Doubters alert – Part Two

This is Blog 4 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Doubt

I recently noticed my first “Doubter Alert” blog was getting quite a few views (which I still can’t really explain). To be honest, when I saw the title appear in my stats I couldn’t even really remember what it was about. So I re-read my own post and was inspired to write a follow-up on it.

The original blog sprouted from a WP Prompt, in which you were encouraged to write about a “commonly accepted truth” that you disagree with or at least seriously doubt.

The list I assembled consists not so much of “commonly accepted truths” but more of modern day arguments and opinions that a growing group of people seem to have.

Voting is useless.
I think it was actually my brother that said this to me at some point. He’s a skeptic, in more ways than one, and he has stopped casting his vote. He says that he doesn’t know who to vote for and always feels like he’s been duped in some way or other anyway.

I guess I kind of understand the sentiment.

I disagree vehemently though and it makes me sad to see people so disillusioned by the people in power (and, following George Carlin’s logic, the general public as a whole).

Atheists have no moral compass.
This has never actually been said to me explicitly. It is something I read in comments on Social Media and may have been suggested by a street Evangelist or two.

I like to think I am a good person. I care about what happens around me, from plants to animals and of course fellow human beings. I do what I reasonably can to be a positive presence in the world.

What could believing in angels, spirits and god(s) have done to improve my morals? I really don’t see it…

A Dutch white person criticizing Black Pete does this only out of political correctness and doesn’t truly believe what they say.

This is a complicated one, especially to non-Dutchies. Is that true? I’m not sure. Now that I’m writing it down I’m think it’s actually simpler for outsiders… (Oy, so much doubt!)

Anyway, it took me 5 long blogs to sum the problem up last year, so please feel free to read those (starting with this one) to get a general idea of what I mean with the statement above.

Other statements that people these days are making, that I have my doubts about:

  • Genetically modified food is bad for the planet.
  • I have freedom of speech so I can say whatever I want in whichever way I want.
  • You can’t trust the media (or even worse “journalists are the enemy of the people).
  • Vaccines are unnecessary
  • Climate change (human caused or not) is an inevitable fact of life that we just need to accept instead of trying to fix or prevent.

Reading my list makes me rethink my first A-to-Z blog, in which I asked myself if I was an activist. It’s clear politics and societal issues play a big part in my musings of late…

All this talk of doubt reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books:

As much as I love this book (seriously, read it. Better than the movie), I think I actually disagree with that statement. I think asking “why” is always a good thing.

People that believe in absolute truths are not the most pleasant people to be around, if you ask me…

At the same time I do understand that you need to calibrate yourself as well and decide on what rings true to you. Doubting everything can drive you mad (or paranoid).

As always, it’s all in finding balance.

PS: Check out the etymology of DOUBT and why it has “b” in it. Interesting!
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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 is 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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Valentina, valentina

 

What shall we do with all these debates about the sky above
Help me, Valentina, as you have flown so far.
Tell me once and for all that there is no such mansion up there;
Tomorrow it will be built by mankind and its reason,
Oh my!

Obra-colectiva-Chants-pour-la-revolution-doctobre-1977.jpgThese lines are from a song. A revolutionary song. A song from a LP my parents loved (both of them 😮 )! The LP was called Canto A La Revolución De Octubre and contained songs of protest and marching songs, composed and sung by Chilean artist such as Victor Jara, Inti-Illimani and Isabel Parra.

There are several songs on this album that I listened to religiously as a kid, even though I clearly didn’t really understand them. I saw how my parents reacted to these songs and they often explained to me what they were about and what the historical context was.

Heaven.jpgThe song Ayúdame Valentina is an emotional plea to someone who has flown far away, to bring us some of her wisdom from the heavens above. I knew that critical thinkers, writers and singers did not befall pleasant fates under Pinochet, so I assumed Valentina must have been one of the victims of this cruel regime.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I decided to look up if I could find out who Valentina was, and it turned the whole song upside down for me! Not only was Valentina still very much alive when the song was written, she has outlived most of the singers on the album and is with us until this very day!

Who is this wise woman that Isabel Parra calls upon, then?

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova. 

I don’t know about you, but I had never heard about this woman…

Even though I grew up with her name ringing in my ears, I had never realized what a badass woman I had been serenading.

So… when Isabel Parra asks Valentina for help, she is not calling upon some spiritual force to come give her courage and reassurance, as I imagined. She doesn’t expect support from the heavens above; she is asking a woman who has flown to space and back to affirm that there is no such thing as heaven at all. Isabel asks a female powerhouse to come back her up in her attempt to debunk the threats and lies of the religious zealots she sees around her.

Finding out about the true meaning of this song made me look into the lives of those who wrote and sung them. I read about Violeta Parra, Isabel’s mother, who actually wrote this song and sung it herself with more verses than the version included above, which is the one I grew up listening to.

Violeta, who wrote on of my all time favorite songs Gracias a la Vida (I give thanks to life) ironically took her own life about a year after it was released. I guess Valentina didn’t answer her question about heaven and in the end, Violeta couldn’t wait any longer to find out for herself…

Mind Cleanup – 2015 overview

Happy new year everyone! Hope you had a good transition from old to new and that you are ready for what 2016 has in store for you. If you’re not ready yet, you will have another chance to start with a clean slate soon, when the new year starts according to the Chinese (goodbye sheep, hello monkey!).

So, using my new mind cleanup tool, I want to glance back on 2015.

emoji happy.pngUppers

  • My current job gives me such a strong feeling of belonging that I can’t imagine ever having felt insecure about the decision to apply (which I totally did)
  • I am so lucky with my bf, who’s love I never doubt, even (especially?) when he says I’m an idiot (because it’s usually exactly what I needed to hear on that particular moment).
  • Climate agreement achieved!

emoji disappointed.pngDowners

  • My parents’ dog was hit by a car and died
  • My family can no longer be together in the same house. All though the decision of the family members in question to take no more shit from each other and just deny the other’s existence has brought some peace into the equation, it is a very sad status quo for many of us; my father in particular.
  • Terror & mass-shootings have become matters of “When” rather than “If”.
  • The hypocritical and nearsighted response of the Western world to the Paris attacks, completely ignoring the equally real suffering, pain and losses of life elsewhere bummed me out big time.
  • The Dutch soccer team did not manage to qualify for the European Championships, despite reaching the final in the World Championship 2 years prior.

emoji SeeNoEvil.pngThings I tried to ignore

  • Everything Trump
  • Bruce’s transition to Caitlyn and the world’s revelry about this
  • I-am-this-and-that declarations on social media.
  • The guilt I feel about my ecological footprint
  • My laundry

emoji music.pngMusic related thoughts

  • I still think it’s a pity Grooveshark quit and do not feel Spotify fully fulfills my musical needs.
  • There is a lot of pretty awesome sounding electronic music being made these days! To name a few: C2C, EZA, Jarryd James, Låpsley, Alt-J, Oh Wonder.
  • Ariana Grande is an amazing singer and much more talented than I was prepared to admit, until I saw this.
  • Adele’s comeback was so ginormous when it comes to view counts and online viralcy that the actual music never really lived up to it for me. She’s incredibly sweet and charming and I love that she is part of  current day music, but I definitely don’t have her album on re-play.

emoji lightbulb 2.pngEpiphanies

  • Rugby is really fun to watch!
  • If I can’t kill and prepare an animal myself, I should become a vegetarian.
  • I am a privileged person. I don’t need to feel guilty about this but consciousness is vital.
  • It’s not always up to me to solve conflicts between people. Even more so, removing myself from the equation as self-appointed mediator can actually be the solution in some cases.
  • I am not an atheist in the sense that I believe what has been scientifically proven. I leave room for spiritual ideas and am willing to admit that science is also “just a theory” in many senses. However, I am very strongly nonreligious. Stronger even, I am anti religious, unpopular as it may be to say so.
  • Blaming DNA for any shitty traits you (or I) may have is a poor excuse and does not give you permission to be an asshole (or a drunk or whatever).
  • Doing a month long a-blog-a-day challenge is actually really hard.

emoji sunrise.pngEpic moments

  • Summer with my brothers and kids
  • Learning how to dive and becoming PADI open water certified
  • The opening of the Engelandvaardersmuseum in Noordwijk

emoji paella.pngEpicureous 

  • I have a shrimp allergy and I’m sick of it.
  • Couscous tastes so much better the next day!
  • Peanut butter cups are actually very easy to make and, imo better than the supermarket kind.
  • I met a Canadian girl during a food tour in Ljubljana (amazing city btw) who, when I asked what the difference between lager and pilsner is, illustrated this with some common knowledge from “back home”: Lager is like having sex in a canoe; it’s fucking close to water.
  • I really don’t like potatoes.

emoji hourglass.pngEpilogue

  • 2016 is going to be awesome, have a good one!

A very cathartic weekend to you

By Marco De Angelis
By Marco De Angelis : Terror’s curtain of death spreads

How do you react to terror? A great part of me wants to give them as little attention as possible. They do not deserve my tears. I will not admit I am afraid. I will not let hate bleed into my heart, even though its poison is all around me. On the other hand I do not want to become indifferent. I want to feel and see and know it all, even though it is  so very tempting to close my eyes and (try to) forget.

The thing that keeps poking Mr Cynic awake in my mind every few minutes is the “pray for Paris”-campagne so many are supporting online. I appreciate its intention, but all the while I think: What good will THAT do??

By Marco di Angelis : The difficult path of tolerance.
By Marco di Angelis : The difficult path of tolerance.

Why pray? Religion is partly what got us into this mess! What do you think god is going to do about it anyway? He stood by while it happened and now you ask him to… to what? To heal the wounds? To give us the strength to carry on? You don’t need someone to GIVE you strength, you already have it. What you need is a kick up the ass! Or a hug… yes, maybe a hug is better…

And while we’re at it, why are you only praying for Paris? Shit is hitting the fan all over the place. If you think prayer is the solution, pray for Beirut too! Pray for the airplane victims in Egypt, pray for Baghdad, pray for Thailand. Hell, I don’t even know half of the places this stuff is going on…

So don’t fold your hands and trust some almighty cloud dweller to fix this mess. It’s up to you and me. Don’t let your thoughts be led by fear or hate. Do you feel any negativity towards your hijab wearing neighbor? Check yourself: what is this feeling based on; have you every actually spoken with her? Give it a try! Or just throw a smile in there. It won’t fix the world, but it might steer us away from this self fulfilling prophecy. It’s a small and easy gesture and I assure you it will do more good than your bedside prayer.

Also, let’s stop calling that group of hateful cutthroats “Islamic State”. They do not deserve to be acknowledged by this name. They are neither worthy muslims nor do they have or deserve an actual state. They are the Daesh. If there were a way to acknowledge them less, I would.

I don’t feel like predicting the future right now or finding any justification for last night. I clearly have no solutions for this either. So yes, this blog may have been a pretty futile undertaking all together and I apologize if you feel it was a waste of your time. I guess this is what they call catharsis.

Righteousness with a vengeance

Newschannel Euronews has an item they show in between programs called “no comment“. It always shows images of some event but with no commentary. No translation. No explanation. Just images. For a couple of minutes you get to decide what is going on and if you think that’s OK or not. I always thought it was kind of cool. Perhaps it’s the closest you can get to objective journalism.

If the internet taught me anything though, it is that there is no such thing as “the truth”, nor is anybody ever completely impartial. The fact that the camera is pointing this way and not that can change the whole story. I try to be conscious of this fact when I read / watch any narrative.

This morning however, the internet gave me a shocker when I encountered the image seen below, among the likes of one of my FB friends. It really took me a while to process what I was seeing and reading and my initial reaction was anger. I asked the person who had liked the image (and he’s a family member, for crying out loud!) if he really believed this to be true. I asked him this, with the intention of deleting him from my account and from my life if he declared to my (cyber)face that he stood behind this statement.

FB Jews

I felt offended. Personally. I felt the legacy of my grandparents was being spat on and I couldn’t believe people were giving such a message a thumbs up. I felt it was unfair to hold me accountable for something that happened long before I was born. I felt it was wrong to put the Nazi horrors in the same sentence with what is happening in Palestine as if these things are somehow related. I hated the fact that I was being asked to disagree with Germans killing jews but to condone jews killing muslims (or vice versa for that matter).

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I am trying to see if I can find the nuance in there somewhere, but I’m finding it quite difficult. All I can come up with is that I do understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves. My inner Ghandi however keeps popping out and poking at me with his walking stick and repeating his famous quote like a mantra:

eye_for_eye_500

UPDATE: Nuance found! I also decided to change the title of this blog and share a bit of the discussion I had on FB with the people that posted the controversial image.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually, and I still feel that the way this South African jewish organization formulated their message was way too strong., -and I can’t believe I am actually going to admit it,- BUT, I do understand where they were coming from now.

In their very elaborate response to my angry, slightly defensive rant, they asked me to bare two things in mind:

1. The Allies were fighting the German/Italian/Japanese Axis not because of what Hitler was doing to the Jews but because they were invading other countries.
2. The incredibly brave individuals who put their lives on the line to save Jews during the Holocaust were a minuscule minority.

I can’t deny any of this. It’s painful and it’s true.

The thing is, that I actually do believe that the world stood by and watched atrocities happen for way too long. Individuals breathed a sigh of relief as the horrors passed by their front doors (in other words, they were not jewish) and politicians dared not speak up and risk turning up on the losing end.

The world was stunned, like a deer in headlights. There was no protocol for this. No precedents or lessons learnt from previous occurrences that we could fall back on. We were slow to act. There must have been denial and heaps of mixed messages, making it so difficult to take a strong stand for the masses.

So yes, that surviving jews held grudges for the world’s passiveness: I get it… We didn’t step up until the Nazis started making life difficult for the rest of us, the non-jews. That’s offensive and no apology or compensation will ever mend those wounds.

But I don’t see us giving the Tutsi’s in Rwanda a free pass, nor have I heard them ask for one (or have they…? not even sure about that one, as the world cared even less about what happened to them than the jews’ ordeal and I haven’t really heard of them since)…

Another thing that has been bugging me is how this statement is not about the world not allowing jews to stand up for themselves. This whole image, without mentioning it ONCE, is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I always struggle with political correctness here. Can you use Jew as a synonym for Israeli? I can imagine there are many jews that would disagree. Or non jews, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I know quite a few muslims that have no issues with jews or their faith, but do whole heartedly dislike Israelis. And then there are those referred to as zionists, who are the one’s that believe in and actually persue “the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland

So in that sense, the first sentence in the image above refers to jews, but the second one refers to Israeli’s and more specifically, the zionists who are trying to establish their so called homeland on somebody else’s homeland.

So my conclusion is, I get it, but I still don’t think it’s OK at all…. but feel free to disagree!

It’s black and white.

The other day my comet friend from Bangladesh introduced me to the primal zodiac chart and I was totally blown away by how accurate it was.

skunk4
I checked it for every person I could think of and must admit it wasn’t so right for everyone I looked up, but I am over the moon about the description of my own primal zodiac sign, which happens to be a skunk. According to this particular website:

Skunks are witty and tend to have a somewhat dark sense of humor. They find reality far more intriguing than absurdity and can find humor where others can only see tragedy. They are not morose, but observant. They have good instincts and trust their senses, though they don’t pay much attention to anything beyond their momentary point of view. Skunks only look forward, never back. They are not sentimental and don’t dwell on the past. They are far more concerned with what’s around the corner than what they’ve left behind. Some people consider them selfish because of this, but in truth Skunks just want to be left alone to do what they think is best and usually extend others this same courtesy.

Fill in my name wherever it says “Skunk” and you’re right in all senses. And what maybe blew me away the most was the description about the Skunk’s career path:

It is not unusual for members of this sign to aspire to careers in politics in their youths, as they are highly aware of how badly the world needs a straightforward idealist such as themselves. It is unusual, though, for them to stick with this aspiration after becoming disenfranchised by the bickering and inefficiency inherent in any political system. Skunks would rather forge a path through the darkest jungle alone than be forced to play someone else’s game. This is true for corporate life as well, though Skunks are not nearly as likely to be emotionally involved in the success of a company as they are in the direction of their state, country, or the world at large.

shutterstock_127855349Hahahaha, that is literally how my career aspirations shifted as I grew older. Pretty bloody awesome…

I did try to read the description of other signs as well and tried to see if it was all written in such a general fashion that it always applied to anyone. I don’t think this is the case, but I must admit the first one I read was my own and I was pretty much sold from there on.

Skeptic as I may be, astrology always fascinated me. The probability of the alignment of the stars on the day you were born influencing your very being goes against all rationality… and yet I am always compelled to read into these matters. A big part of me says it’s absolute rubbish and yet, it does hit the mark quite often, doesn’t it?

And don’t we all like to believe the universe revolves around us, or is that just the self centered sagittarius in me talking?