Wednesday, May 27, 2009

being an immigrant in the Netherlands (sucks)

"Five years ago, my Afghan sister-in-law emigrated to the United States, where she now works, pays taxes and takes part in public life. If she had turned up in Europe, she would still be undergoing treatment from social workers for her trauma—and she still wouldn't have got a job or won acceptance as a citizen."
Afshin Ellian
I have my disagreements with Prof. Ellian, but this quote reflects my sentiment...

Today, two things happened:
  1. I received legal advice on my status as an immigrant in the Netherlands.
  2. I read the Wilders propaganda about the EU elections.

When I came back from the Juridische Lokeet (a bliss on its own, and a reminiscent of social welfare state that the "new" Dutch electorate is so keen on getting rid of) I was so upset, it made me write a short story -which I almost always manage to save for later. I will save the story for later indeed. But then I read some blond and blue-eyed (for sure) dutchman's agreement with Wilders, and rarely as it happens, I freaked out.

The news I was reading summarised how Wilders was signalling "that the European Union is good for nothing in its current form", that he wants "to bring it down from inside."
While saying these, he is at the height of its popularity at home:
"Regarded by many as the sole voice for Dutch disquiet about the economic and cultural implications of Islamic immigration, the PVV [his party] calls for government based on Judeo-Christian principles. It seeks the eviction of Romania and Bulgaria from the European Union, a freeze on future enlargement and believes Turkey should not become a member "not now, not in a hundred years"."The PVV takes part in the European elections ... because the islamisation has to be stopped."
It's the same Wilders that made the funny Fitna movie. He faces a trial at home for his anti-Islam utterings and was recently barred from entering Britain to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages."

The agreement came from a nobody. It doesn't matter. It stated loud and clear:

"At last, somene that is willing to state what most of the people think but are sitent. It is ok to burn our flags, state we are all infidels, riot over cartoons, surpress women in the name of Islam, but as soon as some one speaks out, he is a trouble maker? No he is not!
If we are all to get along, we have to acknowledge that there are differences in the world and accept them not change them! Islam I'm affraid is not willing to accept this. Muslims are happy to live in the west and have all it's advantage, but are not willing to bend and integrate alltogether, a fact that alienates them and their thinking.
I respect Islamic countries laws when I had to visit them in the past, if you want to live here, respect ours!
This double standard has to stop!"
The sentiment is here to stay: I feel it everytime someone tells me "Oh, but you don't look Turkish!!!"

Hence, my reply to him was as follows:

Dear Total Lack of Action,

There seems to be a logical mistake in your argument: the assumption that there is AN Islam - a unified force that behaves this way and decides that way. This is similar to calling all Europe murderers because of the abortion doctor killings in the United States and to make your life miserable when you are trying to visit your family or move together with them in Dubai, because your partner was offered this well-paid job. Such an assumption does not allow the remaining of your reasoning be anything but anti-Islamic. Coming from another country full of fear against Islam, Turkey, I can see its many faces. I can also see how this anti-Islamic sentiment only produces more of the Islam you dislike so much.

It is NOT ok to burn flags, state you all infidels, riot over cartoons, surpress women in the name of Islam, and you should make a point out of that. These have neither anything to do with immigrants in the Netherlands nor the EU elections. But also I suggest you not to take these images too seriously either. Do you realise what a big ratio of those people that you regard as Muslim (while they have a multiplicity of identities) didn't burn flags, riot over cartoons, state you all infidels etc?

As for the domestic violence issue, I am surprised too, why is it in the Netherlands that so much domestic violence takes place among the Muslim immigrants, while this is not the case in most moderate Islamic communities? The answers, maybe are not made of single statements. I would guess a combination of allochtone exclusion and the structure of Dutch immigration law brings out the worst in these people. In case you didn't care to look, the Dutch law makes the women who are applying for a residence permit absolutely and completely dependent on their husbands: they cannot threaten to leave them, they cannot separate their houses, they cannot go back to their country so these women cannot do anything but bear the burden. I think, a few changes in law and a bit of time would do a lot of good. There is no need to become so bitter, angry, and scared. More importantly, there is no reason to stop trying to change the world, if we will make it any better. When accepting differences means you don't try to change evil behaviour, there is no room for democracy but only statements about how your way of life is the only way.

On the other hand, what Khalid finalises his email with reflects what (some of) the autochtone Dutch society is failing at: To see themselves a part of a greater population that is the Netherlands. No wonder they cannot appreciate a supranational organisation like the EU.

Finally, I can tell you what Wilders' xenophobic discourse is good for from a different perspective: It's good for frustrating gay movements, women's movements, and other progressive movements in countries where these are still political struggles (not here in the Netherlands, although there is a lot to struggle about, all is depoliticised, unfortunately). It serves the interests of fundamentalists all over Arabia. They can generate greater outcry everytime Wilders thinks of one more insult, hence, there is less and less public space for progressive movements.

Monday, May 25, 2009

books I've been reading

This holiday was spared for reading good fiction.
Thanks to suggestions/gifts from Connie, Eleni, and Pelin...
Here's a list:

Homo Faber: A Report
Max Frisch, 1957
"The novel is in the form of a first-person narrative, written by Walter Faber, a successful engineer travelling through Europe and America. Faber's world-view based on logic and probability is challenged by his falling victim to an incredible coincidence. The novel is a keystone in the portrayal of the post-holocaust modern human being. The novel has clear allusions to Sophocles's Oedipus Rex."
Note: Wiki says: Homo faber (Latin for "Man the Smith" or "Man the Maker"; in reference to the biological name for man, "Homo sapiens" meaning "man the wise") is a concept articulated by Hannah Arendt and Max Scheler. It refers to humans as controlling the environment through tools. In anthropology, Homo faber (as "the working man") is confronted with "Homo ludens" (the "playing man," who is concerned with amusements, humor and leisure). It can be also used in opposition or juxtaposition to "deus faber" (god the creator, the making god), an archetype of which are the various gods of the forge.

Ficciones Jorge Luis Borges, 1944
"Generally considered to be Borges’ masterpiece, Ficciones is a collection of seventeen original short stories. [..] Ficciones explores the labyrinthine nature of reality and the impact of language on literature, philosophy, metaphysics, and theology. Many stories are concerned with imaginary books penned by fictional authors, and more then a few engage in flights of meta-reality where reality and fiction are seamlessly intertwined. "
Note: The novel is simultaneously a deconstruction of all scientific methods. wonderfully written and difficult as it may be, it amused by the simple fact that it was written in the post-WWII era. I still have to finish this one.

Beloved Toni Morrison, 1987
"Beloved is a novel based on the impact of slavery and of the emancipation of slaves on individual black people. It examines both the mental and physical trauma caused by slavery as well as its effect on survivors. The major theme of this novel is the relation between a community and one's identity. Why does the mother who murdered her daughter insist living in the haunted house where the crime is committed? What is the relation between Sweet Home, the black community and the haunted house? How do they contribute or undermine one's identity as an individual person? One cannot get away without confronting these questions after this novel."
Note: I'm still reading it. An scarily vivid fiction, with a bit of a difficult language, but so far it is catching.

Aşk Elif Şafak, 2009
"The novel probes the connection between Ella Rubinstein, a middle-aged housewife a living in Boston in the 2000s, and Mevlana Rumi, who lived in Konya in the 1200s."
Note: I read her for the first time; I liked it a lot, but that's expected as I love the story of Rumi and Shems since I was a teenager... Rumi is the ultimate poet of love, both human love, and godly love: in him the differentiation collapses, or rather melts. So at least as an intro to Rumi, this story of his life reconstructed is a wonderful, and easy-to-read start.

Stigmata: Escaping Texts Hélène Cixous, 2005
"A "wilful extremist" according to the London Times, Hélène Cixous is hailed as one of the most formidable writers and thinkers of our time. From collaborating with acclaimed performance company Théâtre du Soleil, to producing a weighty body of both fiction and non-fiction, Cixous is celebrated for her brilliant contributions to contemporary culture. Acclaimed by luminaries such as Jacques Derrida, her writing has nonetheless been misunderstood and misread, to a surprising extent. With the inclusion of Stigmata, one of her greatest works into the Routledge Classics series, this is about to change.
Questions that have long concerned her - the self and the other, autobiographies of writing, sexual difference, literary theory, post-colonial theory, death and life - are explored here, woven into a stunning narrative. Displaying a remarkable virtuosity, the work of Cixous is heady stuff indeed: exciting, powerful, moving, and dangerous."
Note: Unfinished. I lost the book somewhere between Italy and Greece; although, the reason I wasn't finishing it was that I so enjoyed each and every sentence and Cixous has such an exceptional way of transforming you -as a person, as a student, as a woman, all of it- that I was trying to take it slowly... It's the most amazing piece of philosophy I have read in months! Highly recommended!

Dream I Tell You
Hélène Cixous, 2006
"For years, Hélène Cixous has been writing down fragments of her dreams immediately after awaking. In Dream I Tell You, she collects fifty from the past ten years. Cixous's accounts of her dreamscapes resist standard psychoanalytic interpretations and reflect her lyrical, affecting, and deeply personal style. The dreams, reproduced in what Cixous calls both their “brute and innocent state,” are infused with Cixous's humor, wit, and sense of playfulness."
Note: It was too early for me to read this book. I found it interesting, for a while, and then again, they are someone else's dreams. So the dreams about Derrida or Heidegger are great to read but after a while you get to know the cat, and how she feels about the cat, and all... No, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I liked to see how her subconscious works, I learned how insecure she also is in her dreams (maybe only so, but probably not) etc.

This is all I remember for the moment. Keep connected, 'cos there's more...

my imperial tour

I should have blogged this a few weeks ago, but I couldn't find the words, the tone, and the will. So I thought it wasn't time yet. I thought,
"maybe I moved through space easier than my soul did. If I give time to catch up and wait till it ferments, I might even do it better... After all it was a thick, dense, deep experience."
I was wrong...
I should have written it before I forget the details, the tones of voices, the speed of dialects, the smells and the change. I shouldn't try to sort it out, because to sort it out means to lose much of the data, reduce it to bits comprehensible to our rational mind, as if we are only made up of it. such a waste...
So no more wasting time and data. I should find a way to start... maybe with a headline...
A four week holiday in Rome, Greece, Turkey -my imperial tour ;)
STEP 1: Amsterdam - Eindhoven -Rome
the Eindhoven airport is small and cosy. Landing in Rome, I finally feel the holiday start tickling my belly. Old things, unkempt. I like that. Finally some sunshine. some warmth. I turn to my impressionistic mode, rely on the senses, this is not nihilism.
Just the awakening of all five, after a dark and long winter...
Rome... She's different than anything I saw. She has an energy of its own, unexplainable, maybe even not comprehensible. After travelling to many cities in Europe, I realise I have lost this sensation of amusement with a new place. Rome brought it back in me. It's nor comparable. A thing of its own... Finally... I'm in Rome.

It's Easter, so the notorious Roman traffic is absent.
It's Easter, so we end up having an exceptionally secular experience of the City.
It's Easter, so the Romans are away, the Vatican is closed, and we are left to our own device to understand the whole of it: Try to complete the puzzle without entering the Vatican city...
The Roman ruins tell us why the Catholic Church needed to be so pompous... How else can you undo a myth, challenge such limitless splendour? And finally, how else will you undo the influence of Reformation and Renaissance? Baroque, for the first time made sense to me. (Even rococo did)
The church I had this revelation is called the pearl of baroque...
The visit to Colosseum shows what would have happened if anything is not protected by the Church...
The Forum whispers, how the Romans disliked monotheism:
One of the Triumphal Arches depicts the looting of Jerusalem by Titus' army.
Why not a castle but Arches? I ask... Doesn't a city as glorious as Rome need protection? We decide that the threat must be miniscule, and far faaar away... Then city walls would remain, but doors would only block trade and why not? let's replace them with arches that sanctify our glory...
The first church we enter I approach a painting that reminds me of Caravaggio. o-o it is indeed a Caravaggio.
Fits in nicely with Bernini. Which brings me to Bernini... Wow... hmpf... wow... can you do that with marble?
I won't even try to list the amazing art pieces one comes across... But three exhibitions out of the ordinary Rome travel were:

Futurism Avant-garde Avant-gardes (the least impressive curation I've seen in years; Futurism itself is interesting to think about...
See the Futurist Manifesto by F. T. Marinetti, from 1909... All that fascination with the urban, with speed, with dynamism and your optimism is smashed into the first world war. It must be a frustration that changed European art forever -maybe similar to the way the second world war changed European philosophy...)

Darwin (it was ok, not much new; the building it was held in was amazing: I particularly appreciated the thousand steps I had to take after a long day of sightseeing...)

and the glorious, tiny de Chirico exhibition called The magic of line. 110 drawings by De Chirico.

The rest of the highlights, I have them with me, as stories, to tell you next time we meet ;)

2nd book chapter published...

Editor: Derek Vollmer, Rapporteur; Science and Technology for Sustainability Program; National Research Council
Description: Sustainable development--meeting human needs while nurturing and restoring the planet's life support systems--requires a continuous process of scientific innovation, new knowledge and learning, and collaborative approaches to implementing technologies and policies. To address these challenges, different stakeholder groups are increasingly seeking to ally themselves through partnership, in order to implement projects, deliver services, establish secure funding mechanisms, and achieve on the ground results. Advocates of this collaborative approach point to the failure of governmental regulations, international commitments, or business as usual. However, skeptics often question the effectiveness of partnerships at achieving sustainable development goals and, in the absence of demonstrated results, wonder where partnerships are adding value.
A symposium held in June 2008 and summarized in this volume, attempted to advance the dialogue on partnerships for sustainability in order to catalyze existing knowledge and inform future efforts. Ideas that came out of discussions at the symposium will help leaders in government, the private sector, foundations and NGOs, and universities, both in the United States and internationally, as they develop and participate in new partnerships for sustainability.

Our case study with the PARTNERS team..

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Emigrants seek freedom but miss food

There are some news items that absolutely shock me, and here is one... When I saw the headline, I thought, "but of course... most immigrants in the Netherlands come from countries with more sophisticated culinary traditions. This is hardly a point by which the allochtonen can be discriminated against!"
For my part, I agree that I'm a "food fascist" and a "weather fascist" as I am sometimes made fun of here... harring, pancakes and toasts are by no means interesting enough for me; neither is a 5 month long winter enjoyable. But I learned not to complain (or to complain less...)
But when I read the actual article, now... that was a surprise...

Source: Marjolein Stoop, Radio Netherlands

What do deep-fried snacks, herring, mini pancakes and toasted sandwiches have in common? All of them are things that the Dutch pine for once they have emigrated.

But then they don't leave the Netherlands in search of culinary delights. The real reason is almost always to go in search of Freedom, with a capital 'F'. And that's the way it has always been, according to the exhibition Vaarwel Vaderland (Farewell Fatherland) in the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem. In a large removal crate, which has been transformed into a tiny cinema, the diary of Minister Van Raalte is read aloud. He set sail for America as early as 1846, with a group of followers. He writes:

"It was the will of God that we should leave the oppressive atmosphere in the Netherlands. It was His will that we should emigrate to the freedom and wide open spaces of America, where - with the help of God - people could enjoy greater liberty and improve their economic situation."
Less hassle

Further along, another converted removal crate tells the tale of a young migrant family who emigrated to Hungary in 2005 and founded a plant nursery. Henk Mulder explains:

"Now I have more free time than I used to have in the Netherlands. Less stress, less hassle. All those laws and rules, especially in the horticulture sector, it was all too much. You couldn't do anything any more."
The longing for a better life is indeed what drives people to leave their homeland, confirms Caroline Berkhof of the Open Air Museum. But what do they miss? Sacha de Wit is visiting the museum with her family and is soon to emigrate to Australia. She too is heading off in search of space and freedom but says she will miss the hugs from her family and friends.

And the sausage from the HEMA stores, which has become something of a national institution. And she wouldn't think of leaving without packing her toasted sandwich maker. She has found out to her horror that in Australia half a French loaf with melted cheese from the microwave is considered to be a toasted sandwich.

The exhibition Vaarwel Vaderland (Farewell Fatherland) runs until November 2009.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Night People

source: nightstar

What Is a Night Person?

A Night Person is an individual whose natural body rhythms are such that he or she is most active and alert during the evening and night and is least active and alert during the pre-dawn and daytime hours.

You Know You're a Night Person If...
* Sunrise comes as an unpleasant surprise.
* You call someone on the phone to just chat and discover that they've been asleep for six hours.
* You do your best work at 2 a.m.
* You finally force yourself to go to bed at 1 a.m. and then keep having brilliant ideas that you have to get up and write down.
* People who are perky or sharp in the morning appall you---and can run rings around you before noon, too.
* Birds start singing about the time you fall asleep.

Common Misconceptions about Night People
We're insomniacs.
No way. We aren't trying to get to sleep.
We're unhappy.
Only when we're not allowed to follow our natural schedule.
We have a medical problem.
We're as healthy as most, and more than some. For instance, you won't find us getting skin cancer from too much sunbathing.
We're wierd.
Who's calling who wierd?
The Bozo Boss Misconception: We're lazy, dishonest, and trying to fool everyone because we want credit for working at night but we don't actually do it.
This is an evil misconception. It doesn't just show a lack of respect for our natural body rhythms, it says we're liars, frauds... Employers always seem to feel this way, even when we're doing the kind of work that can be measured somehow. All I can say to these people is: Have you ever observed a Night Person at work during his or her peak time? After you've sat up with one of us and seen how productive we are, say that again.
We think we're vampires or have some other kind of odd self image.
Do you think you're the sun god Amon-Ra just because you're a Day Person?
We're criminals who use the excuse of staying up late to cover our crimes.
Sure, and all the people who are up in the daytime are law-abiding citizens. Crimes are ONLY committed at night.
We're hooked on caffeine.
It doesn't take coffee and coke to keep US up!
The only reason we stay up late is to go to bars, cavort, and party.
Sure, we like it as much as the next guy, but don't blame us just because we're always the last to leave!
We're delinquents and degenerates.
How do you know? Do you follow delinquents and degenerates around at night? If you do, what's YOUR problem?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

first depiction of a woman

With its outsize bulbous breasts and hugely exaggerated genitalia, a statuette of a woman has pushed back the history of female figurative art by 5000 years, to at least 35,000 years ago.6-centimetre-high figurine might have been a fertility symbol. A small loop where the head should be suggests that it may have been hung on a string and worn as a pendant. He points out that the previous oldest female "Venus" figurines are from about 27,000 years ago. [more..]