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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Why are opinions stronger than facts?

I noticed several interesting studies at the British Psychological Society, and one in particular: Why is it so hard to persuade people with facts? (BPS) A late 2015 study blames anger: "when people read information that undermines their identity, this triggers feelings of anger and dismay that make it difficult for them to take the new facts on board". No doubt anger indeed plays a role. 

It is essential to realise where facts and opinions originate. Facts are derived from Knowledge which is in the "known knowns" domain. Opinions are derived from Beliefs which is in the domain of "known unknowns". The two other relevant domains are outlined in my diagram below.

Beliefs (ie, opinions) are part of the 7 Belief systems, being: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.

The essential characteristic of any Belief system is the willingness to die for that Belief - or to sacrifice oneself for the Cause.

Knowledge (ie, facts) will never ever be a reason to sacrifice oneself. Ignorance is a perfect shield. This is the key reason why opinions are stronger than facts.

To complicate matters, Science has become a Belief system. Science used to be dominated by facts but scientists have been able to erode the importance of Science by promoting their individual - and often politically motivated - opinions rather than undisputed facts. The climate change controversy is probably the best - or worst - example how Science has become a mere opinion and is no longer able to deliver undisputed facts.

Once facts have become disguised opinions, it makes perfect sense that facts are no longer able to persuade the minds - or opinions - of people. Basically, you might be exchanging one opinion for another one. In this vacuum, sites like FactCheck.org are blooming. These sites make an effort to separate facts from opinions.

Several decades ago, Ronald Reagan used the famous Russian proverb "doveryai no proveryai" or "Trust but verify" (Wiki). Today, verification has been replaced by mistrust as people use facts and opinions as means to justify their own end. This proverb from Machiavelli's The Prince implies that "morally wrong actions are sometimes necessary to achieve morally right outcomes; actions can only be considered morally right or wrong by virtue of the morality of the outcome" (Wiki).

This mistrust amongst people is what is paralysing our societies today, and what is also causing the departure of consensus politics, and the rise of extreme politics. 

Massive Attack - Safe from Harm (1991) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

But if you hurt what's mine
I'll sure as hell retaliate

You can free the world, you can free my mind
Just as long as my baby's safe from harm tonight


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Greatest Bastard


Damien Rice - Greatest Bastard (2014) - artist, lyrics, Wiki

I made you laugh, I made you cry
I made you open up your eyes
Didn't I?

I helped you open out your wings,
your legs, and many other things
Didn't I?

Am I the greatest bastard that you know?
The only one who let you go?
The one you hurt so much you cannot bear?

Well we were good, when we were good
When we were not misunderstood

You helped me love, you helped me live
You helped me learn how to forgive
Didn't you?

I wish that I could say the same
But when you left, you left the blame
Didn't you?

Am I the greatest bastard that you met?
The only one you can't forget?
Am I the one your truth's been waiting for?

Or am I just dreaming once again?
Some dreams are better when they end

Some make it, mistake it
Some force and some will fake it
I never meant to let you down
Some fret it, forget it
Some ruin and some regret it
I never meant to let you down

We learn to wag and tuck our tails
We learn to win and then to fail
Didn't we?

We learn that lovers love to sing
And that losers love to cling
Didn't we?

Am I the greatest bastard that you know?
When will we learn to let this go?
We fought so much, we've broken all the charm

But letting go is not the same
As pushing someone else away

So please don't let on
You don't know me
Please don't let on
I'm not here
Please don't let on
You don't love me
'Cause I know you do
I know

That some make it, mistake it
Some force and some will fake it
I never meant to let you down
Some fret it, forget it
Some ruin and some regret it
I never meant to let you down
I never meant to let you
I never meant to let you down
I never meant


It Takes A Lot To Know A Man


Damien Rice - It Takes A Lot To Know A Man (2014) - artist, lyrics, Wiki

It takes a lot to know a man
It takes a lot to understand
The warrior, the sage
The little boy enraged

It takes a lot to know a woman
A lot to understand what's humming
The honeybee, the sting
The little girl with wings

It takes a lot to give, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

It takes a lot to know a man
A lot to know, to understand
The father and the son
The hunter and the gun

It takes a lot know a woman
A lot to comprehend what's coming
The mother and the child
The muse and the beguiled

It takes a lot to give, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

It takes a lot to give, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

It takes a lot to live, to ask for help
To be yourself, to know and love what you live with
It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel
The slow reveal of what another body needs

What are you so afraid to lose?
What is it you're thinking that will happen if you do?
What are you so afraid to lose?
(You wrote me to tell me you're nervous and you're sorry)
What is it you're thinking that will happen if you do?
(Crying like a baby saying "this thing is killing me")
What are you so afraid to lose?
(You wrote me to tell me you're nervous and you're sorry)
What is it you're thinking that will happen if you do?
(Crying like a baby saying "this thing is killing me")
You wrote me to tell me you're nervous and you're sorry
Crying like a baby saying "this thing is killing me"



Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Identity and skin colour

Our perception of skin colour in animals is very different than how we perceive ourselves. To humans, skin colour has become part of their identity. This is actually quite surprising as our human skin colour is the result of a gene mutation to adapt to local circumstances (eg, abundance versus lack of UV sunlight). Please see my 5 May 2015 blog: Out of Africa - skin colour.

My white skin does not protect against the abundance of UV sunlight in Africa. I learned that the hard way after being diagnosed with skin cancer within a couple of months after a 3 week stay at a Kenyan beach.

A gene mutation of some 5,000 years ago was responsible for developing white skin to adapt to a lack of UV sunlight in Northern European countries. The success of this gene mutation was overwhelming in human evolution.

This similar gene mutation is likely to happen to black people who continue to live outside Africa above a certain longitude. This is mere Science.

Also, a reversal of this gene mutation should happen to white people living in tropical areas. The offspring of white people living in tropical areas is bound to develop black skin to protect against the UV sunlight.

Excerpt of my 21 September 2015 blog: "The 45th parallel north, running through central France, northern Italy and Croatia, appears to be a major natural boundary for red hair frequencies. Under the 45th parallel, the UV rays become so strong that it is no longer an advantage to have red hair and very fair skin. Under the 41st parallel, redheads become extremely rare (Eupedia). The 41st parallel north is basically where Africa starts".

Hair and skin colour are not what defines our identity. It is an attribute granted by nature to cope with local circumstances. It may take many generations but white people will develop black skin colour when living below the 41st parallel north. And black people living above the - say 45th parallel north - will ultimately develop a white skin colour. It is nature's way to adapt and protect animals and humans to respectively from local circumstances.

The difference with the bears in the above picture (source/link) is that humans at least understand that all these bears are "mammals of the family Ursidae" (Wiki). A giant panda bear is however unlikely to realise that he is related to a polar or grizzly bear. 

Although we "know" that human beings are all part of the family Homo, we still fail to understand its consequences. To many people, black, brown, white and yellow people are different human species similar to the bears in the above picture. That is the sad consequence of using skin colour as part to our (coloured) identity.

Nina Jablonski: Skin color is an illusion (TED video, 2009)


Anthropologist Nina Jablonski explains that differing skin colors are simply our bodies' adaptation to varied climates and levels of UV exposure. Charles Darwin disagreed with this theory, but she explains, that's because he did not have access to NASA.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Achilles heel

Some days ago, a friend asked me to look for the common characteristics in my failed relationships. What did these women have in common? I have already thought about this question for quite some time and the answer is surprisingly simple: I am the common denominator.

Of course there are common features between the women in my failed relationships. Yet even those features ultimately point to me. It is far too easy for me to ignore myself as I am the main - and constant - variable in this equation. And after having realised that, the answer actually became surprisingly simple.

In my weekly newsletter from The Atlantic, I noticed a video by Paul Bloom, a psychologist and a Yale professor, who "argues that empathy is a bad thing—that it makes the world worse. While we've been taught that putting yourself in another's shoes cultivates compassion, it actually blinds you to the long-term consequences of your actions". Note: bold and italic markings are mine.

For some time, I have realised that my compassion is not only a strength but also my Achilles' heel. Wikipedia: "An Achilles heel is a weakness in spite of overall strength, which can actually or potentially lead to downfall. While the mythological origin refers to a physical vulnerability, idiomatic references to other attributes or qualities that can lead to downfall are common".

My eagerness to care for people has created situations in which I was way over my head.

Could it really be that the solution is to care less, to be more selfish, and to stop thinking that I can help others in their healing?? I am considering this solution now. It will not be an easy one to implement as it contradicts my personality. Nevertheless, I must guard myself.

My ratio is slowly taking over from my emotions again. I am recognising the various subconscious warning signals that were earlier blocked by my emotions. With hindsight, these signals all proved to be relevant and foretelling.

I have always been proud of my EQ and IQ but now I am much less sure as clearly my EQ was able to block my IQ. That needs to change for my own long-term benefit. I am contemplating how to achieve that goal. Currently, I still feel like an angry, wounded lion licking his wounds. I survived once again, like a cat with 9 lives but minus 1.

I never saw this ambush coming as my compassion overruled my subconscious. I am mostly angry with myself: Why didn't I see it coming? Why another failure? Why me? I know the answer but it's hard to accept: My eagerness to find a new companion in life. That's a harsh lesson learned.

Kings of Leon - Use Somebody (2008) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I've been roaming around
Always looking down at all I see
Painted faces, fill the places I can't reach

You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody

Someone like you, and all you know, and how you speak


Everybody Hurts


R.E.M. - Everybody Hurts (1993) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone (Hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go (Hold on)
If you think you've had too much
Of this life, well hang on

Everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don't throw your hand, oh no

Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

If you're on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes

So hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Ageing, rejuvenation, regeneration and immortality

In my blog of 2 January 2016, I referred to a 2015 National Geographic article in which Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, and her husband and astrophysicist Karel Schrijver talk about their new book "Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars" (Amazon).

In particular, I was fascinated by the following quotes by Iris and Karel that unfortunately did not fit that blog but never escaped my mind. Karel: "We tend to think of our bodies changing only slowly once we reach adulthood. So I was fascinated to discover that, in fact, we're changing all the time and constantly rebuilding ourselves. Talk about our skin".

Iris: "Most people don't even think of the skin as an organ. In fact, it's our largest one. To keep alive, our cells have to divide and grow. We're aware of that because we see children grow. But cells also age and eventually die, and the skin is a great example of this. It's something that touches everything around us. It's also very exposed to damage and needs to constantly regenerate. It weighs around eight pounds [four kilograms] and is composed of several layers.

These layers age quickly, especially the outer layer, the dermis. The cells there are replaced roughly every month or two. That means we lose approximately 30,000 cells every minute throughout our lives, and our entire external surface layer is replaced about once a year. Very little of our physical bodies lasts for more than a few years. Of course, that's at odds with how we perceive ourselves when we look into the mirror". Note: bold markings are mine.

I suppose that this ongoing process of rejuvenation determines our ageing and also separates death from immortality. There is even one species on Earth whose rejuvenation does not stop and which species is considered to be the only "immortal" species on Earth: the scarlet (medusa) jellyfish (eg, CNN, NYT, Wiki).

CNN (2014): "It's less immortality and more regeneration, but Shin Kubota - a professor at Kyoto University's Seto Marine Biological Laboratory - believes these tiny marine animals could hold the secret to perpetual life. When an adult scarlet jellyfish -- or medusa -- is injured, it goes to the bottom of the ocean floor. From there, it morphs back into its infant state, known as a polyp. Then the polyp becomes a new medusa, allowing the jellyfish to move between an adult and infant state in about two months".

Kubota has succeeded in making one jellyfish rejuvenate an incredible 12 times in the lab. But there remain many unanswered questions. "There should be a key to rejuvenation in the system of scarlet jellyfish," says Kubota. "I'd like to believe it could be applied to human beings, because genetically, jellyfish and humans are not so different." (CNN)

NYT, 2012: “There’s a shocking amount of genetic similarity between jellyfish and human beings,” said Kevin J. Peterson, a molecular paleobiologist who contributed to that study, when I visited him at his Dartmouth office. From a genetic perspective, apart from the fact that we have two genome duplications, “we look like a damn jellyfish.”

Seriously, who needs eternity anyway in this day and age??

SNAP! - The First, the Last, Eternity (1995) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wounded


Redbone - We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee (1973) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

We were all wounded at Wounded Knee
You and me
We were all wounded at Wounded Knee
You and me
In the Name of Manifest Destiny
You and me 
You and me 
You and me

They made us many Promises
But always broke their Word
They penned us in like Buffalo
Drove us like a Heard
And finally on the Reservation
We were going for our Preservation
We were all wiped out by the seventh Calvary
You and me 
You and me

We were all wounded at Wounded Knee
You and me
We were all wounded at Wounded Knee
You and me
In the Name of Manifest Destiny
You and me 
You and me 
You and me

Now we make our Promises
We won't break our Word
Well sing, sing, sing out our Story
Till the Truth is heard
There's a whole new Generation
Which will dream of Veneration
Who were not wiped out by the seventh Calvary
You and me 
You and me

We were all wounded at Wounded Knee
You and me
We were all wounded at Wounded Knee
You and me
We were all wounded by Wounded Knee


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Accountability and Responsibility in Belgian politics

Since 11 October 2014, Belgium has a government without either Dutch speaking or French speaking Socialists. This is very impressive as the French speaking Socialist Party has nearly always been leading in a Belgian government.

The Belgian parliament is already looking for scapegoats for the recent terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport in Zaventem. Unfortunately, politicians are excellent in willingly confuse essential concepts like accountability and responsibility. In politics the motto usually is: if you can't convince them, confuse them. A quote often but wrongly attributed to former US President Harry Truman. Please also see my 25 October 2015 blog on accountability versus responsibility.

Anyone who is familiar with Belgium knows that the root cause for the current situation has been planted several decades ago. Consequently, the current government cannot be held accountable for these terrorist attacks. The only question is: Can this government be held responsible?

Although Belgium is a nice country from a tourist perspective, it feels very different from a citizen's perspective. And I am familiar with both perspectives. Belgium is one of the most contradicting countries that I know.

This small country has 6 governments which already explains most of its notorious ineffectiveness and inefficiency. To complicate matters: the North speaks Dutch, which is usually called Flemish, while the South speaks French. To further complicate matters: the North votes mostly (extreme) right while the South votes mostly (extreme) left. Communication between the North and the South is bad and even worse in multilingual Brussels.

The above situation has been allowed to continue by the 51 elected Prime Ministers that Belgium has known since its incorporation as a buffer state between Germany, France and The Netherlands in 1831. In comparison: The Netherlands is slightly bigger than Belgium, and has only 1 government, 1 common language (Dutch), and almost the same number of PM's.

In my Dutch view, the accountability and the responsibility for the continued Belgian governmental chaos does not rest with the current government. If anything, they seem eager to address the backlog in maintenance in many areas of government (eg, infrastructure, security).

The Belgian PM was right in not accepting the resignation of his Ministers for Internal Affairs and Justice last Wednesday as that would indeed create more instability at chaotic times. This same principle should also apply to himself. The resulting chaos would only further increase Belgian governmental inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

Over the years, I have noticed that there is a serious flaw in Western style democracies when it comes to concepts like accountability and responsibility. It would be in anyone's benefit when accountability would prevail in Politics over (political) responsibility. This would also increase a current desire for transparency and take away any urge to cover-up past errors, mistakes and wrongdoings.

To put it very bluntly: Sacrificing this Belgian government would allow decades of irresponsibility to come back into power and hide its past accountability for current events.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Main Street vs Wall Street

I have just read the transcript of the Donald Trump interview with the Washington Post on 21 March 2016. The transcript of that interview is headed by the offensive and suggestive title: "Donald Trump’s interview with the Washington Post is totally bananas". The ridicule towards Donald Trump following this WP interview is entirely misplaced. Note: bold markings are mine.

Let me make something clear first: I am not a Donald Trump supporter. I have written several positive and several negative blogs about his Presidential ambitions. This interview was actually far from bananas. It gives a marvelous picture inside Donald Trump's mind and his thinking. 

This interview makes me realise the reasons for the huge internal Republican opposition against Donald Trump. Donald Trump is clearly no Republican. In several ways, Donald Trump may even be closer to President Obama and closer to Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton is.

Actually, this Trump interview reminds me of one of the story lines from the 1990 movie Pretty Woman (IMDb). Richard Gere is a venture capitalist who buys low valued companies, breaks them up, sells parts to the highest bidder, and dumps the rest. Hooker Julia Roberts makes him remind of his father who used to build "things". Essentially, Wall Street versus Main Street.

Donald Trump sees the USA as it really is: a highly indebted and even poor country which - like Hercules - takes on the problems of the entire world while ignoring and/or neglecting its many domestic problems. His solutions are not Republican at all: American jobs by American companies must be insourced back to the USA, infrastructure (eg, airports, schools) must be rebuild, and the US allies in NATO should pay their fair share to NATO and must no longer be free riders

During the interview, Donald Trump always uses his personal experience with the construction industry as a metaphor to address the many domestic problems in the USA. Despite his colourful language, Donald Trump clearly understands what's going on in Main Street, USA.

WP: "Wall Street may have reason to be wary of Trump. He has repeatedly said that hedge fund managers, the masters of the universe of today’s New York financial world, are getting away with “murder” under the current corporate tax code, and he has attacked companies that move their headquarters overseas to lower their tax bill".

Bernie Sanders has repeatedly claimed that Hillary Clinton represents Wall Street and that he represents Main Street. Actually, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have much more in common than they would both be willing to admit. Voters recognise this. To a large extent, the USA is voting to rebuild Main Street with the unwilling assistance of Wall Street.

A Donald Trump interview quote: "But at the same time it can be solved to a large extent with jobs. You know, if we can rebuild those communities and create incentives for companies to move in and create jobs. Jobs are so important. There are no jobs. There are none. You go to those communities and you can’t – there is nothing there. There is no incentive for people. It is a very sad situation. And what makes it even sadder is that we are spending so much money in other countries and our own country has vast pockets of poverty and a lot of this is caused by the fact that there are no jobs".

This Donald Trump quote deserves respect. Ultimately, it's indeed about Main Street.

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band - Mainstreet (1977) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Mad World

Mad World

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
And I feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very mad world, mad world

Enlarging your world
Mad world



2003 "Donnie Darko" version by Gary Jules - Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Original 1982 version by Tears For Fears - Wiki-1Wiki-2


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

WARNING: Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries

One of my favourite blog subjects has suddenly returned: "Scientists Warn of Perilous Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries" (NYT, 22 March 2016). The NYT article is about new research by James E. Hansen, the retired NASA climate scientist, and recently published in the European science journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, and titled: "Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming could be dangerous". Note: bold markings are mine.

A lot of things could be dangerous in life and no doubt global warming is one of them. Nevertheless, if I must choose between a new glacial period (a.k.a. Ice Age) or an interglacial period (a.k.a. global warming) then I have no shadow of a doubt. Human beings can quite easily survive global warming but can only survive a new Ice Age when living near the Equator. 

The hype about sea level rise is quite misleading. The sea level has already risen by some 140 meters since its lowest point of some 22,000 years ago. Given its rather minimal rise for the past 6,000 years, we should not panic and also because sea level changes happen all of the time.

It is indeed quite likely that the sea level will continue to rise following the impact of global warming. However, global warming is the essence of an interglacial (or post-glacial) period. 

The warnings of climate scientists suggest that our planet is a status quo and that any changes to the status quo are dangerous to human beings. However, this suggestion is entirely misplaced and even like typical human reverse psychology: human beings have been the main change - and threat - to planet Earth for the last 250 years. Before the Industrial Revolution, humans were rather harmless to Earth's environment. In those days, global warming and cooling was largely caused by volcanic eruptions.

Until some years ago, climate scientists expected a new glacial period in some 80,000 years (NYT, 2003) but recently climate scientists have become convinced that global warming has probably delayed the next Ice Age by some 100,000 or more years (Bloomberg, 2016). This is actually very good news as most human beings would not survive an Ice Age of some 100,000 years

A new Ice Age would also result in an immense decrease of global sea levels which would probably allow humans to walk from the UK to Continental Europe. And then to walk from Spain/Portugal to Africa and then onwards to the Equator. I suppose that is how human beings survived the 5th Ice Age which started about 2.58 million years ago and happened during the past 7 million years of human existence.

The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian (1986) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Mind Games



John Lennon (1940-1980) - Mind Games (1973) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


We're playing those mind games together
Pushing the barriers planting seeds
Playing the mind guerrilla
Chanting the Mantra peace on earth
We all been playing those mind games forever
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil
Doing the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic the search for the grail

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower you got to let it grow

So keep on playing those mind games together
Faith in the future out of the now
You just can't beat on those mind guerrillas
Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind
Yeah we're playing those mind games forever
Projecting our images in space and in time

Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender you got to let it go

So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun
Millions of mind guerrillas
Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel
Keep on playing those mind games forever
Raising the spirit of peace and love
(I want you to make love, not war
I know you've heard it before)



I don't mind Mind Games but yours are sickening.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Proces Geert Wilders

Het verbaast me meer en meer - en dus niet minder, minder - dat opruiende religieuze teksten niet dezelfde behandeling krijgen als opruiende politieke teksten. Is vrijheid van meningsuiting een ongelijk recht tussen Politiek en Religie? Of zijn sommigen gewoon gevoeliger voor opruiende teksten dan anderen? Ook in dat kader zou er dan dus een ongelijke vrijheid van meningsuiting zijn tussen ("politiek") correcte en incorrecte personen.

Het proces tegen Wilders geeft de man bovendien onnodig veel media aandacht. Hij kan zichzelf tevens afzetten als slachtoffer van het "Systeem". Zijn "slachtoffer" boodschap is veel gevaarlijker dan zijn borrelpraat in dat cafe. De Turkse President heeft al enkele jaren heel veel succes met zijn "slachtoffer" verhaal. Mensen hebben de neiging om zich met slachtoffers te identificeren maar veel minder met politieke praatjesmakers.

Wilders heeft de afgelopen maanden en jaren gewaarschuwd tegen diverse ontwikkelingen. Het verbaast me enigszins dat hij zijn "waarheid" nog niet heeft geclaimd maar het nalaten daarvan tekent waarschijnlijk zijn gewiekstheid. De vele gebeurtenissen van de afgelopen maanden - en vandaag in Brussel - spelen hem echter wel in de kaart.

Ik ben echter meer verbaasd over de tactiek van zijn advocaat die met meerdere pijlen vanaf zijn boog schiet (o.a. wraking rechter). Uiteindelijk is slechts één pijl echt relevant, en zeker in het kader van een slachtoffer rol: Heeft Wilders wél of géén recht op vrijheid van meningsuiting?

Ik verwacht dat een kleine minderheid kiest voor het antwoord géén. Een meerderheid kiest voor wél maar zal tevens op een beperking daarvan willen aandringen. De Rechtbank zal met ditzelfde dilemma worstelen en die beperking zo zuiver mogelijk willen formuleren. Elke beperking van de vrijheid van meningsuiting is tevens een uitholling van dat recht.

In sommige gevallen heb ik niet zo'n moeite met een beperking van de vrijheid van meningsuiting. David Irving staat bekend om zijn Holocaust ontkenning. Het liegen over feiten is echter iets geheel anders dan het hebben - en uitdragen - van een politieke (of religieuze) mening of opinie. De gevangenisstraf van 3 jaar (Guardian, 2006) die David Irving kreeg, maakt hem echter tot een slachtoffer van het "Systeem". Alleen (zware) geldboetes werken mijns inziens preventief. Je raakt iemand in zijn portemonnaie maar nergens anders.

De klimaatdiscussie is een geheel ander verhaal. Zelfs klimaatdeskundigen verschillen van mening omdat de feiten onvolledig, tegenstrijdig en bovendien een veel te klein tijdsvak beslaan.

Indien de Rechtbank kiest voor een beperking van de vrijheid van meningsuiting dan zouden de rechters verstandig handelen door die restrictie niet alleen aan politieke meningen op te leggen. Een uitbreiding van zo'n beperking naar religieuze en andere meningen is dan op zijn plaats, en zeker in deze onrustige tijden.

Het laatste dat Nederland nodig heeft, is iemand die tot Minister President wordt gekozen omdat hij de slachtoffer rol goed weet te spelen.

The Vanishing (5) - the Aftermath

My adrenaline has faded away and exhaustion took its place following the disappearance drama since March 16. I still do not know where my "missing" friend resides and I still have not spoken to her. Yet her WA messages are more frequent now. Yesterday afternoon she did publish her first new blog since her departure and "disappearance". That blog is in line with her recent messages to me.

She has expressed to me that she feels not worthy of me. She said that she would have liked to make me proud by getting a job and her own place. She said that life in The Netherlands is much more tough than she had imagined. She said that she is too proud to ask for help. She asks me to move on.

Unfortunately these current words are in line with her past behaviour and make me wonder if she did change after all. I suppose that my compassion for her may soon be replaced by negative feelings (eg, betrayal, disrespect, lack of trust). Her wish to stand on her own 2 feet may create a path of self-destruction. Despite her age (52), her actions feel quite immature. It is utterly overambitious to expect that your new life, especially in a highly organised country like Holland, will be flawless within a couple of days.

I recall a moment in the late 80s in which my former wife and I went to New York for our 1st visit. People say that you either love or hate this city. I immediately fell in love. My former wife got totally overwhelmed by emotions (eg, no birds, no trees, only concrete, only tall skyscrapers, too many cars, too many people, 24/7 noise). I decided to take her to Central Park and there she finally regained herself. It is possible that my "missing" friend had a similar experience in Amsterdam.

I think it is now safe to assume that I should indeed not worry about her, as she already asked in her 12 second WA voice message of March 20. I will inform the Dutch Police that she is no longer missing although I haven't actually spoken to her since my Skype call of March 14. The most simple explanation is that she is avoiding me following her feelings of guilt and shame.

Since yesterday I have been asking myself: What did I learn from this episode in my life? Firstly, that simple solutions are the most likely ones. Life may usually look complicated to us but is it really when you (finally) take some distance from it? Secondly, that the assumption is indeed the mother of all mistakes (Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe). Thirdly, that my writing preference for non-fiction and my hesitance with fiction may be misplaced.

Nevertheless, my trust in women has once again been shattered. I am picking up the pieces now, as it is indeed time for me to move on. It will take a while for me to trust again. As we say in Dutch: "Trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback" (a quote attributed to Dutch politician Thorbecke).

Although this episode did cause embarrassment to some, and even humiliation to others, I do not regret my actions following her alleged disappearance. I care for people. My caring is fulltime and not parttime. If that bothers people then so be it. Non, je ne regrette rien.

Edith Piaf (1915-1963) - Non, je ne regrette rien (1959) - lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Monday, 21 March 2016

The Vanishing (4) - Proof of Life

After finishing yesterday's blog, I received a 12 second WhatsApp voice message. Her broken voice informed me that she is well and that I should not worry about her. Obviously, I care about my friends and even more in those bizar circumstances. As I was still waiting for the Dutch Police to contact me, I decided to put some more weight in this matter, and I contacted an old friend whose brother is a well-known criminal defense lawyer.

In the meantime I pursued my "investigation" and noticed that the city she had mentioned in her 7 WA messages actually does have a clear family link. I could no longer assume that it had been a decoy to put me off track.

I decided to share her 12 second voice message with my old friend in case his brother would be interested. My old friend listened to that voice message and came up with a surprising alternative scenario. In his opinion this voice message could also be from someone who is heartbroken after having decided to break-up with someone.

His alternative scenario has far-reaching consequences. All my suspicions about her disappearance are based upon the main assumption that she still wants to be with me, to live with me, which had been her wish and desire for so long. If that assumption "disappears" then another very simple scenario comes to light: she does not want to see me or contact me (eg, guilt, shame).

I already mentioned this scenario #2 (and its probability) in part 1 of this blog: "(2) she changed her mind about visiting me (low)". Her seven WA messages and her 12 second voice message do seem to support this simple scenario. The reason for her sudden change of mind, and shortly after her arrival, remains a total mystery to me.

Yesterday I decided to send her one last WA message which she received but did not read:
"So far I have assumed that you are held by someone against your will because you and I had agreed that we would live together shortly after your arrival. Perhaps you have changed your mind about living with me. It is extremely unfair of you to make me think that you have been kidnapped (or worse) while you may "just" have changed your mind about spending your life together with me. Only a Skype video chat can convince that you are indeed okay and do not want to live with me anymore. I would appreciate an urgent video chat in order for me to stop humiliating your family, you and myself in my blogs about your alleged disappearance."

It is very difficult to describe my current feelings: I'm torn apart, devastated, clueless, helpless and so on. Is this how you treat someone who cares about you? This is inhuman.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Vanishing (3) - the Police

I slept badly last night. I woke up around 4 AM from a sound from my mobile phone but it wasn't from my missing friend. For at least an hour I couldn't find my sleep anymore. Fortunately my mind was already in overdrive and I thought of several useful clues relating to my missing friend. And I also noticed that my WA messages to her mobile phone are suddenly arriving again although they still haven't been read.

The why question has been entering my mind since yesterday. To a certain extent, I do believe that her missing has something to do with me (eg, jealousy of ex boyfriends). Still I think and feel that it is mostly about her. Although she does not have any assets as far as I am aware of, she has been living a rather isolated life in which her work absorbed most of her time. To a large extent, I believe that it was assumed that she would hardly be missed by anyone.

I have the weird feeling that I am the only one who is caring for her missing whereabouts. Her youngest daughter does not reply to my messages. I finally tracked down her oldest daughter who lives in the UK using her husband's name. Her estranged sister has blocked me in WhatsApp. I then used my second mobile number to inform her about the missing person's report that I filed with the Dutch Police. Now my second mobile number has also been blocked.

Yesterday I mentioned in part 2 of this blog that my friend stopped writing in her blog after her departure on March 15. I have been monitoring the page views of her blog for several days. This morning I noticed that her page views are considerably higher than last night although I deliberately did not mention her name or the URL of her blog.

I am using my blog to address her vanishing as nobody seems to care about her. After part 1 of this blog, I received seven messages from her WA account which all failed to meet my criteria for her identification. Part 2 of this blog made me realise that I must file a missing person's report at the Dutch Police as no one else will do. Hence I did.

Besides writing these blogs about her vanishing, I feel utterly helpless. I do feel responsible for her as I am the one who suggested to her to emigrate to The Netherlands and to request for a Dutch passport as her parents are from Dutch descent. For 52 years, she has been living in a beautiful country but even basic services like electricity are malfunctioning nowadays.

Nevertheless, I never expected her to make this step. She seemed too comfortable in her victim role. Although even her blogs talk about her change and her love for me, I was far from convinced following the many conversations I have had with her. Even on January 2 she informed me that she would be arriving just in time for my March 18 birthday.

My last line in part 2 of this blog expressed my doubt and fear about her wellbeing. It is unthinkable that she would no longer speak to me if she had a choice. I feel utterly helpless.

A few seconds after writing my last line I received a 12 second WA voice message in which she asks me not to worry about her as she is okay. I have never ever heard a sadder voice than hers.

Neil Young & The Band - Helpless (1970) - lyrics, Wiki

Helpless, helpless, helpless
Baby can you hear me now?
The chains are locked
and tied across the door,
Baby, sing with me somehow.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Vanishing (2) - the mystery continues

Since her departure on March 15 and her arrival in the morning of March 16, I had not heard from a friend. For several years, she had been looking forward to finally meet me. Celebrating my birthday together seemed like a great way to start a new phase in our - previously online - friendship. Shortly after her arrival, I received her typical messages. Then she became silent.

A few hours after yesterday's part 1 of this blog, I received several messages from her WhatsApp account. These messages did not have her typical writing signature. These messages tried to explain her absence without much conviction, let alone apologies. In total I received seven WA messages from her account in 6 minutes, the last one stating "talk later". I am still waiting.

I have sent several messages to her account in which I am asking for a Skype call as I am determined to do a voice verification. Unlike before the messages to her account do arrive now but without being read. Her behaviour is totally different from the one I have grown used to over the years. And that does not make any sense to me.

Since 27 January 2016 she has been writing a blog. Some of these blogs are her answer to my blogs. Many other blogs display the uniqueness of her state of mind. Her last blog was written before her departure on March 15. The absence of her new blogs, and also the lack of her unique signature in these seven WA messages, is worrisome to me.

A friend from Brazil asked me why I even care about her. Good question. The answer is in the many Skype calls that I have had with my missing friend. The behaviour that transpires from these seven WA messages does not reconcile at all with our many Skype calls. I think and feel that someone is impersonating her. That would also explain the lacking / pending voice verification.

My friend from Brazil asked me what I think could have happened to her. Based on my many conversations with her, I know that there are several very jealous former boyfriends. And at least one of them lives in Europe. The other day I even noticed that the one who claims to hate me is even a Facebook friend of the daughter of my missing friend. I only "know" this extremely weird guy through the online game she, he and I have been playing for many years.

Yesterday evening, I sent this last message to my friend's WA account: "Until I hear [name]'s voice, I will not trust the person sending messages in her name". Again, that WA message was sent, received but not read. I sent a similar message to her estranged sister. And I still haven't heard anything from her daughter despite several attempts.

I have learned to trust my instincts over the years as they have seldom deceived me. In 56 years, only 2 persons have been able to fly under my radar. And in both cases I doubt that they are "bad" people. My instincts tell me that something is seriously wrong with my friend and I seem to be the only one in her circle who cares about that. I can only hope that she will find a way to communicate with me in her own unique way. The last few days have been my worst for a long time.

To be, or not to be, that is the question. William Shakespeare

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Vanishing

The day before yesterday a friend arrived at Amsterdam Airport after an 11 hour flight. She texted me right after landing. I haven't heard anything of her since. She was supposed to be picked up by her family. Unfortunately, I didn't ask for her Amsterdam address despite having a weird premonition. I recall that my mind rationalised this feeling away: What's the chance you will not hear from her again? Almost zero. Indeed, almost.

Yesterday she was supposed to visit me to celebrate my birthday with me today. Since the day before yesterday, I have been contacting her family but so far nobody replies to me. Mostly, I am still concerned about her whereabouts but sometimes I also get upset as it might be her way of a sick practical joke.

I am reluctant to go to the authorities or contact the various Amsterdam hospitals. Despite virtual contact for several years, she and I have never met. I do know that she exists as I have seen her in Skype. She was supposed to visit me mid December last year but she chickened out. As far as I am aware of, she has just emigrated to Holland but what if everything she told me is a lie?

I feel that I am in the midst of a thriller, and one similar to the 1993 movie The Vanishing (IMDb). This morning I even told my brother that I expect the Dutch police to ring my doorbell anytime soon.

Since Wednesday morning several scenarios have entered my mind with varying probabilities: (1) something has happened to her (high), (2) she changed her mind about visiting me (low), and (3) her communication tools do not work (zero).

The communication scenario has a zero probability as I left messages anywhere. I even called her foreign mobile number which rings normally and then goes to voicemail. So her mobile is on and the battery is not dead.

Perhaps she did change her mind about visiting me. However, would anyone pretend to be dead just to chicken out of a meeting?? That scenario is too ridiculous to seriously consider.

The only plausible scenario that is left to me is that she is either in jail or in hospital for whatever weird reason.

Whodunnit stories may be nice on TV but not in real life. I am supposed to celebrate my birthday today but all I can think of is a missing friend and what options are left to me to find her. I think it's the primary task of her family to report her missing to the Dutch authorities. If they don't then I will reconsider my responsibilities.

It gets even weirder while writing this blog. This morning I found the mobile number of her sister through Google and left her a message. I just communicated to her sister in WhatsApp and her sister claims that she does not even know that my friend is in The Netherlands since Wednesday. After her initial astonishment, following my unexpected WhatsApp messages, she just acknowledged the emigration of her sister to The Netherlands.

TO BE CONTINUED............

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Dutch Labour's early April 1 joke

Sometimes you hear and read things that do not make any sense. Yesterday, news media announced a proposal of the Dutch Labour party to make the sale of diesel and petrol illegal by 2030 - in 14 years time. Given the lunacy of this plan, I still wonder if it's a premature April 1 joke. On the other hand, this plan shows why Dutch Labour keeps sinking away.

I would expect Dutch Labour to be worried by the continued lay-offs in the Dutch retail sector. I would expect any Labour party to be concerned about 24/7 robotics replacing human labour. I would expect any Labour party to be concerned about taxing the labour component out of the economy. I would expect Dutch Labour to be concerned with the fact that nearly 10% of the Dutch work force consists of independent contractors.

I would expect any European Labour party to be concerned about the impact of the massive influx of economic refugees from the Middle East and North Africa on housing, jobs and welfare for the less privileged in our own societies. How is it even possible that this - essentially social - theme has been claimed by political parties on the right??

At least, Dutch labour is concerned about immigrants although their position is not always very clear. Not too long ago, Dutch Labour almost created a Cabinet crisis on the need for shelter for refugees who have been refused asylum but refuse to go back to their country. Quite recently, Dutch Labour changed 180 degrees by proposing air transport for refugees from the Netherlands to Turkey.

Dutch Labour is more concerned with bullying its own voters by making their existing cars worthless and forcing them into electric cars which only have a radius of a few hundred kilometers. And even less in wintertime.

I sincerely doubt that electric cars even allow the use of caravans for Dutch vacation purposes (Euro 2012 model by Dutch supplier).

The Dutch Labour party should consider its options: (1) going back to its roots, (2) merge with a Green party, or (3) dissolve itself following (i) its ignoring of Dutch labourers, and/or (ii) its eroding voter support.

Quite frankly, I am not sure if the Dutch Labour party has any future left as for many years they have been on a self-destructive course. And with friends like that, who needs enemies? The Christian Democratic party, the Labour party, and the Liberal party brought stability and prosperity to Holland for decades. It's time for Dutch Labour to go back to its roots. And I am not even a supporter.

Odyssey - Going Back to My Roots (1981) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Zippin' up my boots
Goin' back to my roots, yeah
To the place of my birth
Back down to earth

I'm standing in the rain
Drenched and soaked with pain
Tired of short time benefits
And being exposed to the elements

I'm homeward bound
Got my head turned around


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

All or Nothing

"For many couples, moving in together is the key step that transitions them from a dating relationship to a long-term committed partnership. However, a small but growing minority of long-term couples in countries like the U.S., Britain, Sweden, and Canada are forgoing cohabitation entirely, preferring to keep their separate homes. This phenomenon is referred to as "living apart together," or LAT". This excerpt is from a 2013 PsychologyToday article that gives a well-balanced overview of the advantages and disadvantages of a LAT relationship and doesn't take a stance.

I doubt that there is any animal species that entertains a LAT relationship. A 2007 scientific study on 
the "Impact of 'living apart together' on postoperative recovery of mice compared with social and individual housing" concluded: "LAT, however, did not appear to be beneficiary to the mice. Increased heart rate levels and differences in behaviour as compared with both social housed and individual housed animals indicate that LAT may even be the most stressful of the three housing conditions". Noteitalic marking and replacement of abbreviations by me.

Actually, I recently broke up with my girlfriend because she insisted on a LAT relationship for the next 3-5 years. She had expressed this right from the start and so I cannot hide behind ignorance. I assumed that I could handle this (new) type of relationship but I cannot. And I also assumed that she would change her mind about this LAT but she did not. The assumption is the mother of all mistakes (Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe).

I learned from this episode in life that I do not like to fulltime care for someone while only being in a parttime relationship. To me a LAT relationship feels like a lack of commitment and that does not fit my character. Perhaps I could have managed this LAT relationship if I would not have genuinely cared for her but I did. To me, it appears to be all or nothing. Hence, it became nothing.

I was surprised by myself as I genuinely appreciate my solitude. And a LAT relationship seems to be an excellent tool for that. Nevertheless, the disruptive character of this relationship might be rooted in the seemingly random coming and going of the other person. Perhaps it's the unpredictability that is bothering.

In my view, another disruptive element relates to incomplete bonding. The best way to learn all about a person is to spend a vacation with her/him. Cohabiting does the same trick but a LAT does not. A LAT allows you to show your best and hide your worst. You will fail to see the "entirety" of the other person. For some this "failure" may even be key reason for wanting a LAT.

To me, my 'significant other' is a "package deal" in which the pros must outweigh the cons. I have no intention of changing her, especially as this would also allow her to try to change me. I am at an age at which I change voluntary but not involuntary.

To some extent, a relationship is like a dance in which you ultimately move closer and closer to the other person. Leaving is like being available to the next dance partner.

Phyllis Nelson (1950-1998) - Move Closer (1985) - lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Hey baby, you go your way
And I'll go mine
But in the meantime


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The history of international terrorism and its lessons

On 12 March 2016, Professor Dr. Beatrice de Graaf gave an excellent Dutch public TV presentation about the history of international terrorism. Actually, I am glad that I watched this episode as it puts some terrorist events in perspective, including the recent ones in Istanbul.

Immediately after each terrorist act, the Turkish President and/or his PM tell their citizens who was responsible for these attacks. However, this knowledge is never adequate to prevent these terrorist attacks. Hence, the Turkish government probably just blames their enemies.

The purpose of an enemy is to unite people (eg, citizens) and directs an intense negative emotion to that entity (eg, government, politics, religion), people (eg, Jews, Kurds), or person (eg, your ex partner) - an excerpt of my 24 February 2016 blog.

The history of international terrorism learns that sometimes terrorism is orchestrated by governments to provoke anger amongst citizens which will then allow these governments to act even more harshly against their opponents. Another lesson from history is that a proportional government response after an attack is essential: the more brutal a government response, the more new recruits for terrorism. These historical examples may also apply to Turkey now.

To date there have been 4 global waves of terrorism: anarchism (1880-1940), anti-colonialism (1920-2000), radical left's red armies (1945-2010), and radical islam (1980 - now). Despite the length of these 4 waves, the average lifecycle of terrorism is actually quite short as their human resources (ie, recruits) usually run out quickly (eg, arrest, death) (see graph in video > 31 min.). 

Hence, new recruits are the lifeline of terrorism. A disproportionate ('shock and awe') government response is beneficiary to terrorists as anger is a perfect recruitment tool. Similar to any emotion, it usually lasts shorter than ideological beliefs or sympathies.

The business model of terrorism is based on 4 pillars: a Cause, finance/funding, public attention, and new recruits. The Cause for terrorism is always rooted in one of the 7 Belief systems, historically Politics (ie, anarchism, anti-colonialism, radical left) and now Religion (radical Islam). The link with the 7 Belief systems is actually quite simple as the essential characteristic of any Belief system is a willingness to sacrifice your own life for that Belief - or its Cause.

History teaches that a successful fight against terrorism is based on a combination of 8 tools: blunt force, chirurgical precision, counter intelligence, negotiations, counter Public Relations, community policing, court rulings, and (future) reintegration (see video > 49 min.)

Essentially, terrorism is like a fire: it starts with a spark but it needs a fertile soil to burn (ie, the Cause), and most of all it requires oxygen (ie, attention, funding, recruits) for continued combustion (ie, attacks). Take away the oxygen and the fire dies out quickly. Using the fire department (ie, the government) may take much longer because of the damping down (NL: "nablussen") of the smouldering (NL: "smeulen").

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Forest Fire (1984) - artistlyricsWiki-1Wiki-2

If she don't calm down
She will burn herself out
Like a forest fire
Well doesn't that make you smile

If you don't slow down
I swear that I'll come 'round
And mess up your place
Let's go for a spin


Monday, 14 March 2016

Change: urbanisation, City States and Democracy

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, societies did not experience large rural-urban migration flows primarily due to the inability of cities to support large populations. Lack of large employment industries, high urban mortality, and low food supplies all served as checks keeping pre-industrial cities much smaller than their modern counterparts. Ancient Athens and Rome had estimated peak populations of 80,000 and 500,000 paling in comparison with their current populations. (Wiki)

The ongoing global trend of rural depopulation will ultimately result in global City States which will probably be trading and working together similar to the medieval Hanseatic League (see my 28 February 2015 blog). What will happen to governments and supranational institutions like the EU? And perhaps even more important: what will happen to Multi National Corporations (MNCs)?

Apple's new HQ (see picture) is being built in Cupertino, a medium-sized town of 58,302 people (2010). This town is not likely to become a global City State.

The impact of its top employer (15,000 people) must be heavy on local government. The impact of MNCs on global City States is likely to be more profound than their impact on national governments, let alone supranational institutions like the EU.

To put things in perspective: if a billionaire like Donald Trump can buy his way into the 8 November 2016 US Presidential Election then how much influence could MNCs like Apple, Facebook, Google or Microsoft buy in a global City State??

Given the expected fluidity - or flowability - of the populations in a global City State, the traditional way of democracy would not fit its governing system. This could further enhance the influence of MNCs. I suppose that global City States would more or less resemble the governing model of the current city-state Singapore.

In my view, this would be a positive development as the Western style democracy may well be at the end of its life cycle. The political deadlock in the EU and USA is the result of a fight against inevitable Change as the national pie stopped growing and individual slices need to be shared with more and more people. Democracies work fine as long as slices are getting bigger. In the absence of a Western style democracy, long-term planning works fine in China.

The current left-right (vertical) pillars in Western democracies could be replaced by a horizontal and business like focus on top priorities (eg, elderly care, healthcare, housing, jobs, security, welfare) in order to be able to embrace the inevitable Change. 

The population would determine the order of priorities and the execution is in the hands of non-politicians. Actually, this idea resembles the direct democracy of the ancient City State of Athens in which participating citizens voted directly on legislation and executive bills.