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 – Oct ’19

October was an intense month, not only because I spent two weeks across the pond, in Montreal and Quebec City. I also had a couple of new colleagues that needed to learn the ropes and several events that I had volunteered to help organize. All fun, but I must say I’m looking forward to have a bit more wiggle room in my schedule in November.

While putting this mind cleanup together I realized I had way too much to say about many of the topics, so I’m guessing they will turn into blogs of their own. I’ll do my best to keep it short now.

News

Angry Farmers

The beginning of October was marked by farmers protest in the Netherlands. They stormed the political capital, the Hague, in their tractors to protest new laws meant to lower the emission of certain harmful gasses, in particular nitrogen and phosphate.

The protest wasn’t just about the new law. It was actually about rural Netherlands feeling disrespected, disregarded and misunderstood by the media, urban hipsters and big city lawmakers. It was about protecting what we have and fear of losing our identity.

Leidens Ontzet

An event that takes place in my hometown every year on the 3rd of October is Leidens Ontzet. I wrote a blog about it a few years ago, called Hutspot, Herring and Happiness, that you can read for a quick impression.

This year G and I were hijacked by our neighbor, who caught us just before we fell into full couchpotato mode. It was good fun!

It was also the first year that all the bars in the city made use of so called “eco cups”, for which festival goers payed a 1 euro deposit. The cups could be rinsed and refilled and at the end of the day everybody could get back their deposit, if they returned the cup. The city was so much cleaner than in previous years, which makes the eco-cups an absolute success!

Marieke Vervoort (May 10 1979 – Oct 22 2019)

A lady I have a great deal of respect for passed away recently on her own terms. I dedicated a blog to her three years ago, after she won a silver medal at the Rio paralympics. She was quite a controversial figure, due to her strong opinions on euthanasia. May you rest in peace, Marieke.

Family of hermits

It’s not very easy to get lost in the Netherlands. Somehow though, a family managed to stay under the radar for almost a decade “awaiting the end of time”, according to sources.

A lot of confusing and contradictory information has come out since then, all of which I don’t find very interesting, to be honest. It caught the world’s attention though, so that’s why I thought it was worth mentioning here anyway.

Self reflection

Facemask

Any time I visit a tourist destination there are bound to be flocks of Chinese visitors as well. After a run in with such a group I am often left pondering one the origins of and reasons for their protective facemasks. Questions I ask myself:

  • Is it a personal choice, or government advice?
  • Is it meant to be a protection against disease or pollution?
  • Are they wearing them to protect themselves or the people around them?
  • Does it work?

Conversation – view in e-mail

I mostly read my e-mails on my phone, but recently I logged into my mailbox on my PC and was immediately struck by the odd way my e-mails were being presented to me.

The default view for e-mail services these days seems to be the “conversation view”. This means your e-mails aren’t in chronological order anymore, but grouped with other e-mails from the same thread.

I HATE IT! (I changed it, so it’s fine now, no worries)

Why does this option even exist though? And even if there were people that actually prefer such a layout, why make it the default setting and not just an option? It’s super confusing!

Is my extreme dislike for the conversation view in mailboxes a sign that I am getting old? I find it reassuring that I still know how to switch it back, but I have this feeling they’re going to be calling it “the classic view” at some point.

If anybody reading this actually enjoys the conversation view, do let me know. I have decided these people are unicorns (and trolls).

Happy November, all!

Mind Cleanup – “now” vs “before”

There is always one “Mind Cleanup” entry sitting in my drafts folder, where I can dump quick words, quotes and links that I might want to write about later.

What usually happens is that days and weeks go by without me having time or mental space to write. That “now is the moment” feeling seems to be more difficult to find than “before”. I haven’t really pinpointed the exact cause of this or when it changed exactly.

Let’s analyze this right here and now, shall we?

What was different “before”?

  • If I count the amount of blogs I have written over the years I see that 2015 was my most fruitful year, boosted by a Blaugust challenge on the one side and the shock attacks in Paris on the other, followed by the rise of Daesh as a political and cultural phenomenon. It was also the year I started my current job.
  • 2016 was the year I volunteered at the Roskilde Festival for the first time. In November of 2016 my boyfriend and I moved in together. November was also the month the Agent Orange was elected president of the USA.
  • 2017 was a continuation of 2016; dealing with the POTUS situation, finding my feet in my new casa and volunteering at Roskilde Festival again (and writing a ton of stuff about that here).

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Let’s reflect

Wow, that little walk down memory lane actually really cleared things up for me.

The reason 2015 was a very good blog year is because I had just come out of a job that had filled my system with pent up frustration, that I was finally able to vent when I left. I know that anger has always been the best fuel for my writing flow. The Daesh attacks added to the momentum as society around me reacted in all the wrong ways to the traumatic events in Paris and the growing threat in the region.

The US presidential race in 2016 and the resulting election of the Drumpf, was a deflating experience. I think I am still coming to grips with the reality of the situation and haven’t regained my blogging mojo since. It may sound like a sorry excuse, blaming the POTUS for my writer’s block, but it makes total sense to me and I think I’m going to stick with it.

An additional factor is my current living situation. I love my boyfriend and I love the house we have together. The one thing I am NOT happy about in our new house is the placement of my desk. It’s too dark and my desk is a bit too small. This has caused me to spend less time on the web with less chance to get inspired by random stories to spin into blogs.

It’s an easy fix, really. All I have to do is move some furniture around, right? Ah, but you haven’t taken into account the lazy-fart-factor! Also, I don’t think I have really admitted how much the desk situation really bothers me until now…

So, the rest of this blog consists of random words and themes that I once jotted down to maybe address in a future mind-cleanup-blog. All though a lot of it has gotten old or is still way too complicated for my current brainspace I have decided to just share them with you, without any further editing:

Newsy Stuff

emoji reading newspaper-smiley

  • Bizarre wildfires in Greece, locals blame authorities
    •  Why would you want to find someone to blame for this?
  • Nicaragua riots!
    • Will Ortega allow history to depict him as a brutal dictator, like the one he once fought to replace?
  • Stef Blok – Dutch minister of foreign affairs and royal ass-wipe
    • Made “insensitive remarks” earlier this year and somehow didn’t lose his job
    • Worst part: I think he doesn’t even realize how much harm he can do with casually calling Suriname a “failed state” and ruling out the possibility of different ethnicities ever living together in peace.
    • Shame is what I feel. Another win for the racists and bigots.
  • Zwarte Piet discussion in the Netherlands
    • exhausting discussion, but I will not back down for my opinion.
    • I am losing friends over my anti-Black Pete stance (or Facebook friends… not really friends, I guess)
    • It’s an open wound in our society and it’s starting to fester. I say; chop off the limb and be done with it!
  • Kavanaugh debacle
    • Typical frat boy in a grown up body.
    • What I hate most about him (and his kind):  the aura of entitlement.
    • Ridiculous TV trial.
    • Feels like the nail in the coffin of US credibility.
  • Brazil elections
    • What’s up with this twisted fascination / longing that Latin America has for dictatorial type leaders?

Music

emoji music

Music I’m into right now:

 

Greeting St Peter

People who died over the last few months and have made the world a little less beautiful because of it:

  • Tante Djirah
    • my great-aunt. And great she was. Pure goodness.
    • Love her and miss her!
  • Aretha Franklin
    • RESPECT.
  • Kofi Anan
    • I grew up with him at the head of the UN.
    • He was a symbol of eloquence and thoughtfulness.
    • Seeing and hearing him speak reaffirms my belief that political correctness is a virtue and is never synonymous to dishonesty.

 

Firing up my soul force

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.

quote wars Enoch Powell

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.

To be continued!

Three historic dinners

Who in history would you dine with?

This question was asked (and answered) in last week’s post on “Why evolution is true”-blog.

I started coming up with a couple of names, but got lost in semantics at some point. I mean, I think most people would answer that question by naming interesting characters they would like to have a chat with… right?

But the question is “who would you dine with?”

So then I ask myself, are there people with whom the specific setting of a dinner table would make the meeting more worthwhile? I suppose that would be the case with someone from the culinary world. But then again, I don’t care much for cooking myself, so I wouldn’t know what to ask a top chef or dietary guru anyway…

So then I turned it around: Are there people I would love to have a chat with, but would prefer not to do so over dinner?

And I guess there the answer would be yes.

gandhi eating

Take Mahatma Ghandi for example. I can imagine meeting him would be amazingly inspiring. Life changing maybe. But the guy hardly ate at all, and if the food is tasty and plentiful (like Indian food can be) I tend to eat like an absolute pig. The food would just make me look like a shitty individual and make me feel so self-conscious that any chances I had of saying something smart would’ve evaporated in seconds. Just like the food placed in front of me.

Or what about Stephen Hawking; super duper interesting guy, who I’d be super honored to meet. But over dinner?? I think I might have to pass on that one… Or actually no, I think he would have to.

And then there’s Donald Trump and his off putting dietary preferences. But I’m actually not really worried about this one, because I would never really consider putting his name on my dinner invitation…

I asked my boyfriend just now who he would invite and he actually didn’t have to think very long. His answers: Aleister Crowley, Copernicus and Michelangelo. He didn’t mind not speaking their exact languages and was sure he would find a way… He’s so much braver in these things than I am. 😛

So, I’ve probably given this way too much thought, but here goes:

 

Mary Magdalene

I was named after the very first woman, according to most mainstream Christian sources, Eve. A lot of women came and went after that but none has been so controversial as Mary Magdalene. I am not a religious person myself, but I do believe that many of the events described in the bible and other holy scriptures are based on true events and historical figures.

mystery-images-0-ivanov-38_1008_post_media_1VKB-998x734

I can imagine a visionary man named Jesus of Nazareth walked this earth at some point and I can imagine he did not stay single. I can imagine Mary Magdalene was his spouse and I can imagine that she was demonized after Jesus’ death for all sorts of reasons, earning her the title of “prostitute” in many tellings.

I would love to hear her side of the story. Break some bread, drink some wine, you know how it goes…

 

Sylvana Simons

Another demonized woman. I have written about Ms Simons and her tragic position in Dutch society in previous blogs. Cruel jokes and racist remarks are still part of her daily life, proving her point that Dutch society has something rotten at its core but not really getting her anywhere close to fixing it.

sylvanabuitenhof

She still fascinates me. Or rather, the fact that she has managed to get nearly every single Dutchman and -woman to dislike her, fascinates me. I have done my research and am no longer completely in the dark as to why and how this situation has come to be, but I would still love to look her in the eye and hear her out. Over dinner, sure.

 

Mercedes Sosa

La negra, which translates to “the black woman”. To most of us, she would not be considered to be black at all. It is actually a very common nickname given to those  friends and family members in not-so-black circles that have slightly darker or thicker hair or a slightly darker skin.

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I have written about Mercedes Sosa in several of my music related blog posts. Her voice just never ceases to amaze me. The chills she manages to send down my spine, every. single. time. can not be ignored. I love her.

Her death was a slow process that happened in plain sight. She suffered from a parasitic disease called Chagas; every backpacker’s worst nightmare. As her body lost its strength so did her voice, all though she sang and recorded until the very end.

I don’t know what I would say to her if I had the chance to raise her from the dead and enjoy a meal with her. I would just want her to feel my appreciation for her. I don’t really know that much about her nor feel I need to. She is not even human to me. She is just that voice.

Yeah I know, sitting at a table with her would be super awkward…

So there you have it. Three dinners. Three women. Two dead. I’m ready!

Hutspot, herring and happiness!

It’s the fourth day of Blogtober and I have published a blog only once (but this will be two, as soon as I press the button).

A bad start? Maybe.

Leiden-geuzen

But I have a good excuse. I live in a Dutch town called Leiden, which explodes every year around the 3rd of October, when the siege and relief of the city is commemorated and celebrated. It’s a actually a very interesting history that you can read more about here.

The 3 October festival is something kids and grownups from Leiden and surroundings save up for all year in every sense. People go CRAZY!

There is a huge funfair with rides and activities throughout the city center. Several parades take place, food of all shapes and sizes are on sale and a big fireworks show signals the end. The traditional dishes, for historical reasons, are herring on white bread and “hutspot”, which is a dish made of mashed potatoes, carrots, onions and a sort of beef stew.

masher.jpg
A masher; kitchen tool to mash potatoes with.

This year we celebrated by eating hutspot in our new neighborhood. About a dozen volunteers had made their take on the meal and a jury of local restaurant chefs decided which version would take home the golden “masher”. The winner ended up being an adventurous neighbor that decided to flavor the hutspot up with some asian spices.  Yummy!

Besides being a super handsome and historically interesting city, Leiden also has the oldest University of the country, which the city was gifted by Prince William of Orange for the city’s perseverance, suffering and bravery during the Spanish sieges in the 16th century.

For students and outsiders, the 3 October festival is something they love to hate and hate to love. Most straight out hate it and flee the city, as the University closes its doors during these days anyhow.

kermis leiden.jpg

After having learned the hard way that trying to get from A to B was futile during these two days of local insanity, I embraced the celebration and am now a big fan, which is actually surprising considering I am not a drinker and the whole city is completely WASTEDDDDD for two whole days.

So, I am in doubt if I should recommend coming to Leiden during the beginning of October or not… In the end it’s actually about personal preferences. You have to be able to see and hear the beauty of it all, amidst rowdy crowds, flashing lights, annoyingly repetitive funfair music (and all other types of music) and stale beer. I love it!

Read more about the festival here.

What to do with our VOC heritage?

I was born and currently live in the Netherlands.

According to IMF’s List of Countries by Projected GDP in 2016, my country ranks 17th and is therefore considered to be rich.

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.Facts-about-the-Netherlands.jpg

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

*facepalm*

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?