Farmers know their shit

My very first stereo was bought with the money I earned during a summer’s work on a potato farm. I must have been 13 or 14 years old.

I loved farm life and took great interest in everything that went on there. I learned about how to recognize specific diseases and pests. I learned about rules and regulations. I moved to “the west”, as urban Netherlands is often referred to, but still returned in the summer to spend some time on the big harvesting machines.

I went abroad and learned about methods and challenges for farmers in the tropics and ended up writing my thesis on agrarian reform in Bolivia. The farmers I worked for back home were thrilled to hear about what I had seen.

I still love farm life, but I don’t think I love it in the same way that I used to. I am not without critique and I don’t think all farmers approve of my slight change of heart. Where my allegiance lies exactly has become relevant again, now that farmers have been making headlines in the Netherlands.

As I mentioned in my most recent mind cleanup blog, October was the month that Dutch farmers stormed the political capital, the Hague, to protest new laws meant to lower the emission of certain harmful gasses, in particular nitrogen and phosphate.

Farmers feel they are being unfairly constricted in their work, while other sectors (such as the air travel industry) are not suffering the same limitations, despite being equally harmful.

Their demand for respect did not go unnoticed, as thousands and thousands of tractors from all over the country made their way to the Hague. Many were underway for more than a day (which in our tiny country is hard to imagine). As more and more gathered, traffic suffered the inevitable consequences, bringing parts of the country to an absolute standstill. They managed to catch our attention like few protests in recent years have.

As has often been the case when facing complex topics in recent years, our country was very much divided on this matter. Supporters of the farmer protests were the most visible (and audible).

A lot of the signs and banners that adorned the protesters’ tractors were related to a demand for respect and recognition for farmers’ role as the ones that produce the food we put on our plates every day.

This conservative urge to protect and preserve what we have, was fueled by a modern day fear that societies seem to be experiencing that we are losing our identity.

The fact that farmers were protesting measures to protect the environment was clearly leaving sustainability freaks a bit confused. After all, of all our nation’s professions, shouldn’t farmers be the ones to care about this the most?

Environmentalists emphasized that it was right wing politics that should be protested. In their eyes, it is precisely the conservative and liberal parties that ignore the real threats to rural life, being climate change and the wealth gap.

Left wingers concluded that people were being misled and were now angry on the basis of misinformation. This is obviously not a very easy point to make when farmers are already complaining about not being taken seriously.

Also, a lot of people just thought the sight of all the heavy agrarian machinery on the highways was pretty funny/cool. It had a bit of a festival parade feel to it and a lot of Dutch people can’t help but applaud for spectacles, no matter what the idea behind it is.

An increasingly common experience these days is that when one specific topic is being protested, deep down it is actually about something else.

In this case, the protest wasn’t solely about the new law. It was actually about rural Netherlands feeling disrespected, disregarded and misunderstood by the media, urban hipsters and big city lawmakers. The fact that leftist city dwellers based their arguments on the idea that farmers simply didn’t know the facts, didn’t help.

In the days after the protest there were some who said they felt this type of protest was actually not as charming as was being portrayed. After the massive protest on the first of October and a second one two weeks later, the big tractors started to feel as an unfair advantage during protests and quite a threatening one when combined with anger.

All though all these contrasts are not new, they are definitely sharper than before. So here I am wondering once again where my position is in all of this.

How much of my criticism is really just a leftover from puberty making me oppose anything that reminds me of my roots? The degree that I let my annoyance build up to is quite unnecessary and unproductive, but I guess it is also quite telling. At the same time, I refuse to believe it’s just pure and unbridled juvenile defiance that fuels my -eeummm- disappointment…

If I dig really deep down into the crypts of my thoughts-and-feelings-storage I guess I can say I do feel resentment towards the people “back home”. There was very little room for being different and me-at-my-most-normal never really managed to fit in the average mold.

And I guess moving to the city made me realize my attempts at being normal were really just holding me back from being abnormally awesome.

So every time I recognize a pinch of that smothering conservatism in anybody’s rhetoric I guess I can’t help but call BS…

But yeah, farmers really do produce the food we put on our plates and they really do know their shit.

Literally.

TV Hosts debating obesity

Bill Maher must be one of the most controversial TV hosts of this moment. He has never been known for mincing his words and his latest controversy is one he must have seen coming from miles away…

It has to do with obesity. If you’re up for it, give it a click below. If you don’t feel like listening to his slightly annoying voice and arrogant demeanor, skip the vid and read my summary further down.

So basically, what Bill Maher is saying is that we should not be making fat people feel OK about the fact that they are overweight. He literally says “fat shaming should make a comeback” and that telling people otherwise is sending them to an early grave.

Enter James Corden, who was having none of Bill’s shit. He manages to make some good points as well as some self deprecating jokes, without watering down his message.

I thought that was awesome. And true!

But still… Hurtful as his choice of words may be, I do think Bill Maher has a point. Not in the sense that I feel we should be pointing and laughing at our large boned friends and family members (obviously), but I do feel that there is a growing acceptance that may not be as right as we are letting ourselves believe.

Actually… This is pretty much how politics (should) work, don’t you think?

Someone pinpoints a problem and offers a solution. Insiders and experts pitch in, creating nuance and a more complete understanding. Empathetic outsiders step in to find a place of mutual understanding and consensus.

From there you build a healthy and balanced policy that is satisfying (enough) for all parties involved.

Ah yes… I remember those days…

They be trippin’

Art by: Clancy Cavnar

After haven written a blog on psychedelics in July I got several reactions from people around me. A few of my friends let me know they thought I was being unfair in my testy accusation towards hippie-trippie space cowboys, in particular when I said there is no such thing as “inexplicable”.

My boyfriend said the following about it:

“Words are used to describe reality as we see it on a daily basis. The stuff you see and experience when doing “the trippy thing” is not every day reality. A trip will have you process information with your senses that is so odd that the vocabulary that a brain has access to will always feel inadequate to describe it.”

the G-man

Sure. I can accept that.

What I do not accept is being dismissed by people.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about my boyfriend here. On the contrary, he never lets the limits of our vocabulary stop him from sharing his experiences and insights with me. He tells me about his psychedelic experiences in such a matter of fact way that an outsider may not even notice we are talking about something so “out there”.

There are others though who sort of set (people like) me aside as being naive, uptight and bigoted for not diving into the psychedelic hemisphere with them. They don’t always do this explicitly, which makes it harder to pinpoint, but it’s definitely there.

It annoys me because it is not true. I do want to understand. More even, I feel I may actually already understand it up to a certain degree and definitely more than I am getting credit for.

Aren’t they the ones demonstrating narrow minds towards me then, when they decide I am not worth the trouble of formulating a description for?

That last sentence makes me sound like an entitled nosey body, I realize that. I suppose me saying that isn’t the case, isn’t worth much, but emmmm… that really isn’t the case…

Maybe I should let it go but something about all of this is still nagging me. It has something to do with interpretations of what is real and accompanying feelings about who is right (and possibly my own overblown reactions to condescending behavior).

I’m going to chew on this one a bit longer and dedicate a new blog on the matter when I’ve figured it out.

My rebellious forbearance

Growing up in Bolivia, the sight of people chewing on coca leaves was something I saw (and smelled) almost every day. It was something very normal, somewhere between drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette. Hardly noteworthy.

Coca is of great importance for the indigenous population of Bolivia. It is a staple “snack”, as well as a gift you bring to business acquaintances and parties (like a bottle of wine). It is also used in rituals and offerings to the ancestors in the spirit realm.

All around the world ancient tribes have made use of plants as medicine. Some of them have hallucinogenic traits that helped shamans and elders reach into the spirit realm. (Coca is not one of them, btw)

In the 21st century western civilization, drugs are present and available in many shapes, sizes and contexts. There are drugs for those who want to dance longer, for those who want to experience the music more intensely, the ones who want to relax or those that want to make love.

Mary Jane, Molly and Alice

Growing up, many of my friends went through a Mary-Jane phase. Some of them still invite her in every evening or at least quite regularly. All though I am not one that ever partakes in this, I am quite accustomed to seeing the whole ritual unfold in front of me, in a matter of fact kind of way.

The step up to hard drugs is one that also happens, but less openly. None of my friends have ever bought or used hard drugs in front of me, but I don’t doubt some of them did go down that lane on nights out with me. Luckily, this never caused any problems (other than slightly annoying behavior).

Psychedelia is a different ballgame. My childhood friends were not into this. As the child of a flower-power father however, I think I did vaguely know about hallucinogenic drugs and what they do (in general terms). My dad has always been extremely open and outspoken about drug and sex related topics to a point that I just lost interest (does that make sense?).

However, I never actually saw anybody “going on a voyage” (not taking tripping street junks into account), let alone that I did anything like this myself. Those of you who have ever taken a peak at my bucketlist may have noticed that it does feature there, though.

Courage vs Comfort

The composition of my bucketlist may need some context. You see, the things I put on my bucketlist aren’t all things that I really WANT to do. For a large part, my bucketlist is actually a list of things that would bring me out of my comfort zone (and perhaps into the discomfort zone, but not per se).

Ticking one of those off my list would suggest I did something out of the ordinary. It might be something I am frightened of. Overcoming fear takes courage. Courageous deeds make for interesting stories, that you talk and laugh about later on in life. This in short, is why there is stuff I DON’T want to do on my bucketlist…

Now… I could go on a rant about the sanctity of my comfort zone and present you with all the reasons why this lovely space is a perfectly acceptable place to reside in for ever, but I’ll save that for some other time.

Actually, I take that back… I just did a quick search on “comfort zone”, looking for a good pic to insert in this post and I did not like what I saw… So I decided a small rant is actually justified.

What bothers me is that “being in your comfort zone” has somehow become synonymous to “being afraid” (I know, I kind of suggest it myself a couple of paragraphs back, but that doesn’t mean YOU are allowed to say it too!). I also don’t like how all these online depictions insinuate that my comfort zone is small and unexciting. F*** you, internetz!

OK, now we can continue.

Plugging into the cosmos

Despite not being a smoker, drinker or pill popper (etc), I somehow did befriend some joyful trippers in the course of my life, my current boyfriend, G, being one of them.

All though G can be extremely rational he also has this very spiritual (spacey?) side. I like this about him, but I must admit there are times when I can not completely grasp what he is trying to tell me. My logic does not allow it.

This brings me to the main topic of this blog (I know, finally right?? I swear I am not a stoner, but I do have the hardest time getting to the point 😛 ).

People who have used psychedelics tend to say it changed their view of reality. It makes them “understand” things in a more “profound” way. They describe having plugged in to “something bigger” and feel more connected to the cosmos because of it.

I could roll my eyes and dismiss this type of explanation as hippie trippy bullshit, but I don’t want to do that. I do take the witness accounts of people’s hallucinogenic experiences seriously. I am intrigued by them (but not enough to go in and experience it for myself, apparently).

Confused Rebellion

A sentence that is likely to come up when talking to people with mindtripping experiences is “I can’t explain it to you if you haven’t done it”.

Wait, what? Did that part of your brain that stores vocabulary and grammar get erased? I thought you plugged into the cosmos and activated all these fancy parts of your brain that are normally dormant… but somehow you became dumber?

“Inexplicable” is not a thing! If you believe it is, then whatever drug you took didn’t do shit to your understanding of anything.

I mean, I get it; How do you explain the color green to a blind person? You can try, but there are really no words to use that explain it in a way that doesn’t require the other person having laid eyes on something in the color green at some point in their life.

My annoyance always fuels my stubbornness. This makes for a bit of a confusing situation in this case. Pigheadedly standing up against the idea of using drugs is not the way rebellion usually works.

The result is me rocking the “straight-laced goody-two-shoes”-look on the highway of my comfort zone. YEAAAH, I’m a rebel like that.

Lil heartbreakers

The other day I heard the Jason Mraz included below, called Have it All. In this song he expresses his generous wishes for you.

He lays out a rich banquet of positive scenario’s, varying from managing to “keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk” to being awarded “prizes shining like diamonds”.

It’s a sweet song with a carpe diem attitude (which I actually wrote a blog about once).

The line that got my little brain-wheels going into overdrive is the one he casually throws in there at the beginning of the chorus:

Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it

Should everyone get the chance to break someone’s heart? Does anyone have that on their bucketlist?

I know cute kids are affectionately referred to as “little heart breakers” sometimes. This is meant to be a compliment. I suppose charming girls and boys can’t always help that people fall in love with them and breaking some hearts along the way is inevitable. More even, it may happen without them ever even knowing about it.

But getting back to the song; Is breaking a heart something you want everyone to experience at least once in a lifetime? Does mr Mraz actually mean to say “I hope someone opens their heart to you and loves you intensely (making heartbreak a possible outcome)”?

When I told my boyfriend, G, about this conundrum, he said something to confuse me even further. He said he didn’t believe that heartbreak could ever be the outcome of love… I asked him to explain it to me again just now and to be honest I still don’t understand it enough to be able to put it into words of my own.

His exact words were:

You are responsible for the condition of your heart. If your heart gets broken this means you have allowed it to be in a position where it could be broken.

I mean… yeah… I guess… but… wait… whut?

So then… we had to talk about what “being broken hearted” or “having your heart broken” really means.

Acoording to G, a broken hearted person is beyond despair. Lost, adrift and beyond reason. Inconsolable.

If I understand correctly, what G was trying to tell me (but I’ll check with him later) is that it has to do with caring for yourself enough to no be reckless with your heart. You can’t truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself first… That sort of thing(?).

I’ve actually never had it happen to me. I’ve been sad, but never heartbroken. I guess I’ve also never been that deeply in love (before my current relationship) and also… well… I was never actually on the receiving end of a breakup…

Did I ever break someone’s heart? Eummm… hard to say… but quite possibly…

Am I glad I got to go through that experience? No, most definitely not.

It was something I learned from though!

Relevant


This is Blog 18 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Relevant

Have you heard of Rutger Bregman?

He is the Dutch dude that called out tax avoiding millionaires at Davos and then drove Tucker Carlson into a hissy fit, which sounded like this:

After he went viral twice in a relatively short period of time Bregman dedicated a podcast episode to the events (in Dutch). In the podcast he gives us an insight into the type of conversations he had with his fellow journalists in the days before and after these media moments.

We live in a time where being relevant is all about clicks, views, shares and likes. How do you go viral on social media? And how do you prevent becoming “that guy that pissed off Tucker Carlson” for the rest of your life?

Bregman’s friends and colleagues expressed their concerns to him about what releasing the Tucker Carlson video would do to Rutger Bregman’s life and career. In addition they let him know they had their doubts about whether or not it was actually helping him bring across a message, or if it was actually distracting from it.

Bregman chose to come in “with an outstretched leg”. I’m not sure if this soccer metaphor is used in English at all, but in Dutch it’s a pretty common way to describe an aggressive discussion partner.

In this particular case, Rutger Bregman took out his opponents “for the greater good” and didn’t mind the injuries he may (or may not) have inflicted on the other.

All though it worked out pretty OK for Rutger Bregman I do think it’s a pity that shock-and-awe is becoming such a common thing in conversations and debates. People feel the need to say and do extremer things each time to get a point across, which isn’t exactly good for the atmosphere.

In his podcast Bregman explains that sometimes, to be relevant, you have to choose between being likeable yet forgettable or an asshole that leaves an impression.

A difficult choice.

Questions


This is Blog 17 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Questions

The other day I watched a Dutch TV documentary with the title “Climate of Confusion” (those of you who understand Dutch can watch it here). A handful of people were interviewed with a varying set of ideas on climate change.

The documentary featured an interview with a wealthy Dutch real estate executive called Niek Sandmann. The point of interest was a substantial donation he had made to a skeptical thinktank (Climate Intelligence).

According to his alternative calculations even our maximum effort would only make 0,0003 of a degree difference, in the end. So, according to Sandmann the whole “climate crisis” and accompanying policies are really just “a storm in a glass of water”, as we say in Dutch, and therefore not worth pursuing.

Sandmann emphasized he is not interested in this for his own sake, as he is already making all his new buildings energy efficient thanks to state-of-the-art technology that he can easily afford.

It is true that for people with low incomes making the transition is not so simple. Also government measures may bring on additional costs in already extremely tight financial situations.

Niek Sandmann

So, Sandmann’s donation to Climate Intelligence is a form of philanthropy for those less fortunate, which is a thought I can appreciate.

By asking the questions he feels mainstream scientists don’t want to ask and digging on grounds that politicians have already built policy plans on top of, he hopes to find out if it is really worth it to continue down this path.

While watching the documentary I complained about mr Sandmann’s skepticism, making parallels with another tanned real estate mogul across the pond. The fact that his appearance would make for a very convincing villain (or white walker) means nothing for the point of this blog (or anywhere really), but I admit it took some effort to get past that as well…

Zombie movie villain or not, I must applaud mr Sandmann for asking unpopular questions and in truth I wish people would do so more often.

Asking questions is only a problem when you aren’t actually interested in the answer or when you only accept the outcome if it is convenient for you.

I will try to keep track of this Climate Intelligence investigation and look forward to reading its conclusions. I may have some questions of my own in return though!