Unnecessarily blessed

These thoughts were prompted by Pernille Ripp’s blog about her once-in-a-lifetime experience of flying first class on an intercontinental flight. It reminded her how some people are “given more because [they] had more to begin with”. And it’s true.

growing up woman

As we say in Dutch, “I’ve always held up my own pants”, which means I have always taken care of myself. Having said that, I do live in a country where I had the chance to go to University for a relatively low fee (all though it still hurts) and was able to do so during a time that “the state” still provided students with a small monthly allowance, so that did make a big difference.

All though I always worked during my years as a student, I did have quite a secure safety net, knowing that my parents would have my back if anything went wrong.

I was lucky with the student dorm I had, which was relatively cheap and run by a very reliable housing association. Renting from this association, gave me the possibility to move into a lovely apartment (at a fair and affordable rent) after I finished studying for another couple of years, as I figured out what I was going to do with my life.

A few years later I moved into my current home with my boyfriend, G, that we do pay quite a hefty sum for, but nothing out of the ordinary for the city we live in (but ridiculous really, if you compare it to a comparable house in a different area of the country). We can afford it and still live quite comfortably.

house owner

And now, by no merit of my own whatsoever, I may soon be a living in a house of my own. I mean, an actual house, owned by me (and G).

This “situation” has undeniably sent my score on the scale of privilege soaring through the roof, all though I am still struggling to refer to it as a “blessing”, as many seem to do.

People keep telling me there are several reasons why I should want a house of my own:

  • Renting a house sends your money into the pockets of strangers, whereas owning a house sends your money “into the structure” of the thing you own (and therefore back into your own pockets).
  • It’s an investment for “later”.
  • It gives you stability and a “sense of place”, as you build a home and become part of a neighborhood community.
  • The monthly payments of a mortgage are usually lower than the rent.

This last point is usually the one people throw at me first, but because it bugs me the most, I put it last.

And the part I really really really hate, is the part where I have to admit that someone is giving me money (like I said, no merit of my own), making it possible for me to, not only have a house of my own but also pay EVEN LESS than I already do.

And I’m doing just fine! I don’t NEED a lower monthly payment. I can think of so many people that would benefit from this possibility so much more than me.

privilege ladder

Such a sucky system.

And all I can do is say what; Thank you?

I really should be grateful.

And I am.

It’s just…

unjust.

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Another discussion the Dutch are failing at

As I was watching TV just now, switching from channel to channel like a 21st century zombie, I came across the following commercial:

It’s a public announcement from the Dutch 4th & 5th of May-committee, that starts out by reminding us we had lost our freedom during 5 years of World War II. The voice over continues by saying that since then, we have passed freedom on from one generation to the next. It’s something that should not be taken for granted and something we are responsible for, together. She finishes off by telling us that on the 4th of May we will be remembering the victims and that on the 5th we will celebrating our freedom. Her final question is: “How will you pass our freedom on?”.

It was only three weeks ago that I wrote about the Dutch national remembrance and celebration day, and the confused guilt trip I have been going through in the wake of it. But while I was watching the above commercial I felt I hadn’t said all I needed to say.

You see, as so many other places in the world, Dutch society is no longer succeeding at hiding it’s true (pretty racist) colors. Some of you may have heard of the discussion we’ve been trying to have about our family friend, “Black Pete”. If it rings no bells, feel free to read an old  blogpost of mine about it.

zwarte pieten en sinterklaas

Some of the same people that are trying to ban Black Pete from the Dutch celebration of Saint Nicholas, have been trying to ask for a more equal representation during the May 4th remembrance.

The point they have been trying to make has to do with a lot of things, but the one they have been speaking about most is the role of the Dutch army during the Indonesian National Revolution, which took place between Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 and the Dutch recognition of its independence at the end of 1949.

During the two minutes of silence that we hold at 8PM every year, we remember all victims of WWII during the first minute and victims of other wars in the second minute. According to the protesters, we only focus on “white victims” and choose to ignore the victims in Indonesia, for which the Dutch conscience is not completely clean.

remembrance king

A couple of weeks ago, this group of protesters announced they would disturb the two minutes of silence with a noise-demonstration to bring attention to their cause.

Politicians have tried being civil, saying: “If you are protesting to demand respect, you shouldn’t start out by disrespecting others. There is a time and place to discuss and demonstrate, but this isn’t it.”

Just like with the Black Pete discussion though, there was a small window of opportunity for society to defuse the bomb before it went off. You see, the right reaction to a person telling you that you hurt them with something you did (or didn’t do), in my opinion, is: “Really??? I made you feel that way? I had no idea and I am so sorry! Please, join me at my table. Let’s talk.”

I know, I’m naive that way…

FB frames

But I’m seeing friends on Facebook (yepp, I’m still there) putting frames on their profile pictures showing the Dutch flag and stating “I will be silent for 2 minutes”.

For most, it’s probably just a well-intentioned attempt to pay their respects to the dead. It bothers me though, because it’s so much beside the point that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The noise-demonstration is not a protest against being quiet. It is a protest against being ignored, marginalized and disrespected. The fact that you don’t understand why they feel this way, doesn’t make it less right. It just makes you ignorant.

So in their stupor of petrified ignorance my fellow countrymen are only achieving one thing: proving the protesters right.

Jaar van Verzet

Ironically, this year’s theme is “resistance” so we are all being encouraged to stand up for what we believe is right. I think the people that came up with the idea were hoping we would be standing together AGAINST racism, though…  wupps.

 

Mind Cleanup: April 2018

April has been a good month.

Sunny weather

emoji sunshine smiley

We had a some real, genuine sunshine that lasted for almost a week, including a weekend. It’s amazing what sunshine does for one’s spirits. Or at least for mine.

It was also during this beautiful sunny weekend that I sat in my garden for the first time. I mean, I’ve been living in my “new home” for over a year now, so I’ve definitely sat in my garden before, but that was different. Last weekend I just sat there, not to eat, or light a barbecue or whatever. I just closed my eyes and sat in the sun, with my sleeves rolled up and with my blindingly white legs exposed, like fresh solar panels, to charge my batteries. Such bliss!

In our first year, we just let the garden “be” as it felt kind of impolite to just barge in and start pulling out plants, root and all, without getting to know them first… I know, I’m silly that way. But this year, when the sun came out and plantlife started to explode, I decided to be a bit more assertive. So, I’m growing some stuff inside now that will be move to the garden soon.

Also, a nationwide initiative called “mission Stone Break” is encouraging people to take out a row of bricks / tiles in front of their houses and grow something there. It’s a really fun idea, so that is also something I’ve been doing that has been making me quite happy, as well!

In the Lyme Light

Lopen voor Lyme logo

Another sunny day earlier this month (the 14th of April), which luckily wasn’t quite as hot as the lovely garden-sit-Saturday a week later, had me tying up my sunning shoes for “Lopen for Lyme”, a walkathon to raise both money and awareness for Lyme’s disease.

I have half a blogpost sitting in my drafts file, where I explain more about how the day went, which I will try to publish soon. But the short version of the story is: our team raised over 5.000,- and had a wonderful day in a beautiful area. I ran 14 km and felt it in my thighs for three days, but it was totally worth it!

Chance encounters

bird-tree-silhouettes

Another cool thing that happened this past month was an encounter I had on a Saturday at work. Contrary to my usual office duties, I had been assigned a shift in “the store”, which was kind of nice but also something you have to do regularly in order to be able to bring your A game.

So, as I had let my colleague do most of the harder stuff that day, when a guy walked in asking for advice on what to buy for his son, I volunteered. We walked around the store and I did the best I could to help him out and we ended up having a fun chat.

When he had collected all the stuff he needed, I walked him to the cash register and asked if he was a member so that I could give him a discount. He wasn’t completely sure, but he thought he might be, so I offered to look him up in the system. I asked him his last name, and to my complete surprise he said MY NAME!

And to people called Jansen or de Jong (two very common names in the Netherlands) that may not come as a surprise but my name is really uncommon. I have never met another person with my last name that wasn’t a family member, so you can imagine I was dumbfounded, when I heard my last name come from the mouth of this comeplete stranger (and pronounced “the right way”, and everything).

And when I looked at him again, suddenly he reminded me of my uncle. So yes, this guy was a distant relative, who just happened to walk into the store on that one day that I was assigned that shift and that one minute that I decided I would step in to play “personal shopper” for a random customer to alleviate the weight on my colleague’s shoulders.

Luckily it was a really nice guy and when he left the store we agreed we should meet again for a cup of coffee.

Cosmos, you be funny!

Music

emoji music

I’ve been enjoying new music a lot as well, but there is really only one artist that I want to talk about: Janelle Monae.

She is such a force. I can’t even….

I mean, I already loved her “old stuff”, like Tightrope (see below), but the stuff she’s doing now has really carved her name deep into the history books.

Make me Feel, Django Jane, Pynk and I like that are all really different songs but they’re all revolutionary in some way. She reaches back to styles we know well but mixes them up and melts them down to something uniquely hers.

And don’t get me started about her looks. She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?

Yupp, I’m a fan.

Summer of sixty-NO!

It took me a while to get this list together and I still feel it’s incomplete, but since the blog that inspired me is already six months old, I think it’s better to just throw it online and then see what happens later.

Lyle describes how she realized that some of the songs that were good when they first came out but had now passed their expiration date and should really be retired and never taken out again.220px-Bryan_Adams_-_Summer_of_'69.jpg

There are so many songs that I feel the same way about, but one that I really can’t wait for to disappear into oblivion is Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams. It’s not that I got sick of it. I never really liked this song. But for some reason some of my friends keep sharing it on playlists and acting like its something I should feel melancholic about. I don’t.

 Make. it. stop.

The summer of 1969 weren’t “the good old days” for me, nor any of my friends. Our parents maybe; but then again, Bryan Adams means nothing to them.

The rest of my list consists of the following six songs:

  • Deep Blue Something – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Robbie Williams – Angels
  • Lemon Tree – Fools Garden
  • REM – Everybody hurts
  • Last Christmas – Wham!
  • Rihanna – fourfive seconds

There were also two artists that I dislike in general and would like to request to leave the stage and find another occupation, being:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Sam Smith

In the case of Bon Jovi, I think probably don’t hate all of their music. The song that really really really gets to me in all the wrong ways and has ruined their whole repertoire for me, is the slow version of It’s my life. I would crash my car (or bicycle, taking into consideration I don’t actually have a car) if it came on the radio while driving and I wouldn’t be allowed to switch the channel…

Sam Smith is talented, I get that. His voice is…. interesting? But he sings like he’s constantly running out of breath and that high pitch thing he does… Good grief, please don’t.

youre-annoying-stop-it

On the other hand…

Have you guys seen the animated movie Sing? Nothing can move a grown-up to tears quite like a kids’ movie can, amirite?

Firing up my soul force

You know how festive days such as mother’s day and valentine’s day always get responses along the lines of “What’s the point of being nice to your mother / lover once a year? It should be done each and every day or not at all.”?

All though a tad cynical, these people are right, in a way. So are the people that say that emphasizing or reinforcing their love on this given day is an important reminder to not take such a beautiful thing for granted.

A national holiday we have in the Netherlands and that I write a blog about almost every year (see here and here) is our World War II remembrance day (4th of May), followed by Liberation Day (5th of May).

All though I have always payed my respects (two minutes of silence at 8PM) and always did my best to celebrate my freedom consciously, I must admit that lately, I feel like the previously mentioned cynics when it comes to remembrance day…

Every year I make an effort to ask my friends and co-workers what they will do when the clock hits 8 PM on the 4th of May. I always try to remind them that it is not just 2 minutes of “having to be quiet” but that these 2 minutes can be used to explore our own thoughts on the current state of the world and honor those who have died for the freedom we now so easily take for granted.

quote wars Enoch Powell

I always feel fired up and ready to act after liberation day. And then… NOTHING. Maybe I write a blog about my white privilege and dive into a couple of Facebook discussions and call my friends out on their inherent racism… But that’s it.

I feel icky just admitting that. I feel useless and I feel hypocritical. If only the world wasn’t collapsing under the weight of all the racism, bigotry and hate mongering, then I could act as if my help wasn’t needed.

But it is, and so is yours.

It seems the Dutch committee for 4th and 5th of May celebrations agrees that we all need a kick up the ass, and therefore decided the theme of this year’s WWII remembrance should be RESISTANCE. Even more, it has been decided it should be the theme of the whole 2018 calendar year…

Museums are adapting their exhibitions to this year’s theme and special education series are being compiled at schools, where WWII veterans and war heroes are stopping by to tell their stories.

I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but the Dutch year of resistance happens to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. The exact date of his murder was the 4th of April and on this day last week I watched the movie Selma.

The general story line and historical context were not new to me, as I hope it isn’t for anyone else. The film did however contribute to a better understanding on my side about what resistance entails.

It requires courage. It requires perseverance. It requires not taking “no” (or “wait” or “I can’t” or “It’s too hard”) for an answer. It requires caring more about the cause than your own well being.

As Dr King said in his legendary “I have a dream”-speech (which does not feature in the film, btw):

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

So yes; SOUL FORCE!! And now that I come to think about it, I actually wrote a blog about it just last week, only in the version of super woman Valarie Kaur. She didn’t call it Soul Force though. She called it revolutionary love.

And then former American president Jimmy Carter showed up at Stephen Colbert’s late show. Such a sweet and wise man; I had no idea! He reminded me of the willpower it takes to love those that seem undeserving of that love but the importance of doing it anyhow.

It seems my generation’s greatest purpose in life is to achieve inner peace or “zen” or a perpetual state of “Netflix & chill”. These are actually all thing I excel at, but I suddenly realize that being relaxed is making me complacent and -oh the horror-, indifferent.

I need to refuel my inner rage and channel it into something productive and less egocentrical.

Pff… I think I’ve even written about this before… What do I do to get out of this cycle?

I need to start planning some field trips.

Goals for the month of May:

  • Visit at least one exhibition, museum or lecture that fits the “resistance” theme.
  • Make a grumpy looking stranger smile.
  • Think of a good present for my bf’s birthday.
  • Bake a cake and eat it too, but with friends (especially the undeserving ones?). Or maybe it should be humble pie.

To be continued!

Love through wonder

I know I’m late to the party, but I am finally learning to appreciate podcasts.

I think I’ve always liked the idea of listening to podcasts, but I never really found the right moment for them.

I usually put my headphones on when I need something to either pick me up or chill me out. I use music as a backdrop for an activity and always avoided audio that would occupy more than 5% of my brain capacity.

A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned perfectly and I found myself in “right place, right time, right amount of attention span bandwidth”-situation, as I stumbled upon a Ted Talk about revolutionary love by Valarie Kaur.

valarie kaur

Valarie’s choice to start her talk by describing the experience of giving birth to her son as an analogy for the deepest, most intense and unconditional type of love, is one I can follow rationally. I understand that women that go through labor, experience indescribable pain while simultaneously being flushed with hormones, enabling them to love and care and protect the new little creature more than they’ve ever loved anything else, including themselves.

I love the idea of feeling so connected to this little helpless being, and realizing it is an extension of yourself and your legacy for the future. I can see how this deepens the connection you feel to you mother, and her mother, and her mother and how this makes you realize you are part of something bigger than you. I can imagine this is both humbling and empowering at the same time.

As much as I appreciated the anecdote, it did not motivate me to explore my own ability to love. I see the beauty of it on a poetic level, but it does nothing for me on an emotional level. Some people say I need to have kids of my own to understand this. Others say it’s a clear sign I’m not meant to have them. Who knows.

RevLoveBut Valarie continued explaining how she learnt the lessons of revolutionary love and started reeling me in as she went…

The desperation in her voice when she reminded me that hate crimes are the highest they have been since 9-11 drove a cold chill over my spine and an ache into my heart.

The realization that, despite her efforts to bring people closer together for the last 15 years, so many of her compatriots chose to vote this hateful figure into the white house, is heart breaking.

The tears that filled her eyes as she acknowledged that her son is likely to be labeled “terrorist” at least once in his life, is just infuriatingly sad.

She shared her realization that answering an act of hate with more hate would be understandable but pointless and counter productive. She explained:

We love our opponents when we tend the wound in them. Tending to the wound is not healing them — only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents: the terrorist, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change.

love-3-directions-uai-516x333

 

She then admitted that removing hate from her own heart required a conscious effort, or as Valarie puts it: “It becomes an act of will to wonder.”

And all though the point of her childbirth reference was lost on me at the very start, she drove it home when she presented me with her final lesson in revolutionary love:

 

This is a feminist intervention. Because for too long have women and women of color been told to suppress their rage, suppress their grief in the name of love and forgiveness. But when we suppress our rage, that’s when it hardens into hate directed outward, but usually directed inward. But mothering has taught me that all of our emotions are necessary. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger is the force that protects it.

Now that is some superhero stuff right there.

She concluded her TED talk by revealing the three directions in which revolutionary love must be practiced: towards your direct surroundings, towards yourself and towards your opponents. The method: wonder.

Yepp, that’s it. She’s wonder woman.

But as it turns out, so am I!

wonder woman

And now I’m wondering about you… Are you OK, sister? How was your day, brother? What did you learn to day, uncle?

Let’s connect.

 

Biting the bullet on gun control

If you tell me I have no place in the gun control debate a) because I don’t live in the USA, b) because I wasn’t born in the USA, c) because I don’t have to defend myself from my government or d) because I am clueless, I would agree with you on the first three points.

Clueless I am not, all though I can imagine my love for satirical news programs and the heavy lean to the left these shows tend to have, may have you believe I am biased. Guilty as charged. But who isn’t? I don’t think there are neutral parties in this discussion. And if there are, than I believe them to be the clueless ones.

To understand more about the pro-gun advocates side of the story, I have chosen three different examples to shine a light on in this blog, starting with Florida’s senator Marco Rubio’s, who is often quoted after any gun-related issue comes up:

Marco Rubio official statement gun protests 2

Marco Rubio is a frequent target on shows like the Daily Show for his lukewarm conservatism and unexciting “boy-next-door” appearance. But if this debate has to be had (and it really does), I actually very much appreciate his style. He always presents his opinion in a civil way and is as polite about it as a topic and situation allows.

Marco Rubio gun control quote

On a side-note after reading some reactions on social media; it’s really interesting to see how being balanced and well-informed is seen as negative in current day politicians…

But back to his statement on last week’s “March for our lives” protests, in which he doesn’t really say anything, other than “there are two sides in this debate, and everybody has a right to their opinion”. The last two sentences are the only ones really worth reading. What he basically says there, is “let’s talk and move towards a solution that will prevent more people being killed”.

It’s vague and it doesn’t really give me the idea that anything will change soon, but perhaps this shouldn’t be an overnight thing anyway. As long as the discussion is being held, truly, then there is hope. It does require willing participants, not just to speak but also to listen, and particularly this last part seems to be quite the challenge.

A show that also gets quite a lot of flak for being too liberal is the View. I have to agree the balance does tip more towards the left, but I feel they really do try to give all sides of the debate a voice. Take this conversation they had earlier this month, for example:

So the first argument I hear as to why the second amendment has validity, is made by Condoleezza Rice. She describes a situation she remembers from her childhood years, during which Bull Connor was the Commissioner of Public Safety for the city she was living in, being Birmingham, Alabama. With such a strong opponent of the civil rights movement in charge of “public safety”, – one who actively and openly supported racial segregation-, I can imagine that was a fearful time for African American children to grow up in.

She describes how her father and his friends would keep the neighborhood safe, by shooting into the air when KKK members would ride through the neighborhood. If her father would have had to register his gun, it would have been taken away by the local government at the time, according to Ms. Rice, leaving the neighborhood vulnerable to those who were determined to harm the black community.

Let me start by saying; that is just so terribly sad… I am not part of a minority now and even growing up in a country where I was, I was never threatened or discriminated against. The need to have a gun to protect yourself from your neighbors and from the intolerance of your government towards your very existence is something hard for me to fathom.

I would like to say that making a policy based on fear can never lead to a balanced solution, but I recognize that in the face of Ms Rice’s story and the current day president, it’s a hard argument to make.

The segment continues with Meghan McCain stating that “There has never been a mass shooting carried out by an NRA member” and that “as a vocal NRA and second amendment supporter, we feel vilified”. I get that. They are definitely being vilified. I can imagine how being a member of a gun association could help you become a responsible gun owner. However, I also feel they should have no place in government or policy making.

And if the one true argument to NOT ban AR15’s is that they are used for hunting in rural areas, how about you only allow people to have them that have a hunting license. That’s a thing right, a hunting license? At least in the Netherlands it is… Go ahead and correct me if the US doesn’t issue those, but it makes sense to me to combine the two. No hunting license, no hunting rifle. Right?

So… enough of all the balanced “on the one side this, but on the other side that”-stuff. What does an uncensored supporter of gun ownership and fanatic second amendment defender say?

This good sir, Matt Winkeljohn, of the “Resist the Tyranny” movement, repeatedly speaks of “lies and propaganda” being spread by the “March for our lives” activists.

Propaganda, according to the Cambridge dictionary is:

Information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published, or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions

Sure, I agree. That is definitely what this is.

These are kids aiming for the stars in a seemingly unequal fight, like David against Goliath. It’s up to politicians to pour these heart-felt opinions, born through trauma, fear and grief, into balanced statements, discussions and policies.

Mr Winkeljohn, likes to refer to the protesters as “terrorists” because:

“They’re going around the country and they’re spreading all these lies and propaganda in order to scare the shit out of people in order to get them to support gun control”

All though I still haven’t figures out which lies he’s referring to exactly, I do agree with the fact that the protesters are trying to make people aware of the dangers of guns and motivate anybody who is willing to listen “to get them to support gun control”.

He finishes his argument off by stating:

“Well if that isn’t the definition of terrorism, then I don’t know what is.”

He then goes on by saying stuff like “If guns were the problem, then we would know about it” and compares being shot to having a “rare disease”. He argues that if less than 200.000 people have a certain disease it is considered rare and only 11.000 people get killed a year with a gun.

confusedboyBecause having a rare disease isn’t as bad as having a common one? Or should we only invest into trying to cure people with diseases that more people end up dying from? I’m still trying to figure that one out…

The fact that pro-gun-control activists are threatening his life several times a day, has led him to believe this march wasn’t about “saving or trying to protect lives” at all.

He refers to the most vocal Parkland shooting survivors as terrorists, standing on “a pile of children[‘s corpses] in order to pass a political agenda”.

Words like “propaganda”, “rhetoric” and “political agenda” are used frequently in this video and the debate in general, suggesting that people are being manipulated into believing something untrue.

I just can’t figure out what that might be. What’s the “political agenda” behind these kids’ “rhetoric” that we should all be cautious of? If he means “gun control”, then yes, that is definitely what they are trying to achieve, but it’s not as if they are trying to sneak that message into a warm, fuzzy conversation about unicorns and easter bunnies… They’re saying it loud and clear.

political-agenda-political-agenda-everywhere

So, I guess I just really can’t connect with this guy’s views. I don’t get it…

I’m afraid all I can do is go back to comedy… For some reason, blowing up a situation into ridiculousness and laughing about it, often brings out the nuance more than anything else. So, click play and let me know what you think: