Tag Archives: Understanding

Donald Duck rants and raves

For about two years, Friday night was the night where I’d write a post for this blog. I didn’t care too much about the quality at the time, – a little of course – what mattered was the process. Building. Moving forward. Adding words to my repertoire. In time, writers realise that it works in a similar way as fossilisation. You add layer upon layer, and somewhere in the depths, let’s call it subconscious, a pressure starts growing. A forgotten shape, a feeling, does not decompose down there. It gets solid. And one day some part of us will have the courage to break through it all, knowing that there is something waiting. Something demonstrable. Perhaps that wasn’t exactly how I saw it at the time, but I do now. Time gradually moved me forward.

What better moment to honour this freedom I apparently experienced, than on a Friday night? I’m listening to Stromae on KEXP at the same time. And what better subject to add to this meaningless pile of information than our dear friend and buddy, President Donald Trump? May I start this with the question: ‘for how long will people keep reciting the list of American presidents?’ And, you know what? Let me end it there as well. Or, instead, at a recommendation to listen to the New York Times’ Daily of today. If you’re into the media discussion, that is. They’re far better at wording all that than I am. And I’ll spare you Larsen C as well.

Which leaves me in a void. A similar freedom I used to envision myself to have. A blank canvas. The unthreaded snow I’ve seen recently, here in Amsterdam and in Vienna.

It’s scary in the void. It reminds me of a time when I was a kid. Several times. When I was ill, I’d see this infinite space of living links. In black and white. The worst was that I was one of them. And so was everybody else, regardless of their pretending. Their beliefs. It was terrifyingly real. So real that whatever my parents told me, I was six the first time, has never been as convincing. So real that I still believe in it.

Why is it that whenever we have the sense of being free, we are faced with our worst fears? Why do we keep carving our blank canvasses with vileness? For lack of a better word. Is the reason what they say it is? What who says? So many have spoken, so many have carved us as they have themselves. So few have been free, who taught the rules.

Someone once taught me that Friday night is no better than any other night. I don’t know if I can believe that.

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The Metaphor of Geert Wilders

For a long time, I have avoided writing about the Dutch politician of this era. The guy pissed me off whenever I saw him. I didn´t think he deserved my attention or that of my readers. Pollute my blog with him. Yet for the past ten years, he has kept his status as a nagging presence in Dutch society. It makes us wonder: what has given this childman his power? How has he managed to become so persistently annoying that he convinced me to write about him? Where has our society failed to ignore him to death? Which lessons does he throw in our midst?

A brief history for those who´ve missed it. Around the year 2000, Pim Fortuyn was the first politician whose party got big because he addressed the problem of integration in the Netherlands. He got killed (by an educated Dutch guy who thought he was saving the country) and left a gap in the political offer while the demand remained. Wilders filled that gap. When, after some years, he managed to enter the government, he dismantled it after a year. Today, no politician wants to govern with him. He yells bombastic language from the sideline and crosses some ethical lines for which he is then punished.

Some people admire Wilders´ rethorics. They see quality in his capacity to frame things simply, in a language that people with little education can follow. He called other politicians mental, has framed their plans as garbage, and has insulted cultural groups, delaying big decisions in the process. Even if he can make me laugh, I don´t think his intelligence is the reason for our fascination, because if you look at him closely, he acts like a little boy.

Wilders is the personification of his own incapacity to cause productive change. He does not dare to go into dialogue with strangers because he is afraid it might threaten his worldview. He has translated his unwillingness to listen to others into a program that reveals his identity as a sissy who calls his daddy when he gets into a conflict. The daddy, here, are the cops that do the dirty work for him.

What intrigues us in Wilders, is his reminder of our own cowardly attitude to change. Our laziness in the search for truth. Dutch politicians cannot call him to order because of their fear for the points he addresses. They too lack the creativity to solve them, so they pretend there is nothing going on. WIlders is our collective lack of interest in our neighbour, and our incapacity to move ourselves towards a happy life.

What this man has sublimed will keep tormenting our subconscious until we solve the fragmentation in our communities. He exists among us until most of us learn how to be peacefully curious about the realities of the other. He´ll be here until we perceive understanding as an action instead of a state of mind. He will reflect our fears until we gather the courage to look them in the eyes.

Loving the fear for the lie

There are people in this world who talk about fear and love as if they are each other’s opposites. Some of those people frame it as a choice between two pathways: do you take the path of fear or the path of love? You may have met them. Some people also categorize acts into ‘fearful and loving’ behaviour. This scene from Donnie Darko puts it poignantly. It makes me wonder how it has happened that these two simple words are now so deeply embedded in the human understanding of their lives.

What strikes me most about the way society understands fear and love, is that both are very tightly connected to our will. Ask a person what he or she fears, and many times that person will speak of something he or she likes to avoid, while if they talk about something they love, they’d bring up a situation they would like to attract. There’s a movement of the mind towards or away from some object. If both are indeed movements, aren’t fear and love ultimately very similar things? Or seen from a different angle: how would fear and love look if we imagined ourselves out of the equation?

Perhaps my objection here is not with this immature definition of fear and love, but rather with the omnipresent understanding of all things as having a dualistic nature. I think this whole yin yang thing is a veil over a colourful reality. The reason it is so popular, I think, is that our minds prefer to contrast themselves to the background of their own projections. And how do you better do that than in black and white? Then again, since I am perceiving the world through my mind, I am per definition not the right person to contest a well established truth as dualism. After all, it is possible I am unknowingly objecting against the nature of existence itself. My mind can not know reality without it, but then again, whose mind could? How can we be sure duality exists? Or does not? Isn’t this very question dualistic in nature?

Something you fear can turn into something you love, something you love can turn into something you fear. You can love fear, and you can fear love. You can even fear and love a single thing at once. If you dig into it, you find vast varieties in what people perceive as their fears and their loves. They can be emotional states, but they can also be lingering presences in our conscious or subconscious perceptions with, admitted, influence on our choices. A triggered fear can lead you anywhere, and a triggered event of love could lead you to exactly the same place. They can be directed towards something that actually exists, but they can also confront something imaginary, something that we have made up, yet presents itself to us as lively as anything else.

To talk about fear or love is to talk about two mountains in the own emotional landscape. We don’t usually clarify if we are talking about the peaks or the base, the tree line or the sound of the birds. Are we talking about the act of climbing these mountains, or sliding off from them? Instead, we are tempted to just place one mountain on the opposite side of the other and say: well my experience is either of the two. What is the benefit of doing that?

Perhaps downsizing the richness of the inner world makes it easier to lead your life. Or maybe it is part of an evil plot serving to control our behaviour by fragmenting our inner coherence and scatter our will. Or am I overcomplicating things and are fear and love indeed poles of our mental existence? Poles we can simply pick a direction from. Maybe I’m justifying my incapacity to do so myself. Am I guided by my fear of the lie? My love for the truth? Or maybe I’m just playing around.

A fearful loving fool would know.

Appearances

Walking through the Flevopark I saw this scene and took a picture of it. It shows a tree that has fallen down, lifting its roots in the process. The roots have ripped along a mat of soil from the ground, revealing disturbingly well arranged bricks. The tree, no longer standing, is now growing branches from its trunk. Out of the view jump an awfull lot of questions and speculations into my mind.

One might ask why the tree fell over, since it doesn’t seem too heavy, but you’d immediately answer: because as you can see, it barely has roots. True, but why is that? It seems obvious at first: it could not grow roots because of those bricks. Then again, why did it not simply reach through, disorganize them, and find its stability deeper down? Those little seedlings below sure didn’t have a problem with that. Well, one could answer, it did not root deeply because it was positioned at the height of the water and it did not need to look any further. In which case the bricks may have nothing to do with the downfall whatsoever.

What are those bricks doing there, anyway? They can’t be there for long yet, because they’d have had too much time to sink away or lose their structure. But someone arranged them there deliberately. Why? Surely not to support the establishment of the vegetation? Are those bricks under the entire park? And what are they lying on? Sand? Concrete?

Will the tree survive, now that it has claimed a bigger land? Will the branches form new stems, and will the stem grow new roots? Was this all part of its plan? I doubt it. Even though I admire the trees courage to keep growing after this disaster, I suspect the water will quickly suck its way through. It is probably rotting already, on its way to be pulp in a few years.

So what are we looking at here? Is this humans millionth failed attempt to do something constructive with nature? Is this a painful proof of how we don’t even manage to keep our city parks in one piece? Is it a millionth tragically failed attempt of nature to make something out of our ridiculous inventions?

Or is this a success story and am I missing out on something essential? If you have a clue, please let me know.

To jail with the state!

The Dutch state was sued for not investing enough energy in the avoidance of climate change. The summon is now being translated into different languages, meaning more states will follow. The case is unlikely to win, but the news is nonetheless interesting.

Who can we blame for climate change? It is well established by now that it is happening, and that rich humans’ role is massive. To whom can we point our fingers on this potentially disastrous turn of events? There are so many of them.

The consumers perhaps, who grow fatter and fatter with products that tingle their big, sloppy tongues with ever more exquisite taste? Can we blame them for driving the expansion of product availability by their constant curiosity for more? Can you really blame a fish for biting a worm on a hook? Should rationality have prevented man from going for the bait over and over again? Or was it this very rationality that caused the trouble? Where have our ethics abandoned us?

Maybe we should blame the producers for not caring about their product cycles? Could they, after all, not have thought the business through? It has been clear for quite a while that the earth’s surface is limited. Did that ever hit them? Are they honestly aware of the problems that they cause? I think many of them are operating under a narrowed vision, caused by the fear of being outcompeted. Or perhaps it with blinding greed. Who chooses his greed in full understanding?

Suing a state for climate change clearly is an act of desperation. I don’t disagree with the act: politicians could indeed make far greater effort to avoid the mass hunger and suffering expected to come hand in hand with this disruption. So why not address the independent keepers of ethics, rights and law to force that upon them? Let them, at last, speak the truth! Let the state pay! Then again, who really pays when the state pays?

It’s too late for blame. The problem has outgrown us. What we can do, is to hold ourselves and each other responsible for the moves we make. I just wrote this down, knowing it is far from enough. What have you been doing?