Combattre le racisme avec des chatons

“Comme vous éprouvez tout de même une certaine culpabilité face à votre faible engagement pour le pays ou vous êtes née, de temps à autre vous vous obligez à réfléchir à une campagne de lutte contre le racisme; la peine de mort ayant déjà été abolie, il vous semble que c’est encore la meilleure manière d’être française, d’apporter votre pierre à l’édifice du progrès moral ininterrompu mais toujours perfectible de la patrie des droits de l’homme.
Pour combattre le racisme, la première chose serait de distribuer des nuanciers, il y a même des magasins de moquette qui en donnent gratuitement. En parallèle, il vous semble que le point important serait de faire comprendre qu’au-delà des différences, il y a une commune humanité. Vous regardez du coté des anthropologues, c’est leur travail après tout que d’identifier l’universel. Par exemple Claude Lévi-Strauss, la prohibition de l’inceste. Mais non. Trop compliqué, trop intello. Ce n’est pas très porteur comme slogan, les étrangers sont comme nous, eux non plus ne couchent pas avec leur mère. Vous cherchez encore. Il faudrait du concret, du pratique. Par exemple  une photographie avec des Asiatiques qui jouent de la pétanque en mangeant du camembert. Ils sont comme nous! Eux aussi aiment prendre du bon temps! Mauvaise pioche, le camembert et la pétanque c’est français et uniquement français, vous avez confondu l’Hexagone avec la Terre entière. Et pourquoi pas des chatons? Oh oui, les chatons, alors la, une grande affiche avec un Noir ou un Arabe ayant un petit chaton dans les bras, même s’il est coiffé de grandes plumes multicolores, même s’il vit dans une yourte sur la banquise, on se dira qu’au-delà des différences culturelles c’est la même tendresse. Eux aussi aiment les chatons mignons! Voila qui ferait tomber les barrières, pulvériserait les préjugés. Parce les chatons, l’amour des chatons, ça c’est vraiment universel.”

-Sorti du roman “Double nationalité” de Nina Yargekov

Ironic Identity

Why do you think immigrants, especially immigrants of second and third generation, tend to be more ‘patriotic’ than the people living in their own country?

This was the question my mother asked me this morning while we were discussing France’s upcoming election, the life of immigrants in France and Erdogan’s recent election success.

Why did most Turkish people living in Turkey vote against Erdogan, while those living outside of Turkey (Germany and the Netherlands for example), voted for him?
In the Netherlands 71 percent of Dutch-Turkish citizens voted for Erdogan. The only foreign country in which the ‘no’ vote prevailed was the United States. How can this be explained?

When I grew up in Australia, my identity was defined by society, by those around me. We cannot choose our identity; it is something forced upon us by the image we project of ourselves within our community.

When people see that you are different, perhaps in the manner you speak, that you dress and eat, they need to define you and distinguish you. Naturally, in order to understand the world around us, we have the tendency to classify everything. Thus as an immigrant to another country you are immediately classified and associated with a certain culture, in my case French culture.

And when somebody asks you for example, if you could suggest a good typical French song and you don’t know, you feel guilty. Guilty because you are French, this is your identity and you SHOULD know the whole range of French music. You should know Paris because this is your country of course! And worst of all, since you have never lived in this country with which you are so strongly identified with, you should know it from the depth of your heart.
All these cultural delicacies, these drops of French colloquialisms, these beautiful crumbs of French cuisine…

I am speaking of ironic identity because as an immigrant we have the tendency to exaggerate our nationality because we feel the need to reaffirm it whereas if you grow up in your own country you do not need to prove to anybody that you are Dutch for example.

It may be easier to integrate and to be considered ‘Australian’ if you are white (even though this is changing thanks to the multicultural composition of Australia! 🙂 but what if you are let’s say of Indian origin and were born in France, grew up there, have lived there all your life? To many French people you will be Indian. How can one reject an identity which is thrown upon us?

And thus this differentiation is created, which could explain why Dutch Turks or Hispanics in America for example, so forcefully reinforce their cultures. Ironically, and I am speaking of experience, when they go back to their country of origin, people tell them they are strangers…

 

Picture courtesy: Salvador Dali

Hommage à la mer Australienne

Ma mer, je ne peux même pas dire que tu es mienne. Tu n’appartiens à personne, toi tu es la liberté même, tu es sauvage. Tes vagues sont tellement grandes que les touristes ont peur de toi, mais je sais, que tu continues à garder ton secret.

Mer australienne, tu me manques. Pourtant, ton eau est toujours froide, même en été avec quarante-cinq degrés dehors. Tu nous accepte pas facilement, tu es bruyante, tu nous plonge dans le néant de mousse blanche et surtout, tu nous domine toujours, tu nous rappelle ta liberté.

Je nage, je nage, je nage, mes yeux rouges de sel, mes narines brulantes, le soleil tapant, pourtant tu m’enveloppes et tu me plonge dans ta paisible profondeur. Je t’ai quitté avec le nez en l’air, sans regarder derrière moi, et maintenant, quelle ironie, je ferme les yeux et rêve de toi.

Une nuit d’été, la chaleur en l’air, on descendait le quai, trempait nos pieds dans ce liquide apaisant… Tu nous faisais la surprise… des milliers de paillettes vivantes s’illuminaient à chaque mouvement des flots. Les yeux grand ouverts on enlevait nos habits, il faisait noir de toute façon, personne ne nous verrait… Et tu m’as créé une robe illuminé, à chaque mouvement j’étais une princesse de l’océan, comblé par ta nature si étrangement silencieuse pour une fois.

Une journée ou la rage me prenait au cœur, je me suis jeté dans tes bras fluides, me battant, tu me repoussais dans le sable, encore et encore. J’essayais de trouver le ciel, mais je touchais ton fond. Avec un battement de cœur tu m’as appris le courage.

En hiver, je te regardais de loin, tu te jetais férocement contre les rochers, les falaises restaient immobiles, peut-être est-ce pour cela que ta frustration augmentait ?

Une nuit, je me baignais dans ta piscine rocheuse, les algues caressant mes jambes, pendant que le claquement de tes vagues jetait incessamment une pluie d’eau salé dans l’air. Il y avait la lune toute ronde et blanche, les ombres des arbres de pins et les nuages sombres à l’horizon. Ma tête sous l’eau je me sentais dans un autre monde. Je respirais, mes cheveux mouillés et l’horizon se fendit en deux, le tonnerre grondait et toi tu continuais à te jeter contre les rochers. Toute seule dans cette immensité noire, avec les éclairs autour de moi je me suis senti toute petite, mais surtout, j’ai compris ta puissance.

Un jour j’emmènerais mon homme à tes rives, je lui montrerais que dans toute cette férocité il y a ta douce sagesse qui se cache, je lui ferais gouter ta beauté sauvage et il me murmura des mots rêvés, mélangé au son mélancolique de tes ondulations.

Photograph: C.Okkes

Die Rückkehr

Sie erzählte mir dass es Jahre gewesen waren seitdem sie auf Deutsch geschrieben hatte. Sie wollte sich bei der deutschen Sprache entschuldigen. Sie hatte die Sprache verlassen, sie verprügelt und vielleicht auch ein bisschen verachtet aber was noch wichtiger war, sie hatte sie nicht mehr verteidigt und ihr nicht mehr zugehört.

Jugendliche wissen sowieso nicht wo sie hin gehören. Ihr Gefühl ist eins von Rebellion, von Verlorenheit und besonders … Einsamkeit. Was passiert wenn sich in deine Identität nicht nur Hormone und Pubertät einmischen, sondern auch Sprachen selbst? Denn, Sprache ist ein Symbol für Identität. Sprache ist eine Kultur, ein Land, eine Politik, eine Gesellschaft, eine Literatur, eine Musik, ein Geruch? Früher und vielleicht noch immer, war die Deutsche Sprache für sie ein schlechtriechendes Parfum, eine falsche Identität.  Diese Identität musste so schnell wie möglich verschwinden, denn was wenn man eine Sprache fließend spricht, ihre Melodien und Farben kennt, aber durch andere nicht als diese gesehen wird? Sie musste sich zwingen, sich kontrollieren nicht mehr auf Deutsch zu schreiben. Nie wieder.

Die echte Identität musste der Mittelpunkt sein, sonst würde sie für immer verloren gehen, durch die Finger gleiten wie Sand. Deutsch, sagte nichts und fiel immer weiter und weiter in den Hintergrund. Und wenn sie es praktisch fand, dann nahm sie diese Sprache aus ihrem Gehirn hervor, aber sie achtete darauf, sie verfasste sich einen Akzent. Und als man sie diese normal gehasste Frage gab „Woher kommst du?“, war sie glücklich.

Jetzt, erzählte sie mir, findet sie es kindisch sich diesen Akzent anzuschaffen. Letztens sagte man ihr „Ich dachte dass du Deutsche warst“ und es tat ihr nicht mehr weh. Sie weiß dass sie viele Wunden geschlagen hat, aber Deutsch hat sie nie verlassen. Anstatt immer wieder zu betonen dass sie etwas anderes als Deutsche sei, sollte sie vielleicht wieder beginnen die Sprache zu lieben. Auch wenn diese Sprache nie ein Teil ihrer Identität sein wird;  sie ist schön, sie ist treu, sie ist kostbar wie die Augen deines Liebhabers. Sie sagte mir, dass sie jetzt weiß, dass diese Sprache sie nie verlassen wird, es ist zu spät oder besser gesagt es ist zu früh um zu reisen, denn Deutsch ist schon seit langer Zeit eingepflanzt zwischen ihren Fingern, ihrer Haut, in ihren Haaren…

 

Photo Image Courtesy: The New York Times, Van Gogh’s Starry Night

Istanbul Ataturk Chaos

Complete chaos,  a loss of direction, a mass of people, all strangers to eachother.
When we are suddenly all thrown together into uncertainty, we suddenly start to talk to eachother.

-Where are you flying to?
-Where are you coming from?
-They took my passport, they are crazy, they don’t want us [black-skinned people] to be European!!
-But they gave it back to you?
-Yes yes…

-Go to the back of the line!!
-Hah it’s not that easy! We are all waiting!

Suddenly a fight breaks out. I cannot see because of the throng of people, the airport literally has become a sea of bodies originating from all corners of the world. It is almost like a grotesque orgy, people pushing and pulling limbs,  dragging luggage on sagging shoulders, people sprawled on the floor, exposed in vulnerability,  their eyes drooping with sleep.

The man shouts, screams and people try to create some distance, but there is no space. We hear a BOOM and then his voice comes to a stop.

The sea of voices drowns eveththe airport announcement. Nobody knows what is happening anyway. We kind up. Everywhere. Neverevereverending waiting lines.

An airport worker brings a trolley filled with sandwiches and drinks. To distribute to the sea of bodies. It is then that arms transform into paws, nails become claws and respect is a forgotten word.

How bestial, how egocentric do we become when left without guidance, food, shelter?
Is ‘survival of the fittest’ the enemy of solidarity ?
How powerful are our instincts as opposed to our emotions?

All this runs through my mind,  but where there is night there is also day. Lost in all this incomprehensibility, strangers share their stories, their names; shoulders support each other and loneliness is driven out.

In the end is it chaos then that produces the absolute essence of humanity?

And refugee camps?  I wonder…

Image courtesy: Hurriyet Daily News

Language Journey

I wrote this article for the Language Café in the Netherlands.

My name is Charlotte, I speak six languages and am learning my seventh at the Language Café in Groningen. The first time I was walking down the street towards this café, I was excited; a café full of people speaking different languages and exchanging them… That was definitely going to be something for me!

I assimilate myself with being a third-culture kid; someone who has parents from two different cultures and who grows up in a third different culture. Thus I have two mother-tongues; French and Dutch. Having lived in Germany for a few years, I also acquired German, as small children easily do. When I was seven I moved to Australia and thus I also learnt English. Even though I have been living in Australia for ten years, I have been able to go back to Europe, even live in France for a few months and thus always use all of my languages. The first language which I actually ‘learnt’ was Japanese, which I studied in high school for three years. I used to be better, but I have lost a lot of this language as I have not been able to use it consistently after graduating.

The famous Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, once said that “learning another language is like becoming another person.” I cannot agree more with that. For me, language is a gateway into another culture and its people. In Japanese for example, there are different ways of talking according to the form of politeness one has to show to the other person. This cannot be expressed when speaking English. Sometimes, when speaking German for example, I want to describe something with a French word, because I cannot ‘see’ this thing in German. In Danish the word “hygellig” cannot be properly translated into English for example. One would describe “hygellig” maybe as ‘a sensation of comfort when being in a nice place surrounded by loved ones’, but even this sentence is inaccurate.

After living in Senegal (a country in West-Africa) for one year and having learnt Wolof, I felt like I had become a different person. While this feeling may be biased due to complete immersion into a foreign culture (and this would change anybody), I cannot emphasise enough how language transforms the way we see others, the way we perceive the world. Learning Japanese for example, made me understand the importance of detail; every stroke in the signs we wrote had to be precise, otherwise they could mean something else.

At the moment I am learning Spanish and hope to continue practicing it at the language café throughout my studies. I don’t know how I fell in love with languages, perhaps it was the constant moving around, talking to different people, that makes one curious to acquire more, but what I know, is that I cannot live without languages. Not only do they help us to communicate with others, but they also help us understand other cultures and sometimes, they help us understand ourselves.

 

photograph by Charlotte O.

WHY ISIS HATES THE WEST

Apart from Islamophobes, which have increased in number in both America (with the new elections coming and candidate Trump’s constant anti-muslim statements) and in Europe (due to the number of terrorist attacks caused by ISIS and other radical islamists), there are still many liberal, open-minded people who find it difficult to not link Islam with terrorism.

“I am sure Islam is a religion of peace, but I’ve heard/read that it says in the Qu’ran that one should kill the disbelievers.”

“I am sure Islam is a religion like any other, but it is still shocking to see that so many terrorist attacks are executed in the name of Islam. There has never been as many terrorist attacks from Christians or Buddhists or Hindus…”

“If Islam would modernise itself… it would be a good religion. It’s ethics are a bit backward… It hasn’t evolved with society like the Christian religion has.”

In 2016, it is difficult not to think about terrorism without Islam, or about Islam, without terrorism. With so many attacks having happened, so much media coverage, so many people talking, Islam and terrorism have been forcefully and unfortunately linked.

Many people do not realise the power of the media and how it can manipulate and control people’s perception about certain issues. Before 9/11, Islam was more commonly seen as a religion like any other. I think however, that every country wants its revenge in a certain way and that after this terror attack, most of the American media did not promote a peaceful vision of Islam as a religion.

Many people in Europe are scared. Many think that the terrorism which has occurred these last few months is a result of from a lack of education and misinterpretation of religion. And they are right, but I think this is only a very small part of it.

After hearing that ISIS publishes a propaganda magazine every month, it made me curious and want to read it. ISIS seems so inhumane, so unreal and completely alien.
While reading the article I became conciously aware that it had been written by a human being, by someone made out of flesh and blood, someone ‘real’…
The article’s title was “Why we hate you and why we fight you” and talks about ISIS’ hate for the West and its unislamic society.

The title predicts the content; every sentence is filled with hate, the hate is so strong that one wonders what this person behind the letters, the invisible author, must have gone through to write such a text.

The prevalent idea that stood out for me, especially towards the end of the article, was the extreme hate for the West, but especially a malevolence towards America. The whole article tasted of ‘Anti-America’. Europe was never mentioned, but America and American ideologies were constantly implied.
After reading a few paragraphs one begins to see the reasons for the author’s, a.k.a. ISIS’ hate for the West.

It reads, “We hate you for your crimes against the Muslims: your drones and fighter jets bomb, kill, and maim our people around the world, …. we fight you to stop you from killing our men, women, and children, to liberate those of them whom you imprison and torture, and to take revenge…We hate you for invading our lands..”

And then, when one continues reading, every sentence smells of revenge…
The whole article is badly written, filled with hatred, violence and propaganda (which is not surprising), but what surprised me, was the subtle, yet repetitious allusions to America.

One cannot simply say that terrorists are killing people because they have misinterpreted religion. There are so many reasons for terrorism, it is such a complex issue, that it makes it hard to comprehend why and what exactly has happened.

However, I believe that America and Europe are guilty too. War has been waged, weapons have been bought and many innocent people have been killed.

Islam has nothing to do with this. One of the world’s many religions, a last thing that some people held onto when the world around them changed completely. It gets twisted with revenge, with hate… Maybe that was how ISIS was created. Its roots. And then there is the lack of education, brain-washing propaganda, social upbringing, experiences, mental trauma, some who are crazy in their heads; that leads to radicalisation and creates heartless humans.

Maybe if Western governments had bought their weapons, killed civilians, waged war in Christian countries (especially third-world countries in which lack of education means people are more easily manipulated through propaganda), we would now have radical Christians killing people and perpetrating terrorist attacks.

The ‘Burkini Ban’ in Cannes surprised me. (For those of you who have not heard about it, the Burkini, which is a bikini which covers the head, the arms and the legs and which is worn by some muslim women, was banned from the beaches in Cannes.) France is the country of the French Revolution, in which people fought for human rights.

Everybody has different opinions about the burkini, but it is a choice that muslim women can make. It does not cover their face in any way, thus one could not use the “there could be a terrorist underneath” excuse to ban it. Why ban this type of clothing? This means that those who wear a burkini, will not go to the beach anymore, they will not be able to take their children there and they and their families will feel excluded from society. What does this create?
Banning the burkini, means banning those women who wear it. Maybe I am exaggerating, but when I read these news, I thought about South Africa and how during the time of Apartheid, black people were banned from certain beaches. Is it not the same thing?
I have the feeling that laws like this are only creating a stronger division within a country which especially now, should be united more than ever.

It is important for us to realize how strongly the media can influence us, important to conciously try not to judge a religion and most of all to go out and talk to a Muslim. I am sure many will be very happy to talk to you and explain how they see their own religion, how they practice it and what its values and ideas are.

 

 

This is the link to the 15th issue of  ISIS’ monthly propaganda magazine, ‘Dabiq’ (propaganda and not very well written but also an interesting read): http://www.clarionproject.org/factsheets-files/islamic-state-magazine-dabiq-fifteen-breaking-the-cross.pdf

Image courtesy: http://www.jpost.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Fragile Human Nature

Human Nature:
Raw. Desperation. Beauty. Fear.

Human nature is … so fragile. It is paper thin, like the wings of a butterfly. But people are so egocentric they only see themselves. And they think they are the only ones in the world who feel this intense fear inside themselves.

Isn’t it our nature to be afraid? If we do not feel fear, how will we strive, how will we become successful, how will we survive?

Maybe our fear is an instinct, like an animal’s smell of prey before even seeing it coming.

“Don’t worry this recording is going to be anonymous. Written. On paper.”

Your voice as clear as crystal, no shaking, and your knee high skirt a stark contrast to your buttoned up blouse. Up to the neck. You sit upright, no blemish on your perfect skin, your eyes hard to read…

“What are you afraid of?”

“-Failure. Isn’t that what is on everybody’s mind? What happens when we fail?
I’m scared of losing my job… and what comes with it. Sometimes I am afraid of people seeing through me, of people realising that I am not pretty… Because… I am not. Pretty. I know it. When I get home, and take my makeup off I see the ugliness of my skin and the tiredness in my eyes.
I just realised how superficial all of this is. What I’m saying…”

“No not at all. You are just being honest. When you were a child, were you scared about failure?”

“As a child…I think when we are young we see the world differently. I probably didn’t even know what failure meant! I was scared of the dark. When it was night I just couldn’t go outside alone.”

Imagine the world around you had no laws, no government, nobody to control you, nobody to judge you, nobody to punish you. What would you do?

Image courtesy: legend.az

The Farce Awakens

So many things that I felt during my volunteering…

Senegalese Adventures

First off, I just want to say this before turning to the actual seriousness of this blog: while I used a pop culture reference as the title for this entry, due to the fact that I live in the freakin’ African bush I have not actually seen the new Star Wars movie. The things I have given up…

🙂

Anyways.

A lot of blog-keeping Peace Corps volunteers write a development aid blog at some point in their service. I have been waiting until the end of my time here in Senegal to write mine and honestly, even after two years of this experience I still had a beast of a time writing this down. Its a hard subject to talk about with anybody who has never spent substantial time in the developing world.

But here goes…

Stage One: March 5, 2014 – January 2015. The “Yay aid!!!!!!!!” phase.

I joined the…

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