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Supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger

In my mind, Arnold Schwarzenegger never really rose above the status of “ambitious meathead”. I always joked about how tragic it really was he had reached a point where his English was now as good as it was ever going to get and that his German was actually not very good anymore either. There aren’t very many people that aren’t fluent in any language…

I know that he was the governor of California for a while and that people called him the “governator”. He seemed popular enough but I really know nothing about his political legacy, other than that he served two terms and is a republican.

So, when he dedicated a video message to president Trump earlier this summer, with an anti-hate message, I was very pleasantly surprised. He comes across as a very wise man, actually!

I’d vote for this guy based on this!

And then after Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement, he posted another video:

So yah, if he would drop his support for the death penalty, I would totally buy this t-shirt.

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Margaret

The Canadian prime minister may look like a fairy tale prince, but it turns out he has a mother, just like the rest of us. And reading about her life and feelings in the interview she recently gave on a local US radio channel, made me respect him (but mostly her) even more.

The fact that he is one of the youngest prime ministers Canada ever had and simultaneously one of the most balanced and mature politicians at present, makes total sense. He has been a grown-up since he was a child. He had to be.

In the interview, his mother Margaret speaks openly about her life as both the wife and the mother of a prime minister. Her life in the lime light was especially challenging for her, as she suffered from mental illness, fueled by the frustrations that must come with such a position. She explains:

I was becoming a very angry woman. I felt used and not useful. As a wife of the prime minister — as opposed to your first ladies in America — there is no position, there is no office, no assistant. I’m just supposed to be, as I said, a rose in my husband’s lapel. But I really was fighting since I was a little girl for the right to be equal. My mother raised her five daughters that way. And then I found myself in this very old-fashioned marriage, with the press using me as political fodder, and I was angry.

I think she is very eloquently putting a feeling into words that many women have felt at some point in their lives, especially in that era. These are things that are starting to change only now and we are just learning how to discuss it fairly and openly. I can imagine there must have been people that thought she had it all made and thought her ungrateful for wanting even more.

One of the biggest fears in my life is probably to be reduced to something as insignificant as “the wife of”. I crave for acknowledgment as much as I do for social invisibility. It’s a miracle I haven’t gone mad, all though I guess it may be up for discussion…

All though I joke  about “going mad” in the previous paragraph, I do not suffer from mental illness in any (diagnosed) shape or form, all though some of my most beloved people have in the past or still do in the present.

And that is exactly why I applaud Margaret Trudeau for stepping up to the plate and broaching the subject of mental illness. Most of all, because of the encouraging words she spoke at the end of the interview:

So if you can stop both the denial and the blame, there’s only one person who can help you. And that is yourself. You have to find the courage to say, ‘I want to have a better life,’ and then you reach out for help. You don’t know how many people are out there just longing to help you.

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Such a beautiful woman. He has her eyes.

Dutch nationalism – the anthem

The Dutch National Anthem, aka “the Wilhelmus” is said to “date back to at least 1572, making it the oldest known national anthem in the world”.

Noteworthy! Something to make a mental note of in case you ever end up at some random pub quiz.

So the anthem is basically a poem, written from the perspective of our founding father, William of Orange.

The lyrics however, sound bizarrely unpatriotic. The first line is:

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe ben ik, van Duitsen bloed.

This translates to:

William of Nassau am I, of a German bloodline

I’m all for knowing and honoring your heritage but did you really have to put it in the very first line, mr of Nassau?? It kind of feels like talking about your awesome Ukranian ex and her super fit body on your first date with me… How about we talk about ME?

(LOL, that never happened to me, no worries)

 I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine.

Ok then. The second line is better, all though I am not sure which land you are speaking of exactly, as you thought it necessary to start out by emphasizing you weren’t from here, originally.

I am a Prince of Orange and quite fearless

Yes, sir William, you are indeed a prince of Orange; a title you inherited after your cousin died. Well done.

The king of Spain I have always honoured.

WHAT THE HELL? Why would you bring that up, WILHELMUS????

I’m just sort of getting over your shady mention of your German blood and now you straight out tell me in my face you are actually loyal to another bloody king?? That’s fucked up, Willy, I’m not gonna lie…

Yah, I know they grow oranges down there, but that’s not what your title means!!! (Not sure what it DOES mean, but that’s for a different day.)

The End

I kid you not, that’s it.

Or no, not true. There are actually 14 verses more, in which he mostly praises god and his family. A sort of Oscars acceptance speech, I suppose…

But yah, the part we Dutchies sing before international soccer matches and after winning medals at the Olympic games, is just this:

William of Nassau am I, of a German bloodline
I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine.
I am a Prince of Orange and quite fearless
The king of Spain I have always honoured.

Needless to say, the Dutch are not very attached to their national anthem… I dare to say that more than half of people under 30 would struggle reciting it correctly off the top of their heads. 

So you can imagine the whole US discussion about dishonoring the country, by dishonoring the anthem, by kneeling in silence, is pretty hard for us to grasp…

 

No Golden Cage for Aicha

A fun fact that I learnt recently is that Raï means “opinion”.

cheb khaledOne of the legends of the genre is Cheb Khaled, now considered to be the king of Raï music.

Cheb Khaled’s song Aicha rose in the global charts when I was about 12 and it was absolutely love at first listen. I loved this song so much that I even added it to the soundtracks of my life-post I wrote many years ago.

I love the song for its catchy melody and general atmosphere but I think its meaning was kind of lost to me. I may have understood that it was about a lady named Aicha and maybe even that the singer though she was beautiful and desirable. The gifts and praise he was raining down on Aicha, just to earn himself a glance, may have started to make sense as I learned French at school.

But it wasn’t until I really looked into the lyrics, many years later, that I saw that, in the bridge of the song, Aicha herself speaks up and says she will have none of it.

Aicha lyrics 2

Khaled’s powerful voice never fails to sends chills down my spine when he wails out her only true desire:

Equal rights, respect every day and love!

You tell them, Aicha!

Each time I hear it, I realize how powerful this interlude in the song still is. Love it to bits. I’d name my daughter Aicha, just for those three lines.

 

Rutte III: a new government for the Dutch

My country has been without an official government since the March 15 parliamentary election, after several attempts to form a Cabinet failed.

In the last week week though, it seems an agreement has finally been reached. The coalition will consist of the current prime minister’s center-right VVD, the conservative Christian party CDA, the liberals of D66 and the slightly creepy Christian Union. It is expected that Rutte will remain prime minister.

D66 is the party my parents support and, all though my vote did not go their way in this last general election, I have voted for them in the past as well. They are known to be the ultimate middle of almost everything. The party leader, Alexander Pechtold, is a great debater, with a friendly face and a conflict free attitude. He is the personification of the Dutch polder model.

Critics describe D66 as wishy-washy and spineless.

All though I wouldn’t go that far, I did choose to vote for a party with a stronger and clearer set of ideals, this time around. I felt it was necessary to oppose the growing right wing unequivocally. Also, I felt the environment needed to be clearly and prominently represented in a party’s program in order for it to deserve my vote.

So, I voted for Groen Links, which is a green, left-wing party with progressive ideas and a growing base of members and politicians with “true grit”, which is what I missed in D66.

What could’ve been

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Left to right: D66’s Alexander Pechtold, VVD’s Mark Rutte, Groen Links’ Jesse Klaver, CDA’s Sybrand van Haersma Buma

Right after the elections, the country was getting ready for a coalition of VVD, D66, CDA and Groen Links. The parties agreed on many matters but in the end, Groen Links’ leader Jesse Klaver left the negotiating table. The harsh attitude the other parties were pushing to adopt on immigration was unacceptable to Klaver.

A lot of people said he should have made a bigger effort, perhaps temporarily adopt a more flexible attitude in order to get in the control room and then work on changing the system from the inside out. I for one, do feel Klaver did the right thing here. He did not sell out on his ideals, which makes me happy I chose to vote for his party.

Rutte III – VVD, D66, CDA, CU

The slightly fragile coalition that presented its plans this last week, will have a more rightwing character than the outgoing government.

Among the most important plans of the new coalition is a large tax overhaul, with a cut in income taxes and corporate taxes, aiming on making the Netherlands more attractive for international companies.

The coalition’s answer to the refugee crisis is to allow access to several hundred refugees more than the current government does. At the same time financial allowances for asylum seekers in the first two years of their stay will be lowered.

In the environmental agenda, higher taxes for polluters have been included and our five coal-fired energy plants will be shut down by 2030.

All though I hardly feel connected with this new government at all, I do wish them all the best. Our little country below sea level is counting on them….

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.

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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.

The seven sins; minus four, plus one

All though I have a certain fascination for religion and spirituality, in truth I am a devout atheist. My interest stems from an anthropological curiosity for mankind, its history and psychological necessities.

A thing that I have spent many hours philosophizing about the role of religion in defining the boundary between good and evil. As I am most familiar with Christianity and I run into its symbolism almost on a daily basis, I have often pondered about the value and appeal of the seven sins.

Dismantling the seven sins

I have come to the conclusion that of the seven, there are four that I don’t consider to be all that bad;

  • c812d7bc02a55367723694dbc3232d118b976ac02cbda8f8f302c12d332a347aLust – Why would you demonize sex?
  • Gluttony – what’s wrong with enjoying good food?
  • Pride – I suppose they mean arrogance, which is an annoying trait for sure. But a cardinal sin? Mwoah….
  • Sloth – Aaaugh, don’t judge my laziness; I need it! Even neuro-scientists agree.

The one in the list I haven’t made up my mind about yet, is wrath.

  • Wrath – Merriam-Webster dictionary say wrath is “strong vengeful anger or indignation”. I think everyone has the right to feel anger and definitely indignation. However, I know people that douse their words with the poison of bitterness and hate and that is really sucky, to say the least. At the same time, I am convinced such words always come from people that are hurting themselves and in a very distorted way are actually crying for help. 

And then there’s the two that would also qualify as evil, dark and nasty in my book;

  • Envy – No doubt about it; envy is ugly and anyone that feels this needs to work on eradicating it from their system. No good comes from it.
  • Greed – The core of almost all of mankind’s suffering, if you ask me. 

The eighth sin.

Envy and greed are both dark paths, that every person has walked down, albeit briefly. 

A state of mind that may come across as innocent to some but deserves strong condemnation is the passive aggressive feeling of:

Indifference

All though I know many people that let matters of the world get to them in a degree that I feel is unhealthy, indifference is probably the feeling I fear most in the world.

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