“Did you read it?” Ismael said.
“Yes, you mean this article called The lack of gentle platonic touch by Mark Greene,” said Fèlix. “Yes, she also sent me the link per Whatsapp. It was good to practice my English. It made me think about our society’s values and especially about the role of men. Our role, haha! I suppose like you. Did you get Kyrta’s comment as well?”
“Yes, I got that. She also sent it per Whatsapp.”
Ismael was tall and thin. He did not look like the typical Mediterranean man. He had fair skin, his eyes were blue and his hair was blond. He had started to lead quite an alternative life having found a house in the middle of the woods where he could grow vegetables and fruit. It was a very quiet place with a few other houses; only around twenty people lived there. It was all very different from Ismael’s previous urban life. Luckily, he had finally found a good job as a gardener in Olesa, the Catalan village that was closer to his new home, near the Montserrat mountain. But before that, he said he had been mobbed in his previous job. Despite the difficulties, he wanted to continue there because in our country it is so bloody difficult to find a job with such high unemployment rates that you keep putting up with unfair and unsustainable situations you would not otherwise tolerate. You do not realize you need to give up until you become ill.
Ismael went to the doctor and was diagnosed as bipolar. He took the prescribed medication but would eventually become jobless for a long time. This of course was normal in Catalonia and had been since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2009. Getting the gardener job was good for him. It made him mentally and physically better. You could not tell he had been ill. He was happy. He had separated from his wife and left the town, where he had been living, and where most of his friends still lived. He was satisfied with his new house in the woods, almost in the middle of nowhere. Some of his friends, including Kyrta, had visited him once.
The other man, Fèlix, had beautiful and prominent brown eyes, the sort that conveyed intelligence. His back was slightly curved. He was older than Ismael, about fifty-plus. Ismael was one year younger than Kyrta, who was now forty-six. Fèlix worked with computers. Free-lance. He was able to solve almost any problem, and he also gave private classes. He liked his job and was good at it. Moreover, he was an excellent friend like Ismael, only a bit pretentious sometimes because he liked showing off, which is something he admitted. His life was generally quite fine. One of the great difficulties he was probably facing was taking turns with his wife to look after his mother-in-law who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Kyrta had seen the old woman on more than one occasion when she took computer lessons at Fèlix’s house. She was indeed well looked after but it was still a difficult situation for all the parties.
Ismael and Fèlix looked at Kyrta’s Whatsapp message again and what she had written about Mark Greene’s article entitled The lack of gentle platonic touch. In fact, she found all the arguments well-grounded. As a South European woman born in a Mediterranean culture she saw her people, especially men, also suffering from a lack of human touch, which was not just happening in the United States of America.
Kyrta wrote that the imposed Macho culture harms us terribly. You find exactly the same homophobic attitudes in many places on earth. There seems to be no problem when women hug and kiss each other on the cheek. That is quite a normal thing accepted by everyone in many countries. But when it comes to men, if they do so, especially the kissing part, things change. All sorts of prejudices arise even if it is just meant as a platonic touch, as Greene says, and has absolutely nothing to do with sexual desire. No one thinks that two women hugging and kissing each other are necessarily lesbians. But if men do the same, most people automatically think they must be gay. What is more, they tend to hold strong prejudices against their supposed homosexuality, which is not the topic we are dealing with here but each person’s sexual orientation, which must always be respected.
Kyrta emphasized the fact that her Mediterranean culture allowed in general more human touch than in America. She had been to the U.S. twice and noticed what Mark Greene calls Puritanical sexual shaming. It is America’s inheritance, which many people are starting to question. Ismael, Fèlix and Kyrta also questioned it after having shared the contents of the article. In fact, they questioned all classic Macho attitudes in our patriarchal societies. Sadly enough, many people believe in that model, which is being reinforced by certain media and institutions. Men still need to be tougher than women, cannot express the same emotions or cry in the same way.
There was another post on Facebook that had immediately drawn Kyrta’s attention. In a way, it bore a relationship with what she had been discussing with Ismael and Fèlix. Mario Savioni said he could not tell his Facebook friends how important Jack Kerouac’s work was to his soul. He also said it made him cry. Well, why not? Crying is a natural reaction in human beings. Why should we repress it? What she really liked most was a man openly admitting on Facebook that someone or something makes him cry. Yes, away with this stupid Macho culture!
Mario asked explicitly: “What better than this? T.S. Eliot? Heidegger? Sartre?“
To this, Kyrta replied the following: “I personally like it, yes, though Jack Kerouac’s writing, apparently or at least in this part of the book, is really sad. I can’t judge the rest because I haven’t read the book. I am only giving an opinion on what I am seeing on this video. What I like is the combination with the blues, that is very good.” The interviewer playing blues on the piano was certainly great. It helped to recreate the sad atmosphere of the book that was being read aloud by the same Kerouac.
Kyrta also said: “I know Heidegger and Sartre from my high school days. But that was long ago.”
It was her recently deceased father who had been a philosopher, not her. A few philosophy classes at high school had not been enough to understand humanity’s great philosophers. Besides, the philosophy teacher had been almost exclusively interested in Nietzsche. She remembered having read On the Genealogy of Morality. But what about the other philosophers? Did they not count? Was that the right way to teach philosophy when the subject still existed in the 80s? Does philosophy still exist as a subject in Spain’s and Catalonia’s new education plans? Hardly, no wonder people believe what they first see on media. No one has taught them to think.
Apart from that, Kyrta’s philosophy teacher had been especially peculiar. She remembered what a great fan he was of Barcelona’s Football Club, known as Barça in Catalonia. When the team won, he got drunk. When Barça lost, he also got drunk. The match had to end in a draw if you wanted a sober teacher. However, being drunk or sober, he would always ask the students for permission to smoke a cigarette in class. Nowadays this would be unthinkable. Although Kyrta and the rest of her classmates had not received better philosophy classes they all had liked their teacher. This was probably because he had been a nice person after all. He could communicate well with teenagers, he understood them and he was himself a rule breaker, something young people like.
Kyrta would read more philosophy and literature with the passing of time. She went back to her Facebook comment and continued to write:
“T.S.Eliot, yes.The Waste Land. I remember having read it many years ago during my university times. At the beginning I had the feeling I understood nothing or, maybe I understood something in my own way of perceiving and interpreting things. I loved the way it was written, the words, the use of the language … I don’t know exactly what it was. Then I reread it. Yes, I’m very fond of rereading and used the Norton Anthology of English Language where you have the notes explaining what each author means. Very helpful. A small part of Jame Joyce’s Ulysses is also there. I think I will read it one of these days.”
“Last point: great that a man openly says something like this makes him cry. Men must cry and not hide from it, as well as women, transgenders, and any other person. Away Macho culture! The “strongest men,” who never ever show any sign of weakness, are very often much weaker than we assume. They wear a mask that hides their inner insecurities. Crying is not weakness to me. It is human and it sets your emotions free, which is healthy. That is what I did all the time in Munich and in London. When you are away from home on holiday you have more time and, therefore, you are more sensitive to certain things. All of us grow stronger and healthier this way.”
End of comment. Posted. But why is it that we, humans, are sometimes so stupid? Why is it that we accept what we should not accept and we do not accept what we should accept? Kyrta was reflecting upon that. We do not accept human separations when we should learn to let go. We must let things and people go. She had accepted her best friend’s decision to become a nun and as a result to live far from her. In the beginning, she missed her very much but she had to respect her friend’s decision.
An ex-boyfriend had accepted Kyrta’s decision to break up with him instead of behaving like a stupid jealous Macho. They remain good friends that see each other from time to time. Of course any human separation is painful but no one should ever be another person’s slave. Death was even a harder matter. She was thinking again of the sudden loss of her father. However, there was nothing else but accepting death and remembering her best moments with him. Life is about acceptance and non-acceptance. The problem is that we sometimes do not accept what needs to be accepted like failed love relationships or losing people who die. Most people tend to retain them but we have to let go. Instead, we should not accept what we very often accept, in this case, things like violence, war and, in general, any kind of human injustice. Why do we act this way?
Paradoxically, in North America Mark Greene was talking about the lack of normal human touch and the Puritanical sexual shaming. Too much crying was also not acceptable and repressed, especially if society wanted you to be the typical strong man. Too much repression made both women and men lose confidence in things they could do in life. Any human being’s potential artistic, literary or scientific creativity could be curtailed. In fact, too much repression also leads to a loss of confidence. On the other hand, an excess of confidence, especially of collective confidence in a group, in a society, would inevitably lead to disaster.
© June 2016 Marta Pombo Sallés