion about this?” over my head. Last time that happened was half a day into a one-week fulltime course. Three hours after meeting me the lecturer was already fed up with my contributions to the class. Three. Hours.

I wasn’t hugely unpopular in high school, you know. Not outside of the classroom. In the classroom, some people passionately hated me. I passionately didn’t give a rat’s ass. I simply can’t help myself; I just get superduperexpicalifragilistically excited over stuff.

Vegetarianism, paintings, the water theme in Effie Briest, participatory research, the idea that constant growth is a majorly unintelligent concept in a world of limited resources, this TED talk, the physiological merits of a vegan diet, why my generation is so accepting of narcissism, circular economies, the combination of mint and peas… all these are topics that I was – more or less politely – asked to shut up about.

I always accepted that, because I know that a big part of my inability to do small talk is that I love to hear myself sound smart, something we Germans call “Geltungsdrang” (transl.: need for admiration. God, I love the German language sometimes. The direct translation would be “prestige-urge”. Makes my nose tickle.). That isn’t my nicest attribute and I fully understand that people find me majorly annoying for it.

There’s more to it, though, because my nose also tickles when I’m by myself. Sometimes so badly, that I   n e e d   to share my excitement somehow and that’s when I usually start crying in the Louvre  writing.

Some of my friends kinda get it, some ra-ha-ha-ha-heeeally don’t. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Graemer-Clan! If I had a dollar for every time one of you guys looked at me ironically or rolled their eyes at me for raising a not-so-pleasant topic… one day I’ll räch myself for it… hrngffzpk)

Anyways, everyone I know has made fun of me for it at some point. Which is fine. I’d be a huge douchebag if it weren’t for that. I just wonder if I’m really alone with that urge or if others feel it, too. And if yes, of course, everybody feels it, they’re  just much better at containing it, HOW DO YOU DO IT?!?!

pigmarxrosieiknouuu pig2  pizza

Wind in my sails

Okayyy, here we go again: I’m back to sitting in the library until my bum gets so flat you could turn me upside down and use me as a nightstand. And what does that mean for you, my dear readers and friends? It means that you will profit from the excellent education I’m receiving at this wonderfully mainstream-critical university. You up for it? You better be, because I had to read like A MILLION pages to come up with the following couple of paragraphs…

When I read this article  the other day, I sat at my desk looking like this for about half an hour:

hnngchii

So, the deal is that the salaries of CEOs of NGOs in the UK have apparently risen by up to 60% over the last three years and are now somewhere in the lower 6 digits. This revelation has provoked heated debates around several pay related topics that have been simmering under the surface of development cooperation:

– entry level payments in the sector are extremely low in relation to the levels of education and work experience that are required to be one of those annoying do-gooders for a living

– local staff from low-income countries often receives far less mon-ay than expatriate staff for the same type and amount of work;

– and finally, since the budgets of these organizations usually consist of donations from private people and foundations, spending transparency holds a moral dimension for NGOs that ‘normal’ businesses don’t have to worry about- but NGOs certainly do.

In my opinion, all these examples represent that damned misfit of capitalist principles and principles of altruism and equality: help as a business remains a paradox, everybody.

(Why do I want to be part of this again? Oh yea, right. Because people are dying of poverty. Ahahaha. Sometimes I almost forget about that…)

Soooo, to dive into the first topic: of course the idea to do good for a living is so attractive to young idealists that the market for entry level jobs in NGOs is flooded with highly qualified, motivated and internationally experienced applicants (COUGH LIKE ME COUGH SO HUMBLE). Consequently, these jobs are usually very demanding, yet underpaid. I have worked and volunteered in a governmental development agency, a large international NGO and a grass-root local NGO, and everywhere I encountered the same atmosphere among my (btw: mostly female) colleagues:

If you’re not heading towards or just recovering from a burnout syndrome, you’re not worthy of your job.

Work-life balance – Schmork-wife-balance.  In development cooperation, the lines between work and life are not only blurred, but completely dissolved by the enthusiasm for your project, the notion of responsibility for other people’s lives, and the emotional content of one’s work. Try planting a tree without smiling. Can’t do it? Fine, try A MILLION and then let’s see if your still smiling.

I’m a psycho psychologist, so I see this as a direct consequence of cognitive dissonance in young employees (EVERYthing is due to cognitive dissonance in the eyes of a psychologist). People go like “I hardly get paid enough to afford my favorite fairtrade coffee, yet I work so hard that I get bitter when I look at my friends Facebook pages.” One way to dissolve this paradox is to align your work attitude with your efforts, so that you think of your job as the  o n l y  means of personal fulfillment. Which looks something like this:

maslow

That’s always a great idea. Very healthy. Nooot.

Awareness for this vicious circle is high. Indeed, all of my former colleagues warned me about entering the sector. They mentioned family issues, alcoholism, alienation from friends, depression…

(Again: why do I want to do this?!? Right. I’m an overprivileged white girl and the world’s a shitty place so I gotta try and fix that a wee bit. Where was I?)

Yet, those colleagues, too, expected the new employees and interns to stay at their desks until late at night and to answer e-mails from home. Apparently personal experience and reflection don’t seem to break the habit of exploiting young work force. So, maybe a standardized payment in aid agencies and other NGOs would help with this problem.

The second argument for standardized payments in NGOs is the gap between local and expatriate salaries in internationally active NGOs. Again- tons of psychological implications: what do you think it does to local identities, power relationships and people’s understanding of justice when white people naturally get more money than their local co-workers? It’s damn obvious, isn’t it? Un faaa haaair!!!

And because it’s so damn obvious, the terms pay transparency and alignment have made it into the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness and into most NGO agendas. Yet, an established theory of best practice doesn’t translate into actual practice. The gap still exists. I could name several unfortunate incidents and misunderstandings during my work in Madagascar in 2011 that were direct results of a power hierarchy created by unfair pay. So what to do, what to do? You think the ones in charge, the people from Western countries who are working in development cooperation will be like “Meh.” about their privileges, and initiate pay alignment? That’s right. Noooot gonna happen. Standardization from far up above across NGOs seems to be a valid solution.

And finally, the moral obligation of accountability towards donors would be guarded by standardized pay. Many people are frustrated by the outcome of the last 40 years of aid. Only very high levels of transparency can decrease the growing distrust in the effectiveness of development cooperation. Globally standardized pay would be a reason to trust all those annoying do-gooders again, don’t you think?

So, back to explaining my initial reaction to the article. I still look like this

inspired2

because the whole scandal – though as ALWAYS totally misreported by the stupid mass media to the stupid masses (to quote one of my favorite internet gurrls: You are stupid, I am stupid, we are all stupid.) – is still publicity for academia’s struggle to understand why making the world a better place is so damn difficult.  Let’s hope some big fat capitalist cat will pay attention to this debate (and I mean the real fat cats, not some mediocre NGO not-even-Millionaire). What development cooperation needs, is more research on the individual, organizational and societal dynamics that are triggered  by non-profit work.  So, please, fat cat, fund some psycho research on those dynamics, so that I will find a job at some point.

Oh, and of course so that people stop dying unnecessarily. Ahahaha.

 

Sili was here.

Phew. That was some unexpected crying at the airport. A few days ago I prepared my German friend, who stayed with us for a few weeks, that she shouldn’t be offended if I’m really stoic when we say goodbye, because that’s just how I roll: I only miss people when they’ve been away for a while and I suck at pretending anything else. Well, that seems to be a not-so-stable trait of mine, because when that friend disappeared into the duty free area, I started sobbing like my mommy had just taken away my candy and locked me alone in my room.

The analogy really works, because Sili is kind of both: the candy and the mommy. A rrrrraaaeally fun kind of candy, like popping candy, or no, wait! Ahoj Brause!Ahoj Brause Obviously! Sweet, bubbly and a little explosive. Also mixes very well with Vodka. Oh my god, this metaphor is so good, I’m having a little bit of a metaphor orgasm.

Right. Where was I? She also has a motherly touch, because damn- that girl can care! She cares the shit out of you, if you let her- and let her you should! Because she doesn’t only care about every single (to normal people numbingly tedious) detail of your life, she’s also willing to give you some serious validation based on every single experience she’s ever made, and every single experience her Millions of good friends, former and present roommates, family members, ex-boyfriends of family members, psychologists of friends of friends, friends’ former family members, fun former flings, friendly far-away fans, …

…where was I? I don’t know how she keeps them all together. Maybe with the help of that little book in which she listed every single person that should receive a postcard from NZ. The list was a page long. Two columns!!! If she forgot you, it wasn’t because you weren’t on there, but because the NZ postcard production couldn’t keep up with her consumption.

*sigh*

We had a lot of fun.

Even bigger *sigh*

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you nor make a cartoon about the fun we had, because this blog post was pre-censored by Sili herself: “If this ends up on your blog, I will kill you.” was the beginning of our most memorable nights .

D A N K E S C H Ö N

Guys, thank you all so much for following, commenting and sharing! I’m having so much fun running this blog and that is entirely due to your guys attention. I get ridiculously excited over every comment- such witty and caring readers I have! Please keep it up! Getting to know you and getting a little insight in what you make of my rambling  is like christmas, birthday and easter all mixed together in one eggy cake laden chocolate awesomeness with gifts.

You make me feel a bit smug

And also very grateful

Panda Persuasion

My roommate the Panda and I fight a lot. He’s very good at finding some gaps in my logic, jamming his paw in it and jerking my whole argument apart by outing me as a silly, over-privileged, white girl who has no idea what the things she so passionately talks about actually mean. Poverty. Racism. Rugby. He’s good.

But this Tuesday, we got into a debate over vegetarianism, and this time, I didn’t end up in a corner licking my wounds from the battlefield. To be fair, 12 years of vegetarianism (throw in about 5 steaks, 4 bites of a Döner and a couple of very guilty burger moments) prepared me well for this one. I had my first blood-sweat-and-tears fight over vegetarianism when I was twelve with my 21 year old brother and realized that I could only escape this debate, if I avoided eating around other people all together.

To be honest, the debate get’s a bit old after a few years.

table vegetarianism

However, in this particular case, the debate became a little more heated than I usually let it get. After calling the Panda an idiot, yelling a few things that were completely off-topic and punching the couch helplessly, we were interrupted and I had a little time to cool off.

I decided, it would be best to let a third party speak. Obviously, one that would make my case.

So we watched Earthlings, a terribly brutal documentary about mass meat production & co. produced by Joaquim Phoenix that you can watch for free, if you’re up for it. To roughly quote Joaquim: “As a consumer of animal products you actually have no right to not watch it.” I have to say, though, that it consists of some of the most horrible scenes I’ve ever seen. And this comes from a German kid who had to watch all those concentration camp videos at high school… I cried throughout most of it and certainly didn’t keep my eyes open all of the time.

Yet, the documentary shows probably not even the most extreme forms of animal abuse. The message is clear: this is happening, right now and all over the world, and you should give a shit about it, if you have animal products in your fridge, wardrobe or bathroom.

Panda made a joke about falling asleep when it was over. I didn’t even have the energy to go at his throat at this point. But then he asked me some questions and I could see a new uneasiness in his face, the wrinkled forehead of reconsideration.

I think the documentary pushes it too far for the mainstream meat-eater, so I diluted the documentary’s message a little bit by saying that a lot of people argue a strong case for supporting organic and ethical meat production as a more realistic alternative to mass meat production than total abstinence.

Well, what can I say. The next day around noon I received a text message saying that Panda would go vegetarian for a month to see how he felt about it. I’m going to cook the shit out of quinoa, tofu and beans this month!

panda

Giving a shit makes you look good!

Me and my favorite partner in crime, Tali the unicorn woman, went to the TEDx talk in Auckland on Saturday and to the Generation Zero conference on New Zealand’s role in climate change tonight. It. Was. Amazeballs.

Being in a room full of people that agree with you on a lot of things is always exhilarating. As a very mass-critical German I don’t let myself give in to the sweet feeling of belonging to a crowd too much, but really- if I wanted to belong with a mass of people, then it would definitely be the kind I met there. Funny, energetic, tech-savvy hipsters that really give a shit and walk their talk. Yes, thank you, more please.

environmentalistfeminist

So, apart from drawing funny pictures, I will obviously share some of the important, inspiring, thought provoking, well presented, funny, and deeply touching content from those two events. I’ll only give you teasers, though. You really have to go yourself, if you want to be fully blown away 🙂

Everything I love about Kiwis is represented by this guy. Full points on humor, full points on being practical, no ego involved. I simply   c a n ‘ t    b e l i e v e    he’s a successful politician. There’s HOPE after all.

And this a quote by one of the Generation Zero people (that I’m totally going to get involved with! If you live in NZ you should, too!!! http://generationzero.org.nz):

She says that her motivations have since changed, but I have it noted that her original drive to act on climate change was that she felt that it was always the most vulnerable who were affected and how this provoked strong feelings of injustice. I think young activist stereotypes have changed. I feel like I hear words like ‘clever’ and ‘savvy’ thrown around as often as ‘idealistic’ – but (luckily) I don’t think empathy has been rooted out just yet.

(Rachel Evans on Maddy Foreman, http://blog.generationzero.org.nz/awa/39)