Category Archives: Culture

An attempt at an utterly unbiased FAQ about the Brexit result

By James Mackle

Just about the only thing I have learned from the works of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, once dubbed by the French as the ‘’Mr. Bean of Renaissance philosophy”, is that when a seismic event occurs, one must not descend into the binary depths of happiness or sadness. One must look past this and seek to understand.

I don’t think these words of advice would be particularly useful for David Cameron right now. After all, he understands fully well what went wrong. They will be even less comforting to the United Kingdom representatives in Brussels. They’ll be swelling the ranks of lobbyist positions to give up the insider information, in what is known as the revolving door policy in the corridors of Berlaymont. Only this time, for them, the door will stop revolving and jam to a deafening halt.

Nevertheless, a quick glance at the Facebook feed always makes the inner know-it-all of the journalist actually make use of his curiosity. While most of my entourage were pro-Remain and maybe even knew more about the effects of a Brexit than the average Brit, some of the cringe worthy posts ignore the domestic reasons for why we voted out.

brexit-800x500

Why did we have this referendum in the first place?
Simply put, the party currently in power, the Conservative Party, has a Eurosceptic base. Because of three terms in opposition to Blairite Labour, this base was silent on the European issue that has historically divided their party, roughly among “moderates” (of which David Cameron is a member) and more radical elements of the Tory party. In 2010, for example, they agreed to shut up about Europe in order to form a coalition with the Europhiles called the Liberal Democrats.

In 2015, the Conservative Party put a referendum as one of their manifesto pledges. The moderates accepted this believing, as most people did, that another Lib Dem coalition would save them from implementing it. Instead, the Lib Dem vote vanished, the Labour opposition underperformed, but Cameron only had a 10-seat majority, enough for the fringe to demand the referendum.

david-cameron-487174

Is it all the Conservative’s fault then?
It usually is in the eyes of many a deluded folk. But the idea that the Tory party along with the far right has single-handedly voted the United Kingdom out is a fallacy. For a start, there is a sizeable chunk of Labour voters who voted out, as well as people who never voted before (turnout was higher than most elections). Add to that Wales, who have very few Tory Members of Parliament, voting in favor of leave, and that this is a one-man, one-vote system. Not constituency based.

Is it all Labour’s fault then?
This has been said by most of the Labour parliamentary members, the Conservative Party Remainers, and the LibDems, saying Labour, and in particularly Leader Jeremy Corbyn, didn’t do enough to change the mood amongst their voters in depressed former industrial zones that ultimately swung the referendum. Early polls actually suggest that the Labour vote on the issue changed little as to what was expected (something like 60-40 for Remain). Corbyn is just grossly unpopular with his colleagues off the back of a surprise victory for the radical leftist, who called himself a reluctant supporter of the EU during the campaign, and probably doesn’t care much for the EU as a whole. Most of the policies he was elected on would also be illegal under EU state aid law.

332BDDC300000578-3540947-image-a-1_1460679326702

Who is to blame then?
If you need someone to blame, you have to look geographically rather than the outdated party system, so probably provincial England. But in a 1-man, 1-vote system, the blame game is just not just ignorant but inadequate: the mentality of who or what are relative winners or losers in our society is precisely the mentality that makes the poorest in society vote out, despite absolute gains. Thus, many Scots voted in, to reaffirm their identity over some of the provincial Englanders who wanted to stick two fingers up to the London elite. These kind of reductionist proposals are what in turn feeds such a divisive, tribalistic campaign in a 1-man, 1 vote referendum. As Spinoza would say, do not look for someone to blame, dust yourself down and understand.

I see no reason to vote Out of Europe. Are the majority of Brits seeing something I am not?
No short-term, rational, cost-benefit economic or political analysis actually looked favorable to a Leave campaign. This sentence was what Remain effectively campaigned on. Remainers secretly told the political correspondents that the polls they had conducted showed that this was the only issue that could possibly get enough people out to vote Remain, rather than some glorified pro-EU stance. Cameron was not being negative when he campaigned against Brexit rather than for Bremain. He was just being realistic.

This is because of how widespread the British fear of any kind of federal Europe is. More precisely, the idea of a political superstate. It was voted for a free-trade agreement back in the 1970s. But the Brits have never been culturally and politically affiliated with the European Union; its flag, its anthem, or even its supposed values. Its state institutions and actions have always been viewed negatively, and comments from ex-Commission President José Manuel Barroso saying the EU was the first “Non-Imperial Empire” in an Orwellian example of Eurospeak, simply does not help.

While the immigration issue undoubtedly managed to push some (working-class) voters over the line into voting Leave, the vast majority of the Englanders who tend to be election-winners for political parties are small-c conservative-liberals who don’t like government the same way the Americans don’t and the French do. I reckon about 60-70% of those went eurosceptic after the Maastricht Treaty, which established the foundations for political union. Once Europe crossed this line, they were never going to support the European project in a referendum again.

Belgium EU Britain

But there were no economic benefits for leaving, right? Britain is screwed.
In the short run, it seems like another recession is coming. A source in an economics consultancy department for the City of London told me he had seen nine scenarios for Brexit. Eight of them had Britain entering recession. The one that didn’t assume that a free-trade deal with the EU is similar to that of Norway’s, who negotiated theirs having not stuck two fingers up to the Commission. It also only made British households 80 pounds better off per week in the long run.

All the other scenarios make Britain worse off. Most of the others relate to uncertainty for investors both foreign and domestically. Subsequently, there is also the potential crash of the British housing market due to lower prices and interest rates fluctuating from very low to compensate for Brexit, to sky high because of uncertainty. The economist Steve Keen once proclaimed the British private credit bubble to be “The biggest Ponzi scheme on the planet”. Without stable interest rates and inflation, this should soon be put to the test.

In the long run, though, most accept the former fifth largest economy in the world (now taken over by France it seems) will survive, but worse off in absolute terms. Remember that voters, and people in general, think in relative terms though. One scenario is borderline apocalyptic, and it includes the breakup of the Union…

Does Scotland voting Remain mean they will call another referendum?
I believe voter fatigue, uncertainty over the Euro as a potential currency and the low price of oil mean that the Scots will wait two years for the renegotiation process to end before considering their options. Because the Scottish economy is still heavily reliant on England as an export destination, it does not want a shut border. If the Conservative leader negotiates a free-trade deal with the EU with favorable terms, then they may actually consider staying. If they ball it up and another right-wing Conservative government is still re-elected, then the Scots will vote out and apply for Union membership status.

Who will be this Conservative leader you speak of?
Boris Johnson is the obvious candidate, as he appears to have solely come out against the EU to try to lead his country after the referendum, having supported Cameron’s stance up until then. Unfortunately, he would be the most likely to be received as a populist, self-serving clown by the Commission and Council leaders in Europe.

Boris Johnson visit to the USA - Day 3

Theresa May, who voted Bremain but is eurosceptic (don’t ask me how that works), will undoubtedly be up there as a compromise candidate who could be better received in Brussels.
While the country may prefer a consensus candidate, ultimately the Tory membership decides, and their membership (not their voters) are likely to back Johnson.

What about Northern Ireland voting Remain? Could they opt to be united with Ireland?
Northern Ireland is a different political animal altogether due to its history and divided communities. Generally speaking the Nationalists (those who wish to unite with Ireland) had the most to lose from Brexit due to the closed border and cross-member-state co-operation, so they will have campaigned more for Remain along with some moderate Unionists, explaining the result. Nevertheless, the DUP, Ulster’s largest party and fiercely pro-Unionist, came out for Leave, and they have enough power to block Nationalist demands in the context of a consensus-based government between the two communities in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Feinn, the main nationalist actor, has called for a border poll, but they have had that stance for years and a major, divisive political event like this results in them calling for a border poll. They know that they would probably lose it due to the small Unionist majority, and jeopardize the now fragile peace process.

There is no way that this referendum is an indication of Northern Ireland’s leanings towards secession in the same way Scotland’s are.

scotland-independence-united-kingdom-england

What will happen in the next General Election?
There is little chance Labour will win with Corbyn in power and Scotland being generally pissed off, so it will probably be to determine whether the Conservatives have a majority or minority government, the LibDems recover due to EU nostalgia, and whether UKIP or its natural successor becomes the first established right-wing populist party in the UK.

What will happen to the rest of Europe?
I have no idea, and the degree in European Studies has not helped in that regard. They are such a pluralistic, incoherent, irresponsible mess right now it’s hard to see what will emerge. Some have touted the UK’s departure as a stepping stone to deeper integration. This would require a major Treaty revision requiring consensus from 27 – not 15 as in Maastricht 1992 – Member-states. So they are stuck with their outdated Treaty and ad hoc legal modification designed by European Law students too clever for their own good (you know who you are).

Electoral forecasts show this is as much a failure of the Union as a failure of the UK to find its place within Europe. Spain will vote on Sunday substituting its centre-left pro-EU bore fest for the Eurocritical Podemos. If the PVV win in 2017 Dutch General Election, then there could be another referendum. They currently lead the polls but have a plurality, not a majority. France is fools gold for Eurosceptics: the Le Pen family and the national Front will always be too toxic for most voters. As for Germany, they cannot hold a referendum on an issue like this as it is constitutionally illegal to hold referenda after Hitler declared four to reaffirm his power in the 1930s.

So will everything be OK, like the UCMers say?
Interesting slogan for an academic environment, but not as ‘interesting’ as the media frenzy we are being led in. I was looking forward to writing about the end of a savage war in Columbia but instead, I write about Brexit. This is why Spinoza’s assertion is so true: ultimately, if you look enough, you will find dark in the light and light in the dark. To let emotion take over in times like this is not a matter of perspective, but of irrational choice.

brexit-british-pound

 

Complex Maastricht – how to throw a party

By Vincent Brenn

If you are into the techno and or deep house scene, then this article about the new, established underground club Complex Maastricht is the right information you want to read about now. The information that is being revealed on the Internet is mainly found on Facebook and on the homepage.  According to the description on Facebook, all events until September are ‘construction’ parties to make the location appealing to students and to set a constant demand for the parties at this location.

            Jeff Mills will set the grand opening in September 2016. Nevertheless, in April this year, Mees Dierdorp, Sandeep and especially Fritz Kalkbrenner warmed us up by playing extremely well, letting the crowd go crazy. The underused music hall will re-establish itself into an underground club of Maastricht, playing mainly techno, deep house and other deep electronic dance music. This is what the Luc Boers, organiser of the Complex Maastricht, promised. For further clarification what Complex Maastricht is all about, I have contacted Luc to conduct an interview with him. The following questions are about creating a general understanding of the invention of Complex Maastricht.

How did you come up with the idea of Complex Maastricht?

Luc: The ambition always was an own event location when we started with events back in 2010. The idea really got big when I met Hans-Paul Nieskens. His mind was just the same as mine and we looked for venue’s in Maastricht with a night permit till 05:00 and the Music Hall, in the middle of the centre, was big but perfect.

To what extent is Complex connected to the other events going on in Maastricht, Strictly Vinyl and the “Fest.” parties?

Luc: Complex Maastricht is just an event location that can be rented by organizations such as Strictly Vinyl or Fest, or anyone else who has a good idea to throw a party! We will do 2 Claydrum parties every year with the biggest headliners in the underground genre like Fritz Kalkbrenner or if we can make it work with his brother Paul 😉

What is the concept behind Complex and who came up with Claydrum in the first place?

Luc: In 2010 I started Claydrum when I noticed that the techno (underground) scene in Maastricht was really small and I just love techno music. The first party (http://partyflock.nl/party/168300:Driehoek) with headliner Sandeep was sold-out (350 visitors) and almost everyone loved it. From that point, I worked my ass off to raise the bar every year for 6 years now and that is also what our (Hans-Paul and me) new concept Complex Maastricht is all about: raising the bar of underground clubbing in Maastricht. With Complex Maastricht, the underground scene can grow again with events till 2000 people. The Grand Opening of Complex Maastricht with living legend Jeff Mills will be on the 24th of September with a top notch show and sound-system.

What was Complex before you reinvented it and who owns the former Music-hall?  Luc: Complex Maastricht is a whole new concept in the venue formerly known as Music Hall. This rough diamond near the centre of the city was never properly exploited cause of the colours and awful black/white tile floor. We put a new sound absorbing floor in and painted everything inside black as a wormhole to give the venue a club feeling and I think we succeeded. Everyone wants to see and feel it!

Is Complex/Claydrum a student initiative?

Luc: Neither. Claydrum is just an event organisation for every techno lover, Complex is a club/venue for events for everyone who loves partying but we will have a lot of student parties so in some ways it is student-centred.

Is it true that the Gemeente Maastricht also has its share of the financing of Complex?

Luc: No, that’s not true, we finance everything with our companies.

How many people came for Fritz Kalkbrenner?

Luc: The event with the German master Fritz Kalkbrenner attract a massive 1900 visitors.

Apparently the organizer of Complex and Muziekgieterij are competing and have become rivals, is this true?

Luc: Complex Maastricht will fill in the gap of the Muziekgieterij and the huge Mecc Maastricht location. Muziekgieterij has a capacity of 900 now (in the future of 1400), Complex Maastricht has a capacity of 2000 and Mecc of 7000. In every big city, there are several locations and they are all competing with each other, that is perfectly normal. Every location has it’s pros and cons and I think it only will get better in Maastricht. This will be the centre of underground music what attracts a lot of people from the region to Maastricht and that is perfect for society.

Are you starting a new concept of daily / weekly events?

Luc: No, we only do co-productions and if the  opportunity arises that we can book a big name such as Fritz Kalkbrenner we do it as a Complex Night.

What is the target group of Complex Maastricht? 

Luc: We do our best to reach all the underground music lovers, international and local students, young creative minds and everyone who wants to join our community. That’s why we have our motto: “Born from our love of underground dance, cold beer and fine food. It’s been quite a journey”

Urban realities in post-apartheid South Africa

By Hendrik Jaschob

A visitor’s first of impression of Cape Town is often bound up with its way from Cape Town International Airport towards the city centre. Driving along the N2 from the airport lets you pass massive informal settlements and townships with Cape Town’s Table Mountain in distant reach which potentially shocks a first visitor to the city that is inhabited by almost four million people. However, Cape Town has become one of the most visited places in the world. Recently, The Telegraph listed 22 reasons why Cape Town is the world’s best city, highlighting the city’s diversity and range of activities from hiking adventures, road trips and wine tasting to its historical significance during the struggle against the apartheid regime.  The Travel+Leisure magazine also ranked Cape Town as the 9th best city in the world in 2015. Especially for Germans, Cape Town has become a major destination to start a new life abroad, having big German communities in the city bowl. The city bowl is the cosmopolitan part of the city which is close to the lifestyle that Europeans or Americans know from home. Then, there are Sea Point and Camps Bay where properties and apartments are barely affordable for most South Africans and where you find a lot of internationals from anywhere in the world. Nonetheless, these parts of the city are mainly dominated by whites who have no relation to life realities behind the separating mountain.

Picture1

Cape Town’s Legacy

To understand Cape Town, it is important to grasp the country’s history of colonial separation which had been perfected by the apartheid regime. The Group Areas Act was implemented in 1950 and assigned racial groups (blacks, coloureds, whites) to specific residential and business areas in order to separate urban life. Although, aspiring black and coloured individuals have moved back to these mostly “white” areas since 1994, urban segregation is still very visible in Cape Town. The city behind Table Mountain spreads 40 or 50 kilometres towards False Bay in its racially assigned residential areas. Driving along the M9 and starting from Khayelitsha, which is the second-largest township in the country, towards Wynberg and Constantia, you pass by different worlds. The American writer Paul Theroux notes in his book The Last Train to Zona Verde that “the majority of black South Africans live in the lower depths, not in the picturesque hamlets or thatched huts on verdant hillsides. Three quarters of city-dwelling Africans live in the nastiest slums and squatter camps.” But what is the story behind the big informal settlements and townships such as Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Crossroads or Mfuleni? What do the people say?

Picture1

Distant Township Life

Samantha* says that a lot has changed since apartheid is over. She is in her 50’s and lives in Mfuleni which is a relatively new township which is 40 kilometres away from the actual city centre. She is engaged in urban farming and proudly shows her growing vegetables. She highlights the new opportunities to travel around the city which was not possible before. “The government even gives free tickets for weekend travel to pensioners”, she says with curiosity to get around the city. However, Samantha worriedly speaks about the barriers that still persist in the daily interaction with white people. “White South Africans still don’t like us black people”, she tells. It is an expression that also underlines the different life realities that are shaped in such a spatially divided city. Yet, there are more pressuring issues that have influenced township life in Cape Town since 1994. The South African author Rian Malan wrote in 1994 about the new influx of people in township communities from all over the country, as follows: “It was as if a distant dam had broken, allowing a mass of desperate and hopeful humanity to come flooding over the mountains and spread out across the Cape Flats”, which was caused by new travel opportunities, after the pass laws were abolished by the new government in 1994. He further notes that “within two years, the sand dunes had vanished under an enormous sea of shacks and shanties, as densely packed as a medieval city”. Today, South African cities have also become an attractive place for many immigrants from other African countries. This new influx has occasionally caused xenophobic violence over the last few years and therefore become another urging issue in urban South Africa.

Picture1

Growing Together

Michael*, who is a very committed person in his community, lives in Retreat which is rather known as a coloured dominated area in the Cape Flats. He hopes that the country can grow together, beyond the frustrating state of politics in the country. “The ANC** is currently ruining the country through all these corruptions issues and its inability to transform life of the socio-economically weakest in the country”, he says. Pointing at younger generations he states that “the future of this country lies in the younger generations that have the opportunity to go to school and grow together”. There is a certain kind of optimism in his voice with respect to the potential to lower barriers within the city, to create a new feeling of a mutual life in times of desegregation and to stir agency of Capetonians to contribute to change. The former leadership of the ANC around Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, or Ahmed Kathadra, that were crucial figures in the struggle again apartheid, was not wrong when they stated that the long walk of South Africans to freedom had just begun. This walk will continue.

*Names have been changed

**African National Congress

Does money rule the world?

By Marie Peffenköver

If you just open your news app on your smartphone, look up the top 10 news of your country or open a newspaper and you just pick a random article – what will you see? Of course, the answer to this question depends on from which country you are and what type of newspaper you are looking at but you will certainly find something about the refugee crisis, the EU deal with Turkey, the nuclear summit in the USA right now or maybe even the Greek financial crisis (although the latter has silently disappeared from the popular awareness during the last months). And all of these news, no matter from which topic, they have one thing in common – it’s all about the money.

How to pay the accommodation and integration of the refugees? Will Greece need more support from the ESM (European Stability Mechanism)? “The US government spends about $500 million per year to fight terrorism” (The Guardian, 2016) and “Erdogan gets another 3 billion to stop refugees” (Spiegel, 2016) – the world’s most important commodity is once again the key issue of action and reaction. “What I would like to change about today’s society? That’s clear to me: no money that hampers social interaction”, says Tobi Rosswog, an activist of the German social movement “living utopia”. The project and action network which describes itself as “money free”, vegan, ecological and which stresses an attitude of solidarity tries to spread its core idea by offering workshops, giving lectures and creating spaces of participation where everyone who is interested in joining can do so.

article 1
Tobi Rosswog, an activist of the movement “living Utopia” explained his utopia in an interview with the Diplomat

A world without money? Where you do not weigh whether you buy the expensive or the cheap chocolate bar? Without the “Big Business” standing behind the politicians telling them what to vote for and what not? How shall this be realized? “Of course, this is a huge contradiction with our capitalist society”, explains Tobi, “but we already made positive experiences with living utopia. People are keen to dare experiments. And if you don’t gauge everything and everyone using the monetary measure, but you share and you offer what you don’t need to someone who is in need, a society can develop a completely new dynamism.”
Building upon the idea that the overall abundance of goods enables such a “gift society”, the movement too stresses this socio-economic interaction as a way to improve the societal living-together. According to Tobi, “the capitalistic doctrine of constant growth is also in conflict with one of our most limited resources – time. We always want to get better, build higher, be faster and more modern. But this obstructs our view on the fact that we already have everything we need to live a comfortable life. We are just taught to never be satisfied.”
Fact check: Since quite some time, scientists have tried to determine the happiest country by using various criteria which suggest states such as Norway, Costa Rica or Puerto Rico as the world’s most happy country. Surprisingly, many studies and indices (e.g. Business Week) have ranked the small Asian state Bhutan to be the place where people are the happiest although it lingers on rank 126 out of 194 by states’ GDP per capita. Moreover, psychologists nowadays claim that money only satisfies you if you were already contended before while bills can just amplify who you already are.

article 2

Yet, there are many impediments to be overcome to realize such a utopia. The biggest of them is human nature. I bet we all know these people who ask “Can I quickly borrow your pen?” and who give it back almost empty, people who free ride when writing group papers or people who looked at your lunch in primary school and just wanted to “try a little bit” – briefly, those who take the mile when offered an inch. How would a “gift society” make sure that such companions don’t exploit the entire group?

For Tobi, this problem is home-cooked as well: “We need to wonder ‘why are these people doing that?’ Apparently, they are not a 100 percent motivated as the costs exceed the benefits – a rational calculation. And this is exactly the way we are taught to think: ‘What’s in it for me?’ But if people help because they want to help – that is, because they like to get a smile or ‘thank you’ back without being offered something themselves – we can unleash an incredible efficacy.”

Central to the project living utopia is the decision to non-consumption; hence, to say “I already have enough; I don’t need this right now.” This is also related to the project’s emphasis on veganism and sustainability. The message: consumption and sustainability can be united – “but only if this happens radically sufficient”. “Excessive consumption is socially suggested”, Tobi points out. “Of course, we have basic needs but everything beyond has been created by society. If we do not keep this surplus for ourselves but if we share it and give it to someone, then something interesting happens: our goods become personalized. Thus, we establish a very close and personal relationship with everything we possess. This has a much greater value than things that we only bought to compensate for our sadness or frustration. Additionally, we become much more open to our fellows and mistrust and greed get significantly reduced. This is also a positive observation that we could make.”

Does money rule the world? Right now, it does. For some, it is desirable to keep it like this, whereas others envision a different world. Whether we believe this to be true one time or not is for everyone himself to decide. But for Tobi it is important that we abandon phrases such as “I can’t imagine!” or “This has never worked!”. “We have to dare the experiment”, he elaborates, “otherwise, nothing will ever change.”

article 3
A silent brainstorming during a workshop of living utopia

Concerts and Politics

By Eszter Sailer

I have always been a concert person. I love the feeling of being there, the live music, and the energy of everyone in the room. Recently I have been to three of them (the total number is not easy to calculate). They were all different, with different styles of music and different vibes. However, they made me realize something: in a way, concerts are just like politics, even if the real world is exactly what we want to escape from at concerts.

There is something about lyrics that makes you like them, that makes you relate to them, and that connects them to politics as a whole. A political party should be relatable, right? Otherwise, you would not consider voting for them. Therefore, musicians are comparable to political parties. You go to concerts because you like them, because the lyrics say exactly what you think. A political party does the same: they promise you something, they get your votes by telling you what you want to hear. Of course, we cannot say that a band tries to get your votes and that your future depends upon it (at least not in the way it depends on a political party). Additionally, selling oneself is different with music. Obviously, a band wants you to listen to them, but for many of them, it is not only about making money and gaining power (or a fan-base in this case), but also about representing their own mind-set, and, to go emotionally even deeper, about portraying their emotions and allowing it to help other people. In this sense, they are similar to political parties, representing a wave of thoughts and trying to get both recognition and reaction.

My simple thought started out while thinking about concerts I have been to, so I compared those genres to politics – genres with lyrics, upbeat melodies. Naturally, every kind of music fits the situation described above, be it classical, electronic, or any other instrumental music. Lyrics are not a necessity to be able to compare concerts and politics, however, words are the ones that make the message more straightforward, and they are the ones that I, personally, always sing along to. However, every genre has the potential to put out something that is relatable and that influences the thoughts of the audience.

I will make the distinction between lyrics about personal matters and lyrics about general issues of the world. One can argue that personal issues, like romance, are not political, therefore, the comparison to politics would be incorrect. However, singing along to those lyrics means the same thing as agreeing with a political party. You chant the lyrics, you look up to the singer, you sing with the people around you and you are united. You share the same interests, just as you would do in a political party.

Singing literally about things that musicians seem to think of as problems with the world can add to this feeling and then comes the ironic thing about my theory. When at the concert a song of the political kind comes up, talking about the world and expressing problems in our society, people shout along and you can see by the expression on their faces that they agree and that they are fed up with how things are in the real world (Dear Mr. President, Pink/ Imagine, John Lennon). Concerts give you exactly the opportunity to express your feelings without any consequence. I am not saying that (I, or) people go to concerts because they want to escape politics or the real world, but they do give you space to shamelessly share the thoughts of the band. So that is where the contradiction is: you want to let go of your problems for a while, and you do not want to think about current issues, but you behave like you are at an event of a political party: you chant the exact words that relate to your life and to your problems (comparable to a political party’s agenda). The difference is that you do not actually change anything and that music is not about politics and it cannot change the government or current affairs, but it can change you, your thoughts, you mind-set. In a sense, you get desensitized to everyday matters because they are everywhere, but being at concerts, the sensitivity increases and you find yourself shouting every word you agree with.

Picture1

Concerts give you the chance to just be somewhere where you do not have to worry about other people’s opinions. It unites people and does the beautiful thing with the lyrics where they somehow rhyme, and are written well and you can enjoy that. You can sing along, you can jump along and you can feel that there is a community that is created among the audience, sharing the same passion: music. The thing about concerts is that you can talk about politics there, even if you do not realize that certain songs are, in fact, about it. You can do the things that are comparable with events of political parties, without concerts having an assertive agenda, and without any consequences. In the end, it gives you the opportunity to lose yourself and to detach from the outside world, but it also brings you closer to people by relating to them.

So maybe concerts are like politics, and bands can be compared to parties, but the reason we like concerts is because it is our choice to choose a band. You can choose your own political party of course, but if it does not get the majority of the votes, another party will take over control, whereas if other people like different bands, it will not affect your life. You can relate to each other and agree on terms, and still, your actions at concerts will not lead to anything, and will only have meaning for you. What could we want more than to escape the unjust outside world to express ourselves in a safe place and not having any consequences behind it? Personally, I would not mind a meet and greet with every band I see, but that is another topic.

How to date internationally? – A short guideline

By Joost Veth

Almost 5 years ago now, I left home, friends and school to take the next step: university; the real deal! Extra feature: people from different countries. Maastricht University, the most international university of the Netherlands. Awesome! Almost immediately I made international friends, spoke different languages (I’ll never forget my first Chinese lesson from a friend from China) and learnt a lot about all kinds of different cultures. But a relationship with a girl with a different nationality and culture? That seemed a step too far for me. Too complicated with the different language, the different background, et cetera. That’s what I thought. Yet, things don’t always go as you expect. By the time this article is published, I will have been in a relationship with a British girl for over 9 months. And still going strong! How do I do this? Here are some tips:

Embrace the differences, enjoy the similarities

Even when your beloved is from a close-by country, you will always have differences in culture. Even though most of them are not even unknown to you, in everyday life, you easily forget them. Take the Dutch and the Brits. Brits (and I believe all other nationalities) think that Dutch people are rude. Dutch people think Brits are overly polite. We all know this. Still, it is easy to forget this. And things that are forgotten might cause annoyances or misconceptions. Instead, you can use it to reflect. Is she so polite, or am I so rude? You can really learn a lot from each other. So don’t be annoyed, embrace the differences! Simultaneously, it’s really funny to discover similarities you never expected to have. Maybe you watched the same TV show as kids or the same music happened to be popular in both countries. This would be little more than a coincidence if you are from the same country, it is however very remarkable if you are from different countries. It’s the little things that make the day. So enjoy them!

love is2

Be open-minded

This may seem obvious, but I think it is a very important condition for the relationship to stand a chance. Of course you don’t immediately think about the long-term future, but when the relationship gets more serious, it’s inevitable that you will. Personally, I didn’t want to leave the Netherlands. And even now, I am not entirely sure if I would want to leave. But I am now more open to it. And when you start thinking about it, it is no longer only a scary idea, but you start to see the advantages and opportunities as well. I think it’s time for a cliché: Be open-minded and doors open for you.

Discuss your culture

People with different cultural backgrounds are sometimes the best to help you reflect on certain topics. If an objective opinion can’t be formed anymore because the topic is too deeply embedded in your culture, ask the other what he/she thinks. Best example: ‘zwarte piet’, which in the Dutch culture are the helpers of Santa Claus; they may be found racist by some as they are black of skin, as the name suggests. Normally I am very good at forming an objective opinion, but this time, I couldn’t. Solution? I asked my girlfriend.

Don’t get annoyed at miscommunication, learn from it

Of course, one of the biggest difficulties of dating internationally is the language gap (Germans dating Austrians and similar couples not counted). This will always be a difficulty. But I rather look at it differently: The gap will never be as big as it was when you started dating, it will only get smaller. You could see arguments stemming from a misunderstanding as reason to doubt your relationship. Or you can learn from it so that such situations can be avoided in the future. I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in 9 months; how many expressions I understand now that would have been an issue a year ago. And if you are Dutch, like myself, and your girlfriend’s understanding of Dutch is non-existent, I have two suggestions: Search at home for your old children books, that’s really fun, and play word games!

Don’t make these mistakes

A couple of mistakes I’ve made in English that you should avoid at all costs:

1)    Never mix up ‘mind’ and ‘matter’. For some reason, girls don’t seem to like it when you say ‘You don’t matter’.

2)    One of the ways I like to teach my girlfriend Dutch: if there is no good English equivalent for a Dutch word, I just use the Dutch one. Works fine with ‘gezellig’ (comfortable/nice) (“today was very gezellig”) Works terribly with ‘hoor’ (“You are also nice hoor”)

3)    Brits tend to refer to dinner as ‘tea’. If you forget this, it might happen that the mother of your girlfriend comes to tell you that ‘tea is ready’ and you answer ‘no thanks, I’m not in the mood for tea’. First surprised faces, then laughter on my behalf.

4)    Sleeve and slave have a very different meaning in English. Never say “I have long slaves”.

And finally, I created some of my own words: grumchy (grumpy and grouchy combined), squirks (instead of quirks), goosbuts (instead of goosebumps), earthcake (earthquake) and asswhole (arsehole). All leading to hilarity for my girlfriend.

That was it, do with it what you want and in any case, good luck with your boyfriend/girlfriend!

“We do not exaggerate”

By Lize de Potter

Cologne. Known around the world for its magnificent Kölner Dom, famous for its iconic perfumes, equally renowned for its carnival festivities. And now, tragically adding mass gang assaults on women to that list, as the events of New Year’s Eve shocked the entire globe.

Anger quickly replaced the initial shock, rose across the continent, with politicians everywhere screaming wild “I-told-you-so’s” at the top of their right-winged lungs.  “I told you those Muslim refugees do not belong in our Western society. They regard women solely as objects of lust or sex slaves” and proclamations of the like.

Naturally, for reasons such as blatantly obvious over-generalization, statements such as the above are problematic and highly inaccurate, to say the least. Surely it would be foolish to overlook or belittle the identities and backgrounds of the assaulters. However, it would be equally ignorant to claim that the objectification of women is a phenomenon inherent to Muslim societies. On the contrary, it is just as much ingrained in our, depicted as progressive, Western world. Granted, on a scale gravely outweighed by the horrific events of the Cologne question, but in my eyes, not less meaningful or important.

For I have yet to meet a female who has not been victim to shamelessly inappropriate sexually tinted remarks. I say victim, for I also have yet to meet a female who felt flattered, or even indifferent, after being dog-whistled in the streets. Whether those streets are crowded or deserted, whether in parks or in bars, whether by strangers or by the creepy next-door neighbour. Ranging from “hey sexy” to the shameless groping of girls’ behinds. Anytime, any day. Objectification is fixed in our society, leaving girls and women across the continent feeling utterly disgusted, used even. And when complained about, women are more often than not characterized as exaggerating stick-in-the-muds, attention-seeking feminists.

12647942_10153929763944190_1593461360_n

Although omnipresent, our society seems to like to ignore this Western variant of sexism, it seems to like to pretend it is not there. The majority of the mainstream media stays silent, but hungrily feeds on the details of the identities of the Cologne assaulters. Worse still, the majority of the women at the receiving end of inappropriate name-calling, simply keep their head down and hastily quicken their pace. Only to later go and jump on the band-wagon of judging other women to be dressed provocatively, to be “asking for it”.

This apparently socially accepted hypocrisy, it needs to be questioned, it needs to be challenged, it needs to be openly rejected.

Politicians, citizens, the strangers in the street or the creepy next-door neighbour, they most probably had no difficulties whatsoever condemning the events in Cologne. It was easy, and rightly so. Nevertheless, it is flat-out unjust that it takes events of such gravity to open Europe’s eyes, to trigger our society’s anger and indignation. Condemning daily sexism rooted in our Western civilisation should be equally easy. It should be uncomplicated, it should come naturally. For everyone in every society. Just as 1+1 equals 2, to both refugees and Europeans alike, sexism equals unacceptable, the fight against it equals a priority.

Because we do not exaggerate.

12606707_10153929764109190_2124754911_n