Brexit and the Santa Clause

Seldom in my life have I witnessed a social event as cataclysmic as the #Brexit.  In every day life very little has changed.  Life goes on as normal.  And yet the moralistic puritanical outrage that has been released by a vote that has, at this time of writing, changed absolutely nothing, has bordered upon the fanatical and been nothing short of absurd.

The idiosyncrasies of such behaviour are evident. This referendum brought the highest voter turnout in a quarter of a century. Over 2 million people who never vote found the ballot box.  Suddenly people were talking, reading and arguing about politics.  They were interested again. If this were any other social issue people would be celebrating this event as a hugely important moment in history.  Instead it has become a bitter, banal argument where 2 million people have forged a petition to try to get the votes of some 17 million people disregarded in a crass demonstration of contemptible arrogance that can be at best described as lamentable ignorance

This preponderance of abject denialism is reminiscent of a child first learning that Santa Claus does not exist.  Even though on some level they recognise that what they are hearing is right, their heart won’t allow them to rationalise their world view into a position that fits outside of their logic.

Recently I found myself in a discussion with someone I shall name ‘Remain Roger’.  Roger has a degree in economics and works in London.  Whilst conversing upon the stupidity of a nonsensical petition he accused me of voting leave on account of my continued defense of the referendum result.  I am a British citizen, a resident of the Netherlands, I have a Polish wife, sell records in Poland, books in the UK and pay tax in the Netherlands.  If you knew those things about someone how do you suppose they would vote?  SANTA IS REAL SANTA IS REAL SANTA IS REAL SANTA IS REAL!!!!!!!!!!

Now recently ‘Remain Roger’ is in a state of despair, whether it is due to the extra workload caused by working in an industry dedicated to propagating impossible rumor, or domestic problems of sorts, I don’t know.  What is clear is that his inability to comprehend that people are capable of independent thought has rendered him impotent.  Poor Roger has started suffering from rage syndrome, lashing out all over the internet about all manner of topics, including more recently a joke meme about the youth that voted remain playing Pokemon.  Perhaps this should have served as a warning.  However, as a keen bipartisan cultural anthropologist of sorts I was keen to engage Roger.  Sadly, Roger lost his temper.

Roger

This felt somewhat awkward given that 1. It started with a Pokemon joke.  2.  Social media means that everybody knows exactly what you have been doing since you left school 3. What the fuck has any of this to do with 1 or 2.  It was the umpteenth example of fallacious reasoning from what I thought was a very well-developed mind.  Oh and number 4.

Fallacious reasoning is defined by Wikipedia as:

A fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning, or “wrong moves”[1] in the construction of an argument.[2][3] A fallacious argument may be deceptive by appearing to be better than it really is. Some fallacies are committed intentionally to manipulate or persuade by deception, while others are committed unintentionally due to carelessness or ignorance. Lawyers acknowledge that the extent to which an argument is sound or unsound depends on the context in which the argument is made

A perfect example of a fallacious construct is the statement ‘The Brexit is a mistake’.  In its most exact sense, there is no way you can possible argue that seventeen million people inadvertently ticked the wrong box.  Nor can it be a concluding opinion, as there is no way, short of using a time machine to prove that the statement itself is evidential in nature.  Every single political campaign is a shitstorm of fallacious charts and statistics intended to frame facts in a manner to support an argument.  To believe that either side of a political campaign are morally superior returns us to the Santa Claus analogy.

It has occurred to me that the reason the #Brexit has proven to be so divisive is a direct result of ideological bias.  The real reason why the result appears so shocking to people is that we have been an irreligious nation for generations, our politics abandoned the working class decades ago and we have had very little to blindly argue about other than football. We have lost the ability to articulate intelligently, to conduct discourse in a manner befitting of intelligent adults, and worst of all we have lost sight of ourselves.  Once again we find ourselves an ideologically challenged nation, faced with an uncertain future, a future decided by the majority of us.

What matters now is that we abandon ‘the Santa Clause’.  That we stop assuming that belief equates to truth.  It is a vile notion aflame in the weakest of minds.  It is the fuel to scores of conflicts throughout the history of man.  The fact is belief bears no relation to truth, and is actually the twin brother of ignorance.

 

 

It’s a Kind of Maciek

Image.  We curate it, we preserve it, we defend it and we idealize it.  It is the centrifugal force that defines us, at least we think it does.  We constantly present a variation of our image every single day.  In the office we may wish to be seen as a diligent worker bee, on a Friday night a party animal, on a Sunday morning devoutly religious or not as the case may be.  Take a moment for yourself and count how many images you possess, and then ask yourself if you are insane.

Mankind is so obsessed by image that it permeates through every single thing we do.  We have created statues, portraits, poems, photos, songs, books, plays and films all in the name of presenting an image.  A writer or an artist is able to embellish that image in order to better sell it to their audience.  A photographer isn’t.

It is true to say that in the 21st century we are all photographers.  We spend much of our lives trying to capture experiences through tiny camera lenses on mobile phones instead of experiencing them.  Then we add filters to further distort the experience that we were trying to capture in order to make it better.  The oft result is that we end up with a collection of kaleidoscopic pictures which we store somewhere online and never look at again.

There is another kind of photographer.  That is a person that tries to coordinate an image inside their own head with the equipment they have in front of them.  It is more than trying to capture a moment, it is the evocation of emotion from within the viewer.  It must make you feel something, otherwise it is little more than wallpaper.

I would like to introduce you to a photographer by the name of Maciek Wojciechowski. Maciek’s career is gradually taking off and recently has been focusing on nudes.  You can find some wonderful examples at maciekwojciechowski.com  His work has been exhibited internationally and he is available for commissions.  Also he took this…

Sexbomb

Maciek also took this.  I liked it so much that I bought a print.  You can too.  Click on the photo to learn more.

weareallchrist

Now go forth and check out his work and try to cut your own number of images down to one.  ‘Alisa’ by Maciek Wojciechowski in on exhibit at the Dray Walk Gallery on Brick Lane, London until the 20th of October.  If you live in the city, you should definitely check it out.

King Today Gone Tomorrow

Koningsdag has been and gone.  That would be Kings Day to the Anglophones among us.  It lacked the pomp and regality typically reserved for royal celebrations and replaced them with glow sticks and ecstasy.  Even for a nation of tulip-loving, clog-wearing, windmill fanciers it was extremely surreal.

We started out the day with the intention of heading to the centre of Amstelveen, a small village to the south of Amsterdam where the King was visiting.  First we took a brief detour to our local shopping centre to see what was going on in our neighbourhood.  There were an abundance of stalls with people selling all kinds of junk and a generally cheerful mood.  It was incredibly disturbing for a pessimistic Brit so we hurried off to go and see the King.

As we approached the centre of Amstelveen we started to see crowds of people adorned in orange, walking slowly to see their monarch.  When we finally made it to the centre we were struck by the true absurdness of corporate sponsorship as the moment we got off the bus we were handed ING bank paper flags to wave.  It was 11:45 a.m, there were hundreds of people, some wearing inflatable rubber crowns, others already drinking beer and almost everyone was fidgety and bored.  From somewhere we couldn’t see we heard a children’s choir start singing a tuneless melody and realised how tactically stupid we were.  The problem from our perspective was not the crowd, or the lack of planned viewpoints or even the noise.  It was our gene pool.  The first lesson we learned on King’s Day is that there is no point ever trying to watch something on King’s Day as Dutch people are so bloody tall.  We felt like Lilliputians as we zigzagged through the crowd in the false hope of being able to catch a glimpse of the absolutely nothing which appeared to be going on.  Eventually it occurred to us that we weren’t likely to start spontaneously  growing so we decided to bugger off.  However we couldn’t find off so we took the metro to Amsterdam instead.

The crowd went wild for their King
The crowd went wild for their King
Sexy and they knew it
Sexy and they knew it

It was whilst walking to the metro that we realised that something wasn’t quite right.  We passed an enormous television screen that had been erected for the expected crowds just as the King arrived.  We stopped for a few minutes and watched him fold his elastic limbs out of his bus.  Some hideous music played out of the speakers as his wife and daughters appeared.  It was then it dawned on me.  There were only five people watching this stadium-sized screen.  Every single person had warned us about the crowds so to find ourselves to close to the King’s route on a near empty square was somewhat of a surprise.  We turned to leave, somewhat exhausted by the King with two names half-hearted attempts at waving.  You see the problem for the Dutch King two names is that his wave just isn’t quite regal enough.  He raises his hand so high that he looks like he is changing a lightbulb.  As we made our way to the Metro we were confronted by the most unique sight we would see all day.  Sadly, I was laughing so hard that I pretty much failed to take a decent picture.  It was a man and woman, one in orange, the other in blue, wearing wooden clogs, dungarees and colanders on their heads.  I have no idea what they were doing but they certainly won the best dressed at King’s Day award.

We decided to head as close as we could get to the centre of Amsterdam and then make our way on foot to Jordaan, a supposed bohemian district without any bohemians.  We traipsed along the streets, following the immutable pull of the flowing river of orange, expecting to meet the sea at any time.  And yet we didn’t.  There were indeed a large number of people, but never quite enough to make one feel claustrophobic.  Pretty much every street contained people selling crap all along the street.  Most shops were selling their wares on the streets most restaurants were selling barbecued food, beer, pisses and shits.  The array of crap you could buy was extremely wide-ranging but disappointingly normal.  Regrettably we never found the infamous egg man or anything fascinatingly weird.  Every street was drowned in the sound of irritating techno music blasted out so loud that you required drugs or a loss of hearing not to commit murder.  The soundtrack was accompanied by the smell of burgers burning on every street making me wonder why it is that the Dutch do not value real music or real food.

We received an invite to a barbecue on a roof near Dam Square and gladly took it as an excuse for some respite away from the banging soundtrack which had me openly weeping as I turned each corner.  At the barbecue I came to realise one of the greatest things about Amsterdam.  It is a cultural melting pot.  There were guests from four continents almost all wearing orange filled with optimism about a weekend of partying.  The numbers made me realise something very important.  That perhaps King’s Day had absolutely nothing to do with being Dutch.  It was about getting smashed and wearing orange.  Also I learned that buffalos have wings.  But that’s a tale for another day.

Because Amsterdam
Because Amsterdam

We ventured out with the group into the Jordaan and immediately purchased a blonde smurfette balloon and played a grown up game of follow the leader.  Jordaan was packed, it was like we were sardines in a can, but not quite dead.  The sea of orange was swelling around us and pulling us into its current.  The canals were full of boats  filled with the lubricated and chemically enhanced as they all danced away to their own private DJs.  One canal, twenty boats, twenty different sets of speakers.  It was near on impossible to identify which song each boat was dancing too, not that it mattered as every tune sounded the same.  As we slithered in and out of the sidestreets we passed a number of different parties, each of them as serious as the next.  Parties for the old and the young, the gay and the straight, for the deaf and the deafer.  Despite the amphetamine gurns, the stench of alcohol and the pungent aroma of skunkweed the mood was incredibly joyous.  Not once did we see a confrontation, or a fight.  The worst thing we saw all day was a bum.  Given the chemical consumption of the denizens of the Dam they really do put us Britishers to shame.

Of course there were downsides.  There were the lost and the forgotten.  The damaged and the disappointed.  There was heartbreak for some.  There were great meals for the rats which dwell beside the canals.  The urinals were overflowing.  People had abandoned their stalls to their own fates.  And somehow it didn’t matter, the party went on.  It wasn’t a celebration of a King, or even a celebration of being Dutch.  It was merely a celebration of being.

The King of Holland

Now it feels somewhat like a psychotic memory, like a 21st century ‘Clockwork Orange’, just without the violence or sex.  It was like drifting lost within a sea of orange whilst a relentless cacophony of irritating techno music swam through my ears pushing me to the brinks of madness.  It was my own personal hell.  And yet somehow, just somehow, it was quite alright.

King For A Day

This weekend heralds a weekend of partying and debauchery across Holland as it marks the first King’s Day since the inauguration of a King so good that he needs two names, King Willem-Alexander.  Now a normal grown man would take the time to learn as much as he can about the culture and heritage surrounding King’s Day.  Thankfully I am not a grown up.

I (along with my dear lady) have a long-held obsession with national celebrations.  This fascination has led to us nearly being blown up in Malta, and nearly trampled to death in Menorca.  I hold a firm belief in regards to new experiences.  The thing you should do, the essential component in ensuring that you get the maximum from them is quite simple.  Just experience them.  Don’t pre-plan them.  Don’t study them avidly.  Just go, try to blend in and treat it as an anthropological investigation.

It’s for exactly those reasons that I have read as little as possible about King’s Day.  I have bought the most expensive undercover surveillance kit I could afford.  A fifteen euro orange t-shirt and some red, white and blue face paint.  I have avoided conversations about the topic whenever I could in order to remain as ignorant as possible.  The only knowledge I have about the celebrations come from secondary sources.  Here is a list of my favourite spurious gossip that I have heard so far:

  1. There will be gazillions of people everywhere
  2. Everybody wears something orange
  3. Everybody will be selling whatever they can think of
  4. Everybody will get very, very drunk
  5. There is a famous man who you can pay to throw eggs at

As you can see, I am not particularly well-versed regarding what to expect and I sincerely hope that my ignorance will fan my enthusiasm to get as much as I can from King’s Day.  I only hope that it will include windmills, clogs and rock and roll.

Have a lovely weekend, I will let you know what transpires 🙂

 

Cultural Learnings Of A British Burger

I have arrived.  Not quite in the sense I would like it to mean.  I find myself in an apartment on the 9th floor of Amsterdam with remnants of my life including my fiancée, my dog and a solar-powered buddha.  On Friday morning I was a human being.  This very morning I became a British Burger.

My first impressions of Amsterdam are positive.  So far we haven’t ventured into the city, instead we have tried to acclimatize to our home.  Our apartment is in a quieter district with no hookers, drugs or windmills in sight.  So far it has been nothing like I imagined.  My passport has been bureaucratically violated and now carries a mark declaring me as an officially ‘undutchable’.  I have a burger number even though the only burgers happen to be British and American.  All around me I keep hearing people making noises like cats struggling to dislodge hairballs from their windpipes, each of them capable of speaking better English than me whilst the vast majority of them are so tall that they can replace the blades on windmills without using a ladder.

The key discoveries so far is that gravy has been invented, nobody actually wears clogs and a single vowel sound in the word ‘hallo’ marks me out as a foreigner.  Eye contact is good, smiling is better and not all Amsterdammer’s arses are welded to bicycle seats.  The supermarkets are super, lamb exists, salt and vinegar has arrived and the quality of meat is such that my dog would struggle not to make something awesome from the contents of my refrigerator. Interestingly banks don’t need to be open to get an appointment in and official bureaucracy comes with smiles, free bags and newsletters.  So far the only place I have failed to get an appointment is the supermarket.

Despite my best efforts I have failed to humiliate myself in typical fashion.  The closest I have come so far was by buying non-alcoholic beer and then complaining that it tasted flat.  The transition to life here so far has gone as smoothly as a vindaloo’s transition from the human stomach to a sanitary waste receptacle.  I only hope it continues. For now goodbye, or as they say in Windmill Land ‘Dag