vrijdag 29 maart 2013

2013/11 No time for tomorow

It is time for action. I am relaxed and excited, at the eye of the hurricane. I suppose everything will take that much longer: the reconstruction in Japan, the war in Syria, the bureaucratic impotence in the face of the political machine, the development around my house, the change in mentality, the crisis, the final birthday.
In this part of the world, they found another corpse in the trunk. You can smell it around the world. All of a sudden, people realize that Cyprus is part of the EU. There was some strange Turkish backdoor created over there. For 40 years, there was a green line between the Turks and the Greeks – one of those post-World War II conflicts that never ended. And therefore, it is one of the oldest UN missions. Endless conflict for as long as I can remember, and all of a sudden, in the midst of a lot of other information, the conflict was gone: Cyprus became part of the EU, and the situation turned out to be as it used to be. Meanwhile, it seems the Russians have used the front door. LOL [laugh out loud]. I have tried to find out why Cyprus had to become part of the EU. If anybody can reply with a useful link, it would be most welcome. Man, you must help me out here. It is like a bad dream. History is not repeating itself: every day, it is writing new papers full of letters and laws and agreements and more papers and agendas and legal advice and so on.
This world is so weird. It is becoming difficult to travel the way I like, so maybe taking care of my home would be a good idea for surviving the summer. And soon I realized “The world in big = the world in small.” If many officers are corrupt, many soldiers will be corrupt. On a smaller scale, our local bureaucracy tends to have similar ambitions in terms of complex and fast-changing structures as world organizations such as the UN or OSCE.  There seems to be an unstoppable force to improve, an invisible desire to renew and adjust, an automatism that can only be stopped with a reset button. There is hardly any time for yesterday. 
Our local councilwoman resigned mainly because some public servants were incompetent, lacked integrity and loyalty, and messed up a dossier. It is an entrenched problem in our city. She was politically responsible. But hey, when I scratch your car with a pencil, I am responsible. It would be good if I at least had to clean it up. She was quite cool. But public life is not run by directors and managers: it is run by politics and public servants. At least I thought so. Reality always introduces new situations. In this case, the public servants will feel even stronger toward the next temporary political boss, and these local politicians will never have the time to fight that bureaucratic machine we created. Nor can we. It’s only their job to be there, not ours. There is hardly any time for tomorrow.
When I was a punk rocker, I was in a band, and our slogan was “Can you keep your head when all around you, others are losing theirs?” Now, I wish it was just a joke, but in fact it’s getting serious – which reminds me of Jello Biafra. This summer, there will be a reunion for a music club in our town, mainly with people who went to the club, the Effenaar, during the 70s and 80s. Jello Biafra introduced me to how wild music and perfect sense can come together, even though his band, the Dead Kennedys, was the only real band that never played in that amazing club. So often, I wondered if there was cynicism in his words, but I could not find any. What he said was mainly ironic or just plain true. He spoke street life songs with wild music. Punk Rock Poetry. It is like walking in a forest. I mean: the level of enjoyment was very similar.

zaterdag 23 maart 2013

2013/10 Out of the Box

There are still plenty of pigeonholers in the Netherlands, and in an export country like ours, that is dangerous. Anywhere, it is dangerous. When America or Iran wants to export their values, we know immediately how dangerous that can be. Let’s do them one better. This is the time when someone like Ahmadinejad should use the opportunity, after being accused of disrespectful behavior for comforting Hugo Chavez’s widow, which involved touching her, to mention that the laws in his country are not just Muslim, but also Iranian and therefore do not apply equally in other countries. Muslim law, like Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, or any other religion’s law, can be freely interpreted. Politics is the art of lying. Religion is no more than the art of interpretation. That is why the mix of politics and religion is so dangerous. Luckily, I also found out that art in itself is the art of learning.

But such an idea simply doesn’t fly in the greater world. The pigeonholers have already decided what is what. Having first appeared at the start of the 20th century and grown stronger in the post-WW2 period of pillarization, they seem to have a solid place in our consciousness and unconsciousness. We think we are an open society, but more and more, you need a wheelbarrow to get inside any circle. Quality and content alone are not enough anymore. And OK, our country might be one of the freest in the world, but still, that is decreasing. And OK, so there are no Nazi soldiers asking for our identity papers: we now willingly conform to the demands of social media and provide the information ourselves to endless databases. Freely. And the internet does not forget. 

Holland in a nutshell. The royal drama pocket size. In which representatives of the people, including the new king himself, offer themselves a symbolic and marginal function and the local Dutch elite have reservations about the idea floated by Warren Buffet, one of the richest people on this planet, for the wealthy to sign a contract with themselves to give away at least half of their money to society. That’s assuming you hear from the local elite at all.

Trust, trust , trust. That was the magic word at the beginning of the current financial crisis, which was quite ironic. I haven’t seen anything change much since then, except the increase in the number of those who have realized they were too late in taking as much as they could and are trying to do something about it at the very last moment. The day will come when money is worthless. Meanwhile, even former prime ministers, ex-bankers, and professors are pleading for the system to change. Not because stealing money is so bad. We got used to that. The worst thing is the lying. The continuous lying to one another and everyone else undermines the authority of government much more, when after all, government is no more than “the organization of ourselves.”

In my country, this phenomenon is actual on many levels, and so it is in many other countries. At the EU level, almost 50% of the people could easily vote to leave the EU. I rarely hear about alternatives. An identical discussion took place 15-20 years ago about the United Nations. “Abolish” was the short and measured response of barkers and shouters. But I am saying nothing new when I say that first the old must be completely destroyed before you can start building the new. And that first you should know what the new is before you start destroying the old. I guess it is also nothing new that the destruction of institutions like the UN will initially bring chaos and catastrophe. In Syria, you have seen for two years now, and will probably see for many years to come, what happens if one starts fighting for change first without having reached a common consensus about what that change should be.

That is why I am not a revolutionary, but more evolutionary. I admit it takes much longer. I admit it will take compromises and engaging with those you might disagree with. I admit it is idealistic. But rather that than people’s courts, clan building and disastrous, apathetic individualism. If I can be so bold as to say, “I do not know where you want us to go but I am happy to take you there.” Trust in yourself.

zondag 10 maart 2013

2013/09 City Branding

My city is one of the three finalists in the competition to become the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Actually, I like the idea of a cultural city, and I have experienced several. The competition started in 1985 with the kinds of universally accepted arguments so often used when dealing with the arts: “Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social, and economic benefits, and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city's image, and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.” It expanded in 2000, at a time when the European continent was becoming uniform, but the Balkans were being destroyed by a horrendous war, and the European Union grew to 27 countries, while excluding some others, like Turkey or several Balkan countries, for a longer period. Now, the program is used by local authorities for city or region branding and inter-network employment.
I recall a meeting in town some months ago. It was to introduce the new city marketing organization called Eindhoven365 to our city’s cultural players. The previous one had to be closed before the shit hit the fan. It was a funny introduction and quite informal. It started with a drawing, like a pyramid or triangle, divided into a bottom, a middle part and a small top. The bottom is the basic infrastructure: roads, canals, shops, supermarkets, and so on. Without this, the city doesn´t even exist. The middle contains the city content: the theaters, public places, historical buildings, industrial activity, and educational institutions. The things that give a city its characteristic flavor. At the top, there were three areas of excellence: in our city, these were described as technology, knowledge, and design.
To get an idea of how the cultural field in our city portrays itself, a little experiment was done. The pyramid was tilted, and the middle part was divided in sections from one to ten. Then they asked the following question: Where do you place your organization? The first four representatives all presented arguments intended to secure them a high number, close to being excellent. Now, having learned to play music, I know that perfect does not exist, and you can be really good without excellence. Also, in order to add some nuance to what I saw happening, I indicated my little organization (the Inkijkmuseum I run is truly one of the smallest museums ever) close to bottom, in sections 1 or 2: I wanted to be close to the basic infrastructure of the town, the most basic of needs for existing at all. And I do not have the ambition of wanting this little organization to be excellent in the field of excellence. Every man to his trade. The museum is no more than public storage for a much larger program.
Someone mentioned that while my arguments might be correct, they would qualify me as being less important, less interesting for this city branding organization. He was right, of course. But I could not say this myself, so I was really glad he was there and said what needed to be said. Making yourself more basic is unpopular and less important. “My ass,” my friend would have said, but he is not here right now. Rotterdam started its stint as the 2001 European Capital of Culture with an event for the homeless on January 1. I am curious to see if our city takes up such a social issue if, in fact, they do become a European Capital of Culture for 2018. On his Facebook page, the local Van Abbe Museum director, Charles Esche, mentioned the painful consequences of what I consider an example of “national collective inside thinking”: the national council of the arts ”limited itself and did not think about international collaborations…” I hope they have not been speaking about the long term, because it is OK to focus on ourselves, for a day or a week, since it is a natural behavior to look inward and reflect that toward others. So, the problem is not my city.
Meanwhile, in Slovenia, being the European Capital of Culture was one of the motivations that prompted people to start demonstrations that are still ongoing and have led to the ouster of the corrupt “democratic” government of Janez Jansa. “Since we are part of the EU, we did not inherit the good of East and West, but the bad of Eastern and Western Europe: bureaucracy, capitalism, competition, and corruption.”

There is enough time to change the way we are doing things into a better way of doing them, as long as we start doing it right away. So, I do hope our town will win this competition, and I hope it will be used for the best and not for the best for some only. Sorry, one does not come without the other. Then, anyone can brand our city as you want, because so do I.

maandag 4 maart 2013

2013/08 Desperanto

2013/08 Desperanto

Is this a law, or just a loophole in some other law? "What is true is true," my old dad used to say, and you could not deny that, of course. The one liners from the past tend to be sharper than the digital variants. The
proverbs from the past spoke to the essence of things, an essence that still exists. They get around the general gist, but the point is usually sharp and clear... in many situations. The virtual internet variants of what we now call "one liners" are more fugitive, somewhat poetic, and therefore slightly surrealistic.

If you cannot sleep, you are awake in someone else's dream.

Language is like the wind, it comes and goes. It is like the air between us, the biggest tool we have, phenomenal in all its facets.
In the EU, there are 21 official languages, and 210 official translators.
That is not so many when you compare it to the number of languages in the
world. How many do you think you could recognize?
Meanwhile, the language is overshadowed with jargon. Not only at the EU, but also on the internet, in scientific forums, in sociology, in politics, on twitter... Everywhere, new words arise that might serve a temporary purpose, but in the long run, contribute to a cleavage of meaning and constipation of the brain's learning capacity. Financial terms smack you in the face. "Derivatives" is a strange enough word, but when derivatives are securitized, we are talking about a synthetic transaction that is pretty close to "abracadabra." This is especially true in the Dutch language, where we combine words to make new words without any hesitation; like "Damschreeuwer" – something like "Dam shouter" – for someone who shouts loudly in a city square (i.e., the famous Dam Square in Amsterdam) during the national remembrance day and causes general panic, then ends up getting thrown in jail for over a year.
Anyway, we have lived for centuries on a continent where people speaking many languages live close together, mix endlessly, and through nationalism, are regularly structured, restructured, and defined. Keep in mind that we live in a world of propaganda and image, besides an explosion of information.

Words become loaded, a public response, an image. In the U.S., "liberal" is
almost a four-letter word, while liberalism is at the root of the
individualism that is so integrated into American society. Maybe they hate
themselves? The universal language is not Esperanto, despite the noble
efforts of so many: it is more "Desperanto" that has become the world's
language. Solidarity, teamwork, doing something together, sociability –
luckily, it is still like that in language, almost everywhere and despite