Tag Archives: Occupation

Christopher

When the men hammered the head of the fish, the boy screamed, crying. In the short time it had lived in his bathtub, he had grown fond of the big swimming creature. He’d named it Christopher. It’s understandable that the boy loathed the act of his uncles. But our Christmas meal was at stake and the young emotional bond had been destined to be ignored.

It’s a Buddhist belief that if you give someone or something a name, you make a claim to that which you name. It means that young parents who, out of duty, name their newborn Pete, immediately make it their possession. But it also means that if you give your partner a nickname, this person or the aspect you named, becomes your property.

Adversely, when you give someone your name, you give that person ownership over you. And every time this person calls it, he or she summons your attention. Have you felt that? It’s an excellent sales technique and a good way to get yourself liked to call another by his name. The other way around: creating a name for yourself or your organisation, makes you graspable to the audience and by that less threatening.

It would be an act of liberty, in this perspective, to invent a new name for yourself and keep it secret. That would give you a claim to yourself that no one else has. A different approach would be to behave in a way that is not expected from your personal or family name. But the freest is he or she who detaches from all names that are given to him or her. The one who doesn’t have a name.

I would take this idea a step further and say that any judgement people make of each other is an attempt to seize something. Calling another by his or her profession, for example, or by a political preference, or cultural background has this same effect of occupation, even if you don’t attach a value to it. Even thinking it has that effect. We allow each other a certain degree of possession over ourselves by sharing who we are, but set limits as well. And by conceptualizing, we are determining our place in a hierarchy.

You could say that the idea of ‘not being understood by anyone’, something we all have to a certain degree, is a result of being judged in an inacurate way. It could be solved by giving your loved ones the names you secretly hold for youself. Yet while we give these names away and create a space for trust through which we can bond, we also hand over part of our autonomy.

As we could see in the case of the death of Christopher the fish and the reaction of his young friend, these things can have enormous emotional implications. ‘You never call me honey anymore’ means that you’re no longer taking your claim of this aspect of her that you once shared. Changing your official name is a deliberate act of breaking out from the property of your parents. The name switch of women after marriage is comparable.

A friend once called me ‘joyful sailor of dreams’. This blog is a tribute to something she observed in me. Reappropriated, as you can see, but I’m still thankful. By that simple act, she called something into life. This is what the boy did with Christopher. It’s no more than a memory now, but who knows what that will grow into?

It’s probably because I agree with this Buddhist theory that I have become a writer.

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Dark Memories

How often have I heard the stories about the second world war in the Netherlands? I have told people that I’ve seen enough films and read enough books on the theme. How many two-minute silences for the victims have passed? Plenty. Yet once in a while throughout the years, the topic kept triggering my interest . As I grow older, the impacts of the stories get more intense.

I’m visiting my grandma, Jacoba, at her dusk. She is a little lady with short white hair and clear blue eyes with tiny pupils, through which she looks with fiery calm. She sits on her own spot, in the middle of a yellow leather three people couch. She smokes a cigarette that has not run out for as long as I’ve known her.We had a coffee, walked a round and now we talk. She unexpectedly brings up the war.
“How was it for you?” I ask loudly. Her hearing is not that good anymore.
“They were just people…”

In the first years after the Nazis had conquered the Netherlands, they had been quite likeable. With their trustworthy attitudes, they had managed to convince Dutch Jews to register their family trees and wear the infamous yellow star of David. After two years of occupation, they began to systematically rob the Jewish of their rights and freedoms. They then  moved the families out of the city. Many seemed to believe that they’d simply been sent off to work somewhere else.  Jacoba, sixteen at the time, lived very close to the Dutch Theater, where Jews were gathered and most deportations were done.

“Half of my class were Jewish” she says, in a tone that does not seem emotional at all. “The thought of Jews being different from the others had never occurred to me before. But one by one, they came to my door to announce that they received the letter. They came to say goodbye and some left precious belongings for me to keep for the day when they’d come back. One boy gave me a guitar. I still have it upstairs.”

“One day I biked by the Weteringschans and I saw how people were being executed by gunfire. I stopped, but a soldier commanded me to move forward. Of course I did that, I was afraid of what would happen otherwise.”

The winter of ’45 was deadly to many. My grandma still feels guilty about selling a box of one of her Jewish friends because she needed the money for food. When the liberation came and people could eat again, some people died of burst stomachs. Jacoba and her sister reminded each other of that when her new Canadian boyfriend took them to a party where little breads were all around. She laughs about that adventure.

“One day during the deportings,” she concludes “I was walking home, and suddenly saw a man look at me, out of the truck. I will never forget the expression on his face. We both knew that he’d never come back.” Under the disgust in her expression, I can taste their shared despair.

Resistance

This post was written somewhere at the end of july. Like with the previous post, my feeling has changed.

I failed. At the beginning of the year, I promised myself I’d write on this blog once a week at least. I didn’t. Not only did I not have time to, I did not want to write either. And who was there to check on me? Only myself, not even up for such a simple task.

Rain is pooring. Summer 2012. One of the worst summers, weatherwise, that I can recall in the Netherlands. Then again, when was the last time I was here in July? I usually run towards the south, where the sun is a reliable. This time I didn’t.

On the 23rd of July, I cried. I lost my booklet that night, and I realised that if this writing is so important to me, why don’t I hold on to it? It was symbolical. I felt failure was near. I felt I cannot keep writing. Yet if writing is not what I want, then what is?

I’m quickly bored when I’m alone. And I easily feel like I’m wasting my time, even when I do what I like. I need an occupation. I long for an authority to tell me what to do, while at the same time, I want to combat this authority and take over his place. I do so many things, but am dedicated to none. Hop activities. Enjoy, but run even from that enjoyment. Pleasure that for example writing can give me. It does, even now.

I may have failed, but I’m still alive. I’ll try to do it better next time again.