Mind Cleanup – Summer edition

In Dutch we call this time of year “cucumber time”… I’m not sure if it’s also an expression in English though…

We use it as a way to express the time during summer when nothing really happens and newspapers and TV channels have very little news to report on but still manage to fill the pages and daytime TV with non-news about nothing-really-happening. I guess they call it that because  a cucumber may be a pretty large vegetable, but has hardly any nutritional value as it consists mostly of water. It doesn’t really have much taste eitherOstrich Head Out of Sand

All though in all honesty it’s not true that nothing is happening, is it…? My goodness, so much is happening, it’s actually hard to take in… I feel so small and hopeless in the presence of the “real news” and shamefully admit I’m pretty much in cartoon-style-ostrich-mode. Not proud of it… Working on it… I promise (myself) a more substantial, thought provoking piece next time…

Anyway… September is knocking on the door, which means “the r will be back in the month” (another Dutch expression signalling the end of summer and the return of scarves and warm coats); and it was an Olympic summer!

olympicrings400.png          Olympics          olympicrings400.png

To be honest, us Dutchies were a bit disappointed by Team NL’s results at the Olympics. This feeling stems from the fact that we weren’t able to bring home precisely those medals that we thought we had the best shot at. Ergo, the matches that we were all watching, were actually the ones we weren’t able to cash in on.

Which ones were we counting on?

  • Epke Zonderland
    (fell on his face)
  • Dafne Schippers
    (she did take home silver, but she was so pissed off about it that it felt like she fell on her face too)
  • Yuri van Gelder
    (was sent home for behaving like the bad boy we always knew he was)
  • Ranomi Kromowidjojo
    (others were just faster)
  • Jeroen Dubbeldam
    (crossed the finish line a heartbreaking o.02 seconds late)
  • Hockey
    (if only they gave out points for ball possession (and pretty faces))
  • Judo
    (don’t really know what happened there…)

Which ones did we unexpectedly win?

There were also sports where we didn’t win a medal at all but were still ecstatic about anyhow; For example our gymnast team, who finished seventh and our ever-smiling runner Churandy Martina, who made it to the 200m final for the third Olympics in a row and was just proud and grateful for the gift he had received from the big almighty.

And finally, I guess we were all pretty proud of our royal family.

emoji music           Music           emoji music

As it’s been a pretty warm and sunny week, I feel some dreamy, slow summer songs are in place. I envision a hammock, a cold drink and the absence of to-do lists, and the following songs playing in the background:

JP Cooper

Daniel Gidlund

Axel Flovent

On a different note:

I can’t believe the amount of songs Rihanna is kicking into this world… and this one is so surprising! (and so recognizably co-written by the amazing SIA!!)

Speaking of soundtracks: Every song I’ve heard from the Suicide squad movie has gotten stuck in my head straight away. Worth a listen! Haven’t seen the movie yet though…

Interesting stuff others wrote

Vox

Trump is on the front page of every newspaper, tabloid and what not and for obvious reasons. I felt this article in Vox showed an interesting theory about his brainfarts, though. Some quotes from the article:

Donald Trump is not a conservative — it’s no secret that he came to Republican Party politics after decades as a Democrat. He’s a populist, and so are his core fans.

Trump still hasn’t really learned how to speak conservative. At best, he just repeats key phrases; at worst, he unleashes some mutated monstrosity, like a conservative talking point that had survived and evolved for generations underground.

The problem with treating Donald Trump as the conservative id, though, is that Trump isn’t a conservative. He’s not saying things he believes because he doesn’t know he’s not supposed to say them; he’s saying things he doesn’t believe because he thinks other people do.

Being Woke

Fellow blogger “Being woke” posted a blog on the Burkini ban, that was installed by the mayor of Cannes on the 12th of August, followed by… very little actually. No collective public outrage, very few critical opinion pieces and no sign-carrying feminists on the streets. As the blog painfully points out:

“This ban has not liberated anyone or stopped any kind of “Islamic” extremism. What it has done is stopped women enjoying a swim, provided further ammo for gendered islamophobia and and once again shown the political system does not ask the opinions of those it effects.”

Such ugly choices, being made in France… 😦

 Epilogue

Woah, my blog is really all over the place today…I apologize… which probably means I shouldn’t publish it yet… But I think I’m gonna anyway…

Please let me pretend it’s cucumber time one last time…

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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.

Ugly

What a bizarre day Friday was… I came back from a normal day at work, looking forward to the weekend when a friend asked me if I had heard about the decapitation in France. I hadn’t. I swiped my way through the news and took it all in. Because it wasn’t only France. It was also Tunisia and Kuwait and Somalia, all though the latter hardly made the news. And I caught myself answering my friend that I wasn’t surprised (I even predicted it would happen)… It was ramadan after all and a Friday, so the fanatics were extra pumped after being spoken to by their clerics of choice.

Coexist-cartoon2

After having a quick bite at home, I went to the gym. While I was plodding away on the treadmill I looked at the lady next to me, making her miles without going anywhere. I have seen her many times and we always exchange smiles and friendly greetings in the dressing room. She is old enough to be my mother but she is lean and strong and would probably outrun me any day of the week.

keep-calm-and-turn-a-blind-eye-2She was looking at the TV screen in front of her while working through her routine. It was a news channel. Men with flags. Large guns. Flashing lights from police cars and ambulances. Blood. Moving images of anger and fear, but no sound. Just the pounding of our machines and the encouraging beats of some dance song. I saw her turn the screen in front of her off and continue on in a sort of “Keep calm and carry on” sort of way.

RAF knoopI must admit I consciously chose not to watch the news that evening, even though it was on my mind. On Saturday I woke up and realized it was Veteran’s day in the Netherlands. I had made a point of remembering it this year as I had received a very special gift from an amazing man and second world war veteran the year before. It was a button from his uniform and I had promised I would wear it this day to honor him.

I turned on the TV and saw the preparations for the national parade and the stories of veterans pass by. They were from different generations and had served in different conflicts but they all shared a sense of pride in what they stood for. But there was also guilt, because it was never enough. And recurring pain, physical or mental (or both) because a war leaves scars that never heal.

And I then realized my gym companion didn’t turn the TV off because she was uninterested but because at that particular moment she couldn’t deal with it and had to switch it off. Violence does something to us, as humans. It’s not just a physical wound, it kills something inside us, doesn’t it?

I suspect this is also why people around me seem to be more vocal about the destruction of the ancient buildings and sculptures in Palmyra than about the trail of torture and death IS left on its way there. It’s so difficult to process what is happening there and it’s nearly impossible to find the words to say anything meaningful about it.

Realizing that there are people that can get past that point of repulsion and not only condone these violent acts but become active participants boggles my mind and I hate that it is becoming “just another killing” on the news.

It’s hard because on the one side I want to crawl away into my happy space of denial and just ignore this nasty business. I am helpless in the face of this aggressive cancer. There is no room for reasoning. It’s just ugly.

But to quote the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Making peace with my inner-racist

The mayor of the Dutch city of Rotterdam is an interesting man. Let’s start with the obvious, just to get the elephant out of the room. He was born and raised in Morocco until the age of 15 in a small town in the Nador province. He is a muslim. Even more so, his father was an imam and he himself remains a devout muslim to this day.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, because that is his name, is an incredibly well spoken Dutch politician that has made me nod my head at my tv-screen on several occasions. I wish I could say that his provenance is not what I find most interesting about him. I wish I could say I consider him to be completely “one of us” or that I respect him for and foremost for his qualities as a politician and a person in general … but now that I think about it, every time I am wowed by one of his statements, my amazement is usually intensified, thinking of his background… and when I talk to someone about something I heard him say, I think I do often use words along the lines of “… and that is coming from a man from such-and-such background”. Does that make me a racist? It kind of does, doesn’t it?

Yesterday morning I saw an interview with Mr Aboutaleb on the news, which triggered me to write this blog. He talks about the second generation immigrants that are increasingly finding solace in the more extremist corners of their faith and are considering picking up weapons in armed conflicts elsewhere, to defend these new values they have come to stand for.ahmed_aboutaleb02.jpg

I translated a large part of it and included it below:

You describe young muslims that want to travel abroad to join the fight in conflict zones as people commiting treason, what do you mean by this?

Imagine for example my situation. I came to the Netherlands when I was 15. The Netherlands invested in me for many years, ten thousands of euros in education. I have now reached the point that I can do something for society. For myself and for my parents; especially my parents who have been through a lot to get this far, and then you would say “forget it, I am going somewhere else” and not just that, you are going to do things AGAINST the country that has invested in you. I can’t call it anything but treason.

So you are asking people that turn their backs on our values and the laws of our constitution to hand in their passports. That’s quite a strong statement, isn’t it?

We often organize ceremonies in our municipality, where we hand newcomers their citizenship on behalf of the Dutch State. I always mention that a passport is not just a travel document. It stands for an identity and its core values. And not only that, the values of our country, the laws of our constitution will sometimes need to be defended by force of arms if those values are threatened or the Netherlands are under attack. “If you don’t accept those conditions,” I always say in my speeches, “leave the document here”. And if, after all these years, you find out that these values don’t suit you, be a man and come in next Monday and hand over the passport. This way we don’t need to discuss in the senate who is right and who is wrong.

Aren’t people allowed to have another opinion?

Ofcourse people are allowed to have other opinions. There will always be room for that. I am talking now about people that have reached a point that they are prepared to leave this country, take their wife and kids with them and settle in a feudal system, where everything we have been brought up with, everything we have learned about, is rejected. That is a conscious choice, which is allowed, but be a man about it and come hand in that passport as well. If you reject our constitution, that your passport is linked to, than you obviously don’t want that either.

But isn’t that a bit harsh. Aren’t you bringing problems to other immigrants with this statement, people that do not agree with these minorities?

Absolutely not. You know, what people that are involved in these discussions often don’t understand is that dealing with these minorities, and dealing with them strongly, by for example asking them to hand in their passports, is the best way to protect the 1 million people that are wrongly being associated with this. This is the best protection for me, and the other 999.999 others.

[…]

But is repression the only way?

It’s definitely not the only way. Repression in this case may be a small part of a larger whole, but a very necessary one. The big tasks lie with the municipalities, the local authorities and the mayors to organize this debate, to open the dialogue, which we will be organizing here in Rotterdam at the end of September. Let it be a hard discussion, let’s tear this up because nothing shines without friction.

But if you lay the lines down so tightly, won’t it make it more difficult to have this dialogue?

I have always learned that especially when the lines are clear and tight, people are prepared to talk. I can tell you now, this conversation is going to give reactions of repulsion, it is going to spark angry emails but it will also trigger a lot of support. You can’t be everyone’s friend, as mayor of Rotterdam, and luckily that is not my goal either.

So what you are saying is that if there are certain elements in society, no matter how large or small, that we don’t agree with, that it should be removed…

For starters, I think that if you have consciously decided that you do not want to be a part of the Netherlands, that you should be honest about this. Come out, hand in the passport. But, if you are not willing to do so, if you do this secretly and undermine the values of our society, the consequence is that we, as a society, will isolate you and shut you out. And it is justified for the Dutch government to makes this possible and I stand behind these measures. But do not forget that the whole climate that has been created is very damaging for the 1 million muslims that live here. We must treasure them, hold them close and make them feel included and not judge THEM for the choices of these extremist minorities, because that is one of my largest worries…


An interesting interview… I am convinced that this message would have come across a lot different if any of our kaaskop politicians would have introduced it, but coming from him it becomes more acceptable… right? But where does this leave me? Do I actively try to include my muslim countrymen and make them feel welcome? Should I be doing this more actively, or is “tolerance” enough? I really don’t like that idea… to tolerate is to just barely accept someone’s presence… but only just… that’s not what I want to do…

racist but shhh.jpg

I have been wondering a lot lately about the racism I have in me. If someone were to summarize me in 10 words I don’t think “racist” would be one of the words they would pick, but I admit I do live by certain stereotypes though, just because they make life easier. I have always tried to see every situation from all possible points of view and I’m usually able to find understandable reasons for almost every stance. I seem to be losing my ability to put myself in “the other’s” shoes though. Either that, or the opinions people are standing for are truly becoming more unreasonable and I simply can not follow.  I believe the latter is the case, which doesn’t really make me feel much better…

I have an opinion about many things but I have noticed that when people around me talk about things with a whiff of what I would categorize as racism, I pull back from a conversation. I quickly decide these people are ignorant and that giving them my opinion will only pull me into a tiring discussion that will leave us both annoyed and not an inch further into convincing one another. So why bother?

Well… just the other day I changed my point of view, all though I must admit I haven’t put it into practice yet. My idea revolved around the fact that if I don’t open my mouth and voice my very reasonable, well-informed and moderate ideas (yes, I am full of myself), then the only people talking are the people with extreme (or just plain stupid) ideas. And that’s not good! Especially in these times, with tension building all around us and it seems all we are doing is waiting to see who will make that final spark to blow the whole thing up.

I know this new mission of mine will frustrate me. I know I won’t convince 9 out of 10, maybe even 49 out of 50. Maybe I won’t be making any new friends among my co-workers. But I have to try this! I’m giving myself a month to experiment with this and will then report back here on how it went and if I won anyone over to join my team…