Ruffle some feathers

A recent Facebook post from street artist Brave One, brought my attention to the powerful image included below, that was painted on a wall somewhere in Manchester by an artist known as Akse.

Check out more of Akse’s artwork over here

Two faces and a couple of birds, that’s it.

There’s no need to explain who the faces belong to.

What they represent also goes without saying (painfully so).

The image does not depict a conversation that ever took place in real life. But then again… it totally is. A whole history lesson could (should?) be dedicated to that one image.

If you’re already envisioning this art piece as en edgy backdrop for your pensive-look-into-the-horizon instagram pic, don’t bother. The whole area is up for demolition and that specific wall has already been torn down.

If the image doesn’t do it for you, allow the artist himself to give you some context:

The timing of the image undoubtedly has to do with POTUS’ visit to the UK, where he will be meeting up with all sorts of high ranked people, most of whom he has insulted at some point over the last couple of months.

Perhaps the image of that demolition machine working it’s way through his angry face can offer some solace…

Times they are a-changin’

These are the first words I write from my new home. I don’t have Internet yet, only on my phone so uploading this may have to wait… Also, writing without having twenty tabs open in my browser should be interesting. Elaborating and fact checking won’t be happening so. Luckily I did find my external harddrive with a treasure of (slightly nostalgic) music that can keep me company.

Not that I am in need of much company as I share this wonderful new home with my cutiepie boyfriend. I am actually having one of my first evenings alone here and the computer finally lured me in, despite its lack of access to interwebz. my computer was one of the first things I unpacked, but it took me another week or so to find the box with my mouse, which somehow got stuffed in a separate box last minute.

Given the circumstances I fear this particular blog won’t entail much, even though my moods have been quite contemplative lately… Because really, people… what is up with the world?? And I’m not even talking about the US elections. In my country alone there is enough worrying rhetoric being thrown around to sink my heart and raise my pulse on a daily basis. It dumbfounds me (quite literally sometimes).

I have been so annoyed with my inability to express my feelings about all of this… There had been the Sylvana Simons saga, combined with the ridiculously heated Black Pete discussion. There has been the trial against Geert Wilders and the divisive language uttered by newly funded opposition party Denk. And outside our borders: the referendum in Italy; the upcoming elections in France; omnipresent populism ; anti-intellectualism; xenophobia. And oh how my heart goes out to the insanity going down in Syria… All sorts of matters that deserve blogs of their own, if only I found the words.

After thinking it over the last couple of weeks I have come to the conclusion that my word-paralysis stems from the fact that the wrong energy is driving these thoughts. My blogs are usually fuelled by amazement, wonder and not uncommonly annoyance or straight out anger. Anger may not always produce the most poetic of sentences but it does keep the words flowing.

The persistent sentiment now is sadness. Maybe even anxiety. These are such passive energies. Also, I keep coming to the uninspiring conclusion that I just understand so little of it. And I keep waiting for someone to say something that will make this global conundrum make sense, but I am starting to realize…….

…see? There it is again… I don’t even know how to finish that sentence… I am starting to realize there is nothing to realize?  I am starting to realize it just “is what it is”?  I am starting to realize there is no deeper meaning to it all? Boo to those conclusions,  Epi!!

With my personal life all going so peachy it it easy to just retreat into my little cocoon of private bliss. I have juse signed my permanent contract with the company I have been working at for the last two years, giving me more security and slightly better pay. I have a house with three bedrooms and a garden. I am in a beautifully harmonious relationship. I have great friends that I can count on and a family that is going through a surprisingly stable and conflict-free phase.

So, who cares about the rest of the world, right..? Well… I care  that’s bloody who!! I want to care more not less! I want to shake up my fellow countrymen and let them know we are heading down the wrong path. I want to scream out and cry for the state of the world. We can do so much better than this. I can do better goddammit!

*sigh*

…Happy Holidays…

the old development worker

This post was first published in my political analysis corner, but after giving it some more thought I changed it around a bit, split the original blog in two and decided to bring the part about my dad over here, which seems more fitting…

As my father returns to Afghanistan for the so-many-eth time I can see he is tired. He is still doing the job he has done all his life; writing and evaluating development aid projects, always returning with the conclusion that it wasn’t enough; that human greed sabotaged progress once again and that people at the bottom of the food chain have stopped believing they will ever be better off.

Irak 2009 (237)

I got angry with him a couple of months ago, when he rambled on and on about everything that was wrong with mankind, about how all that is good and beautiful in the world is being broken down and trampled on. It takes him several weeks to come down from that cynical cloud each time he returns, which gives us very little time to actually enjoy his company before he heads out again to burden his soul and thoughts with the weight of the world.

It reminded me of when my great aunt, aged 95, lost her son and declared she no longer believed in god, if this was how he treated her and the people she loved. I felt I needed to guide her back to her faith as if this would somehow restore the balance in the world. She was the believer and I the non-believer and that is how it was meant to be.

In the case of my father, he was the one fighting for more funds for development aid and voting on the political parties that most fanatically promoted the re-distribution of wealth, whereas I stood somewhere slightly left of center, being skeptical and calling for a more inclusive system but with a critical eye on unnecessary handouts. I criticized NGO’s and their old fashioned post-colonial attitude of bringing aid and knowledge to the “poor unknowing souls in the third world”. I called my dad paternalistic and labelled him old school. He called me naive and unrealistic.

But now it seems my dad has lost his faith in the sector he has worked in for almost fifty years and that he can’t seem to let go of (or it of him). More than anything he has lost his faith in the Middle East and Afghanistan most of all. He gets so very bitter when he speaks of the endless violence, the politicians sabotaging productive decision making and the corruption that runs through every single institution. I think it is the shamelessness that accompanies it that hurts him most of all.

DSC_0175.JPGOn the one side I wish he would just retire and spend the rest of his days walking through his garden, talking to the cat and taking pictures of butterflies. On the other hand I know it would be the death of him as he is addicted to the feeling of being needed and making a difference.

Even if at the end of the day he feels hardly any progress was made on the issue at hand, he needs to give it his full 100% and maybe a little more. It’s what we love about him and at the same time it is what makes him such a difficult person to be around.

So I guess it’s up to us, the people who know him, to pick out the positive traits he has and give them new life in our thoughts and actions. Perhaps it will even help him during those moments of bitterness that will undoubtedly bubble up from time to time.

SDG’s – tell everyone you know!

There are seventeen SDG’s and you need to know about them.

I know, it made me think of some sort of icky disease at first too, but they’re actually a good thing! The disease may actually be us, but it turns out, we are also the cure.

Looky here:

Spread the word!

PS I’ll be posting some blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals over on my other blog in the coming weeks (I’ve been telling myself this for months now, but this vid was just the kick I needed)

Museum to make the world awesomer

Today was the official opening of the Engelandvaarders museum in an old bunker, once part of the Nazi’s Atlantic wall.  Our jolly king did not let the weather bring his spirits down and had no trouble putting himself second to give the amazing volunteers and veterans that made this museum possible a moment to shine.

Eng vaarders museum Willem opening

All though I might need some more time to come up with a decent blog on this topic, I did want to post this today, also in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.”

You see, this new museum in Noordwijk is both a tribute to those who gathered up all their courage and decided to risk their lives to make freedom possible for themselves and the rest of their countrymen and -women during WWII as it is a reminder to younger generations that every single person can play a role, take a stand and make a change!

As German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

And as far as I’m concerned it’s not any deity that you are accuontable to, it’s all of us. It’s society. The world. Mankind. Give it whatever name you want. Show you know right from wrong, by speaking up against injustice or malice. You’ll see you’re not alone. Be inspired and inspire others. We can do better than this.

Quoting Kid President: What will you create that will make the world awesome?

The terms and conditions of freedom

Freedom LoesjeToday is the fifth of May, which means that it is Liberation Day in the Netherlands, as explained in my previous blog. So, you can imagine that this is one of those days that we Dutchies show off our more patriotic side. Many of my Facebook friends post pictures of typically flat landscapes with windmills here and there and the occasional Dutch flag.

One of today’s posts really got me thinking though, and that’s the one you see on the left here…

I shared it on my own wall, only to come to the conclusion that I have no clue what the terms and conditions of freedom really are.

On the one side, I want to say that someone is totally free only when there are no rules, no terms and no conditions. To be able to walk, to run, to jump, to dance, to sing and do whatever you feel like doing at that particular time. Is that what being free is? But then again, I would kind of be bothered by some people taking advantage of their unconditional freedom, me thinks.

The absence of an oppressive force, is that freedom? And then the rest just boils down to being tolerant and well behaved to one another?

To be able to speak your mind. That’s pretty important, no? But then again, looking back at my Charlie Hebdo ponderings, perhaps there should be some limit to that one too…

So I guess being free isn’t really that easy and I guess only love can be truly unconditional (all though in all honesty, is it ever really 😉 )…

Anyone care to help me out on this one?

Remembering and celebrating 70 years of freedom

It will be exactly seventy years ago this week that the second world war officially ended in the Netherlands.

The 4th of May is Herdenkingsdag, or Remembrance Day. On this day we all do a conscious effort to commemorate the cruel history of war, to realize once again what men are capable of when exposed to hateful doctrines and to honor the people who did not survive. Poems, speeches and solemn music help us get in a contemplative mood that suits this day of mourning.

At 8PM, we are all silent for 2 minutes. Cars stop by the side of the road, all TV and radio channels adjust their programming, cities go quiet, children study the faces of their parents and try to understand the sudden change of atmosphere… And then the national anthem is played, smiles reappear and life slowly picks up again.

I always wonder what other people think about in these two minutes. There are no real rules about this (luckily!) all though I always ask people around me what they will focus on during the moments of silence. You can steer your thoughts in all directions during those quiet moments but I’m quite sure most of us try to keep our thoughts relevant. That is to say, we think about the second world war; about the destruction of Rotterdam, about the underground resistance, about the concentration camps and the millions that died. But we also think about more recent wars and conflicts where military force was used and soldiers met their deaths, – our soldiers, their soldiers, guerrillas, civilians.

A few years ago there was some controversy because the annual poem that was chosen to be read aloud  (always written by a child) was dedicated to the boy’s grandfather, who had joined the SS and was therefore, as we call it in the Netherlands “fout”, which translates to “wrong”. The poem was about making choices and how these choices can echo on in future generations. The poem is a sort of reminder that in times of war things can get confused and one must not judge too quickly.

This caused so much upheaval that in the end, the Committee decided to pull the poem out of the program. The wounds are still too fresh to forgive. There is no room to grieve for the men that stood on the wrong side of the line, at least not on this day. I do understand this sentiment even though I think it is valuable to stay open for the fact that there is always another side to the story.

The sad realization is that in the end it makes no difference. No battles are prevented or stopped by the strength of our quiet thoughts and next year we will do it again and we will have more death to think about…

…but to not end on this somber note I will also tell you about the 5th of May, which is Bevrijdingsdag or Liberation Day. On this day we celebrate our freedom by dancing in the streets, as the people must have done in 1945 when the Nazi occupation was officially over.

bevrijdingsdag bevrijdingsfestivalbevr festival

What will you do on the 5th of May?

A struggling pacifist

My father has always had a strong aversion toward militarism. I could let all sort of psychological theories loose on the why and how of this sentiment, but that is not my point of today. I was brought up with his teachings and – all though his pedestal has crumbled here and there throughout the years, – I consider him to be one of the wisest men I know, especially when it comes to matters of the world. He is an incredibly informed and smart man, whose opinions I value highly.

I suppose it is because of my upbringing that parading soldiers give me the chills and even boy scouts make me cringe a bit, when they pride themselves in their uniformity. I am a true pacifist at heart. I don’t like seeing hummers in the streets, not only because they are ridiculously fuel inefficient, but most of all because they are originally army vehicles. I hate the fact that firearms even exist and so many of us have come to believe they are synonyms for safety or even justice. It breaks my heart.

(In that context, have you seen the “make love not war” commercials by Axe… man, if only….)

Not long ago I had a talk with someone who had a very different point of view. As representative of a national veteran organization his task was to praise and show respect to every form of military involvement to those that had served our country, be it on recent missions or in wars many decades ago.  I remember him complaining about the choices our country was making in the face of the economic crisis. Of course cuts are being made all around, but our ministry of defense has had to hand over a great deal of its funding, with great consequences for our military.

I remember feeling a strong urge to contradict him, from the very first sentence. My thoughts and words were full of the necessity for education, unemployment, welfare and social programs. I remember him saying we might regret our choices at some point and I remember snapping back that it was more important to deal with problems that were actually truly affecting us now than worrying about some fear monger’s hypothetical war of the future.

I think I still stand behind those words, but I am starting to understand what he was saying. I think it’s a pity it took me so long to process his point of view, because it could have been a much more productive and interesting conversation, had I been more open to it.

With my father as an example, I have always tried to be well informed and involved in the worlds’ affairs. I am not completely sure if times are truly harsher or that my sensitivity to it has just grown but lately it’s been really getting to me. On the one side I want to stay aware, interested and engaged and not let the hopelessness and eternal stalemates of conflicts make me look away or become indifferent. Like a legendary Argentinian song by Leon Gieco says:

 Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.
 I only ask of God
That i am not indifferent to the battle,
It’s a big monster and it tramples hard
on all the poor innocence of people.

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On the other side, the endlessness of it and the inhumanity of humans just really gets to me sometimes and I just can’t watch it any longer. This makes me feel guilty because I know there are people who can not switch it off. It is their reality and anything the TV shows them is an improvement compared to what goes on right outside their doors (if it hasn’t come crashing down through their roofs already…)

I think my slight change of heart came a couple of months back, after seeing an interview I also blogged about here. The world is changing and I have this uneasy feeling of chaos brewing around me. A sense of hate that is building, of tempers rising, of mobs growing. We all see it and our solution is to send in our army of politicians and diplomats. We analyze, we write reports, we understand its history and the possible outcomes. We have men in suits and ties, armed with laptops, blackberries and fountain pens and, oh man, I truly wish that would be enough but I know it is not going to bring us anywhere…

The time that we could say “not our problem” and retreat in our bubble of blissful ignorance seems to be ending. The conflicts of the Middle East are not only IN the Middle East. Our populations are built up of people of all ethnicities and our cultures have become entangled through migration and globalization. And then there is this new game we are playing with Russia. If it’s all just economics and politics, then our army of bureaucrats will do just fine. But if the “bare-chested one” has as much cojones as he claims, we might be in trouble…

The other day, one of the Transformers movies was on TV and for some reason (despite it being a terribly simplistic story with some pretty poor acting here and there) it made me so incredibly sad. All I saw was destruction, suffering and men getting traumatized. At the end I saw a victorious society, scarred for life by the traumas of war. If I were religious I would be praying for wisdom and tranquility, or world peace, if you will… but I’m not… so now what can I do??