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!

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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!

P.C.


This is Blog 16 in my A-Z Blogseries:
P.C.

Urban Dictionary is a website I often turn to when trying to find creative ways to describe a word or when I hear a word being used in a way “on the street” that is unfamiliar to me.

Urban Dictionary is not so much a dictionary as it is a lexicology forum where people post and discuss definitions of words. As we have come to expect when people try to have online conversations, things can get heated very quickly though. Also there are plenty of trolls out there that create, fuel and feed off of online discord.

Political Correctness (or its abbreviation P.C.) is a term that is really interesting to analyze. The internet is hugely divided as to what it means and if it is a good or bad thing. It has become pretty hard to define it without picking a side. The Cambridge Dictionary made an attempt:

Definition according to the Cambridge Online Dictionary

In recent years being called P.C. has actually become an insult. I found this quite confusing at first (and I even wrote a blog about it back in 2016).

A quick scroll through Urban Dictionary produced the following results:

“PC” has come to refer to people who tell you which words you are and are not allowed to use.

A small part of me understands the complaint. It is very annoying to talk to someone who is focusing more on the individual words you are using, instead of the message you are actually trying to bring across.

Sometimes though, the message being conveyed is just as horrible as the words you have chosen to express it. In that case you just need to face it: you are a shitty specimen of a human being and the PC crew is actually right!

Language

This is Blog 12 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Language

My boyfriend, G, and I share a love for language and linguistics.

It happens almost weekly that some odd expression, pronunciation or unusual word makes my ears perk up (and often it is something that I see is simultaneously happening in his mind, which is obviously a huge turn on).

We then tear the matter apart, googling the heck out of it (after we’ve agreed on the best search terms, which sometimes can be challenging enough).

The last word we dove into was “psychopath“, which I now know stems from the Greek words psykhe, meaning mind and the word pathos, meaning suffering.

So a psychopath is, in the purest sense of the word, somebody who has been diagnosed with suffering of the mind.

In modern times we envision a psychopath to be a manipulative charmer that spends his days fantasizing of all the ways he could make you disappear. We would say a psychopath is more often the cause of suffering than the victim of it, wouldn’t we? I suppose we have TV crime-series and horror stories to thank for that.

G and I debated on how much empathy a psychopath really would have. I decided that they actually could have some empathetic abilities in the sense that they recognize feelings and know how to respond to them convincingly. What they lack are soft feelings such as pity and compassion (making them perfect for politics or wall street).

Another word we tried to decipher was “discussion“. Not something you would normally need to look up the meaning of, right? We came to the conclusion however that our personal definitions were quite different, with his being much more negative than mine.

In his view, there is no such thing as a “good discussion”, given that there are always two (or more) people participating with opposed opinions and no real willingness to change that.

In my opinion a debate can be a tool to get closer to the truth and changing your mind about your argument is actually allowed.

This made me realize that being in (his definition of) a discussion is an experience he does not enjoy at all. Now that I know that, I can change the way I react to him when he mentions a discussion he’s had with this or that person.

These elaborate exploratory talks we have (often during breakfast) remind me of how important it is to check during conversations if we are actually talking about the same thing.

Even when your convo partner is using the same words as you are, you may be missing the point completely because you do not know the weight it has for the person across from you.

We are a species blessed with the ability to use language, in spoken form and also through gestures and posture. Putting a little effort into the way you communicate can make life so much easier!

Brexit

This is Blog 2 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Brexit

Brexit. Everybody is fed up with it and wishes we could finally move on to something else. It feels like a terrible Ground Hog Day field trip that keeps repeating itself.

A meme that I saw very early on in this whole process was the one below and it’s remains one of my favorite ways to sum it up:

Black Pete wraps it up

This blog is the fifth and final post in my Black Pete Pentalogy. 

My plan was to have my Black Pete conclusion-blog done on the fifth of December, which is the final day of the Sinterklaas celebration in the Netherlands. I failed to meet the deadline, but have had this blog on my mind pretty much every day.

A quick review:

  1. Black Pete & Childhood celebrations, about my own personal memories and Dutch Sinterklaas traditions
  2. Black Pete & the Frisians, about the 2017 highway blockade and my own personal resentments
  3. Black Pete & Politics, about the political response to the debate, if “apathy” is a response
  4. Black Pete & Opponents, about the people who want to kick out Black Pete but are probably its only real friends.

The four blog posts I have written over the last few weeks have really helped me untangle some of my personal frustrations. At the same time it help me to (re)connect with thoughts and ideas I had distanced myself from. 

Sinterklaas’ 2018 arrival, with different types of Petes.

Conclusion 1: There aren’t just two sides to this matter

At a first glance it seems there are only two sides in the Black Pete debate: people in favor and people opposed. However, I have come to realize that the motivations of both sides vary greatly and understanding these motivations is crucial.

Let me share some of the different angles with you:

People in favor – thoughts and motives

  • “I love Black Pete because I have fond memories of him. It hurts me that people call him a bad element in our celebration. I don’t understand why we can’t just go back to the way it was when we all still loved Black Pete and everybody had fun.”

  • “I love Black Pete because he is part of my culture. It angers me to see my culture being criticized, (in my own country nonetheless)! I want to protect Dutch traditions. People that don’t like what they see, can move on to somewhere where traditions are more of their liking.”

  • “I love Black Pete because it is dark element in an ancient celebration, dating back to Wodan & Odin. Sinterklaas without Black Pete is yin with no yang. To change Black Pete or remove him completely destroys the balance”

  • “Every Dutch child loves Black Pete. They look forward to his arrival, sometimes even more than Sinterklaas’. The concept of racism is an adult invention. Removing Pete from the celebration taints the celebration with a hateful sentiment that was never there to begin with.”

Opponents – thoughts and motives

  • “Black Pete must be removed from the Sinterklaas celebration because his appearance is disrespectful towards present day black people and descendants of slaves.”

  • “Black Pete must be removed from the Sinterklaas celebration because it is beneath ourselves. We were ignorant in the past and did not realize there was racism at play. Now we do. Holding on to the tradition is unacceptable.”

  • “Black Pete must change. We have been telling our children that he is black with soot, so there is no reason for him to go full blackface. A couple of black smudges on the face should do it. (Aren’t chimneys much cleaner now then they were in the past anyway?)”

  • “Black Pete can change. Children’s imaginations are open for wonder. We can introduce a Rainbow Pete and a yellow, green and blue Pete to demonstrate this and push the diversity factor further.”

Starting with the girl in the mirror

As I illustrated with the examples above Black Pete supporters (which not so long ago, was pretty much everyone around me) are not all the same. As a longtime opponent of Black Pete I may, at times, have been quick to label someone as “racist” or “hateful”. 

I realize now that some Black Pete supporters are merely melancholic souls. Others are nervous conservatives that don’t really want to deal with change, in any way, shape or form. Me calling them out as racist only made them put up their guard and counterattack, bringing us no where closer to a common ground.

Also, apart from Black Pete supporters and Black Pete opponents, there is a growing group of people that is just fed up with the discussion and doesn’t really care how we resolve the issue, as long as we can just carry on.

Conclusion 2: Admitting you’re wrong is hard.

You know the kind of fight that is way too loud, over-dramatic and full of inaccurate accusations? The type of argument that comes with a lot of finger pointing and sentences that begin with, “Yes, but you ALWAYS…” or end with “Well, that’s just typical!”.

It’s a fight that’s probably not really about what we are saying it is about. It’s a fight we’re having because we actually care a lot about one another but have forgotten how to show it (and our pride is making it hard to admit it). It’s a fight with no listeners. It is a fight with no winners.

We are now in that awkward phase, right after an argument, when neither side is ready yet to extend a hand to the other, nor is anybody willing to admit that all they really want is a hug.

That silence can go both ways. It can turn into passive aggressive silence, which is actually just a continuation of the conflict, but with no sound. The “silent treatment” keeps wounds open and painful and often leads back to the point where we started: the yelling and the closed hearts.

The second option is that, during that sudden and uncomfortable silence, the words of the other suddenly start sinking in. Words that you had been blocking with your own stream of words start connecting with your own ideas and concepts.

It takes courage to admit you were wrong and even more to admit someone else was right. Sometimes an apology is necessary, which is next level stuff!

So I guess what I’m saying, is that the screaming and the yelling, the threats and the arrests, may have looked bad (and they really were), but there is something in the air that makes me feel optimistic.

Speaking for myself, I must admit I may have been a bit too harsh on my compatriots over the last few years.

I’ve been asking (demanding?) friends to accept a whole new set of truths, to change a tradition that has been passed down for generations and then also apologize for it. I’d rather they got to it yesterday, rather than today, giving them very little room to make it right.

So if some Dutchies start celebrating “new style” Sinterklaas but find it hard to do this without being sarcastic about it, that’s fine. If they say they only do it because PC immigrant-huggers made them do it, I’ll happily take the blame (and give them a free hug in the process).

And I guess this brings me to the third and final conclusion:

Conclusion 3: Black Pete is bad karma

My first Black Pete related blog was in 2013. For years it felt like I was one of the only ones speaking out against this tradition. What bothered me the most was (is?) the denial.

However, defending Black Pete is becoming harder. Social media is letting the world peak through the windows as we celebrate. We are being exposed for what we really are.

We are not quite ready to actually say Black Pete is a racist phenomenon, but we are somewhere close to “no longer denying it is not free of racism”, which is progress!

Black Pete is becoming a burden. A smudge on the global image we have created of ourselves.

Breaking with the shackles of tradition

Yes, Black Pets is bad karma and we will rid ourselves of it.

In the meantime, please be patient with us (but don’t let us off the hook either).