Looking back and forward… at my time in the US

I have extremely mixed feelings about my time in the US. Even though I spent some weeks in China shortly before going to the US, I had no idea what kind of shock I would encounter. A shock culturally, physically and emotionally. 

The United States of America, that country that I thought was so like Europe. That I thought to be the epicenter of everything Western. With the change in powers underway at the moment, the double feelings all come back in full force.

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Words&Statistics – “Fact” and post-truths

What happened in 1965? After that date, the word ‘fact’ has decreasingly been used in books. But how come? Did the ‘post-truth’ world start not with social media, but maybe with the rise of relativism and existentialism?

A reflection by Nicole des Bouvrie.

Philosophers deal with words, often in etymological sense, in that they try to understand the meaning of a concept by looking at the history of a word, how it was used, what roots it has. But there is another way in which words are interesting, also for a philosopher: quantitatively. Continue reading “Words&Statistics – “Fact” and post-truths”

Surrender upon demand | US experience part one

After about two weeks in the United States, there is to much too keep in. Writing seems the only sane response to the variety of experiences that cannot be but leave an impression.

After about two weeks in the United States, there is too much to keep in. Writing seems the only sane response to the variety of experiences that cannot be but leave an impression.

I could start with the initial wonder, those couple of days walking around in a haze, the filmset that was movie around me, that I didn’t want to touch anything so that it would not become too real. The steam coming out of put holes in the streets of New York. People walking like they have nowhere to be except right there, in that walk, walking the walk, as stand-ins, always ready for something to happen. The woman in the metrostation randomly starting to talk to me about her life. The people asking me if I have a problem with black men. The New York skyline from a rooftop in Astoria, and it not sparkling me as it should.

Continue reading “Surrender upon demand | US experience part one”

Why again do we want this ‘freedom of speech’? Or: reading Spinoza

Watching the news, reading social media contributions, I more and more come to the conclusion that it might be time to end our persistent liking of this concept, the ideal of freedom of speech. In a world where opinions create problems, perhaps it is time to stop having opinions altogether. Especially when having an opinion is seen as ‘doing something’, as ‘contributing something’ to society. Thus, the main problem I have with the ‘freedom of opinion’ is that is seems to warrant a liberty through which people feel entitled to say whatever they want, even if it hurts, even if it confirms prejudice and ignorance.

When we take into account that we are mostly limited in our thinking by the world in which we find ourselves, then we must conclude that our opinions can only be a confirmation of who we already are, of what we already know.

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Continue reading “Why again do we want this ‘freedom of speech’? Or: reading Spinoza”

The Chinese experience – Part I

China, a fascinating land full of new obstacles, opportunities and perspectives that has been a great experience so far. Around every corner there can be something new, disgusting, lovely, beautiful, touching, crazy, horrifying. It is a great test of sanity, of belonging, of becoming.

A little over one week ago I arrived in China, a fascinating land full of new obstacles, opportunities and perspectives that has been a great experience so far. Around every corner there can be something new, disgusting, lovely, beautiful, touching, crazy, horrifying. It is a great test of sanity, of belonging, of becoming. With only a few words of Chinese – and no hope of acquiring that language any time soon – I learn a new language of assertiveness, perseverance and humbleness.

Continue reading “The Chinese experience – Part I”

How to respond to the horror of #Paris?

It is still too early to know exactly what happened, who what where and perhaps the most important question: why? What is clear is that something terrible has happened. Response from all over the world is pouring in, and besides the initiatives where the people from Paris open their doors for stranded fellow-Parisians to find a shelter for the night, there are also possible violent reactions. Which is what this event is also the beginning or continuation of, fear of violence and revenge. Which response is appropriate now?

It is still too early to know exactly what happened, who what where and perhaps the most important question: why? What is clear is that something terrible has happened. Response from all over the world is pouring in, and besides the initiatives where the people from Paris open their doors for stranded fellow-Parisians to find a shelter for the night, there are also possible violent reactions. Which is what this event is also the beginning or continuation of, fear of violence and revenge. Which response is appropriate now? A reflection by Nicole des Bouvrie. First published on Zinweb.nl (in Dutch).

Continue reading “How to respond to the horror of #Paris?”

Why I Watch – Theatre & Me

Lately I’ve been kind of involved in the art we call theatre. Writing, acting. But these past couple of weeks I’ve done none of that, instead I’ve visited a lot of plays. And watching theatre performed right in front of you, is maybe the most tiresome way to be involved.

For either the play is so enchanting, so mesmerizing that I takes days to recover. Words echo in your mind, the smell of the actor’s sweat stays with you, you recognize scenes in every-day life. And, most worrisome of all, you repeat phrases out of context and you’re upset that no-one else finds it as thoughtful as it was meant to be. (“Or not to be, that is the question.” See what I mean?)

But this is fine. It’s like living in a big book of spells and you get to see one acted out in front of you, once in a while. The big ugly world is a little bit sunnier for a while, and life is bearable, slightly, until you need a new fix.

The real problem comes, when you are in desperate need of a fix of captivating mind-blowing blood-quenching theatre, and that you’re faced with a bunch of emotionless hippies that don’t understand a single word they’re uttering – although they might say it with a most delightful cheer. When you’re made witness of an uneventful event that is full of clutter.

Tonight I saw precisely such a play. A beautiful Greek original materpiece, stripped of all its beauty, and left with only the complexity of names and willful and god-inspired acts that are devoid of any meaning, filled up again with attributes and lectures. As if I don’t know who ate whose children, and why Iphegenia was killed. (Not to mention the fact that they didn’t even know how to pronounce Clytemnestra.)

I don’t go to the theatre to be taught mythology, to be told a story, to be entertained. Please, the world is full of entertainment and bad teachers already, don’t take away from me the few things that remain – music and words. Please go away and make television shows for elderly people, teach people correct grammar, something, but don’t spoil the truth that the event of theatre is capable of. Don’t look at me, the audience, but look at yourselves.

Perhaps I am not of this age, in which everything must go faster and wilder, in which sex and murder are the only things that can capture someone’s mind for longer than a second. But there are more people like me, there must be, for else there would be nothing left in this world but the idle imaginations of the remnants of the past.

It makes no sense. It should not make sense. There is no sense. Don’t pretend otherwise. But please, don’t add to the heap of nonsense already present in this world.

© jan versweyveld