Ever since Trump became president of the United States, people have been talking about the big red button he might push sooner or later, unleashing a nuclear warfare that may turn out to be World War III or even the end of the world. What people seem to be less concerned about is the big black button of fossil fuels, that he actually started pushing repeatedly as soon as he was sworn into office. Oil pipelines and coal factories are back in business and now the US has backed away from the Paris Agreement, which aimed to reduce global warming.
The elections are coming up, but nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Of course we have polls for a general idea of what may happen, but because of the massive amount of so-called floating voters, a lot can still change. All we know is that at least four political parties will have to work together to account for a majority of the votes; the parties simply aren’t getting enough on their own. The Dutch people are divided on all kinds of things, except that they all want change – even though our economic prosperity is on the rise and we are among the happiest people in the world. But of course, good is never good enough. Perhaps we’re doing fine economically, but a lot of people don’t feel it in their own wallets yet. We may be happy now, but a lot of people are afraid of what the future may bring. A lot of discussions on that part centre around our culture and that we’re losing it. But are we, really?
Donald Trump and I don’t have a lot in common. We grew up in different cultures, belong to different generations and most importantly don’t think alike at all – perhaps partly because of those other differences. Our views on the way the world works are like night and day. There is only one thing on which we seem to agree: we both distrust the media. I can’t say I’m okay with the way he deals with that problem, but the problem is there nonetheless.
Last week seemed to be a lot about fighting hate with hate. About not accepting the big ‘They’ around us anymore, so we deny them completely. This happened in the US, of course, with Trump closing the borders for (Muslim) immigrants, but something similar happened in the Netherlands too, albeit less drastic. The Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, wrote a letter to ‘all Dutch people’ – although I’m not sure if he meant ‘just the white ones’ when he said ‘all’ – in which he said that anyone who doesn’t want to act normal should leave. The people who don’t act normal according to him are the ones who “abuse our freedom just to ruin everything, even though they came to the Netherlands to enjoy this freedom”. After that he mentions things such as not being willing to adapt, harassing gay people and women in short skirts, and calling ‘ordinary’ (white?) Dutch people racists. He said he feels like the people who “fundamentally reject our country” should just leave.
Today it’s time for me to do what I do best: blame the media for everything. For a while I thought social media were better than other media such as newspapers and television, but it’s really, really not. The one thing that made social media stand out – a certain sense of objectivity, because everybody has a voice and you can see all the different views on the subject instead of just the one a certain channel shows – is actually quite the opposite. Yes, all the different views may be there, but the social media don’t show you all of it. They are programmed to show you only what you like to see, perhaps the most subjective it can get.
Next week Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa Claus) will arrive in the Netherlands. A joyous event for kids of course, but for adults it tends to come with a debate most people like to avoid: the one about Zwarte Piet. The debate has been around for a long time already, but in the past few years it has grown to outrageous proportions, mostly because of social media. I have friends who insist the figure needs to go and I have friends who refuse to change it. Most people seem to be done with the entire issue by now or just don’t have a strong opinion about it. They keep quiet, silently hoping the matter will finally be settled this time.
Yesterday I assumed from the many posts on Facebook that Donald Trump had again said something wrong. I wasn’t sure what he said exactly, but people seemed to be upset. I decided to google it and found the video everyone was talking about. I must say I was a bit underwhelmed at first. My initial thoughts were something like: “But… that’s just ‘man talk’. It’s blatantly rude and disrespectful, but men do that around other men. Especially men like Trump – he’s always rude anyway. Why the fuss?” Although I still haven’t completely figured out why this issue is so much more important than Trump saying horrible things about other minorities, my own reaction scared me a little. Because my own reaction was that it’s normal for men to say such things, and normal generally means ‘okay’. But I’m actually not okay with it. So what’s the deal with that?
Today it’s exactly 15 years ago. I was ten years old, had just come back from school (school’s out 3:15 PM, the first plane hit 2:46 PM for us) and wanted to watch TV with one of my sisters. To our surprise every channel – we had about twenty at the time – showed the same thing: the twin towers. We didn’t understand what was happening, except that it was probably bad. A six-year-old family member who was told two planes had flown into skyscrapers asked the now famous question: “what’s a skyscraper?” We were oh so very young, but still, we remember.