Why onmipresent consciousness isn’t that unlikely

If you think about it rationally, there is no reason why consciousness should reside within the brain and cannot be outside of it. Surely, numerous neuroscientists would instantly prove me wrong here, but they have two main problems. 1: like myself, they look upon this question from a limited perspective, that is, from within the limitations of their own thoughts, projections and perceptions and 2: they search for consciousness within the human brain, assuming they’ll encounter it. Of course they will. Yet that won’t exclude its presence outside of it. And that’s not their expertise.

Now, we say that if we sleep, and I mean dreamless sleep, we are unconscious. But is it possible that we think exactly the opposite while we’re asleep? That during sleep, we perceive the waking state as the unconscious state? That we simply forget about everything we lived during daytime? Or worse: that we do remember it, but from our different state of mind, perceive it as nothing? Just like being asleep appears as ceasing to exist when we’re awake? Could there be a different world where our body lies inside a bed while we are awake here? If there was, how would we know?

A dense network with a filter
Consider the scientific status quo on how the brain looks. It’s an enormously dense network of cells with micro-telephone cables, including numerous interconnected regions where basic functions support more complex ones. The system is kept active by constant influx of oxygen and other building blocks, and outflow of waste materials. And where is consciousness? According to neuroscientists, it exists as a result of the continuous interchange of electric signals of the brain. The theory seems somehow similar as magnetism emerging from an electromagnetic coil with electricity going through. But one of the mayor neurscientific theories is that a filter is responsible for our higher awareness. That’s the mechanism which selects a fraction of the signals reaching us through our senses. By that, it turns our perception, our consciousness, into something we can grasp.

This premise fails to acknowledge that by defining consciousness as the filter that makes the world understandable, you say that the way humans are perceiving the world during their wakeful state  is the one and only ‘conscious’ way. Some bypass that problem by calling it ‘higher consciousness’. While I acknowledge the presence of such a filter, I challenge the view of calling it ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ by asking: how would the world look without it? Isn’t it likely that our consciousness is just ‘a state of consciousness’?

Neurologists say it is hard, perhaps impossible to find a structure in nature as intricate as the human brain. That it has gone through aeons of evolution. They are right. The way they are right, however, falls entirely within the timescale and the spatial scale in which that very brain perceives. We have evolved a style of perceiving that has made our own style of perceiving look like the ultimate style of perceiving by confining itself to a selection of it all. And we need this limited consciousness to keep ourselves organized and by that protect it from going extinct. Smart fellas we are.

I’d posit that this filter forges our egos, but not so much the fact that we’re conscious. The signals in our brains, the clouds of electricity that run from one part to the other and back, may not be structured in the same way outside of our heads, but they are just as present everywhere else.

What else could be conscious?
A tree that stands with its roots in the ground, branching into the sky, constantly exchanges signals, transferring charged matter from above to below and back. Its roots as well as its branches touch those of other plants. As much as the cells in our brains and bodies, these plants and other organisms need to constantly exchange with each other to survive. Is it truly unlikely that out from this continuous buzz rises some kind of awareness?

A galaxy, constantly revolving, has bricks and pieces bumping against each other. Each of the stars continuously radiates all kinds of wavelengths in the direction of its fellow stars. Could it not be that out of that motion spins a thought now and then, so big and so slow that we will never even notice it?

Is it not likely that each species has its own filter, is its own filter of reality? Ants constantly gather substances from around the nest, transporting them to the core. They process them there, then bring them back outside. Meanwhile, the inside of the nests is a cacophony of smell and touch, all eventually leading back to that one queen. We know the chemicals are there, we know the pathways of the ants, but we don’t know how it is to live inside. Could that queen be communicating with other queens via the ants in her nest? In the same way as words stand between human communicators?

Or how about cities? Is it not possible that Amsterdam, existing for over 700 years, has learned? Could it be that all beings inside it compose something bigger? Something that chitchats with Paris and London? How can we be certain that it does not, when we send airplanes, cars, boats and electricity up and down every day? Could we say the same for businesses and other organizations, which, in their way create a filter by bringing the same people together day in, day out?

How complex should structure be in order to give birth to awareness?

I personally find the presence of consciousness in every bit of matter and energy more than likely. I’m fascinated by the idea of ‘dreamers’. That we are all just dreaming our way into reality. That there are dreamers dreaming the sun and the moon, others dreaming wasps, chairs, the cosmos and the atoms. That none of these dreamers are truly isolated or alone, but rather clouds of consciousness, reaching into one another. Sometimes aware of their connection, other times not. That consciousness is not just us, but a sea of dreamers, stretching out in all directions and dimensions. In that view, those who dream our fates would be our gods, and we would be the gods of those whose fates we dream.


Why spiritual talk has the same root as economic talk

It turns out I crave for rationality. I’m even sad about the lack of it. Now. I see chains on people who declare themselves free. Cuffs on my wrists. We are failing on all fronts, because we could not find the exit on time. Or maybe I read too many Logicomix.

I wouldn’t straight away state that Nussbaum was wrong when she said that emotions carry important messages. They might. They probably do. No, I agree with her. It’s not for nothing that I just dug her up from my past convictions. But to blindly follow emotions is a different thing…

Anyhow, that’s not what I was going to talk about. You see, I have a fulltime job as a commercial writer now, and that has made this blog into a haven. I don’t need to care about pleasing my readers anymore. Not that I ever did. And of course I still do. But this is where I’m free. Part of me, anyhow. So I say what I want to. Ha!

No. What I wanted to talk about, or at least what triggered me to return here is once again the fact that people believe things. Two things in particular: purpose and growth. Why are we here? To grow. Become stronger. Improve. Yes. We improve.

You see, it turns out that I tend to surround myself with people who hold some kind of spiritual belief. Both my parents were into esoteric shit, my sister likes shamans. One by one, my friends convert to something. Parts of myself are trying to make me believe I’m some kind of sage in a silly society. As within, so without?

We all seem so certain. Have you heard it? Things happen for a reason. We may not always know the reason, but there is one. Really. It helps us become who we are.

But hold on. Step back. Sure, there might be a reason, yet there might be none. The truth is we don’t know. Even if the angels tell us, how can we be sure that they know? That is, once we’re sure they’re not a delusion. We cannot be sure that they do or don’t, clearly, that is far beyond us, Where that puzzle may not be a puzzle.

Surely, this fight concerns myself, mostly. It’s me struggling with my tendency to believe. I’d love to say and be certain, like I used to, that our paths are laid out, that all we have to do is sit back and walk them. Learn. Ingest the info, the experience. Fulfill and die. Yet I’m back with my old, even younger self. The mindful critic. You may say so, but you cannot know and you should accept that. In fact, the reason why you say things, is because others did before you.

So I want to plant a seed. What if nobody takes care of that seed? It dies. A death of abandonment. How many did? How many have simply perished? How many never had a child? Infinite. All of us in many ways. With a purpose? None we’d ever know about. Knowledge into oblivion.

Yet what of growth? Isn’t that what it’s about? Certainly. And what if not? Are we caterpillars emerging into butterflies emerging into spirits emerging into memories emerging into the infinite for eternity? Is that learning? It may be. It may not. More likely it’s neither.

That’s where I miss most. It may not. There’s no way around it. It’s right in front of us yet so few seem to look at it. Live it. Sooner or later we will die. Spirit faded when it got a voice, I’d say. And I would probably be wrong. I’d probably not even exist if I did. Say. My imaginary sanctuary behind this screen, probably an illusion. I’ll believe in it for now, knowing I can’t be sure.

Am I really the only one who sees this parallel? Probably not. Nor do I feel alone in it, in fact. Just a little misunderstood at times. Sure. There is a place and a time where growth exists. But to say it goes on forever… Only economists and spiritualists do that. Where will they end up, I wonder. Nowhere, likely, because they are little different than I. And I’m not going anywhere. Or I may be seduced. Unknowingly. Guess it’s better that way.

The globalist and the populist

‘You’re breaking society apart with your conformation to the big powers’ said the populist to the globalist.
‘It’s you who’s causing the problems.’ answered the globalist. ‘by turning your back to the emerging global organs of power, you not only weaken yourself, but also others. The market is growing beyond your control and we need to confront it as a single, global unity.’
‘You’re the one who’s opening the market up’ said the populist. ‘You’re giving it space thrive and by that, increase its catastrophic impacts on the environment and society. Do you call that confronting? You’re only making it worse!’
‘For one thing, we need international collaboration to protect the environment. The problems have grown to a global scale.’
‘But that collaboration fails! Have you seen how oil companies act, now that all international trade agreements have basically given them carte blanche to drill and frack wherever they can point their pin on the map? Just the local resistance groups have been effective against that at times. International trade lets it happen.
‘Local groups can stop things temporarily, but they cannot make a judgement call on what is important and what is not. After all, it’s the people who want the oil, it’s the people who buy it. Do not be hypocrite here, you’re the ones who beg for it. The markets cannot drive on solar energy yet, it simply isn’t effective enough. Besides, there are more dilemmas we have to face together. Together we can combat climate change, together we should stabilize the war zones and together we can feed the world’
‘The arrogance… Can you not see it? You’re flying far too high. To think that you can solve these problems with a global order while you’re truly just kissing the feet of the same people who are wielding the scepter and making it worse. It’s the power you’re after! Not saving the people or the animals and the plants. Once you have your position, there is no change’
‘You see, that’s where you’re wrong. I mean, yes, indeed, there has been little change in the sense of the reform we need. But neither has there been a truly global power to establish that reform. We’re divided by people such as yourself. We are trying to build something bigger, something better, yet you undermine out plans time and time again.’
‘Us? Isn’t it clear how much you are messing up? You’re destroying countries with Machiavellian power games’
‘Not true. We’re building an alliance that is capable of dealing with the problems of the future. Sure, there have been victims, but they are few if you look at what we are trying to attain. You, on the other hand, would be ready to see society crumble, leaving us all incapacitated. You’re fuelling a false sense of autonomy, a false feeling of power and democracy. You’re thriving on a rush of popularity, a sense of individuality and the adventure of short-term success. What you want reminds me of films such as Fight Club and V for Vendetta, or Mr. Robot. But those films always end when the power falls. What comes afterwards? They are false flags of freedom. Freedom is what you receive if you’re safe and nourished. That’s what the big authorities are for.’
‘Those films are popular because the global powers have become our main threat. You’re not the protector, but the aggressor. We’d be perfectly fine if it wasn’t for your threatening policies. Do you think it’s the people who created nuclear weaponry? Do you think it’s us who are bringing down the banks? Do you think we are causing the ecological crises? We are pawns in your game, and we no longer want that.’
‘Well, if we failed to have properly regulated the markets so far, then that’s one thing. But as I said, you are the market! No one would pump the oil from anywhere if you didn’t buy it. The banks would not have fallen if it wasn’t for the people’s desire to earn money on houses. Nuclear arms wouldn’t exist if there was no nationalism to fuel it. It’s the small people with their tiny ideologies, not globalization and cooperation’
‘Globalization is not cooperation’
‘It can be’
‘But it isn’t! It’s dominion of a small group of people over a large one.’
‘Well, it’s not possible to create a single global organization for 7 billion people at once, right? Globalization is young.’
‘There we have that arrogance again! No, of course it is not possible to create such an organization, and it’s not desirable either! What happened to diversity? You are making us into a mass of people who are all the same, all slaves, numbed by the satisfaction of their desires. Let the locals sort things out! Sure, we can work together when necessary, but our collaboration should be the result of negotiations, not on orders of some global power.’
‘And what if those orders would be based on justice and security? How are the small states going to negotiate with the big ones if they don’t have protection from above? Will they not be swallowed by their bigger neighbours?’
‘Again, it’s the markets that swallow us, the greed that society propagates, not our neighbouring countries.’
‘A globalized society gives the chance to protect the weak from that greed. We can protect regions from catastrophes, fight undernourishment of children, give healthcare to those who need it, but only if the thriving regions support that type of justice. On the long run this will not be possible purely with nation states. They would increase their battles for the resources, people would keep suffering worldwide. Survival of the fittest nation, every one for itself. Be honest, just reign by the people does not exist. They would come up for their own individual benefit. Look at how they go as customers.’
‘Indigenous peoples are a perfect example of how such a world would be possible. They have lived for eternity without damaging the environment. Indeed, it thrived with them in it.’
‘Their numbers were far lower, they died at young age. They suffered when nature was unkind to them. Modern times have made us independent from these issues. We can now intensify agriculture to a degree that we can truly nurture a growing population.’
‘While incapacitating them. You take away their land, make them work with machines they can’t afford, using complex organizational knowledge they don’t have. You’re keeping things centralized and by that ignore all those who live outside of your reach. Those who do not adhere to your demands.’
‘Yes, but is that wrong? The centralized approach is by far the most effective way of producing anything. People living in cities use less energy, footprints are far lower if agriculture is concentrated and far less land is needed that way.’
‘But it doesn’t have to be that way if rural people are self-sufficient. If they get organized locally. We can go a long way with permaculture.’
‘They’d still want computers and internet. They’d still need schools and hospitals. They’d still want the newest Iphone and the best cosmetics. They simply have become dependent by their own choice. They’ve traded autonomy for luxury, and they do not want to trade it back. Your ideals sound great, but they require sacrifices people don’t want to make’.
‘No, they’re not. They’re based on genuine disagreement with the globalist road towards more inequality. Rejecting that doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting all trade, or merchandise from neighbouring countries. It does mean stepping back from certain all luxury. Some, maybe, but there are plenty of people who do that. Just look at the movement of vegetarians and vegans.’
‘And yet a lot more people don’t step back. To cover that, a more solid and efficient trade structure over the globe could highly decrease their impacts.’
‘The rich will get richer and the powerful more powerful’
‘We create benefit for everyone. It is in your own interest to join such trade. It supports the wealth of everyone.’
‘On the short term, maybe, but not on the long one’
‘We’ll generate more money!’
‘And take a bigger proportion of it, while it loses value.’
‘And yet your comfort has been rising. Remember how it used to be? People lived in the mud. No hot water, no electricity, no hospitals. People would kill each other! If you wanted protection, you’d have to give a proportion of your food away. No-one checked on the lords. International cooperation has improved all of that. Living standards are higher than ever, and governments check on each other. There’s peace now.’
‘That’s true, but it doesn’t mean we should keep going this way. Further protection does not add to our freedom; it undermines it. Just look at the national security agencies who are taking more and more of our privacy away. The global which-hunt on whistleblowers. The feudal powers have just moved up some levels and are gathering momentum to control us in a whole new way. ‘
‘Using justice for everyone, what is wrong with that? Isn’t it more sensible to create a global democracy, instead of many little local ones? The way it is now, the people in the powerful countries vote about the destiny of the people in the weaker countries. Powerful leaders look after the benefits of their own countries, not those of the global people as a whole. Wouldn’t it make far more sense to elect a single global leader?’
‘No. Power corrupts, and you know it. The more you centralize it, the bigger the risk that it goes in the wrong direction.’
‘Not under proper regulation that avoids abuse.  On the contrary, in that case. Then the different groups balance out each others power. That’s how we can create a stable, just global society.’
‘No it’s not’ said the populist
‘Yes it is’ said the globalist
‘No it’s not’ said the populist
‘Yes it is’ said the globalist
‘No it’s not’


It’s my grandma’s funeral, yet she is standing right here in front of me. Did something go wrong? Her face is as white as her hair. We’re in a hallway at the ceremonial building of her cemetery. She’s looking at the others who are at her funeral down the hallway. She knows she should be dead. She looks confused. Then she quickly turns yellow, then also purplish. As if she’s decomposing. She falls backwards. I catch her, my one hand behind her back, the other behind her head. My arms are around her fragile body and she’s facing me now. She looks at me in agony, confusion. As if she wants to ask me what she’s doing here. There’s a morbid serenity between us. She starts vomiting. She cannot stay on her feet, so I gently lay her on her back. My moms voice is mixed with my own in a command to put her on her side so that she doesn’t suffocate. I lay her sideways, then I violently start puking as well. It is not actual puke, it’s a yellow-black decomposed liquid. It spreads over the floor, creating little stretched-out  puddles. Then a bit more, as if my bile spits death. If spurts on her feet.

I wake up in the middle of the night, unsure if she’s dead or alive. I feel sick, to the extent that I’m wondering if I am. It doesn’t go away easily. It was just a dream. Was she there? The likeness of the confusion was striking. Minds deceive, go back to sleep, I tell myself. So it gets dark again.

It dawns on me the next morning that the texts I had considered finished at my new job, got returned to me by some clients. As if they resurrected, through a will beyond me. As if I had to lay them back with care, not knowing if they would stay or disappear from my life. Perhaps the dream’s sepulchral aspect was related the Game of Thrones episode I’d been watching earlier last night. Things are never what they seem. Or maybe the dream related to the talk I had with my girlfriend afterwards, in which we spoke about her insecurities at work. A confusion which then probably reflected my own. It could even be related to a diuretic intestine problem I’m experiencing, working on my mind while I’m asleep.

But was she there?

My grandma didn’t believe in ghosts or in life after death. She told me that in the months before she died. Killed herself. She called me one day to inform me about her decision, so I went to visit her more or less weekly. Cook for her. Bond with her. For the first time in my life, really. I remember that a few days before she took her fatal drink, I had a similar, nauseating dream, less morbid than last night, in which I told her no, I wasn’t fine with her choice. I never told her in real life. My daily me respected her courage and resolve.

For many years I have romanticized death. A next state, a state of freedom. Where worldly matters release their grip. An eternal, infinite deep blackness we all carry inside us but fail to perceive. For a long time I looked upon death in the way I imagined it would look from the inside, as an experience. I’ve never believed in reincarnation, but yes, I do believe that consciousness exists outside our brain and also in dead matter. More than my consciousness shutting down when I die, I believe it will dissolve.  A part of me may have projected this romantic perception of death upon my grandma’s choice to do euthanasia.

It only recently starts to dawn on me, that, free as death may seem from the inside, it leaves a penetrating print upon the living. As a biologist I could have known. We can be poisoned by a dead brother’s body. Could it be that if a body of a dead person can make you ill, so can a dead person’s emotion? Should that too be properly cleaned?

I’ve carried the disturbing memory as a heavy weight through the day. I never knew that death, in all its beauty, can be so repulsive. Not even when watching Game of Thrones. I don’t think I’ve ever had a viler dream. Death in my dreams was usually fresh or even mystical. Not rotting and definitely not in such a way that it spat from my own guts.

She told me she hoped I’d remember her in a nice way. I told her I would. I do. I’ve wondered today if I missed signals in her instants of confusion, when she was still alive. Instants remarkably similar to her anxiety in my dream. Her question if she’s dead or alive. For a while today I seriously wondered if there was a piece of her spirit remnant inside me. Yet now that I truly tune in to that time, I remember joy, laughter and a deep calm. Her choice was made. Anything I would have tried to do to stop her would have made it harder.

It’s that calm that tells me now that it was just a nightmare. The emotion should be taken care of in me, not in her. Some proper rest once in a while wouldn’t hurt.

Freedom of press

A social media revolt occurred a number of weeks ago (and is ongoing), in which the Dutch and the Germans publically accused the Turkish dictator as well as their own government for not being allowed to call him a goatfucker. Since I joyfully get mixed up a good fight once in a while, I joined that argument, mainly by stating that it was not about civilized people defending free speech, but rather about westerners bullying Turks.

I’d like to carry this line of thought to punch mode now that the Dutch newspapers published an item on a far more severe threat to the freedom of Dutch speech, yet got ignored by all the free speech heroes of the past month.

This morning, it was announced that the editors-in-chief of the most prominent Dutch newspapers wrote a letter to the government in which they presented their analyses of a new law proposal. As a protection to freedom of press, the Dutch law grants journalists the right not to denounce their sources if questioned. Recently, however, the government has been accused of regularly listening in on Dutch journalists and locking them up, hoping to find out who their sources were. The government will reassess this freedom of press law in June.

The editors-in-chief draw two scary conclusions. First, the current law proposal would grant the AIVD (the Dutch version of the NSA) the legal right to trace sources of all journalists through their telecommunication systems. Second, the proposal creates confusion on the definition of ‘journalism’, and would put bloggers like myself into a grey area for the questioning bit. These laws would give the Dutch government the legal right to track down any informant without interference of a judge. Thus, people who provide sensitive information should start watching their backs. In other words: goodbye protection of the freedom of speech.

But is twitter booming? Do the comedians revolt? Is anyone else talking about it? Just a few people. If I search for ‘vrijheid van meningsuiting’ (‘freedom of speech’ in Dutch) on twitter, I find no one. Persvrijheid (‘freedom of press’) gives just a few hits.

Let’s be clear, here, I have relatively good trust in the Dutch government. I think they were more civilized 20 years ago, but we all were, so yes, they have my blessing to govern me. To give them the right to all of my future news sources, however, is a different story. Who is going to rule us next? Will they benefit from the potential law change? Maybe not, but to give an unknown future group that power is a bad idea.

I could wonder: who am I kidding? The state is already right on top of us ever since the technology is available. True, but they can still be sued for it, and it should stay that way.

Now: why is does this not cause a revolt as big as the Böhmermann vs Erdogan face-off? To be honest, I think it’s because of how the human mind works. The case is just too complex, too distant, too hard to grasp. There’s no easy black sheep. It’s not a fight on which you can place your bets. So person number one doesn’t care, and person number two doesn’t follow person number one, while person number three sees no opportunity to earn any money here, and turns the other way. Hence the case resides in obscurity.

But let’s keep up the spirit. I do believe the government will listen to these editors-in-chief. I do suspect adaptations in the plans. Still, the statement that was made would be far more powerfull if the people would join the debate. The self-proclaimed protestors for free speech are now losing their face. They sham they go against the current, yet in reality enter the main stage and scream what the crowd wants to hear.  Entertainment prevails while justice gets hidden in the noise.


Trees’ party

Recently, I was standing at a party in the dunes with my friend, the sun was slowly rising, the drinks running out, we just collected firewood and we were having a conversation about what life really is. We discussed that if you look at the earths history, land plants and trees have actually emerged quite recently. Knowing that, it suddenly becomes visible that we aren’t that much worse than the other species around. We’re just a bit quicker.

People forget that plants consume rocks. A forest is essentially a layer of dead plant bodies with trees on top of them, which slowly but steadily empties the earth’s crust of its vital mineral content. These minerals slowly disappear into the rivers, then disappear at the bottom of the sea. That way, entire forests slowly make their environment unsuitable to themselves. If you want to keep a planet intact, the best you can do is to sterilize it (and remove the atmosphere and the surface water). No plants, no animals, no change. Just rock.

Nowadays, we humans tend to believe that we are bad, because we blow up the planet. Yet if you compare our behaviour to that of plants, we’re not that different. We pull minerals out of the earth, and work them into a nurturing ground for endless forms and shapes of art, housing, thought patterns divinities and so on. We aren’t doing this over the back of nature: we are nature doing it. Isn’t that what life is? Reshaping the environment into a whole lot of other beautiful things?

While standing at the party in the dunes, my friend exclaimed that life itself is indeed a party. It appears in a vast nothingness, grows, hits an apogee, then starts disappearing. Trees dance, so do we. They consumer rocks, we consume them and all of us knew in advance that one day, the music stops and the lights will go off. It’s fine that, parties don’t go on forever, they’re just parties.

With or without us, sooner or later all life here will die out (by the way, I’m not suggesting we’ll even get close to killing life itself). Does that matter? In a way yes, but in a bigger way not at all. We should be grateful we were once alive. Of course, we as mankind have the option to stop behaving like that one drunk guy who entered his drinking rage, making an enormous mess finishing the booze on his own while heading straight towards a huge hangover full of regrets. That would prolong the fun for others. We could do that. But would it essentially make any difference? I don’t think so. Life will go on, and sooner or later we will all feel great at a new party with a filled up fridge.

Operation Icarus

Update: @Op_Icarus is back. Says he was ill…

Yesterday, the New York Stock exchange system status history page mentioned that the technical issues have been resolved. On Twitter, Hacktivist @S1ege_  tweeted “New York Stock exchange has now been down for 4 hours”.  The profile description of S1ege is: “So above, so below. Official Twitter of s1ege Admin of former member of – This Twitter Hijack Count Attempts currently at #34“.

I’ve been researching an interesting phenomenon in the media and banking world, named Operation Icarus, Shut Down the Banks and/or Ghost Squat Hackers. It consists of a set of hacks to world banks across the globe, and it’s happening in the thirty days following May the 3rd. That includes today. What makes this thing so interesting, is that it’s extremely hard to find any information on it, or trying to study its extent. Let me show you some of my interesting findings:

Anonymous have announced the start of Operation Icarus several times, including in this video , published on May 8th. The announcement of the attack on the central banks of the world included a statement that Anonymous would “throw a wrench in their machine”.  In the meanwhile, different media (including S1ege- linked twitter accounts) reported on broken bank websites in (more or less in order of appearance) Greece, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Guernsey, Panama, Bosnia, Kenya, Montenegro, New Zealand, the Cayman Islands, Jordan, South Korea, the British Virgin Islands, Vietnam,  France, the Phillipines, Chile, Kenya, Myanmar, the bank of America and some US states including Dallas, Cleveland and recently the New York Stock Exchange. I have checked a few websites, and some were down for a while indeed. In Kenya, the ATM didn’t work for about half a day on May 14th.  That incapacitated the entire nation of buying anything… Around the same time, Twitter account @Op_Icarus disappeared, along with all its tweets about the banks they attacked.

On May 13th, SWIFT, published a security notice on their website, stating that there had been breaches in their system earlier this year. It was done by a group of very advanced hackers, who managed to impersonate bank employees and steal millions of dollars, about eighty. Twice, it seems. They say it “was not a single occurrence, but part of a wider and highly adaptive campaign targeting banks”. According to the site, the core system of SWIFT is untouched. Remember how every single bank account in the world has a SWIFT number? Yes. That’s the SWIFT we’re talking about.

I could find no clear indication that Operation Icarus and the SWIFT attacks were linked until now. @S1iege_ , whom you cannot find if you just search for him on twitter, has retweeted this exclusive interview with… himself, in which, indeed, he claims the two SWIFT attacks, even framing the one in Vietnam, that other media called unsuccessful, as succesful. In the interview, he propagates a conspiracy theory which is quite interesting to look at, and frames it as Anonymous’ main motivation for their actions.

Of course, it could also be that the twitter accounts and information sources I found are making most of this up. That only a few of these cases are true (including SWIFT and Kenya,), and that some weirdos that call themselves Anonymous are simply following the global news very thoroughly to tweet about it and make YouTube videos (Note that one both of the actual SWIFT attacks stem from before the 3rd). It could be that Anonymous is not a group, but a number of individuals who want to seem interesting. That they simply take down the websites of the banks, nothing more. But the coincidence is too big to me. It seems that more is going on. Especially now: how silly would you be as a mediocre hacker group, to claim some of the most severe hacks in the history of banking, if you cannot thoroughly defend yourself against the CIA and so on?

But do we hear of it in the news? Barely. All of the above are described as isolated incidents. What’s more, there seems to be censorship going on. I’ve seen that happen to @Op_Icarus. But then again, that could also be a decoy: the hacktivists could have removed that themselves, to make me believe they’re legit. They could be riding the wave of the SWIFT attacks for a campaign of their own.

But if all of it is true, and I’m starting to believe it, if there is a link between the downs on the banks sites,the SWIFT heists and the Kenya bank failure, then there is something very big going on. If it’s true, then these guys know what they’re doing, and will use their global reach for something more intense. That’s what S1ege says in the interview. Sure, they’ve been saying it for years without doing much, but what if they’re ready now?

We’re halfway since the thirty days started. For the second half, I’ll be scrutinizing the web.

The borders of free speech

I have been laughing about some of the numerous Erdogan jokes that were recently published in the Dutch twitter feed. Some were quite funny indeed.

Quick recap of the events that lead to this escalation.

  • March 31st: German comedian Böhmermann blatantly insults Turkish dictator Erdogan in an attempt to demonstrate the borders of the German Free-speech law. Erdogan learns about the poem and finds an obscure German law that allows him to sue Böhmermann for a prison sentence.
  • April 12th: Böhmermann receives police protection due to threats of ‘Erdogan Supporters’.
  • April 15th: Angela Merkel does not use her lawful opportunity to block the lawsuit, meaning she allows it to take place, The Dutch Cabinet discovers a similar law in the archives and immediately sets course to its abolishment.
  • In reaction to that, Hans Teeuwen posts a video in which he explains that in his time as a boywhore, Erdogan did not exactly please him as a client. Hans Teeuwen is a prominent Dutch free speech advocate. He was a friend of Theo van Gogh, who got murdered in the streets of Amsterdam for repeatedly criticizing muslims on tv. More Dutch comedians and broadcasters publically insult Erdogan.
  • April 21st: Dutch Media report on a letter that is sent by Turkish consulates. It consists of a call to all Dutch Turks to report on public insults of Erdogan and the Turks. The stream of Erdogan insults on twitter explodes, and #ErdoganInsult becomes trending.
  • April 22nd: After being asked by the Dutch cabinet, the Turkish consulates answer that this was a misunderstanding. A lawyer announces that Erdogan will sue Hans Teeuwen.
  • April 23rd: a Turkish journalist from the Netherlands is arrested in Turkey. She has a lovely night in jail.
  • April 24th (today): the journalist is released, but cannot leave the country.

Now, what can we learn from all of this?

First, I’d say that Erdogan may by now realise that if he hadn’t acted upon the insults, all of this may have died away in a day. Instead, it turned into an ongoing media battle, with some quite insulting episodes. A classic example of ‘you become what you try to fight’. His social media terrorization policy clearly doesn’t work in Europe. He’s not as powerful as he may like to be.

Second, the Dutch media landscape clearly hasn’t yet recovered from the murdered comedians Charlie Hebdo and Theo van Gogh, a similar case in the Netherlands, in 2002. I would say that framing Erdogan as a threat to our freedom of speech gives him far more credit than he deserves. Sure, he’s a threat in Turkey, but not here. Are we already forgetting that this man is actually helping us out by giving a space to all the refugees we don’t have room for? Wasn’t that what we wanted?

Third: the word ‘Goatfucker’. It was prominent with Böhmermann, and Theo van Gogh used it as well, before he got murdered. It means ‘Arab’. I think it plays a pivotal role in this story. It originated from the Dutch colonial times, in which it was used to insult Arabs by suggesting bestial tendencies. It affirmed the conquerors’ elevated moral position. But one should wonder how moral our position is. After all: who would suffer in a world where men fuck goats?

Because Theo van Gogh used this word, it has acquired a protest status in the Netherlands. It’s in a way comparable to Je Suis Charlie, but more offensive. The sad thing is that on the Western work floor, arabs are, indeed, worth less than whites. So using the word is more like bullying a weaker social group. That doesn’t advocate for Erdogan, who is probably worth far more than the comedians who insult him. Of course, he just thrives on EU attention. If he has the opportunity to infiltrate our minds somehow, it’s only smart of him to take it. Even if it backfires.

But what did the comedians get caught up with in the first place? Do they believe they did something good for the Turks? In that case, the word goatfucker was quite ill-chosen. Or did they really think they would support free speech with their heroic acts of public insult? It seems to me that these comedians hitch-hike on a wave, needlessly deepening a clash between cultures under the pretence of free speech.

Should I feel guilty for being entertained?


There’s another emotion I’d like to describe, but don’t know a name for. At the time I am writing this down, I haven’t found the right word yet, so I’m going to try to squeeze it out by writing this text. Surround it. Catch it. Become it. Look at it from a distance. As if some part of my mind yet has to travel to that point, a light perhaps, where it has crystallized.

It’s a high tension emotion which, in my case, only arises from the interaction with another human. An interaction with high charge. The emotion comes afterwards, when, in an upcomming surge, the conversation starts playing back inside my head. When it rises in between me and my thoughts, hijacks them and blinds me from what’s happening around.

There are three clear moments when this can happen in my case: after an argument or a fight, when I have a crush on someone, and as occurred recently, when I have a job interview. There’s always a question involved. A fight can leave me puzzled about the question ‘who is right?’. The anger fuels this, and causes me not to think clearly. In the turbulence, I construct a frame of thoughts that makes me right, and makes me feel better about myself. Then I start wondering how I can relate back to the other person. Solve it. All that time, I’m dominated by this same emotion.  Having a crush is similar, but the life-dependent question there is: “does she like me back?”. Whatever that may mean. Very important, obviously, so there come the thoughts that interpret the conversation during the recent date in my favour, and there goes the focus on anything else. Job interviews, might objectively have an impact on my life, but they trigger the same mechanism. Did I say this right? Was I spontaneous enough? Should I have added more information here? Was I too quick? To jovial? Still didn’t hear if they hired me, by the way, but the emotion has faded by now.

What I want to describe, find a word for, is the gooey structure of this emotion, which I notice if I want to break it. For example, when I want to get to work. It’s so viscous, that when I arrive at a point where I can concentrate, it undermines that, lurking me back into its useless rambling. And particularly when I fight it, it can cause electric bursts of panic in my heart or shoulder, or right under my belly button. But surrendering to it doesn’t release its grip either: it fuels it. Regardless of how I relate to it, it passes with time. As a falling tide.

It’s a bit like being submerged by a flood of mental syrup, really. My functional mind moves slowly and with a lot for force, working itself into being stuck in a new position. There seems to be a lot going on, but in fact I’m stuck in a sticky cloud of anxieties. Think I’ll call it subsyrupism. As in, “I’m feeling very subsyruped” today. Or: “she can’t hear you, she’s subsyruped.”  Yes, that works. Good. Subsyruped it is.

Things to consider when voting -or not voting- for the Ukraine Referendum in the Netherlands

Some years ago, the Netherlands created a law that allows citizens to demand a referendum if they collect enough signatures. Geen Stijl, a media platform which has grown famous by publically insulting people and inventing hoaxes, set up a campaign (named Geen Peil), and managed to go well over the threshold of 300 000 signatures. The issue: the trade agreement of the EU with Ukraine was signed without consulting EU citizens, and this is an example of EU imperialism citizens do not necessarily agree with. Therefore, we should be allowed give a vote of council on the agreement. It will take place on the 6th of April.

The campaign opened a Pandora’s box of citizen frustrations over social media. They complain about EU’s democratic deficit, chicken unfriendly Ukrainian industries, unfair competition, Monsanto and Shell, Ukrainian war and corruption, stigmatizations of the initiator of this referendum Jan Roos, about being influenced by propaganda and about several more issues. Since I’m amazed by some of the things I’m reading, I feel the need to give my views on the issues raised, and the state of the EU.

The Ukrainian Situation
As we all know, the history of Ukraine is complex. It has been a borderland for centuries, has known many bloody episodes, particularly during the world wars, and has only become a sovereign state in 1990. The western, and most powerful part of Ukraine has been wanting to sign a trade agreement with the EU and got really close to it in 2014. When the Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych backed away from this plan, he was removed from power, and the recent revolution unfolded. Today, most of the Ukrainians still want this agreement signed. It will likely provide them a bit of structure and bargaining power against powerful local players, despite the fact that there is almost no hope for real stability in the coming decades. Of course, strong ties to Russia remain, as the Federation has played an important role in Ukraine’s history, and will continue to do so. If guided peacefully, this may be no problem.

EU Values
The main reason why most Ukrainians want to team up with the EU, is that the EU represents a set of humanitarian values, market structures and legal frameworks that, if correctly implemented, would highly benefit stability. Paradoxically, these are the same or similar values that many of the Dutch No-voters contest. That’s because they supposedly benefit big market players and politicians while undermining the power of the people.

The discussion on the question if the EU still adheres to these values gets complicated by media-popular topics such as the refugee crisis and terrorism. These issues attract debaters who have no insight in politics or legal frameworks, but feel disadvantaged or manipulated by the system. They bring in observations which might be valid, but interpret them in a way that is in my view overly accusational to the European regime. I am not an expert on these frameworks either, but it seems to me that when it comes to quality of life, human freedom and values and economical stability, the European model still works quite a lot better than the Russian one. But of course, we can not all always get what we want, and Greece certainly is a victim we can’t ignore. But I also trust that the EU is working on ways to resolve the issues, precisely because the EU values are central to the union.

The Reputation of Geen Peil
I despise the guys who made this referendum happen (particularly phony Jan Roos), but have to give it to them: they’ve made themselves heard, and have drawn attention to a set of important issues of Europe and, perhaps, the entire West. There is a thing that bothers me here, though.

On the one hand, the Geen Peil leader propagates that we have to make ourselves heard to save democracy. But at the same time, his team spreads faulty information, populist claims, to direct people into voting No. Some examples: ‘this agreement is a step to expansion of EU territory’, ‘the agreement decreases our democratic power’ and ‘this will open a migratory stream from Ukraine towards western Europe’. All are proven untrue. It is not surprising that they do this, because lying is what has built this group’s fame, but I still find it somehow creepy to see a media group build political power on plain bullshit. And of course they’re backed by Geert Wilders. It would suit Geen Peil better if they would stick to: ‘have your voice heard’, instead of the – sometimes subliminal – ‘vote no’ on their social media outlets.

“Most conventional media say: vote yes”
There are many social media discussions going on about the question why the regular media pay so little attention to the no voters’ arguments. People are describing this as suspicious national propaganda to vote yes.

For what I’ve seen, most, not all, conventional media indeed advocate yes over no. Propaganda is one explanation, but that doesn’t explain why the new, independent, crowdsourced medium ‘The Correspondent’ also advocates a yes. Another explanation is that if you filter out the bullshit, and look for proper sources, voting yes is just a more sensible thing to do. And a third explanation is that the other media hate Jan Roos as much as I do, and collectively try to undermine his plan. Personally, I think it’s the second one. The bottom line is that the fact that all conventional media agree doesn’t make it propaganda. And bloggers are not necessarily right if they claim the opposite.

Environmental consequences
As I’m in the environmentalist scene, I have seen many social media contacts make claims about Ukraine being a great EU backdoor for Monsanto and a good way to get non-animal friendly meat from Ukraine on our markets. Though I haven’t gone into depth of these issues, the claims are probably true. They fit in the narrative of Ukraine corruption and humanitarian instability. Would that be a convincing argument to say no? The yes camp tends to oppose the statement by claiming that a trade agreement would help implement better standards for food production in Ukraine. I think this is probably true as well, but not for the coming decade.

But more importantly, this is a different discussion. These issues are  not so much centered around the agreement with Ukraine itself (though certainly influenced by it), but around a far larger problem of market control by big companies, and large agreements such as TTIP. It shows that we need to reform some things, which should happen on a far larger scale. Why is this referendum not about TTIP? Honestly. Who in the Netherlands really cares about Ukraine? As I said earlier, people want to use this opportunity to express a disagreement on the system at large, similar to, for example, the Occupy movement. But they should be patient and address one issue at the time. It seems to me that environmentalists are trying to get their piece of the cake of this discussion.

And then there is one of my favourite politicians of this time: Vladimir Putin. A friend recently told me he was convinced that the Russians have supported the referendum financially. Not because they care about Ukraine, of course, Ukraine means nothing to Russia. What Putin wants is to divide Europe, so that he can talk with every nation state individually, and with far larger bargaining power. Makes sense, I’d say. He would appreciate a Dutch no vote as a potential step towards European instability.

The impact of this referendum
And then there’s the final, most important question in this matter: how much attention would the Dutch government pay to a no-vote on an agreement that they have already signed? If you ask me, the answer to this question is ‘not much’. There are no signs that they would undo the treaty from the Dutch site, particularly not now that they are president of the EU and trying to make the Dutch political voice heard.

And that’s exactly what Geen Peil wants, to demonstrate that politicians cannot be trusted as representatives of the people. That democracy is false, and that we should somehow claim our rights. Now: of course you can’t trust politicians. They’re politicians! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust them. After all they are the ones responsible to deal with these issues, that’s what we elected them for. We can go on and on about how they’re not doing what we want, but that’s an incredibly childish way of seeing democracy. As if the politicians are our parents, who have to give us sweets when we desire them. People have wrong desires, and it would be a strong and valid political move to correct a no vote of the people of an insignificant nation as the Netherlands, if it were to arise. This is not our issue.

To me, the ideal outcome is one where no votes. If less than 30% of the Dutch show up on the sixth, then the referendum will be declared forfeit. It would reveal a no-nonsense attitude that I’d highly appreciate, given the silliness of calling a referendum on this particular case. A no would temporarily raise a discussion on the power of democracy in the Netherlands, after which some would conclude that ignoring this council was probably for the better, and others would build further on a populist momentum. And what would happen with a yes? It would perhaps show some kindness of the Dutch people, and encourage the Ukrainians a little? Maybe that would be the best outcome after all.

Playing mind games with Soul