Monday, January 07, 2013

word for the day: solipsism

17/12.2012 - indeed

solipsistic. that's the word i would choose as the predominant descriptor of the danes. it's a word i first encountered in college, as applied to dostoevsky's underground man, a character so utterly fixated on himself that he cannot function in the world. or even see it. while the danes are solipsistic in a different way than the underground man (he's quite absorbed in philosophy and existential questions), they are self-absorbed nonetheless, to the point of often not realizing that others exist.

this manifests most often in public space. drivers stick to the middle of the road, seemingly unaware that there are other cars coming towards them. someone backs out of their space in a crowded grocery store parking lot, blissfully oblivious to the existence of other cars and people and carts bustling around them.  the same is true inside the grocery store, where they look up in annoyed surprise when they run over your foot, wondering where on earth you materialized from and without a polite apology ever leaving their lips. this solipsism is the same force that made countless grown adults walk on, not saying a word, as a young boy was pummeled on the street in broad daylight. a sense of being so much in and of oneself, that no one else is needed and therefore there's no need to help or acknowledge others.

it's one of the most bewildering and infuriating things about living in denmark. and i never really get used to it, tho' i am sure that i have to an extent taken on the behavior myself - grown colder and more closed and abrupt. it makes me sad to think of it at times, but it's also exhausting to try to fight it.

interesting, i had what i thought was a funny rant about this in my head when i sat down to write this, but it came out much more sad than i imagined. writing is like that sometimes.


i don't read a word of french, but if you like stitching, there is some serious eye candy here.


Spilling Ink said...

I think the Swedes suffer from the same - I very quickly realized when I moved to Sydney that my habit of just hopping on the bus first was considered very rude by other people waiting that the same bus stop. I was apparently being pushy.

That thing with driving in the middle of the road my mum had a theory about though. The people who do it are afraid of the wild flowers that grow along the roads in Sweden (and no doubt Denmark), they are wild flowers after all.

will said...

When I read your use of solipsistic on Facebook, my first thought was, "this has to be the first time the word has been used on Facebook". Tho I also believe narcissism is trans-national.

julochka said...

@spilling ink - maybe, tho' this time of year, there are no flowers, so what's their excuse?

@bill - i think narcissism is different, that's being in love with yourself and gazing at yourself in the mirror and such and preening. the danes don't do that. they just think (or wish) that no one else exists.

Elizabeth said...

In our sundaymorning-talk Anneli and I came to the conclusion that everyone should be knitting or at least be heavily involved with their own handmade textileproject. Why? It learns you to pay loving attention to something that grows, is tactile and warm if you show up! Would that not be a great gift to society? :)

Happy monday!

Anonymous said...

I see plenty of solipsistic midwestern upper middle class suburbanites. Like you, I never have gotten used to the indifference they project, but find that I am much more cold as a result of it. Sadly.

j. wilson said...

up until recently I lived in Los Angeles. Los Angeles, is indeed made up of a great many different cultures. The majority of these cultures always confounded me when I ventrued into the neighbors that were domiated by one culture. Going to a supermarket in said neighborhoods was always an exercise in cosmic survival. Cars often backed into me. People often walked into my car, doors were pulled closed in my face, carts often driven over my foot, elbows forcefully pushed me out of the way ,etc. I often thought that on an individuul level each person was extremely rude until I stopped to look, really look and see it was whole cultures that behaved this way and I shook my head in confusion.

I still don't understand.

I now live in a fairly homogenous town and with it comes a great courtesy of door holding, greetings, and the waving through of stop signs. I quite enjoy the nicety of my new coudl however use a bit more....color.