In recent years I have walked and chanted in several marches; the largest ones being the Women’s March in 2017 and more recently, the March for the climate.
Both times I couldn’t believe that the topics at hand were even things we could disagree on in the society I live in.
Facts and common sense issues have become opinions and (how I despise the term and the one that made it fashionable;) fake news.
Until recently, I would say my political views and voting behavior would be considered pretty middle of the road, maybe slightly left of center.
These days though, some would call my views extreme and “far left”.
Am I an activist?
I’m not sure.
I do want us to be better. I do want us to stop being so afraid of each other. I do want us to make decisions more (earth)consciously. I am willing to start with the person in the mirror and work from there.
You know how festive days such as mother’s day and valentine’s day always get responses along the lines of “What’s the point of being nice to your mother / lover once a year? It should be done each and every day or not at all.”?
All though a tad cynical, these people are right, in a way. So are the people that say that emphasizing or reinforcing their love on this given day is an important reminder to not take such a beautiful thing for granted.
A national holiday we have in the Netherlands and that I write a blog about almost every year (see here and here) is our World War II remembrance day (4th of May), followed by Liberation Day (5th of May).
All though I have always payed my respects (two minutes of silence at 8PM) and always did my best to celebrate my freedom consciously, I must admit that lately, I feel like the previously mentioned cynics when it comes to remembrance day…
Every year I make an effort to ask my friends and co-workers what they will do when the clock hits 8 PM on the 4th of May. I always try to remind them that it is not just 2 minutes of “having to be quiet” but that these 2 minutes can be used to explore our own thoughts on the current state of the world and honor those who have died for the freedom we now so easily take for granted.
I always feel fired up and ready to act after liberation day. And then… NOTHING. Maybe I write a blog about my white privilege and dive into a couple of Facebook discussions and call my friends out on their inherent racism… But that’s it.
I feel icky just admitting that. I feel useless and I feel hypocritical. If only the world wasn’t collapsing under the weight of all the racism, bigotry and hate mongering, then I could act as if my help wasn’t needed.
But it is, and so is yours.
It seems the Dutch committee for 4th and 5th of May celebrations agrees that we all need a kick up the ass, and therefore decided the theme of this year’s WWII remembrance should be RESISTANCE. Even more, it has been decided it should be the theme of the whole 2018 calendar year…
Museums are adapting their exhibitions to this year’s theme and special education series are being compiled at schools, where WWII veterans and war heroes are stopping by to tell their stories.
I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but the Dutch year of resistance happens to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. The exact date of his murder was the 4th of April and on this day last week I watched the movie Selma.
The general story line and historical context were not new to me, as I hope it isn’t for anyone else. The film did however contribute to a better understanding on my side about what resistance entails.
It requires courage. It requires perseverance. It requires not taking “no” (or “wait” or “I can’t” or “It’s too hard”) for an answer. It requires caring more about the cause than your own well being.
As Dr King said in his legendary “I have a dream”-speech (which does not feature in the film, btw):
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
So yes; SOUL FORCE!! And now that I come to think about it, I actually wrote a blog about it just last week, only in the version of super woman Valarie Kaur. She didn’t call it Soul Force though. She called it revolutionary love.
And then former American president Jimmy Carter showed up at Stephen Colbert’s late show. Such a sweet and wise man; I had no idea! He reminded me of the willpower it takes to love those that seem undeserving of that love but the importance of doing it anyhow.
It seems my generation’s greatest purpose in life is to achieve inner peace or “zen” or a perpetual state of “Netflix & chill”. These are actually all thing I excel at, but I suddenly realize that being relaxed is making me complacent and -oh the horror-, indifferent.
I need to refuel my inner rage and channel it into something productive and less egocentrical.
Pff… I think I’ve even written about this before… What do I do to get out of this cycle?
I need to start planning some field trips.
Goals for the month of May:
Visit at least one exhibition, museum or lecture that fits the “resistance” theme.
Make a grumpy looking stranger smile.
Think of a good present for my bf’s birthday.
Bake a cake and eat it too, but with friends (especially the undeserving ones?). Or maybe it should be humble pie.
With the exception of perhaps South Korea, every country on that list is at least ten times larger in both scale and population.
When it comes to inequality, we rank 15th as country with least inequality.
Interesting fact: NONE of the countries that rank higher than the Netherlands in the first list, appear in the second list in a position above us.
In short, we are a very wealthy country and have managed to spread this money around more evenly than any other developed country.
Poverty is something we barely know. The crisis did affect people somewhat and jobs were harder to find when it was at its peak but in all honesty, it wasn’t so bad.
All though my generation really doesn’t know that much about our history (let alone the ones that came after me), we do like to brag and boast about the things we achieved worldwide, being so small and all.
I know, people don’t usually brag about something being tiny, but we Dutchies love telling foreigners this to illustrate the grandeur of our achievements.
Because we definitely left our mark here and there.
After we drove the sea out of our homeland, we convincingly overcame our fear of the waves, swarmed over the globe and grew into a force to be reckoned with as a seafaring nation.
UPDATE: My boyfriend read my blog and told me my understanding of Dutch history sucks “biggerly” than I thought. It turns out we conquered the waves first and THEN drove the sea out of our homeland… but hey… you get the jist…
Midget nation as we may be, we played with the big boys back in the days. We conquered, divided, stole and murdered like the best of them!
Ah, I’m so proud…
…Or wait… actually… that’s not such a charming history at all! …and it sure puts into perspective how we managed to become the 17th most well earning country in the world…
Despite our history as slave traders in a far past, we’ve actually been better known as a very open and friendly society in more recent times. Our development aid was highly thought of around the world and was known to come with less strings attached than, say, US Aid. We welcomed people of all colors, religions and sexual orientations into our midst. We were recognized around the world for our tolerance towards controversial topics such as prostitution and drugs and our rejection of taboos.
Our former Prime-Minister Jan Peter Balkenende often remind us that our “VOC mentality” was what had made our country wonderful. He wished we would embrace the optimistic and “get things done”-spirit of our ancestors to shake off the burdens of the financial crisis.
Let’s be happy with eachother! Let’s be optimistic! Let’s say: the Netherlands is willing and able! The VOC-mentality; looking over borders. Be dynamic! Right?
Jan Peter Balkenende – 2006
I’m not sure exactly how, why and when it started to slip but at some point I opened my eyes and realized Dutch tolerant mindset was no longer real. Our views and eyes are no longer open and “innovation” has become a dirty word. Or maybe we never really practiced what we preached.
Perhaps we were just pragmatists all this time; doing whatever necessary to survive. And not just survive, but thrive. And because we are lovers, not fighters (or secretly just plain cowards) we try to do everything without fighting (or have others do it for us). What we do is figure out where there is money to be made and then adapt to come out on top.
Fast forward to 2017. All politicians are in full battle mode for the upcoming elections on the 15th of March and for some reason, our history is catching up with us. Conflict is unavoidable and fear has become the most common energy source.
As much as I loved our signature polder model, it seems to have fallen into disrepair. Our politicians are failing at both finding a common ground as standing for their ideals. It’s become a big brown mush with a lot of unhappy faces.
At the same time there is a growing group of people that is fed up with this state. Not just are they fed up, they are also putting their money where their mouth is and organizing themselves. Small sparks of passionate ideas are flaring up here and there. No fire has been lit yet but I do feel hopeful about the prospects…
In the meantime… let’s just laugh at the silly state of the world for a bit, shall we?