You know those people who can pick up any random instrument and just instinctively know how to work the thing? They just hoot, whistle, strum, tap or pluck a bit and then… there you have it: beauty!
My eldest brother is like that, but not with music (even though he did play the trumpet for a while, in his teenage years). He has the eye. He looks at completely mundane situations and suddenly feels the urge to get on his knees and take a few shots from a funny angle. Yes, he is a passionate photographer and a bloody good one, if you ask me.
Of course I am biased. He’s my big brother. I grew up looking up to him (in the most literal sense as well as figuratively speaking). He never does anything without at least one honest attempt at becoming really good at it and often succeeds. He has top sport mentality that he applies in every aspect of his life and I have nothing but respect for him for that.
Check more of his pics out on Flickr, drop him a message on his Facebook or give him a friendly tweet, if you like what you’ve seen! Also, let me know what you think in the comment section, so I can pass it on.
His own website, Photgraphie TB, is in French, but it’s all pretty self explanatory and totally worth a visit.
A thing I have been struggling with lately is a term that has been around for years now and that I thought I understood. It’s something I have written essays about during my studies and even blogged about in a roundabout way. Looking back at all that now, I’m not sure I ever really truly checked myself properly or if I understood the full scope of it. I’m talking about white privilege.
It’s been following me around all week.
I feel like such a fool to admit this but it hit me only recently that I’m not just someone on the outside looking in on a situation of inequality and racism in a distant country. I’m right there with everyone else and I can no longer say my hands are completely clean.
This does not mean I actively did wrong. I can even say that there is nothing I could or should have done differently. The only thing that was missing all this time was intent and true consciousness. So what changed? Well, a few things happened:
One of my co-workers is adopted. Despite the fact that she is Dutch to the core, she mentioned she ALWAYS get stared at. Everywhere she goes, she gets looks. Not negatively per se, just sort of subconscious stares from people, lost in their own thoughts about her different skin color and appearance. I was surprised by this and told her I couldn’t imagine why people would do that and was sorry she felt uncomfortable at times because of this. And then it hit me and I felt like an idiot…. because I am most likely one of those staring people too…
The other day I saw Law and Disorder in Philadelphia, an episode in the documentary series by Louis Theroux. One moment that especially moved me was the part where they apprehended a nineteen year old kid, running from the police. He was slammed to the floor by the police and mocked for saying he ran because he was afraid; and no, the fact that they yelled they were police didn’t make it less scary. They hardly gave him the opportunity to explain himself and had no sympathy whatsoever for his ordeal. He was black and walking down the street in a notorious neighborhood, therefore he was a drug dealer, a liar and a thug.
Watching white people assume only the worst about people of color makes me feel awful. Yes, I know about the statistics and how crime numbers seem to prove their higher tendency to choose the wrong path, but I can’t help but wonder about the chicken and the egg and all that… Philadelphia is a long way from home though, and it’s quite easy to turn a blind eye to the situation there or at least convince myself that it has nothing to do with me.
My eyes are open now… Especially since, last Thursday, when I read an article by Arjen van Veelen, announcing the release of the translated version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the world. His book, written as a letter to his 14 year old son, is:
[…] a tribute to James Baldwin, who wrote The Fire Next Time about the same topic to his teenage nephew. At the same time it is a refinement in book form of “the talk”, being the conversation that black [parents] have with their children about how to behave while being stopped by the police. Coates expands the talk with the question: how do you live in a body that inspires fear in others but also experiences fear itself?
Despite our own police brutality incident in The Hague a while ago, people at the bottom of Dutch society are faced with a less imminent threat to their lives than in, say, Ferguson. Arjen van Veelen reminds us that this does not make Coates’ book any less relevant for us Dutchies to read, as we have so much more to lose.
Van Veelen describes how our prime minister became terribly upset over the riots in the Hague and showed his support for the small businessmen who’s shops had been looted. He displayed more grief for those broken windows and lost revenues than for the man who had died in police custody days earlier.
It’s precisely this deafness for the pain of the people at the bottom of the food chain that causes these festering wounds. According to Van Veelen there have been many explicit warnings from Cassandras in all shapes and sizes about the situation in The Hague, even specifically warning for a Ferguson-like situation with tired police officers with short fuses and dangerous biases.
The deafness is systemic. The people that, like Coates, were critical of the system and spoke of institutional racism have long been seen as too radical.
There is a certain eagerness to speak about racism as long as it is about the past or about America. […] Oh yes, sometimes another opinion is given a small space in the paper, but it is hardly generous – it’s the Dutch stinginess; one cookie and then close the cookie jar, you’ve had your turn. This mono-culture had physical consequences, like what we have seen the Hague. Broken windows are the opinion piece you get when the mayor and the newspaper are incapable of listening.
As an advice to Coates, who may be visiting our country in the following months, van Veelen says:
Less people die in the Netherlands, so there is no need to fear for your life. Here, only your mind is smothered.
Come on over, mr Coates and give us some spiritual CPR!
This blog actually started out as part of my previous blog, but it kind of got out of hand so I decided to split it in two and give my white privilege a blog of its own. I do realize it is quite a heavy topic and scrolling through my blogs of late, I see it is becoming harder to digest as a whole.
I hereby promise the next 5 blogs I write will be shorter, easier to read and lighter on the morality scale. 🙂
It’s Saturday morning, after a crazy week that felt twice as long as usual. I cancelled my appointments and vowed to lie in bed as long as possible. After a quick breakfast and a short attempt at answering my emails, I decided I wasn’t done yet and went back to bed for a second round.
When I woke up from this second visit to neverland I decided to take it slow and stay in bed a while longer and start up with a Facebook check-up. I looked around, saw who’s birthday it was and who had gotten drunk last night. I checked out some awesome pictures of naturally built homes and saw the dates for one of my favorite artists’ new musical tour. I saw thanksgiving recipes and inspirational quotes from my yogi friends. I saw this sleeping bag, which – for a split second- felt like something I really needed to have:
And then I saw the newest opinion piece from one of my favorite comedians, followed by a video of a puppy being confused by his own hiccups. I saw my finger hover over the opinion piece, -I could see it started with the words “We are at war”,- and then finally clicking on the puppy. I smiled at what I saw and then immediately realized what I was doing. It made me feel icky.
It bothered me enough to immediately shut FB down and open my news app. It wasn’t particularly optimistic stuff I was seeing, but in a way I did feel better about myself. I had had my break from reality but was strong and ready once again to face the world head-on.
I am struggling though and am finding it hard to see where I stand exactly.
I already expressed my feelings about prayer in my previous blog. It’s uselessness bugs me, despite the claims of every religion’s followers that they are peaceful at heart and the conviction that their passive prayers and good intentions will fix this mess. I hear myself say I should be tolerant and accepting of everyone’s life choices but then again, how often are religious people really faithful to their God by choice? I have been indoctrinated too, though, I know that, I just don’t call it religion…
I find myself thinking about the irony of how muslims and jews both use their word for “peace” as a greeting. They must say the word dozens of times a day but at the same time they fail so incredibly hard at achieving precisely this in Gaza.
Even as I write the above I am reminded of Reza Aslan’s strong response to the bigotry that was revealed on CNN a couple of months ago and went viral in recent weeks. I catch myself using the term “muslim” in a similar way. I really truly don’t want to generalize and ignore all the distinctions there are between muslim countries and muslim individuals.
I see quotes from Ayaan Hirsi Ali encouraging us to hold islam accountable and I feel confused about my moral compass. I hate that there is a subconscious part of me that feels that muslims need to express their horror for terrorist attacks more openly and must repent for the suffering that their fellow-muslims have caused. I know deep in my heart this thought only alienates them from us and may actually chase them straight into the arms of the extremists we all collectively despise.
I feel lost in my wish to contribute to the world. I want to reach out and understand but I can’t seem to suppress these little bubbles of prejudice and judgment floating in all the time. How do I eliminate them? How can I ever do anything positive, if every attempt I make at having an open mind results in me disliking religion more? How can I have an open conversation with anyone if I feel so strongly deep down that the other person is wrong?
Shucks, all of this just makes me want to crawl away into my cuddly bear sleeping bag…
How do you react to terror? A great part of me wants to give them as little attention as possible. They do not deserve my tears. I will not admit I am afraid. I will not let hate bleed into my heart, even though its poison is all around me. On the other hand I do not want to become indifferent. I want to feel and see and know it all, even though it is so very tempting to close my eyes and (try to) forget.
The thing that keeps poking Mr Cynic awake in my mind every few minutes is the “pray for Paris”-campagne so many are supporting online. I appreciate its intention, but all the while I think: What good will THAT do??
Why pray? Religion is partly what got us into this mess! What do you think god is going to do about it anyway? He stood by while it happened and now you ask him to… to what? To heal the wounds? To give us the strength to carry on? You don’t need someone to GIVE you strength, you already have it. What you need is a kick up the ass! Or a hug… yes, maybe a hug is better…
So don’t fold your hands and trust some almighty cloud dweller to fix this mess. It’s up to you and me. Don’t let your thoughts be led by fear or hate. Do you feel any negativity towards your hijab wearing neighbor? Check yourself: what is this feeling based on; have you every actually spoken with her? Give it a try! Or just throw a smile in there. It won’t fix the world, but it might steer us away from this self fulfilling prophecy. It’s a small and easy gesture and I assure you it will do more good than your bedside prayer.
Also, let’s stop calling that group of hateful cutthroats “Islamic State”. They do not deserve to be acknowledged by this name. They are neither worthy muslims nor do they have or deserve an actual state. They are the Daesh. If there were a way to acknowledge them less, I would.
I don’t feel like predicting the future right now or finding any justification for last night. I clearly have no solutions for this either. So yes, this blog may have been a pretty futile undertaking all together and I apologize if you feel it was a waste of your time. I guess this is what they call catharsis.
When I was about two or three I had an imaginary friend, or actually there were two of them: Giovanni and Pisbee.
People weren’t allowed to sit on the chairs where Giovanni and Pisbee were sitting and my parents would have to hold the door open for them after I had already entered. At dinnertime Giovanni and Pisbee needed to be fed, just like I did and of course they were bathed and tucked in with me at night.
I can retrace Giovanni’s origins, as that is the name of the juggler from one of my favorite childhood books: The clown of God. Pisbee however I can not account for. I can not explain to you the etymology of his name nor would I be able to give you any description of what he may have looked like, which makes me sad in a way. He was a friend to me and I wasn’t able to hold on to any part of him in my mind’s eye…
If I look the name up on Google, the only significant result comes from some sort of satirical play referencing Pyramus and Thisbe by naming the main characters Thyramus and Pisbee. So was Pisbee my childhood forbidden love? Did he die tragically due to a tragic misunderstanding, like in the above named saga? Was Pisbee even male?
I do imagine him as a male figure and for some reason I see him as foreign, slightly exotic looking. Some sort of gipsy, maybe? A protector, like Giovanni was too. Did he know any circus-worthy tricks, like my juggling buddy? Were they a travelling duo, like Don Quijote and Pancho Villa? In a way that does sort of fit, as most people only know Don Quijote by name and always forget about his loyal (and more sane) sidekick.
Why did my two buddies stop being a part of my life, turning invisible even to their creator? How did I lose the ability to see them? Did I lose interest? Or were they no longer necessary? Did the world of five senses finally convince me it was odd, inadvertently convincing me to let them go? Did I lose them during our move abroad, which happened around that time as well? Or did I start to bore them and did they just move on to another kid? That would actually make me feel much better…
I can daydream about these types of things for hours! Maybe tonight, when I go to sleep, my two old friends will return to me. All I have to do is remember!
The time of the year has come that Guns n Roses legendary song is played on the radio more frequently. It killed me when I heard some channels choose to stop the song before its climactic second part (let’s call it the funeral part). That’s usually the part where I crank up the volume just a tad more, for that final climax!
Anyhow, I realized that this is a song that is very rarely covered, even in these cover-crazy times… I looked it up to see if perhaps I had missed some talented garage band giving it an honest try, but there was really nothing noteworthy. I did see a bossa nova re-do which should never have happened and some guitarists giving it their all, but with no vocals.
I know this song may be most loved for its guitar solos but come on! The background vocals in the beginning, the heart wrenching guitar-vocal team up at the end. Isn’t there anyone who dares give it a go? Is it that holy? Or is it that hard? Or has it become that uninteresting….?
I guess I’m just as melancholic as the weather and want me some weeping guitars…