Mind Cleanup – August 2019

DEMOCRACY NEWS

On August 30th NY Times’ the Daily podcast discussed the political mayhem in Britain and Italy and pointed out how in both countries there is a power struggle going on. The two opposing sides of both conflicts are accusing the other of being un-democratic.

I thought this was interesting, as Italy and Britain are quite different, politically speaking. The things they have in common, being democracy and populism (and perhaps immigration-related issues) apply to many other countries as well, so it’s interesting to see how this all plays out and what lessons can be learned from it.

The situation in Britain is obviously Brexit related. Boris Johnson’s dropped a bombshell earlier this month when he announced he was going to suspend parliament. Limiting the amount of time to debate Brexit could increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, which for some reason is what Boris Johnson seems to want more than anything….

Michael Barbaro sums the situation in Britain up:

So Johnson is saying, you’re calling it undemocratic for me to block Parliament’s ability to do my job, but I say it’s undemocratic for Parliament to get in the way of me realizing what the people voted directly for, which is Brexit.

In Italy the situation is a little different. Matteo Salvini, a popular and populist politician stepped down as interior minister, collapsing the government he was a part of. Presumably he was gambling on the idea that new elections would result in a larger majority for his party and thus, catapulting him to the very top position of government.

His plan backfired though.

With Salvini out of the way, the remaining political parties struck an unlikely deal to form a new government. With that, they avoided having to go through new elections)

Katrin Bennhold says:

His opponents hope that this will basically reduce his popularity and that, come the next election — which is formally scheduled in three years — he won’t be as powerful and popular as he is now. Of course, there are a lot of wild cards in this, because his narrative, of course, is the establishment is afraid of the people. The establishment is afraid of new elections. The establishment is afraid of democracy. That is what Matteo Salvini would say.
(…)
So Parliament would say they did this to save Italian democracy, but another way of looking at it is that they saved themselves.

Not particularly cheerful news, but I thought it was an interesting comparison…

MUSIC

Rosalia’s newest song is so simple and maybe even on the cheesy side but it has definitely been stuck in my mind for days.

MOVIES / TV

  • I watched the Frankenstein Chronicles and really enjoyed it. I must admit the only reason I clicked play in the first place is because I saw Sean Bean. He is an awesome actor. On the downside: I am getting tired of these unsatisfactory endings to series…
  • I watched Venom and thought it was kind of meh.
  • A movie I have NOT yet watched is the new Lion King movie. I am still wondering if I should… I’ve heard the graphics are awesome, but I am still ultra fan of the original and kind of scared of breaking the magic.

EPICURIOUS – Tea edition

My new favorite tea is the Pukka tea – elderberry echinacea. I love the smell, I love the tangy sweetness and I love the color!

Who won the month?

I have a little sidewalk garden thing going on in front of my house.

Sidewalk gardening – spring edition

Someday I hope to have a long row of large and happy sunflowers in bloom there every summer and all sorts of other smaller plants as well, providing food and shelter for insects, spiders and birds.

Sunflowers in my windowsill, preparing for the outside world

This is my third summer in this house and it’s starting to look pretty good.

That is, everything but my sunflowers… The gushes of wind that suck through my street just snap the sunflowers’ long stems in half. The couple of sunflowers I have left, are true heroes though.

Sunflower buddies

They were blown to the ground but decided this was no reason to give up. They just kept on lifting their heads back up and are now even starting to bloom. The metaphors, life-lessons and hashtags I could take from this are endless. A round of applause for my little sunflowers that could!

This guy was on the ground, face down a couple of weeks ago, but he’s a trooper!

SELF REFLECTION

  1. What are you bad at and how does that influence your life?
    When I’m tired some of my most basic functions stop working, such as words and decisions. I can not word and I can not decision, when tired. It influences my life particularly when at a crossroads I can’t make up my mind and I can’t really explain what is making it hard.
  2. What type of worker are you?
    Forgetful and chaotic, but constantly coming up with new ways to help me tackle that. I am still deciding if having an employer that lets me do that is actually good for me or not.
  3. How much sleep do you need?
    I am very good at sleeping. If at all possible, I will make sure to get a solid eight hours. I do well with seven hours. Six is iffy. If I get any less, I stop doing the words and the decisions.
  4. Are you rich?
    It depends on who you ask.
    My family is pretty much ok financially. Buying a house is within my reach. I can eat out whenever I want.
    What I CAN’T do: have a horse; travel (far) more than once a year; buy a house in the old center of Leiden,
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Mind Cleanup – 2019

My last Mind Cleanup blog dates back to October 2018. They used to be a regular thing and I had some fixed categories I could choose from, to help my cleaning session along, which I have included below (mostly to help me write the next one).

Mind Cleanup Categories:

  • NEWS
  • MUSIC
  • MOVIES / TV
  • FOOD
  • SELF REFLECTION
  • LOOKY HERE (pages, blogs or info you recommend others to check out)
  • THUMBS UP
  • THUMBS DOWN
  • EPIPHANIES

I am also thinking of adding one more category honoring a person, organization or story that “won the month”. This idea is inspired by Fivedotoh.com’s Fandango, who in turn was inspired by MSNBC’s Joy Reid (Who Won the Week).

So, if I were to do a quick mind cleanup of the first half of 2019, it might look a bit like this:

NEWS – people-on-the-streets edition

  • France in turmoil with yellow vest movement taking to the streets to express anger towards status quo. The 26 minute documentary below, explains what sparked it and what fuels it:
  • Venezuelan turmoil is so very different from the anger in France. And at the same time, it’s very much the same.
  • A heart-mending reaction to the sorrow felt after the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand:

MUSIC

Since it dropped I have been listening to songs from India Arie’s new album, which includes this meaningful gem:

Who won the first half of 2019?

  • My big bro had a little girl in March. Her name is Jasmina and I suppose you could say she is a winner for landing in a family with my brother and his awesome girlfriend. In all truth I think it is my brother who is actually the true winner in this equation.
  • Also, Boris Johnson did some big time winning and is now prime minister of the UK. Boo to that, but do check out John Oliver’s take on his persona.

Self reflection

Let me answer one question from my list of 195 questions:

What is a controversial opinion you have?

I am not a fan of Oprah’s. Actually she kind of annoys me (particularly her hysteric behavior when she enters a room). There, I said it.

Epilogue

  • I intend to pick up the habit once again of doing a mind cleanup blog every month.
  • Join me if you like and ping back to me when you do!

Venezuela

This is Blog 22 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Venezuela

…and speaking of uprisings

Have you heard about the crazy revolt / coup episode that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is going through?

As a first year Latin American Studies student, back in 2004, I admit being excited about the leftist wind that was blowing through the South American continent, with Hugo Chavez leading the way.

Chavez’ speech to the United Nations in 2006 was different from anything we had ever seen. It was bold and dramatic. It was actually quite refreshing to hear a Latin American leader choose his own path and turn down the American “helping hand” and all the strings that came with it.

He was a political clown and a populist big spender. Chavez’ untimely death is probably the best thing that happened to him and his legacy. His passing marked the end of an era and inserted a page break in the book of Venezuelan history.

The country was already in a pretty brittle state when he handed it over to his buddy, Nicolas Maduro. That the cracks only burst under Maduro’s watch may have you believe it was the current president’s incompetence that caused the vase that was the Venezuelan economy to shatter.

Most experts are not letting Chavez off the hook though. They continue to stress that it was Hugo Chavez that laid the foundations for the current crisis and that his death should not blurry that fact.

Loyalists say international sanctions and US sabotage is what actually brought his socialist initiatives to their knees. Some conspiracy theorists even suggest the colon cancer that ultimately killed him, was no coincidence either…

To be honest, I don’t know much about how economics work and if one single person can be held accountable for the sad state the country is in. There is no doubt that the country is hurting greatly though. People are leaving the country, choosing a life of uncertainty abroad over starvation at home.

That Nicolas Maduro continues to deny the true state his country is in and seems completely unwilling to let go of power, is criminal. As much as I dislike Nicolas Maduro though and would love to see him go, I also struggle to see this path Juan Guaidó is going down as the right one…

He may very well be a good man, maybe even an honest one. Whoever he is and whatever his intentions may be, I don’t believe he is actually in charge of the course he is currently on. He is definitely being pushed by foreign forces that, imho, should not be getting involved (again).

I wonder what Simon Bolivar (the guy they reference in the country’s official name) would have to say about all of this ?

“Damned be the soldier that turns his weapon on his own people”

Oikophobia

The Netherlands had provincial elections earlier this month, with unexpected results. Right wing populist party FvD won 13 of the 75 available senate seats, to all appearances out of nowhere.

In all truth I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was, taking my last five blogs into consideration… But I was. I really didn’t see this coming, at all.

Apparently, my social bubble only consists of people who are on my side of the political spectrum and the ones that are not, no longer voice their opinions when I am in the room.

I am still ruminating on the why’s and how’s of all this, but in the meantime I would like to focus on something Thierry Baudet said in his victory speech (and repeated and explained in this interview).

In the middle of his (slightly bizar) tirade, he said the following:

It is pure oikophobia! Pure self hate.

It is a guilt complex, that apparently needs a way out. […] That arrogance, ladies and gentlemen, friends, that stupidity is what they were punished for today.

In this specific segment of his speech, he was referring to recent climate reports and political measures that are being taken to reduce our ecological impact, or in his own words “climate sorcery”.

Image: Vincent Jannink / ANP / AFP)

I realize that I am very much on the defense here. He’s talking about me. I am one of those self-hating oikophobes that believes we should repent and change our habits, traditions and culture. I even believe in climate change! I’m radical like that.

Self-hater in the house

The thing is that I can’t deny I am extremely critical of my country.

Take our role in global slave trade, for example. Small a nation as we are, our part in this slice of history was substantial and this is something we are only just starting to see as anything other than “good business”. I believe our apologies for this should be explicit and generous.

When it comes to Dutch governance in our former colonies, I guess we weren’t the worst in the region, but it was still nothing to boast about. Our position in the top twenty of wealthiest countries was achieved on the backs of others. I realize we can not turn back time but I do feel we can be more honest about this in our education system and history teachings.

Our cuisine is bland and unexciting, our landscape is basically flat-earther-heaven, our favorite pastime is complaining and I think the way we celebrate carnaval is the stupidest on the planet.

Heck, I’ve even been bashing our national anthem and motto on this very blog.

So yes, I realize that people that voted for mr Baudet were basically voting against me and my way of thinking.

Self-critique is not self-hate

The diagnosis Mr Baudet has given me and my country is oikophobia. He even wrote a book with that very title, apparently…

In short oikophobia is a word based on the Greek word “oikos”, meaning home or household. In political context it is used to describe those that criticize their own culture and heritage and defend or praise cultures outside of their own.

What bugs me is the fact that my criticism and my wish for us to improve as a nation is seen as “hateful” and “disloyal” somehow. That sentiment feels so foreign to me. The Dutch have never feared the mirror nor shunned an argument.

When did we turn into cowards? How is it that I don’t know a single person that voted for this guy? Why can’t we talk about shit anymore?

The fact that I hold my country to a high standard is because I am in fact an oikophile, not an oikophobe!

Black Pete & Politics

Since my first post about the “Black Pete debate” in 2013, things have not gotten any better. This week protesters from both sides of the debate were arrested for instigating violence and it looks like this was only the beginning.

Actually, the real beginning of when Black Pete entered the political arena was years ago. 

Black Pete & the UN

I remember that I was kind of confused when I heard the United Nations was asking questions about every Dutch persons favorite holiday. This was in 2013 and I don’t remember ever having questioned anything related to Sinterklaas until then. Maybe I did, but if so then it must have been in a dismissive fashion, laughing it off with a “yeah, I guess it is a bit weird” kind of remark. But as I said, I don’t remember ever feeling guilty about celebrating Sinterklaas or seeing my friends paint their faces black to scare their nephews and nieces at the family celebration.

When the world started pointing fingers at us, making it official when the UN report was thrown in our faces in 2015, I was one of the first to say that it was a ridiculous waste of time and resources. Why would the United Nations have an opinion about something so harmless and so exclusively Dutch (and let’s face it, we are a puny country). And how could they possibly be against it??

It wasn’t the UN report itself that changed my mind (which I don’t think I ever actually read). It was my fellow countrymen. Hearing and reading their reactions to being called “racist” convinced me at once that that was precisely what we had been all along, and I was SHOCKED by the extent of it.

All though I haven’t lived anywhere but the Netherlands since my teenage years I suddenly felt like an outsider again. 

Since that moment I have made a vow to myself to never hold back my words about this topic, as I noticed that friends with similar opinions as mine were doing precisely that. This meant that it was only the knowingly racist and the harmfully ignorant that were doing all the talking, which I find unacceptable.

If you want to know how to make the temperature in a room drop from “pleasant” to “icy” in a heartbeat, try bringing up eliminating Black Pete from the Sinterklaas celebration in a room full of Dutch adults. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would be kind of funny… 

Black Pete & Dutch politics

All though the United Nations’ accusing finger did stir up a debate in Dutch society I don’t really recall any of our politicians ever daring to take a stance in any of this.

Instead of expressing disapproval for the harmful atmosphere being created, they just smile and wave like idiots. I imagine they sit in their cars and point at their constituency as they drive by, saying: “Isn’t this nice? The people are really getting involved”.

All comments made in public have been luke warm and evasive, with the exception of one horrible occasion 2 years ago, which I wish never happened, but does explain why other politicians hadn’t ventured into the topic until (and since) then…

Our prime minister made a complete and utter fool of himself when he was asked about Black Pete at an international summit, by saying something along the lines of “Black Pete is Black, there is nothing I can do about that, since his name is, after all, Black Pete and not Green Pete or Brown Pete”.

If you are into cringe-worthy English and oblivious white men saying blatantly racist things, go ahead and press play below (skip to 1:10 and stick around until the very end if you are not afraid to bleed from your eyes, ears and/or heart).

Yepp, he actually said that (and on behalf of the good half of the country, my apologies).

As you can imagine, his leadership (or lack there of) has done us very little good. Events in recent days have demonstrated how wounds will fester if they are not tended to properly. 

Once again, peaceful protests were blocked by nimwits and hooligans, ending in senseless violence and 60 arrests throughout the country. Our prime minister said something along the lines of “there were fine people on both sides” and then washed his hands in innocence.

He also stated that the problem is one society needs to fix on its own and that politics can play no role in it.

So, as you can see, the wounds in Dutch society are not only pungent and painful, it seems we are now heading towards a zombie apocalypse. We need to start cutting off some limbs if we want to survive.

I watched Evil Dead. I know what to do. 

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).

mirror
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.

 

Mind Cleanup

We are nearing the year’s halfway-point, which is a good time to take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture that is coming to life. We are the painters. What are we creating?

emoji reading newspaper-smiley

Thanks for the coffee, Yemen.

Amsterdam will be hosting the biggest coffee convention, World of Coffee, later this month. According to some accounts, coffee’s origins lie in Yemen. As one of the most troubled (to put it mildly) countries in the world, many western countries (including the Netherlands) provide Yemen with aid in all sorts of ways.

Earlier this week, an article in Dutch newspaper het Parool was brought to my attention that described the troublesome trip that Yemeni coffee farmers had made to the embassy in Jordan, in order to be able to attend the coffee convention. Representing their country and their coffee at such an international event, would not only boost their confidence but perhaps also the production and trade in Yemen. Sadly their visitor’s visa were denied by Dutch authorities. So much for lending a helping hand…

A similar feeling of disappointment and frustration was shared and described well by fellow blogger Glenn Redus in his post When hopeless people keep fighting.

Society of shame through loyalty

Another article from the same newspaper brought me new insights on intercultural communication and how different people from different cultures react to guilt.

The article describes how a child that breaks something in kindergarten is asked “Did you do this” and if the child answers with yes, it is rewarded by not being punished and receives praise for being honest. When the same child applies the lesson from kindergarten at home, a parent from a different culture may expect a different reaction from their child. When a child looks a parent in the face and says “Yes, I broke the vase”, this may be interpreted as shameless, causing the punishment to be more severe instead of less. The “right way” to admit guilt would then perhaps be to lower your head and say nothing… The article proceeds to explain why these are valuable lessons for law enforcers and social workers. It was an angle I had never thought of.

Body language

#worldpeace #bodylanguage #faketan #USA #answeringquestions #smileandwave #dumbblonde

If you had only the hashtags above to go on, what would you think we would be talking about?

I just realized they would apply to the Miss America competition as much as they do to the G7 summit. Adding the “dumb blonde”-hashtag may even refer more to the Drumpf than to any Miss America contestant…

The news about the exclusion of the swimsuit round from future miss America competitions has surely reached most of you..? I don’t think anyone really understands what the point of this decision was but it sure did cause a commotion.

And to summarize the G7 summit (or the G6 + 1 summit, as some have been calling it), all you really need is the legendary picture below.

donald-trump-angela-merkel-g7-summit

mirror

My parents stayed at my place for four days, which was plenty… We had all sorts of constructive and enlightening conversations that will need some following up on at a later stage.

An interesting conversation I had with my dad, was about his brother and sister. My dad was telling me he felt he needed to reach out to them, as they had all dealt with their own personal health issues and he wanted to let them know that he cared. He admitted he was a bit hesitant to do so, as my uncle always “claims to know more than his doctors” and “refuses to follow their advice or take the pills he has been prescribed”. The irony of the fact that this is pretty much a summary of himself, was lost on him at first. When laughingly, I told my boyfriend about this conversation, he said “it’s always the traits you recognize in yourself that annoy you the most”.

I’ve been trying to apply that hypothesis on myself the last few days. There are many things, particularly about my parents that drive me completely up the wall. Which traits of my own am I secretly recognizing in them…? I haven’t figured it out yet, to be honest. Perhaps it’ll resurface in a future mind cleanup.

Yesterday, I made a really simple but surprisingly yummy bulgur-based tabouleh salad, with the ingredients below.

170 bulgur

1 bell pepper

1 red onion

fresh mint

fresh coriander / cilantro

Fresh parsley


Lettuce mix

Gyros pork strips (optional)

You basically just prepare the bulgur, according to instructions on the packet, fry the pork strips (if you choose to include them) and mix all the other ingredients (chopped up, of course) together and voila! A wonderful meal, that I encourage to make “too much” of, as the leftovers make a great take-to-work lunch.

Wow, I just posted a recipe on my blog… Never thought that would happen… LOL.