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.

 

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:

 

 

I have a little rebel in me

John Oliver’s recent “last week tonight” episode reminded me of a blog idea that has been in the back of my mind for a long time now. Let’s start with the clip that triggered this:

At the 7:07 mark, a man steps up to defend confederate statues by speaking about his family heritage at a community meeting in North Carolina. He says he always felt proud of his great grandfather’s involvement in the American civil war. His ancestor had stood up for his rights and was willing to fight and die for them. The man says it reminds him that he has “a little rebel” in him. You can tell he feels he is being robbed of this feeling now that the confederate statues are being shown in a different light.

As much as this makes me giggle, roll my eyes and shake my head, I do get it. Profoundly more so than I may care to admit, at first glance.

My own heritage is filled with adventurous globetrotters, standing for what they believed was right in the context of their time.

inleiding_01

My great grandfather, for example, was a preacher from the rural North of the Netherlands who travelled to the Dutch colonies (in current day Indonesia) at the beginning of the twentieth century for what I imagine would’ve been missionary work. I know very little about him or what he did there exactly, but as a colonizing power, you can imagine we Dutchies do not have clean hands in every aspect.

I hope to be able to find out more about him and what he did, some day. I am proud to be a descendant of a man willing to venture into the unknown. I can only hope he did more good than bad for the people of Magelang.

The preacher had a son, my grandfather, who was born in Palembang, Indonesia in 1915. All though I’m not sure about when exactly they returned to the Netherlands, I do know my grandfather was attending University  in the Dutch city of Delft, when  the Second World War was at its peak.

I can imagine his international upbringing made him more conscious of global issues and the miles he must have made at sea as a child traveling from Indonesia to the Netherlands, would have tempered his fear of open water. So, when faced with a possible Nazi labor deployment, he decided to flee the country by boat with two companions and his Belarussian wife, who refused to leave his side. Across the North Sea, in England, they joined our queen and the allied forces to fight fascism across the globe.

Foto+van+de+Dag++vaarkrant+2As I wrote a few years ago after my own tribute to their voyage, the so called “Engelandvaarders“, or England sailers, are an important part of Dutch WWII history and even have their own museum in the seaside town of Noordwijk to commemorate them. So yes, I am proud to be able to call myself a descendant of theirs.

At the same time, I know my grandparents chose to join the KNIL, or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, a military division that is not without controversy. As with my great grandfather’s deeds and position, I do not know the details of my grandparents’ role here (yet). What I do know is that following World War II, “the KNIL was used in two large military campaigns in 1947 and 1948 to re-establish Dutch control of Indonesia. The KNIL and its Ambonese auxiliaries have been accused of committing war crimes during this “police action”.”

So yes, still proud… but very conscious of the fact that the reality they were facing and that facts they were presented with at the time, must have made them feel the cause they were fighting for was a just one. If this is still the case today, now that we can zoom out and look at the end results, remains to be seen.

Next in line is my father, who was born in Indonesia in 1947 himself and has travelled the world during much of his life, doing development work in South America and the Middle East. How many people’s lives has he actually improved? How many people learnt how to fish themselves thanks to the projects he led and how many “merely” received a charity fish? How much money was wasted on corruption and how much was actually spent effectively? How many projects brought people what they really needed on the long term and how many were merely set up as short term tools in the Dutch political agenda?

So… I guess my point is, I am proud to say that I come from a lineage of adventurers and people wanting to make a difference in the world. If their cause or methods were always good, is up to debate. A debate I am willing to engage in.

What happened at the W-20 summit ?

W-20 summit 2Earlier today, the W-20 Women’s summit kicked off in Berlin with a panel- discussion titled „Inspiring women: Scaling Up Women’s Entrepreneurship”. There were some interesting names on the panel, our Dutch queen Maxima among others. I was looking forward to hearing what she had to say and how she stood her ground beside iconic powerhouses such as Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde.

Sadly, media has reported on only one thing: Ivanka Trump. The one person I couldn’t care less about. She was apparently booed and hissed at by the audience when she tried to convince them her pops was a promoter of women’s rights. I can’t even roll my eyes hard enough.

Why was she even there?

W-20 summit

All though I am quite certain the other members of the panel must have spoken as well and that what they had to say must’ve been pretty empowering or at least relevant, I can’t tell you for sure. All I know is that Maxima was the first speaker and that she described herself as a “feminist”, what in her vision meant “wanting equal rights” as well as freedom of choice. This drew applause from the audience, with Merkel saying, “Then I am one.”

Well shucks girls, I sure wish it wouldn’t be necessary to start the discussion at such a basic level but more so, I wish media had chosen more interesting snippets to quote…

I’m hoping the discussion will be online in full at some point so I can give it a go myself and see if I can collect some more interesting quotes.

“Give me a piece of your mind”

My parents are honest people with strong opinions for which they sometimes need loud words.

Even now that they have grandkids, I have seen them explaining matters of the world in a way some others may feel is not appropriate for such young kids. Some kids dig it and others zone out when being spoken to in this manner, but I always thought it was kind of cool that my dad never “dumbed things down” for me.

A request I got from my father on several occasions (and far too often, as far as I was concerned at the time) was “give me a piece of your mind”.  You can imagine it was something he did to get a sense of what his sulky adolescent daughter might be thinking. I never really knew what he meant and my answer never seemed to be what he was hoping to hear anyhow.

You could say honesty was valued highly in our household. And to express your honest opinions it was required to be eloquent. “Just because” was never a valid explanation for anything and I was allowed (up to a certain extent) to expect the same from them.

I remember my first boyfriend was quite overwhelmed by the in depth conversations we had over dinner.

The biggest liar and most truthful person, all in one

A line that I wrote down in my “ideas journal” the other day, is that my father is “one of the most honest people I know, as well as one of the least”.

He is one of the most honest because he doesn’t seem afraid to have an uncommon opinion. He will stand up for his beliefs, at the cost of being “the odd one” in a crowd. He is also unwillingly honest, as his face just gives away what he thinks about you and your explanation.

At the same time, he is one of the least honest people I know because as much as he tries to uphold the idea that he doesn’t care what others think of him, his fear of appearing to be weak always wins. He will say everything is going splendidly and that he has never felt better, until he reaches the point that the only one buying it is him.

Then again, does it count as lying if he lied to himself about it first?

Also, his stubbornness sometimes reaches truly absurd levels. He will stay on a chosen course even after being disproved by someone. Adjusting your course would be admitting you were wrong at some point and that apparently is not an option in his world.

He can also be very arrogant, in the sense that he will easily discard your idea as a lesser opinion if it is not in line with his. And not only is the opinion of low quality, so are you for coming up with it. He will use big, aggressive words to make you feel unsure about your line of thought, and make you back down. You might even accept his own idea at some point, just because he presents it with so much self confidence.

Intellectual & Emotional Honesty

What I figured out only recently is that the type of honesty I was taught to express was purely intellectual. That is the type of honesty that researchers and journalists apply in their work. It is the type of honesty that is based on logic, historical facts, knowledge, vocabulary and grammar.

This type of intellectual honesty is something that comes natural to me. I have never had trouble forming my opinion or pointing out to someone when they set off my bullshit radar and why.

Apparently the invisible, irrational, uncontrollable concepts of feelings are something you can be honest about too… You apparently don’t even need words to express them! Mind. Blown. And when it comes to being honest about those, I suck. I wonder why?

A child’s tears

This brings me to the final clue to my father’s dishonesty; he has never been able to handle my tears.

…Not that I even know how to cry anymore…

Unless some plant or tree is in bloom, or something.

And there’s some snot involved during these pollen allergies, as well.

But maybe they don’t actually qualify as tears.

Anyhoooooowww, see how awkward I get from talking about these things??

…where were we?

Ah yes, me crying.

Far before I reached an age that this was reasonable for, I was expected to be able to explain my behavior, especially when my behavior included tears. If I couldn’t come up with a “good” reason for my eye leakage, I was simply asked to stop doing that. And so I did.

All though my father told me years later that the crying prohibition was one of the few things he regretted in life, it did teach me to express myself pretty well. I know what I want and don’t want and am more capable than many others to express where my boundaries lie.

After analyzing the heck out of it during my long train ride home last week I came to a new theory. He saw my tears as criticism. Honest little wet mirrors rolling down a child’s cheek. And he couldn’t deal with that.

Time for a new lesson

Don’t get me wrong. My childhood was actually pretty awesome. Part of it was thanks to my parents, other parts were great despite of them. I hold no grudges. Or I try not to.

I am definitely thankful towards my parents for giving me the ability to discuss every possible topic, be it social, political or cultural in any crowd. When it comes to other forms of honesty however, I think I may have a lesson or two for them.