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.

Mind Cleanup – Sept ’19

NEWS

  • All though I have been trying (again) to lower my intake of Drumpf related news, I would be lying if I said the anticipation of a possible impeachment has not been on my mind. Small as the chance may be that he’s actually kicked out of office before his term ends, I do applaud the effort. At the same time, I also realize it will fuel an already polarized situation, with potentially violent outcomes.

  • Another news story I’ve been trying to keep track of is the Saudi Arabia – Iran conflict. This could possibly be the start of something major. I don’t want to say WWIII, but…. The additional tragedy is (once again) Yemen, that never seems to be taken seriously; not when they say they are starving and beg for help, nor when they say they have taken matters in their own hands and have bombed Saudi oil supplies. They are the angry child that quietly turns into a psychopathic killer while the parents are too busy making each other’s lives miserable…

MUSIC

Mayra Andrade is a fascinating singer. She’s from Cape Verde. As a Spanish speaker, I can understand a bit of Portuguese but when Mayra mixes it up with Cape Verdian creole all I have left to go on is the melody and her voice. And Oh my goodness, she is so pretty!!

Because I listen to her regularly YouTube recommended the above video to me, which in turn introduced me to the COLOR channel… which indeed added a bunch of colorful new tunes to my playlists. Look up the Teskey brothers, for example, that bring some pretty convincing blues from down under! And what about BJ the Chicago Kid (I’m guessing he’s from the windy city), Brazilian Luedji Kuna, French Angele or Cameroonian Blick Bassy. The list goes on and on!

MOVIES / TV

I started watching a Danish series called Rita. Remarkably entertaining. I’m not hooked in a way that I want to binge on it, but definitely amusing.

FOOD

Even though I am nearing the age of 35, my mother still doesn’t believe I can cook. I don’t blame her. Until quite recently, I didn’t believe I could either. Life is funny that way.

When I told my mom I wanted to cook for her for a change, she couldn’t help but laugh at me. Even when I started chopping away at her kitchen counter, she shook her head at me in affectionate ridicule. My dad was a bit apprehensive as well.

The sweet potato curry won them over in the end (even though my dad felt the need to mention it looked like something that had already been eaten and eeummm regurgitated by someone else).

The ingredients (for 2p):

  • 1 onion
  • grated or chopped ginger (approx 3 cm-ish)
  • 2 small (or 1 larger?) sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of currypowder
  • tomato paste (I must say I have made this recipe several times, with different amounts of tomato paste each time and it always turns out OK. All I can say is that it should be somewhere between one and four tablespoons)
  • 250 ml of coconut milk
  • red lentils (again, superbad at estimating the right amount… but eummm… somewhere between one and two handfuls. :P)
  • fresh spinach (as much as you (and your pan) can handle)
  • fresh koriander
  • pumpkin seeds

It’s just a matter of chopping, mixing and cooking all of the above in one pan until everything is soft and yummy. The last two ingredients are nicest if you add them as a garnish.

Eummm yah, reading that back does explain why my mom was laughing at me, I guess… 😛

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.

Mind Cleanup – August 2019

DEMOCRACY NEWS

On August 30th NY Times’ the Daily podcast discussed the political mayhem in Britain and Italy and pointed out how in both countries there is a power struggle going on. The two opposing sides of both conflicts are accusing the other of being un-democratic.

I thought this was interesting, as Italy and Britain are quite different, politically speaking. The things they have in common, being democracy and populism (and perhaps immigration-related issues) apply to many other countries as well, so it’s interesting to see how this all plays out and what lessons can be learned from it.

The situation in Britain is obviously Brexit related. Boris Johnson’s dropped a bombshell earlier this month when he announced he was going to suspend parliament. Limiting the amount of time to debate Brexit could increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, which for some reason is what Boris Johnson seems to want more than anything….

Michael Barbaro sums the situation in Britain up:

So Johnson is saying, you’re calling it undemocratic for me to block Parliament’s ability to do my job, but I say it’s undemocratic for Parliament to get in the way of me realizing what the people voted directly for, which is Brexit.

In Italy the situation is a little different. Matteo Salvini, a popular and populist politician stepped down as interior minister, collapsing the government he was a part of. Presumably he was gambling on the idea that new elections would result in a larger majority for his party and thus, catapulting him to the very top position of government.

His plan backfired though.

With Salvini out of the way, the remaining political parties struck an unlikely deal to form a new government. With that, they avoided having to go through new elections)

Katrin Bennhold says:

His opponents hope that this will basically reduce his popularity and that, come the next election — which is formally scheduled in three years — he won’t be as powerful and popular as he is now. Of course, there are a lot of wild cards in this, because his narrative, of course, is the establishment is afraid of the people. The establishment is afraid of new elections. The establishment is afraid of democracy. That is what Matteo Salvini would say.
(…)
So Parliament would say they did this to save Italian democracy, but another way of looking at it is that they saved themselves.

Not particularly cheerful news, but I thought it was an interesting comparison…

MUSIC

Rosalia’s newest song is so simple and maybe even on the cheesy side but it has definitely been stuck in my mind for days.

MOVIES / TV

  • I watched the Frankenstein Chronicles and really enjoyed it. I must admit the only reason I clicked play in the first place is because I saw Sean Bean. He is an awesome actor. On the downside: I am getting tired of these unsatisfactory endings to series…
  • I watched Venom and thought it was kind of meh.
  • A movie I have NOT yet watched is the new Lion King movie. I am still wondering if I should… I’ve heard the graphics are awesome, but I am still ultra fan of the original and kind of scared of breaking the magic.

EPICURIOUS – Tea edition

My new favorite tea is the Pukka tea – elderberry echinacea. I love the smell, I love the tangy sweetness and I love the color!

Who won the month?

I have a little sidewalk garden thing going on in front of my house.

Sidewalk gardening – spring edition

Someday I hope to have a long row of large and happy sunflowers in bloom there every summer and all sorts of other smaller plants as well, providing food and shelter for insects, spiders and birds.

Sunflowers in my windowsill, preparing for the outside world

This is my third summer in this house and it’s starting to look pretty good.

That is, everything but my sunflowers… The gushes of wind that suck through my street just snap the sunflowers’ long stems in half. The couple of sunflowers I have left, are true heroes though.

Sunflower buddies

They were blown to the ground but decided this was no reason to give up. They just kept on lifting their heads back up and are now even starting to bloom. The metaphors, life-lessons and hashtags I could take from this are endless. A round of applause for my little sunflowers that could!

This guy was on the ground, face down a couple of weeks ago, but he’s a trooper!

SELF REFLECTION

  1. What are you bad at and how does that influence your life?
    When I’m tired some of my most basic functions stop working, such as words and decisions. I can not word and I can not decision, when tired. It influences my life particularly when at a crossroads I can’t make up my mind and I can’t really explain what is making it hard.
  2. What type of worker are you?
    Forgetful and chaotic, but constantly coming up with new ways to help me tackle that. I am still deciding if having an employer that lets me do that is actually good for me or not.
  3. How much sleep do you need?
    I am very good at sleeping. If at all possible, I will make sure to get a solid eight hours. I do well with seven hours. Six is iffy. If I get any less, I stop doing the words and the decisions.
  4. Are you rich?
    It depends on who you ask.
    My family is pretty much ok financially. Buying a house is within my reach. I can eat out whenever I want.
    What I CAN’T do: have a horse; travel (far) more than once a year; buy a house in the old center of Leiden,

Mind Cleanup – 2019

My last Mind Cleanup blog dates back to October 2018. They used to be a regular thing and I had some fixed categories I could choose from, to help my cleaning session along, which I have included below (mostly to help me write the next one).

Mind Cleanup Categories:

  • NEWS
  • MUSIC
  • MOVIES / TV
  • FOOD
  • SELF REFLECTION
  • LOOKY HERE (pages, blogs or info you recommend others to check out)
  • THUMBS UP
  • THUMBS DOWN
  • EPIPHANIES

I am also thinking of adding one more category honoring a person, organization or story that “won the month”. This idea is inspired by Fivedotoh.com’s Fandango, who in turn was inspired by MSNBC’s Joy Reid (Who Won the Week).

So, if I were to do a quick mind cleanup of the first half of 2019, it might look a bit like this:

NEWS – people-on-the-streets edition

  • France in turmoil with yellow vest movement taking to the streets to express anger towards status quo. The 26 minute documentary below, explains what sparked it and what fuels it:
  • Venezuelan turmoil is so very different from the anger in France. And at the same time, it’s very much the same.
  • A heart-mending reaction to the sorrow felt after the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand:

MUSIC

Since it dropped I have been listening to songs from India Arie’s new album, which includes this meaningful gem:

Who won the first half of 2019?

  • My big bro had a little girl in March. Her name is Jasmina and I suppose you could say she is a winner for landing in a family with my brother and his awesome girlfriend. In all truth I think it is my brother who is actually the true winner in this equation.
  • Also, Boris Johnson did some big time winning and is now prime minister of the UK. Boo to that, but do check out John Oliver’s take on his persona.

Self reflection

Let me answer one question from my list of 195 questions:

What is a controversial opinion you have?

I am not a fan of Oprah’s. Actually she kind of annoys me (particularly her hysteric behavior when she enters a room). There, I said it.

Epilogue

  • I intend to pick up the habit once again of doing a mind cleanup blog every month.
  • Join me if you like and ping back to me when you do!

the Platinum rule

I recently discovered that a very common principle I have known all my life is referred to as the golden rule. I also learned that it is coming under scrutiny and modern times are asking for it to be updated.

Golden Rule

The golden rule is a principle we all must have heard at some point during our upbringing. It comes in different forms. You may have heard one of the following varieties:

  • Do unto others as you would want done to you
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself

The golden rule is pretty simple. You only need to embark on a quick soulsearch and pinpoint how you like to be treated and then apply this to others.

Unless you’re dealing with some psychological turmoil, the answer should be available pretty much immediately, as you probably already know what makes you happy (and what does not).

Until recently, I would have told you the golden rule has great merit and that the world would be a better place if we lived by it more strictly.

Platinum rule

The golden rule stands on the assumption that every other person you interact with wants what you want. There are many ways you can miss the mark on that one, which is why the golden rule is in need of an update.

The upgraded version of the golden rule is referred to by some as “the platinum rule”. It boils down to something like this:

Treat others as they would want to be treated

Its a simple idea and the underlying sentiment is still the same; be nice.

Its practical implementation does require a bit more effort than the golden variety, which is what I will dive into a bit more, below.

Ask and check

When putting the platinum rule into practice you would have to figure out what it is that the person on the receiving end of your actions wants.

Asking is one way to go about it.

A direct question, especially directed at someone you may not know very well, may not get you the answers you need. When you put someone on the spot like that, the person in front of you might say something like “Nothing” or “I don’t know”.

If you truly want to be the person the other person needs (or at the very least the person that doesn’t hurt the other’s feelings) then getting an answer like “nothing” does not mean you’re off the hook.

The pitfall with this approach is that by asking the question you make your problem their problem. You put the spotlight and the other and achieve the absolute opposite of what you were trying to do.

In the end, the fact that you don’t know how to behave is YOUR problem, not THEIRS.

However, I am convinced that you can solve almost anything with a drop of empathy and a whole lot of communication. Keep asking questions. Keep listening. And back off when appropriate or requested.

Titanium rule

Contrary to the golden rule, the platinum rule leaves room for interpretation and error. Because:

  • What do you do if the other lets you know they want you to treat them in a way that (you believe) is harmful for them?
  • What if the way the other wants to be treated is something you are not willing to do (for example because it goes against your own values or because it is harmful to you)?
  • How do you avoid becoming that annoying person that asks a million questions at every turn?

These questions have come up when dealing with people I hold dear, that struggle with addiction or tendencies to self harm. The platinum rule would not help me or them, if I followed it strictly. The golden rule would also fall short.

An opinion piece written by Kris Williams on Medium that I bumped into just now, struggles with similar dilemmas. Ms Williams describes a third stance, the Titanium rule, and it goes likes this:

“Treat others as it is in the highest and best good to treat them.”

This might be a bit much for every day life, but it sounds like a sane way to deal with more complicated interactions.

At the end of the day I think it’s not even necessary to choose between the three. I think all have their merits and make sense in different situations.

What do you think?