Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.
Everybody needs to see this.
Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.
Everybody needs to see this.
John Oliver’s recent “last week tonight” episode reminded me of a blog idea that has been in the back of my mind for a long time now. Let’s start with the clip that triggered this:
At the 7:07 mark, a man steps up to defend confederate statues by speaking about his family heritage at a community meeting in North Carolina. He says he always felt proud of his great grandfather’s involvement in the American civil war. His ancestor had stood up for his rights and was willing to fight and die for them. The man says it reminds him that he has “a little rebel” in him. You can tell he feels he is being robbed of this feeling now that the confederate statues are being shown in a different light.
As much as this makes me giggle, roll my eyes and shake my head, I do get it. Profoundly more so than I may care to admit, at first glance.
My own heritage is filled with adventurous globetrotters, standing for what they believed was right in the context of their time.
My great grandfather, for example, was a preacher from the rural North of the Netherlands who travelled to the Dutch colonies (in current day Indonesia) at the beginning of the twentieth century for what I imagine would’ve been missionary work. I know very little about him or what he did there exactly, but as a colonizing power, you can imagine we Dutchies do not have clean hands in every aspect.
I hope to be able to find out more about him and what he did, some day. I am proud to be a descendant of a man willing to venture into the unknown. I can only hope he did more good than bad for the people of Magelang.
The preacher had a son, my grandfather, who was born in Palembang, Indonesia in 1915. All though I’m not sure about when exactly they returned to the Netherlands, I do know my grandfather was attending University in the Dutch city of Delft, when the Second World War was at its peak.
I can imagine his international upbringing made him more conscious of global issues and the miles he must have made at sea as a child traveling from Indonesia to the Netherlands, would have tempered his fear of open water. So, when faced with a possible Nazi labor deployment, he decided to flee the country by boat with two companions and his Belarussian wife, who refused to leave his side. Across the North Sea, in England, they joined our queen and the allied forces to fight fascism across the globe.
As I wrote a few years ago after my own tribute to their voyage, the so called “Engelandvaarders“, or England sailers, are an important part of Dutch WWII history and even have their own museum in the seaside town of Noordwijk to commemorate them. So yes, I am proud to be able to call myself a descendant of theirs.
At the same time, I know my grandparents chose to join the KNIL, or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, a military division that is not without controversy. As with my great grandfather’s deeds and position, I do not know the details of my grandparents’ role here (yet). What I do know is that following World War II, “the KNIL was used in two large military campaigns in 1947 and 1948 to re-establish Dutch control of Indonesia. The KNIL and its Ambonese auxiliaries have been accused of committing war crimes during this “police action”.”
So yes, still proud… but very conscious of the fact that the reality they were facing and that facts they were presented with at the time, must have made them feel the cause they were fighting for was a just one. If this is still the case today, now that we can zoom out and look at the end results, remains to be seen.
Next in line is my father, who was born in Indonesia in 1947 himself and has travelled the world during much of his life, doing development work in South America and the Middle East. How many people’s lives has he actually improved? How many people learnt how to fish themselves thanks to the projects he led and how many “merely” received a charity fish? How much money was wasted on corruption and how much was actually spent effectively? How many projects brought people what they really needed on the long term and how many were merely set up as short term tools in the Dutch political agenda?
So… I guess my point is, I am proud to say that I come from a lineage of adventurers and people wanting to make a difference in the world. If their cause or methods were always good, is up to debate. A debate I am willing to engage in.
My parents are honest people with strong opinions for which they sometimes need loud words.
Even now that they have grandkids, I have seen them explaining matters of the world in a way some others may feel is not appropriate for such young kids. Some kids dig it and others zone out when being spoken to in this manner, but I always thought it was kind of cool that my dad never “dumbed things down” for me.
A request I got from my father on several occasions (and far too often, as far as I was concerned at the time) was “give me a piece of your mind”. You can imagine it was something he did to get a sense of what his sulky adolescent daughter might be thinking. I never really knew what he meant and my answer never seemed to be what he was hoping to hear anyhow.
You could say honesty was valued highly in our household. And to express your honest opinions it was required to be eloquent. “Just because” was never a valid explanation for anything and I was allowed (up to a certain extent) to expect the same from them.
I remember my first boyfriend was quite overwhelmed by the in depth conversations we had over dinner.
A line that I wrote down in my “ideas journal” the other day, is that my father is “one of the most honest people I know, as well as one of the least”.
He is one of the most honest because he doesn’t seem afraid to have an uncommon opinion. He will stand up for his beliefs, at the cost of being “the odd one” in a crowd. He is also unwillingly honest, as his face just gives away what he thinks about you and your explanation.
At the same time, he is one of the least honest people I know because as much as he tries to uphold the idea that he doesn’t care what others think of him, his fear of appearing to be weak always wins. He will say everything is going splendidly and that he has never felt better, until he reaches the point that the only one buying it is him.
Then again, does it count as lying if he lied to himself about it first?
Also, his stubbornness sometimes reaches truly absurd levels. He will stay on a chosen course even after being disproved by someone. Adjusting your course would be admitting you were wrong at some point and that apparently is not an option in his world.
He can also be very arrogant, in the sense that he will easily discard your idea as a lesser opinion if it is not in line with his. And not only is the opinion of low quality, so are you for coming up with it. He will use big, aggressive words to make you feel unsure about your line of thought, and make you back down. You might even accept his own idea at some point, just because he presents it with so much self confidence.
What I figured out only recently is that the type of honesty I was taught to express was purely intellectual. That is the type of honesty that researchers and journalists apply in their work. It is the type of honesty that is based on logic, historical facts, knowledge, vocabulary and grammar.
This type of intellectual honesty is something that comes natural to me. I have never had trouble forming my opinion or pointing out to someone when they set off my bullshit radar and why.
Apparently the invisible, irrational, uncontrollable concepts of feelings are something you can be honest about too… You apparently don’t even need words to express them! Mind. Blown. And when it comes to being honest about those, I suck. I wonder why?
This brings me to the final clue to my father’s dishonesty; he has never been able to handle my tears.
…Not that I even know how to cry anymore…
Unless some plant or tree is in bloom, or something.
And there’s some snot involved during these pollen allergies, as well.
But maybe they don’t actually qualify as tears.
Anyhoooooowww, see how awkward I get from talking about these things??
…where were we?
Ah yes, me crying.
Far before I reached an age that this was reasonable for, I was expected to be able to explain my behavior, especially when my behavior included tears. If I couldn’t come up with a “good” reason for my eye leakage, I was simply asked to stop doing that. And so I did.
All though my father told me years later that the crying prohibition was one of the few things he regretted in life, it did teach me to express myself pretty well. I know what I want and don’t want and am more capable than many others to express where my boundaries lie.
After analyzing the heck out of it during my long train ride home last week I came to a new theory. He saw my tears as criticism. Honest little wet mirrors rolling down a child’s cheek. And he couldn’t deal with that.
Don’t get me wrong. My childhood was actually pretty awesome. Part of it was thanks to my parents, other parts were great despite of them. I hold no grudges. Or I try not to.
I am definitely thankful towards my parents for giving me the ability to discuss every possible topic, be it social, political or cultural in any crowd. When it comes to other forms of honesty however, I think I may have a lesson or two for them.
All though 2016 ended with a slight whim of apocalyptic dystopia this new year is growing on me. There are actually more people that do think like me and they seem to be growing louder, which has put my desire to go into fullblown cocoon-mode to rest somewhat.
When my boyfriend asked me how I looked back on 2016 and what I expected of the year to come I said 2016 was my Hobbes year and 2017 should be more of a Calvin year.
As many of you surely know, Hobbes is not only the surname of “one of the founders of modern political philosophy”, but it is also the name that mr Bill Watterson gave the tiger that completes the legendary cartoon duo: Calvin & Hobbes.
Hobbes is the (extremely sarcastic) voice of reason in the equation, whereas Calvin is the type that “demands euphoria” and is shocked when his mother doesn’t honor the ritual of scooping out the peanut butter properly. He’s the kind of kid that does not take “because I say so” for an answer and will call you out on your bullshit. Every. Single. Time. Regardless of your status or position. He will cause a one-man-riot for causes that are important to him and will suffer the consequences of his actions with his head held high. Calvin, despite being named after 16th century theologian, John Calvin, is actually pretty much an atheist if you ask me.
Anyhow, the point of all this is that 2017 is a year in which I hope to be more vocal about what I feel is right and allow my outrage to be heard whenever values I hold dear are under threat. So there.
Time to answer some self-reflection questions from my list!
I’m afraid I can actually be quite a judgmental person, all though I am getting better at this.
As most of the members of my family I have quite a pronounced chin and tend to duckface a bit when I concentrate hard on something. I also have a relatively large nose. Sadly, no broomstick flying skills, ’cause yes, I would make a great witch. 😛
Sagittarius, all the way. And apparently, I am also a skunk.
Not sure if any of this is true or whatever but it does fascinate me…
Hmm… this is a hard one… I guess I’m a good listener (when I want to be?). I’m pretty good with most animals, does that count?
There was a time in my life when I thought I should improve my public speaking skills. I totally lose my cool in front of a group. As a matter of fact, I think I’m just not much of a group person. Small talk: also not my forte.
I would like to be less awkward in these type of situations, but would prefer to just upload this skill, a-la-matrix, and not have to go to some group therapy to achieve it. 😛
Not sure… Michelle Obama stole my heart big time in recent months, so maybe her? Actually, road tripping with my boyfriend has always been awesome, so he’s definitely also invited.
And…… after giving it some thought…. maybe our most-hated Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. There are so many things I don’t really understand about him and his rhetoric that I would like to ask him about in a chilled out environment. All though there is very little I can agree with him on, I do feel sorry for him as well, as he is forced to live in some bunker with constant protection. A roadtrip might mellow him right down…
I was introduced to Stevie Wonder’s 1995 album “Conversation Peace“, which sadly I didn’t know at all. The first song “Rain your love down” is a heart-warming, head-bobbing song that at first glance may sound like a love song but is actually a plea to god to rid the world of “hunger, hate, war, and greed”.
The song that gave the album it’s title is one that chokes me up just a little bit every time I hear it… When you listen to it, remember it was recorded in 1995…
If you are looking for a lighter song, listen to “Tomorrow Robins will sing“, which of course also does point out the world is pretty sucky but hey, tomorrow robins will sing!
(all though I must say the robin in my garden only kinda chirps and doesn’t really sing… but maybe Stevie can’t tell which one it was that he heard. Or maybe I really have to wait till tomorrow…)
To conclude this mind cleanup I would like to put in my two cents in honor of black history month, and leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Newschannel Euronews has an item they show in between programs called “no comment“. It always shows images of some event but with no commentary. No translation. No explanation. Just images. For a couple of minutes you get to decide what is going on and if you think that’s OK or not. I always thought it was kind of cool. Perhaps it’s the closest you can get to objective journalism.
If the internet taught me anything though, it is that there is no such thing as “the truth”, nor is anybody ever completely impartial. The fact that the camera is pointing this way and not that can change the whole story. I try to be conscious of this fact when I read / watch any narrative.
This morning however, the internet gave me a shocker when I encountered the image seen below, among the likes of one of my FB friends. It really took me a while to process what I was seeing and reading and my initial reaction was anger. I asked the person who had liked the image (and he’s a family member, for crying out loud!) if he really believed this to be true. I asked him this, with the intention of deleting him from my account and from my life if he declared to my (cyber)face that he stood behind this statement.
I felt offended. Personally. I felt the legacy of my grandparents was being spat on and I couldn’t believe people were giving such a message a thumbs up. I felt it was unfair to hold me accountable for something that happened long before I was born. I felt it was wrong to put the Nazi horrors in the same sentence with what is happening in Palestine as if these things are somehow related. I hated the fact that I was being asked to disagree with Germans killing jews but to condone jews killing muslims (or vice versa for that matter).
Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I am trying to see if I can find the nuance in there somewhere, but I’m finding it quite difficult. All I can come up with is that I do understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves. My inner Ghandi however keeps popping out and poking at me with his walking stick and repeating his famous quote like a mantra:
UPDATE: Nuance found! I also decided to change the title of this blog and share a bit of the discussion I had on FB with the people that posted the controversial image.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually, and I still feel that the way this South African jewish organization formulated their message was way too strong., -and I can’t believe I am actually going to admit it,- BUT, I do understand where they were coming from now.
In their very elaborate response to my angry, slightly defensive rant, they asked me to bare two things in mind:
1. The Allies were fighting the German/Italian/Japanese Axis not because of what Hitler was doing to the Jews but because they were invading other countries.
2. The incredibly brave individuals who put their lives on the line to save Jews during the Holocaust were a minuscule minority.
I can’t deny any of this. It’s painful and it’s true.
The thing is, that I actually do believe that the world stood by and watched atrocities happen for way too long. Individuals breathed a sigh of relief as the horrors passed by their front doors (in other words, they were not jewish) and politicians dared not speak up and risk turning up on the losing end.
The world was stunned, like a deer in headlights. There was no protocol for this. No precedents or lessons learnt from previous occurrences that we could fall back on. We were slow to act. There must have been denial and heaps of mixed messages, making it so difficult to take a strong stand for the masses.
So yes, that surviving jews held grudges for the world’s passiveness: I get it… We didn’t step up until the Nazis started making life difficult for the rest of us, the non-jews. That’s offensive and no apology or compensation will ever mend those wounds.
But I don’t see us giving the Tutsi’s in Rwanda a free pass, nor have I heard them ask for one (or have they…? not even sure about that one, as the world cared even less about what happened to them than the jews’ ordeal and I haven’t really heard of them since)…
Another thing that has been bugging me is how this statement is not about the world not allowing jews to stand up for themselves. This whole image, without mentioning it ONCE, is actually about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So in that sense, the first sentence in the image above refers to jews, but the second one refers to Israeli’s and more specifically, the zionists who are trying to establish their so called homeland on somebody else’s homeland.
So my conclusion is, I get it, but I still don’t think it’s OK at all…. but feel free to disagree!
The Daily Post suggested an interesting topic to write about last week, titled: “Doubters Alert.”
It took me a couple of days, but I have decided to turn it into a list (again).
All though the items are numbered, the order is actually completely arbitrary. The numbering only helped me keep track of how far along I was and I guess I just like how it makes it look more listy. So, I hereby present you with my top ten denials of common accepted truths.
1. Men and women are equal
They’re not. Do I believe men and women should be given equal chances? Hell yes! I also agree that this isn’t always the case and I’m sure there are women with big ambitions who are held back because of their gender. The fact that more women choose a career as nurses and more men become firefighters however, is not because the opposite sex is being discriminated against. These career choices make biological sense. Don’t make me explain, I know you get it.
2. Disciplining your child is wrong
You’re right, I don’t have kids of my own but I don’t think it makes me any less credible. Even more, my observations are less likely to be tainted by emotions, instinctual protection hormones and unconditional love. I actually see that your kid is sneaky and that you are being played like a fool. I also see that not all kids are like that and that your parenting is to blame.
Loving your child and setting boundaries are not contradictory actions. I believe kids need to be shown right from wrong. I also believe they can cope with hard truths of life at quite an early age and that consequences of bad behavior must be in place. These consequences need to be clear, fair and unnegotiable. They also need to be unpleasant in order to be taken serious by the grown-up-in-training.
3. Praying helps
I do not believe in prayer, unless it’s just to meditate and self reflect. If there is such a thing as a god I can’t imagine he (let’s just refer to this god-figure as a he from here on , for practicality, but you can read it as she if you prefer) needs people telling him how almighty he is. I also simply can not accept the idea that he would be such a fool that he would grant some ass wipe who prays daily access to his super cool heaven club and deny it to someone who is clearly an awesome person, but doesn’t mumble some words several times a day.
4. Self prescribed diets
I believe in moderation. Too much of anything can become a bad thing and it may differ from person what “too much” is. I’m going to sound like an old sock now, but in this day and age I think a lot of people are blaming nutrition for physical complaints that are actually caused by stress. I believe some types of foods are easier to digest than others but I don’t believe this means we are not supposed to eat the stuff that makes our intestines work hard. I believe it keeps them vital and yes, this means that sometimes you will fart more and the color and smell of your poo may vary.
If you’re on a diet on doctor’s orders: different story all together, obviously…
5. Giving money to the homeless is a bad idea
There are many reasons why a person could end up living on the streets, all though mental illness and drug dependency will often play a roll. I know there is a big chance the money I put in the hand of that smelly figure in rags will go into sustaining a drug habit. Call me an enabler. I don’t believe that denying that person the couple of coins I have in my pocket will encourage them to get clean. You have to be truly desperate to walk over to a complete stranger and ask them for money, knowing what they must think of you.
My policy is as follows:
6. Taking selfies is normal and OK
Again, old sock talking here, but this self absorbed modern day habit is so incredibly stupid, I don’t even know where to start. The eternal posing, the duckface, the angelic girlie look, the nonchalant glance out of the window, the looking up into the camera so they can look down into your cleavage, the confused frown, pointing at food, pointing at a friend, posing with a celebrity in the background trying to mind his own business, sticking out tongue, the peace sign… It all just makes me want to roll my eyes.
7. Plastic surgery is a healthy way to deal with low self esteem (and then lying about it)
My nose is crooked and relatively large, I have the typically protruding chin that runs through my family and have been mocked for my pointy knees. Sure, I have my insecurities. The fact that we can fix some (all?) of these features is admirable. I’m sure there are situations in which a visit to a plastic surgeon can be a great idea and improve lives in a major way. I also understand the growing old isn’t fun. I do. I don’t blame you for trying to fight it, but what’s up with all the denial?? And why take it to such an extreme that you stop looking like a human being all together ?
8. “The one”
Forget the Matrix, there is no such thing as the One. The idea of there being one single person on the planet that matches with you for the full 100% is bull crap. First of all, everybody has their flaws and in every relationship there are bound to be struggles. Besides charming your prince in shining armor will also have some ugly traits, as do you. This doesn’t mean you’re not good for each other. And if your individual traits clash more often than anticipated, there’s nothing wrong with calling it quits. Don’t worry, it’s not a sin or whatever you want to call it. There are billions of us on the planet. There are people in all shapes and sizes. There are bound to be several that fit your mold and chances are the person you end up loving the most, ticks none of the boxes you once fantasized your soulmate would have.
9. It is normal for love to fade
Despite the fact that I do not believe in “the one”, I do believe in true love. That this true love can be felt for different people throughout your life is beside the point here. What I want to debunk is the idea that it is OK to settle for a mediocre relationship and justify this to yourself by saying that every relationship loses its spark after a while. I disagree! Love changes, I’ll give you that. The passion might not be there with the same physical intensity it started out with, but it must still be in there somewhere. Staying with someone out of habit or pity or fear of change is a waste of your time. If you are not happy with the relationship you’re in, time to get up and leave!
10. If you don’t have anything nice to say, better to say nothing at all.
Speaking your mind is never a bad idea!
“On sunny days, the city’s high potentials gather in great numbers and nip from their little cups of wine, talk about their exams and grades, about racism and the semantics of sexism and traveling to Nepal or other places with poor people they could help out during socially aware holidays.”
This is a translated quote from an article I read a couple of weeks ago. It’s a scene that takes places every time the sun comes out in Holland and in this specific case the author witnessed it in a park in Utrecht, all though it could be anywhere really. She described how the park turned into a society of its own, with segregation of upper and lower class and every one trying to defend their status in some way or other.
And then the she hits us with some truth:
As the so called high potentials go home they leave behind scorch marks and a spectacular amount of litter in the grass. Cleaning up is something high potentials apparently only do in poor countries these days.
She describes the war zone of trash behind for the cleaners to pick up and how it reflects on our society as a whole. She interviews some of these cleaners, who describe how people throw trash in front of their feet while they are sweeping and assuming they are doing them a favor that way.
Talking about saving the world and totally disregard this when it comes to the scene right in front of them is painful to witness, and I may even be guilty myself up to a certain degree… I traveled abroad and did volunteer work with rural communities in Ecuador. I helped set up classes about preserving the environment through recycling and sustainable gardening. In all honesty my recycling habits back home are quite deplorable, all though I do try…
Reminds me of a blog I wrote many years ago, when I guess I still considered myself a high potential, despite not having the career moves to back that up. The blog was a short analysis of a short story (so yes, this is a paragraph about a blog about a story from a book 😛 ) in which a girl is offered deliverance from her guilt of being a westerner.
So I guess it’s up to me to start with the gal in the mirror! How about you?