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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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…

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.

 

Kava-hell-naugh

Did the United States really just allow Brett Kavanaugh to not only keep his job but get a promotion after the ridiculous show he put up in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee?

I wish I could find better words to describe how the hearing made me feel, other than curse words and baffled stares.

My initial reaction is captured by the lady sitting behind Kavanaugh during his statement. She did not only hear and see his sham performance, she was close enough to smell the BS and was honest enough to let her face do all the talking

Kavanaugh_wtf_face

USA, what are you doing to yourself…?

Biting the bullet on gun control

If you tell me I have no place in the gun control debate a) because I don’t live in the USA, b) because I wasn’t born in the USA, c) because I don’t have to defend myself from my government or d) because I am clueless, I would agree with you on the first three points.

Clueless I am not, all though I can imagine my love for satirical news programs and the heavy lean to the left these shows tend to have, may have you believe I am biased. Guilty as charged. But who isn’t? I don’t think there are neutral parties in this discussion. And if there are, than I believe them to be the clueless ones.

To understand more about the pro-gun advocates side of the story, I have chosen three different examples to shine a light on in this blog, starting with Florida’s senator Marco Rubio’s, who is often quoted after any gun-related issue comes up:

Marco Rubio official statement gun protests 2

Marco Rubio is a frequent target on shows like the Daily Show for his lukewarm conservatism and unexciting “boy-next-door” appearance. But if this debate has to be had (and it really does), I actually very much appreciate his style. He always presents his opinion in a civil way and is as polite about it as a topic and situation allows.

Marco Rubio gun control quote

On a side-note after reading some reactions on social media; it’s really interesting to see how being balanced and well-informed is seen as negative in current day politicians…

But back to his statement on last week’s “March for our lives” protests, in which he doesn’t really say anything, other than “there are two sides in this debate, and everybody has a right to their opinion”. The last two sentences are the only ones really worth reading. What he basically says there, is “let’s talk and move towards a solution that will prevent more people being killed”.

It’s vague and it doesn’t really give me the idea that anything will change soon, but perhaps this shouldn’t be an overnight thing anyway. As long as the discussion is being held, truly, then there is hope. It does require willing participants, not just to speak but also to listen, and particularly this last part seems to be quite the challenge.

A show that also gets quite a lot of flak for being too liberal is the View. I have to agree the balance does tip more towards the left, but I feel they really do try to give all sides of the debate a voice. Take this conversation they had earlier this month, for example:

So the first argument I hear as to why the second amendment has validity, is made by Condoleezza Rice. She describes a situation she remembers from her childhood years, during which Bull Connor was the Commissioner of Public Safety for the city she was living in, being Birmingham, Alabama. With such a strong opponent of the civil rights movement in charge of “public safety”, – one who actively and openly supported racial segregation-, I can imagine that was a fearful time for African American children to grow up in.

She describes how her father and his friends would keep the neighborhood safe, by shooting into the air when KKK members would ride through the neighborhood. If her father would have had to register his gun, it would have been taken away by the local government at the time, according to Ms. Rice, leaving the neighborhood vulnerable to those who were determined to harm the black community.

Let me start by saying; that is just so terribly sad… I am not part of a minority now and even growing up in a country where I was, I was never threatened or discriminated against. The need to have a gun to protect yourself from your neighbors and from the intolerance of your government towards your very existence is something hard for me to fathom.

I would like to say that making a policy based on fear can never lead to a balanced solution, but I recognize that in the face of Ms Rice’s story and the current day president, it’s a hard argument to make.

The segment continues with Meghan McCain stating that “There has never been a mass shooting carried out by an NRA member” and that “as a vocal NRA and second amendment supporter, we feel vilified”. I get that. They are definitely being vilified. I can imagine how being a member of a gun association could help you become a responsible gun owner. However, I also feel they should have no place in government or policy making.

And if the one true argument to NOT ban AR15’s is that they are used for hunting in rural areas, how about you only allow people to have them that have a hunting license. That’s a thing right, a hunting license? At least in the Netherlands it is… Go ahead and correct me if the US doesn’t issue those, but it makes sense to me to combine the two. No hunting license, no hunting rifle. Right?

So… enough of all the balanced “on the one side this, but on the other side that”-stuff. What does an uncensored supporter of gun ownership and fanatic second amendment defender say?

This good sir, Matt Winkeljohn, of the “Resist the Tyranny” movement, repeatedly speaks of “lies and propaganda” being spread by the “March for our lives” activists.

Propaganda, according to the Cambridge dictionary is:

Information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published, or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions

Sure, I agree. That is definitely what this is.

These are kids aiming for the stars in a seemingly unequal fight, like David against Goliath. It’s up to politicians to pour these heart-felt opinions, born through trauma, fear and grief, into balanced statements, discussions and policies.

Mr Winkeljohn, likes to refer to the protesters as “terrorists” because:

“They’re going around the country and they’re spreading all these lies and propaganda in order to scare the shit out of people in order to get them to support gun control”

All though I still haven’t figures out which lies he’s referring to exactly, I do agree with the fact that the protesters are trying to make people aware of the dangers of guns and motivate anybody who is willing to listen “to get them to support gun control”.

He finishes his argument off by stating:

“Well if that isn’t the definition of terrorism, then I don’t know what is.”

He then goes on by saying stuff like “If guns were the problem, then we would know about it” and compares being shot to having a “rare disease”. He argues that if less than 200.000 people have a certain disease it is considered rare and only 11.000 people get killed a year with a gun.

confusedboyBecause having a rare disease isn’t as bad as having a common one? Or should we only invest into trying to cure people with diseases that more people end up dying from? I’m still trying to figure that one out…

The fact that pro-gun-control activists are threatening his life several times a day, has led him to believe this march wasn’t about “saving or trying to protect lives” at all.

He refers to the most vocal Parkland shooting survivors as terrorists, standing on “a pile of children[‘s corpses] in order to pass a political agenda”.

Words like “propaganda”, “rhetoric” and “political agenda” are used frequently in this video and the debate in general, suggesting that people are being manipulated into believing something untrue.

I just can’t figure out what that might be. What’s the “political agenda” behind these kids’ “rhetoric” that we should all be cautious of? If he means “gun control”, then yes, that is definitely what they are trying to achieve, but it’s not as if they are trying to sneak that message into a warm, fuzzy conversation about unicorns and easter bunnies… They’re saying it loud and clear.

political-agenda-political-agenda-everywhere

So, I guess I just really can’t connect with this guy’s views. I don’t get it…

I’m afraid all I can do is go back to comedy… For some reason, blowing up a situation into ridiculousness and laughing about it, often brings out the nuance more than anything else. So, click play and let me know what you think: