Essays (English)

Contemplative prose texts.

BG 148 – Populist politicians

The political debate was once a – combative – exchange of points of view and arguments of representatives of the people in order to reach agreement in the interests of the people. Nowadays it seems to be a stage for megalomaniac narcissists to present themselves to their followers.

Populists are people who manipulate you (frighten and reassure you) for their own sake and for their own popularity, through lies. Fortunately, democracy doesn’t end when populist leaders tell untruths. Most of the politicians and journalists just keep doing what they are supposed to do and keep refuting. This also gives the people the opportunity to pierce through shameless inaccuracies.

It is not out of malice that people (especially online) get trapped in a narrow-minded group bubble of conspiracy theorists and propagators, but rather out of stupidity, confusion and fear, as we as humans are confronted with accelerating changes in our society, and with large and sometimes frightening global challenges, such as the destruction of nature, climate change, globalization and far-reaching automation. Denial of reality (burying your head in the sand) and longing for a romanticized past then seem attractive options. And modern technology is driving the growth and maintenance of such virtual bubbles.

If we want to make more progress in politics and tackle the problems that come our way efficiently and decisively, we will have to burst those bubbles. We will also have to reduce the number of political parties to a workable minimum and open up again to the views and arguments of the other. The other who thinks and lives differently than we do, but is therefore not our ‘adversary’. The political debate must again focus on reaching agreement in the interest of the people. Not the self-interest of the political leaders, but tackling the most urgent problems must once again be top of the agenda.

Use your common sense and don’t believe nonsense, however appealing and comforting it may sound at times, such as: ‘Global warming is a fabrication of our adversaries’. Instead, think about what you can do as a step in the right direction. Because if all people take such steps, we can achieve a lot together. Much more than politicians talking out of their necks.

BG 136 – Music and Time

One of the reasons we humans love music so much is that it gives us a grip on time. The time that often makes us feel powerless, by flying by relentlessly. We grasp it with music, connect it to tones, to rhythms and to melodies. We give structure to time and arrange it so that we can enjoy it. The basis of music is usually a fundamental rhythm, much like our heartbeat, or, on a grander scale, the coming and going of hours, days and seasons. That rhythm, that variable beat, dictates the tempo and keeps track of time for us. Precisely because life is so fleeting, we naturally like patterns and repetitions, recognizable rhythms and arrangements and unexpected deviations from them. Music influences our heartbeat and triggers emotions in us. We can influence our perception of time with the help of music and shape it to our own pleasure. And, unlike clock time, which is already behind us before we are aware of it, we can experience music over and over again whenever we want.

BG 130 – Curb our greed

What if we stop producing and consuming a lot of unnecessary products? Those products that are produced only to keep the economy going and to fill the infinitely deep pockets of the rich industrialists. Especially disposable products.
What if we focus on what we really need and produce that in the most sustainable way possible?
That we make considerations: better a little more of this and a little less of that.
On the Earth’s surface that we now use to produce meat, especially beef, we can grow a hundred times as much plant-based food.
That way we also remove a lot of carbon from the air, instead of adding more to it.
We don’t necessarily have to become vegetarians, after all we are omnivores by nature, but a few days a week without meat will do us no harm, if we make sure that we get the nutrients we miss that way through other products.
What if we strive for a circular economy, in which waste materials form the raw materials for the production of other, sustainable products?
In which we give away what we no longer need to …

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BG 126 – Love for language

Many people don’t like to read anymore.
Books, long texts, never mind!
Give us passive entertainment
and short summaries.
TLDNR (too long, did not read).

We prefer to be on social media,
we prefer gaming, we watch movies,
we stream series.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But…
we don’t (like to) read anymore.
As a result, we lose language skills
and our pleasure in reading.

We are falling behind …

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BG 123 – Birthday

Today I turned 58 years old.
You can’t call that middle age with the best will in the world, unless you believe I’m going to live to be 116 years old.
I am already well over halfway and already quite worn out, but I have learned many wise lessons.
That we ourselves determine the meaning of our lives, for example.
That we should not let other people determine who we are and what we should do with our lives.
That life consists of time, that it is finite, that it seems to go faster and faster.
That we ourselves also consist of time and are therefore finite. That this finiteness makes life worth living, makes it precious.
And that we can give meaning to that fleeting time by …

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BG 121 – The power of the (old) white men

The fact that straight white men – including those who should have retired long ago – are mostly in charge of our society is not (as they themselves and also many women believe) due to their superior brains and their superior strength and ingenuity. On the contrary.
The fact that white men think they are automatically entitled to all top positions in politics, in companies, in clubs, and at home, is because they are, well, pretty stupid.
And they are thick-skinned.

There are many things that (old) white men don’t realize.
For example, that women are generally better at leadership and at dividing their attention over several important matters at the same time.
That women are better at detecting and analyzing problems, at finding creative solutions, at choosing the most effective and efficient solution, and at planning its implementation.
That women are less inclined to aggression, violence and to pushing through their own opinion, and that they listen better. That they not only listen to what is being said, but also to what is not spoken aloud.
That women attach less importance to…

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BG 116 – Tolerance

We humans tell each other stories.
In fact: our civilization is made up of storytelling.
Unfortunately, the stories about everything that is wrong with the world are constantly and enthusiastically told and shared, while the stories about everything that is pretty and going well with the world receive much less attention.
Because apparently, we get less excited about them.
We pay more attention to what makes us angry.

The result of that unrestrained anger is a culture in which people no longer understand the other, have no feeling for the past or context.
A culture in which groups of people quickly feel victimized.
Our collected stories, …

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BG 110 – Thoughts on the internet and social media

There is nothing inherently wrong with the internet and social media.
They are very useful and popular.

But because politics, education, healthcare and legislation always lag behind technological developments, especially since the exponential growth that is inherent to digitization, a number of things have been messed up.
– A handful of computer geeks have become absurdly rich with the introduction of the internet, online commerce and social media. It’s time we pump those extreme riches back into society. We could even use that money to solve climate problems and restore nature.
– That same handful of computer geeks have become far too powerful for lack of appropriate legislation. It is high time we gave that power back to our elected representatives.
– A large group of users of the internet and social media have inadvertently become addicted to dopamine kicks, addicted to shopping, victims of psychological problems and/or convinced of extreme and incorrect ways of thinking.

But now back to the technology.
The internet is a wonderful system that gives the majority of people access to almost all existing knowledge. We all benefit from that.
Social media were created to facilitate and revolutionize our social interaction. That also worked out well.
But not in the way we envisioned.

Guess what? …

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BG 36 – Wait a minute

Our life is very different from that of our ancestors.
Long live progress!
But since the introduction of automation, we have been exaggerating.
We confuse progress with consuming ever more and ever faster, and have lost sight of the limits of our physical and mental health, of the resilience of our environment and the exhaustion of our natural resources.

We are living faster than ever before …

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BG 32 – Dutch Directness

‘Hi, how are you? Where are you from?’
‘Do you have a boyfriend? No? A girlfriend?’
‘How old are you?’
‘Where do you live? Oh yes, that’s nice. I’d love to live there too.’
‘So, how much rent do you pay?’
‘Are you here on holiday? How long will you stay?’
‘Why are you friends with him?’
‘You’re late.’
‘You look great! Better than when I met you last week.’
‘Have you put on weight?’ …

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BG 27 – Books

I love books.
For as long as I can read, I have loved all kinds of books: fiction and non-fiction, novels, short stories, poetry, books in every genre, on every subject.

The public library in the town hall was one of my favorite places in my youth, with its hollow silence, disrupted by hesitant piano notes from the music school above it, and its typical dusty smell of books. …

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BG 14 – Yes you can

People often say ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I can’t write.’
But is that really true?

Unless you have a physical disability that prevents you from moving the tip of a pen or pencil over a piece of paper, or from using the keyboard or mouse of a computer, you can draw and write!

Maybe the standards you set for yourself …

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