Saturday, 4 April 2020

The Germ of National Interest (by Guy Verhofstadt)

When Jacques Delors said last week that “the germ is back”, he was not referring to the actual coronavirus but the germ of narrow national self-interest among European leaders.

Dutch Minister of finance Wopke Hoekstra even dared to suggest that solidarity among member states is impossible because of “moral hazard”.

While, just as with the migration crisis that hit certain countries harder than others because of their position on the map of Europe, this Corona crisis is one of “bad luck”. Countries who were hit first simply had less time to prepare for the storm than others. There is no moral superiority or predestination to be found in this crisis.
So how do we root out the germ of self-interest that blocks Europe today ? The answer is simple: with the supranational solidarity embodies in the European Commission. Playtime is over, so Ursula von der Leyen and her Commissioners better take out the big guns and follow in the footsteps of the Delors Commission. (...)

But more than communication, Europe needs real action now. A comprehensive three-way-strategy on a continental scale to overcome this crisis. First of all, on the sanitary level.
By putting in place a European response mechanism that is activated every time a serious health crisis emerges. Issuing clear mandatory guidelines on how to act: for people on a personal and family level and for national governments on which business to close temporarily.
At the heart of such a mechanism should be a single European Health Agency that is properly funded and has the mandate to act.
An agency that does more than just “coordinating” national efforts, but is able to take all emergency measures to keep Europeans safe, including the pooling of medicines and hospital equipment and the temporary closing (partially or complete) of our borders.

Secondly, the European Commission needs to launch a massive trillion “Stability and Recovery Package” to support our national economies, especially their citizens and their companies.
A package that must contain a wide range of tools going from special credit for investment over bridge loans for SME’s to a reinsurance unemployment scheme.
A massive package that will be financed by the launch of a European Recovery Bond as part of a renewed and enlarged European budget. (...)

Making the economic crisis in Europe much longer and much deeper than necessary. In 2008, we saved the banks from bankruptcy, it would be an inconceivable perversity if we would not do the same for the real economy and real people who are losing their jobs as we speak.

If this Corona crisis grows into a new sovereign debt crisis, we cannot say we did not see it coming. However, what we did not see coming, but what will perhaps require the biggest pushback is the loss of democratic values and personal freedoms during this crisis.
These are golden days for law enforcement and wannabe dictators. Viktor Orbàn, to give only one example, has been eroding the rule of law and democracy for years. Now, under the pretext of the COVID19 pandemic, he launched an additional authoritarian power grab this week, closing the Parliament and ushering in unlimited rule by decree.
Up until now, the EU has issued only lukewarm challenges to him. Also here, it is time for the von der Leyen Commission to get real and to act.

It’s clear that Europe’s intergovernmental patchwork does not work in times of crises. Not during the financial crisis of 2008, not during the sovereign debt crisis of 2012, not during the migration crisis of 2015 and – unsurprisingly – not today during the Corona crisis.

Therefore it’s time that the Commission adopts a much more pro-active approach than today.
The Commission must take on more responsibility and more power, because in the end that is needed: a fundamental shift away from loose coordination in the Council – permanently weakened by the germ of national self-interest – towards real and decisive action trough the European Commission, a Commission accountable to both: the member states and the European citizens.

This is yet another crisis for Europe due to the inept and inefficient response from its member states. If we do not drastically change our political architecture, this might very well be its last crisis, the beginning of the end of the European project.

(...) it’s time for radical change, time for a fundamental shift, away from those who are unable to solve crisis after crisis after crisis, to those who are capable and willing to do so in the interest of all European citizens.

Guy Verhofstadt

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photograph via

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Quoting Werner Herzog

"I find it odd that people are striving for happiness as a primary goal in life. I find it silly. I'm interested in other things. Hope or no hope, optimism. Being part of something meaningful like striving for justice, or equal rights for all humanity. It's a much more dignified goal than personal happiness. Who cares about that?"
Werner Herzog

photograph of Werner Herzog via

Monday, 30 March 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic: Close Your Eyes

"What culture do you identify with?", people ask me sooner or later, mostly during the stage of small talk as my mother is from X, my father from Y, and I was raised in Z. "None, all of them and more, their synergy, depends on situation, varies with surrounding, don’t know, don’t care, it’s complex …". It‘s only small talk, so, why bother. Often, my reply is the shortest option that sounds okay to me: European.

As a European, I also used to like the idea of the European Union, this "peace project" linking Europeans through values they share, protecting minorites and vulnerable groups, insisting on equal treatment for all regardless of a person’s nationality, gender, culture, disability, blablabla. Except in difficult times.

10.779 people have died of this virus in Italy, 756 in the last 24 hours alone, a whole generation of nonne and nonni is gone. According to doctors, dying of the coronavirus is as if you were drowning while fully conscious, alone, isolated, no family around, no good-bye, no funeral, cities are running out of coffins. Italy is suffering, facing an abyss, urgently needs help and has asked for it. The European Union closes its eyes. Cuba sends doctors, China sends doctors and equipment more than once, Russia sends supplies, Albania sends doctors, Somalia is sending doctors, Israel shows solidarity when Jerusalem and Tel Aviv lighten up with Italian flags, so does Bosnia and Herzegovina - none part of the EU.
The pandemic brings to light the best and the worst in humans: lacking solidarity, nationalism, ageism, ableism. Jean-Claude Juncker once said: "Europe fails when egos prevail." Well?...

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photograph (c) MLM

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic: Dangerous Times for the Disabled

Dementia, brain injury, and "severe or profound mental retardation" are, according to official Alabama public health documents, reasons to be denied a ventilator in the pandemic crisis ... with possible lethal consequences (via).

photograph by Melvin Sokolsky via

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Statement on Xenophobia and Islamophobia

"(...) As psychoanalysts, we at IPTAR know only too well about the clinical affects of racism and xenophobia on individuals, and on the larger society: how the anxiety and fear that create these psychological phenomena, can too easily lead to actions that inflict severe trauma on completely innocent victims and families of a targeted group and, in worst case scenarios, fatal consequences. This projection onto the stranger — the Other — (the “xeno” in xenophobia is from the Greek root “stranger”) whose culture, race or religion are different, involves a splitting in which the worst traits that one fears in oneself are deposited into the Other; to such an extent that empathy and curiosity and a sense of our common humanity with the Other are denied, and suspicion and paranoia hold sway. In addition, sometimes unfortunately this type of phenomena leads to another type of splitting: the elevating of an authoritarian figure who is believed to be “all good”, a person who will supposedly protect one from the now malignant Other. In these matters, emotions can become so frenzied and so great that facts and reality are completely denied.

We know that at times of stress and anxiety, these societal phenomena are more likely to appear. They can lead to internment (of the Japanese on American soil in World War II), to failure to take in refugees who seek safety from oppression (as in the case of the 900 Jewish refugees who were turned back from the Florida coast over 70 years ago), to the terrible aspects of slavery or Jim Crowism, and to genocide. Not only is xenophobia a clinical manifestation, it is a social phenomena that is completely antithetical to the principles of our democratic society. (...)"

A statement by the Institute for Psychoanalytic Trainin and Research (2015)

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- photograph via

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Quoting Akira Kurosawa

"No matter where I go in the world, although I can't speak any foreign language, I don't feel out of place. I think of earth as my home. If everyone thought this way, people might notice just how foolish international friction is and they would put an end to it."
Akira Kurosawa

"I suppose all of my films have a common theme. If I think about it, though, the only theme I can think of is really a question: Why can’t people be happier together?"
Akira Kurosawa

photograph via

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Statement by King Willem-Alexander at the beginning of the state visit to Indonesia

Mr President,
It is a great honour for my wife and me to be your guests. In recent years we have got to know each other well. We see this state visit as an affirmation of the close bond that has grown between us. And we look forward to making the bond with you and your country even stronger. (...)

Mr President, on 17 August it will be 75 years since Indonesia issued its Proklamasi, claiming its place among independent and free states. The Dutch government explicitly acknowledged this fact, both politically and morally, 15 years ago.
Today we warmly congratulate the people of Indonesia as you celebrate 75 years of independence.
We are looking forward to the coming days. Our visit has a wonderful, future-oriented programme.
At the same time, it is a good thing that we continue to face up to our past. The past cannot be erased, and will have to be acknowledged by each generation in turn.
In the years immediately after the Proklamasi, a painful separation followed that cost many lives.
In line with earlier statements by my government, I would like to express my regret and apologise for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years. I do so in the full realisation that the pain and sorrow of the families affected continue to be felt today.
It is a hopeful and encouraging sign that countries which were once on opposite sides have been able to grow closer and develop a new relationship based on respect, trust and friendship. The ties between us are becoming ever stronger and more diverse. That gives me great pleasure. And I know that this feeling is widely shared in the Netherlands.
Many people in the Netherlands feel a deep connection with Indonesia. It’s gratifying that, in turn, a growing number of young Indonesians are showing interest in our country.
We see that in the number of young men and women who come to the Netherlands to study. We see it above all in the close working relationships between our two countries in the fields of science, the economy, water management, nature protection and climate. (...)

Royal House of the Netherlands

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photograph via

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Be a Lady, They Said.

Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t show your underwear. Don’t show your shoulders. Cover up. Leave something to the imagination. Dress modestly. Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. You’re asking for it. Wear black. Wear heels. You’re too dressed up. You’re too dressed down. Don’t wear those sweatpants; you look like you’ve let yourself go.

Be a lady they said. Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too large. Don’t be too small. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat carbs. Skip dessert. You need to lose weight. Fit into that dress. Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don’t you just eat? You look emaciated. You look sick. Eat a burger. Men like women with some meat on their bones. Be small. Be light. Be little. Be petite. Be feminine. Be a size zero. Be a double zero. Be nothing. Be less than nothing.

Be a lady they said. Remove your body hair. Shave your legs. Shave your armpits. Shave your bikini line. Wax your face. Wax your arms. Wax your eyebrows. Get rid of your mustache. Bleach this. Bleach that. Lighten your skin. Tan your skin. Eradicate your scars. Cover your stretch marks. Tighten your abs. Plump your lips. Botox your wrinkles. Lift your face. Tuck your tummy. Thin your thighs. Tone your calves. Perk up your boobs. Look natural. Be yourself. Be genuine. Be confident. You’re trying too hard. You look overdone. Men don’t like girls who try too hard.

Be a lady they said. Wear makeup. Prime your face. Conceal your blemishes. Contour your nose. Highlight your cheekbones. Line your lids. Fill in your brows. Lengthen your lashes. Colour your lips. Powder, blush, bronze, highlight. Your hair is too short. Your hair is too long. Your ends are split. Highlight your hair. Your roots are showing. Dye your hair. Not blue, that looks unnatural. You’re going grey. You look so old. Look young. Look youthful. Look ageless. Don’t get old. Women don’t get old. Old is ugly. Men don’t like ugly.

Be a lady they said. Save yourself. Be pure. Be virginal. Don’t talk about sex. Don’t flirt. Don’t be a skank. Don’t be a whore. Don’t sleep around. Don’t lose your dignity. Don’t have sex with too many men. Don’t give yourself away. Men don’t like sluts. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be so uptight. Have a little fun. Smile more. Pleasure men. Be experienced. Be sexual. Be innocent. Be dirty. Be virginal. Be sexy. Be the cool girl. Don’t be like the other girls.

Be a lady they said. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t overact. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don’t complain. Let him down easy. Boost his ego. Make him fall for you. Men want what they can’t have. Don’t give yourself away. Make him work for it. Men love the chase. Fold his clothes. Cook his dinner. Keep him happy. That’s a woman’s job. You’ll make a good wife someday. Take his last name. You hyphenated your name? Crazy feminist. Give him children. You don’t want children? You will someday. You’ll change your mind.

Be a lady they said. Don’t get raped. Protect yourself. Don’t drink too much. Don’t walk alone. Don’t go out too late. Don’t dress like that. Don’t show too much. Don’t get drunk. Don’t leave your drink. Have a buddy. Walk where it is well lit. Stay in the safe neighborhoods. Tell someone where you’re going. Bring pepper spray. Buy a rape whistle. Hold your keys like a weapon. Take a self-defense course. Check your trunk. Lock your doors. Don’t go out alone. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t bat your eyelashes. Don’t look easy. Don’t attract attention. Don’t work late. Don’t crack dirty jokes. Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t go out at night. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t say yes. Don’t say no.

Just “be a lady” they said.

text by Camille Rainville

Monday, 9 March 2020

Feminists. Some Stereotypes.

Feminists are bra-burning radicals and they hate men, hence become lesbians. Feminism means liberating white middle-class women at the expense of men and working towards men's oppression and women's dominance. Nobody knows why these hairy, ugly, masuline women - you can't be feminist and feminine at the same time - are still fighting as women are equal now (via)

photograph of Gloria Steinem via

Saturday, 29 February 2020

"Go back to your infected country!"

"(...) It has always baffled me why people default to hate, labels, and stereotypes when scared. In my life, some people have made assumptions about my musical preferences, career, or likelihood of snatching a purse based on my race. On a broader scale, politicians make statements like “African Americans or Asian Americans want this policy or that policy.” People from different races or cultures are not monolithic. Sadly, racism and xenophobia (hate or dislike of someone from another country) are been exposed (again) through the lens of the Coronavirus threat. Here’s why.

I had no intentions of opining on this topic until a colleague tweeted something very disturbing that happened at a recent Ocean Sciences meeting in San Diego. A Japanese colleague was told to go back to her “infected country.” (...)
We have seen this movie before. Minority groups and persecuted or marginalized populations have faced the fear and ire of majority groups throughout history during disease outbreaks. According to the Science Museum - Brought to Life website, “Jews were widely blamed for the Black Death and immigrant Irish workers held responsible for cholera epidemics in the 1830s.” In the early 1900s, African Americans were unethically studied in the infamous Tuskegee experiments because of unfounded hypotheses that Black people were inherently inferior. Syphilis was rampant in poor Black communities so it was assumed to be a “Black” disease. Many black men were intentionally infected with the disease and left untreated during those horrific experiments.
More recently, Ebola outbreaks sparked a wave of racism and xenophobia towards people from the African continent. (...)
It is often easier to create a narrative that fits one’s comfort zone, intellectual capacity, or ideology. Therefore, it is not surprising to me that racist or xenophobic views would arise from fear and self-preservation tendencies, even if flawed. (...)

I have seen my share of national and international tragedies (Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, SARS and so forth). You know what always seemed to work best in those times from my vantage point? - When people dismiss superficial differences and come together. Hopefully we can find that spirit as the world faces the threat of Coronavirus."
Marshall Shepherd

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photographs (alternative masks by German-Namibian designer Max Siedentopf) via