Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read a great Good Night Story for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):
The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!
Vorige week gaf ik op Palmpasen (zondag = een gewone werkdag aldaar) een training over genderdiversiteit aan een team van een groot Jordaans bedrijf. ‚Zaten daar ook mannen bij‘, wordt me nogal eens gevraagd over trainingen in de Arabische wereld. Het antwoord is ja, en vaak in meerderheid. En ze staan bijna allemaal positief tegenover gender diversiteit— Nederlandse discussies als ‚waarom moet dit eigenlijk en waarom heeft dit nu prioriteit‘ worden in landen als Jordanië overgeslagen. Je gaat er gewoon aan het werk en daarmee maak je sneller meters.
Tijdens de training kwam via social media het bericht over de aanslagen op Koptische christenen in Egypte binnen. De verslagenheid was groot. De deelnemers vergeleken het meteen met een grote aanslag in Bagdad, 94 doden, aan de vooravond van een islamitisch feest en interpreteerden dat terreur juist mikt op mensen die rustig bidden en in vrede hun godsdienst willen belijden.
De wereld kunnen we niet veranderen maar op de inclusiviteit van onze eigen organisatie hebben we wel grip, meenden zij. En zo is het. We hebben ook de rest van de dag hard doorgewerkt. Hou je van diversiteit & inclusie, laat je dan niet ontmoedigen en onderneem actie op de terreinen waarop je zelf invloed hebt.
Mijn ontdekkingstocht naar diversiteit & inclusie in Arabische landen gaat verder. Na de start in Jordanië (Jordanië blog 2 en Jordanië blog 1) ging ik aan de slag in Tunesië en Marokko met buitengewoon spannend verlopen trainingen. Niet alleen wisselt steeds de context, zowel nationaal als qua type bedrijven, ook is het bekijken van de wereld door de bril van diversiteit & inclusie een volkomen nieuw gegeven in die landen. Ik betreed dan ook met enige schroom de zaal waar de training plaats vindt. Gaat het programma voldoende passen in hun eigen context? Wat vinden ze ervan dat een Nederlander deze training komt geven? Hoe zal het ditmaal gaan met de taal? Want trainingen geven in het Engels en Frans betekent niet alleen voor mij werken in een tweede taal, ook de deelnemers hebben meestal een andere taal als moedertaal.
Het duurt gelukkig nog geen uur voordat we al helemaal aan elkaar gewend zijn. De inclusiviteit van de bedrijfsculturen die ik heb ervaren, helpt daar enorm bij. Diezelfde inclusiviteit leidt tot bovengemiddeld goede samenwerking als teamopdrachten moeten worden uitgevoerd. In Tunesië maakte ik bovendien discussies mee zoals ik ze zelden hoor bij trainingen in Nederland of Duitsland: de deelnemers waren heel open in het delen van ervaringen en vlogen elkaar hier en daar flink in de haren over de vraag hoe inclusief de organisatie nou werkelijk was > op een inclusieve manier, zonder elkaar te beoordelen of zuur te worden, wat in Noordwest-Europa bij al teveel openheid in bedrijven nog weleens het risico is. Ik was diep onder de indruk en, ook niet onbelangrijk, wat hebben we gelachen. Toen ik de documentaire Danny in Arabistan – Tunesië zag – een aanrader! – herkende ik datzelfde beeld.
In Marokko werd ik daarbij nog verrast door de grote persoonlijke warmte van de deelnemers. Hard werken ging er gemakkelijk samen met positieve emotionaliteit, Een deelneemster gaf me na afloop haar prachtige oorbellen mee, als aandenken namens de hele groep.
Wat is het ontzettend leuk om zo samen aan diversiteit & inclusie te werken.
Met vliegen heb ik niets, maar ik heb wel iets met Jeroen Komen. Dus toen ik zijn nieuwe boek Ik kan vliegen kreeg, met een mooie persoonlijke opdracht voorin geschreven, ging ik het lezen vanwege die persoonlijke band hoewel – ik geef het eerlijk toe – ik dacht dat ik er niet veel aan zou vinden. Nou, dat kan ik meteen rechtzetten: het is een spectaculair goed boek. Ik heb het van a tot z gelezen en dat was alleen maar een genoegen.
Daar heb ik een tijdje over nagedacht: wat maakt dit nou zo’n goed boek voor mij? Dat zijn verschillende elementen. Jeroen heeft er bijvoorbeeld een erg persoonlijk boek van gemaakt. Het is een boek over levenslessen in de brede zin des woords; allerlei aspecten van het leven passeren de revue. Jeroen neemt ons mee op de verkenningstocht van zijn eigen ontdekkingen, zijn twijfels en zijn doorzettingsvermogen. De schrijfstijl, mooi en zonder opsmuk, werkt daar versterkend bij. Dat op de eerste plaats maakt dat ik het ademloos gelezen heb. Andere kwaliteiten van het boek zijn de afwisseling: als vlieger komt Jeroen op allerlei plaatsen (lees: culturen, mijn grote hobby) wat superinteressant is en zeker een bron van goede anecdotes. En dan zijn er natuurlijk de prachtige foto’s die hij zelf vanuit zijn vliegtuig gemaakt heeft. Het meest intrigerend vond ik die op pagina 68-69 (koop het boek en kijk zelf) om de simpele reden dat ik me tot in mijn slaap afvroeg of het hier nu een openbaar zwembad betreft of niet.
Veel boeken hebben zeker kwaliteit maar die zit vaak in deelaspecten en is niet consistent. Ik kan vliegen is van begin tot einde ‘af’. Ik hoop dat Jeroen of de uitgever eraan gedacht heeft dit naar de Koninklijke Bibliotheek te sturen want een plaats binnen het nationale erfgoed is verdiend. Warm aanbevolen!
This week a group of journalists and opinion leaders had a conversation with spokesmen of Fatah and Hamas on the Westbank. Fatah and Hamas have reconciliated and the two men presented themselves as a political unity in Ramallah. The conversation led to one unclear outcome but also to some clear conclusions that I am happy to share with you.
The unclear outcome was the answer to the question as to how Hamas felt about the deal between Israel and Turkey on the Mavi Marmara ship. Although this deal involves action points to be taken by Hamas, the Hamas spokesman was clear: this is between Israel and Turkey, Hamas has got nothing to do with it and has no opinion about it. The news that there was some disappointment about the deal in Turkey because the hopes were the Gaza bloccade would be alleviated, made no big impression: Hamas is not involved here and has no comments on the deal.
Then the questions that WERE actually answered…
1. Is Hamas ready to accept a 2-state solution in the Israeli-Palestine conflict? The answer was a loud and clear: yes! This is something that I never heard before and that opens new windows for the future, as the 2-state solution means that the parties involved recognize each other so Hamas is ready to recognize Israel.
2. How does Hamas see the position of women? Hamas wants a democratic state with full rights for women in all positions. Women have the same rights as men and Hamas will work within the framework of international laws set in this respect. The way the society was described here sounded like paradise, certainly more than the Netherlands where we do struggle with some men-women issues in daily life!
3. How about a free press? Hamas admits there is no free press now but they are motivated to have a free press. However it is difficult in the actual circumstances because of (their perception of) the Israeli oppression. The answer is, give Hamas a free Palestinian state and free press will be realized in that new state.
So after this conversation the conclusion can only be: Hamas promises peace. Hamas just made peace with Fatah, and they will make peace with Israel and with international rights like the rights for women and the rights for free journalism.
You can imagine that the group that witnessed this conversation, was excited and ready to give congratulations.
Another one of these great French movies: quand on a 17 ans (being 17). French art means that the story is multilayered; the story does not run from one action to the other but shows the diversity of events happening in just a few people’s lifes in a mountain village high in the Pyrenees. That setting is great, absolutely well chosen and beautifully exploited. You’ll see the nature of high mountains in different seasons. The very best scenery is at night, in the snow white mountains and the moon shining, when one of the main characters takes a bath in a lake reflecting the peak and the trees.
The main story is about two young guys who seem to hate each other, but guess what at the end of the movie… 🙂 in that sense it is a quite romantic movie where ‘tout va bien qui finit bien’. The road to that good ending has enough complexity in it to keep the spectator interested. Apart from that, there is life in the movie and death and all human weaknesses and anxieties as they can be lived, even high up in the mountains. Worth watching!
Amsterdam keeps surprising me. I spent an interesting evening in a famous entrepreneurial location in Amsterdam Centre. When leaving, we had to wait for our coats at the wardrobe downstairs. In this club, coats are personally handed to all visitors. In front of us was a line of ‘foreign’ people. They appeared to be refugees who had been invited this evening by entrepreneurs who were willing to help them integrate and find a job. A great initiative.
The guy in the cloakroom was happy to help us Dutch entrepreneurs to put on our coats. ‘You can’t do that to them you know’, he said. To explain the ‘them’, he pointed to the refugees that stood in front of the location, talking a while in front of the entrance before they left like all people in Amsterdam do. He said some Syrians that were more ‘integrated’ than the newcomers in front of the door, warned him that his help to put on the coats would not be appreciated; ‘please do not try it, you will get trouble’. ‘You know’, he said, ‘they feel they submit to you when you help them with their coat. And you cannot touch the women. It would feel like you own them. So I just give their coats to them and that’s it’. ‘Well, you can help me’, one of the female entrepreneurs said I think to console him and it worked, he smiled and helped her to put on her coat.
Amsterdam is a modern, diverse and tolerant city. However there are moments that I think we are just retarded – this was one of these moments. Almost all my life I have been going out, working, discussing, learning, experiencing with people from the Middle East. How come I never had any problems with coats, handing coats, helping people into coats? Who invented a scheme where refugees ‘feel they submit’ in such cases? Not the refugees themselves, I am sure about that. Also I do not think anybody has bad intentions here. This is what happens when people are confronted with difference: they try to find rules how to behave or not behave. People want to do good and try to be on the safe side. The tragic is that they miss the point: the contact is in personal involvement and not in cultural rules.
The generally present inclination to follow rules is what I call ‘retarded’. I feel embarrassed when I meet with that in an entrepreneurial place in Amsterdam Centre. The good thing is: we talk about it. We talk about almost anything in Amsterdam. No borders to what we want to express. But also, when it comes to diversity: way to go… We need to have more confidence in our personal approach than in the supposed rules of intercultural contact. Forget about the rules. Be human. The refugees will love it…
In 2012-2013, Mensa the Netherlands worked with great enthusiasm to create a ‘daughter’, the Dutch Mensa Foundation. It was inspired by the American Mensa Foundation www.mensafoundation.org that was founded in 1971 already. Somehow no ‘Mensa country’ followed that example so Mensa the Netherlands decided to be the first one and hopes for more Mensa countries to do the same and create a worldwide network of Mensa foundations. Every country has its own motives and issues to fulfill the overall Mensa mission that highly intelligent people cooperate ‘for the benefit of humanity’. What the benefit is, differs by country and that is OK.
In the Netherlands, one of the things we started to do from the very beginning in 2013 is giving Awards in the fields of Education, Society and Work. The awards are not given ‘for’ high intelligence; they are given for the role a person played, the example that person shows or the product or service a person invented in that field. We need that in the Netherlands because we have a culture that is rather focused on the ‘average’ and ‘fitting in’ and much less to be ‘out of the box’ and ‘stand out’. Dutch society will benefit a lot with awareness of HIQ potential and active measures to use and develop extraordinary talent. This is why the Awards were created.
Everybody can come up with proposals for nominations – a jury chooses 3 candidates per field that receive an official nomination from our Mensa Foundation. This week, the names of the nominations for 2015 will be published. November 7, everybody is welcome to join the meeting in Leiden where the names of the Awards winners will be made public and nominees and winners will be honored! And we are happy that Mensa member professor John Grin will speak at the event about ‘creativity, setback and inspiration’. More info at http://mensafonds.nl/index.php/awards. It is in Dutch but for anyone joining, we will do our best to make you feel home also if your Dutch is limited. Talent and intelligence are transnational indeed, aren’t they! Let’s go for the benefit of humanity in all its aspects…
Dheepan is somehow a ‘neutral’ movie about refugees as it concerns refugees from Sri Lanka; I worked with many of them in the ’90ties but today we concentrate on other regions as every reader knows. Technically this choice in the movie creates a healthy distance to emotions in actuality. And practically, it makes no difference. Refugees run for a reason, most often a quite serious one. And yes, they are surrounded by luck-seekers, criminals who have other reasons to flee and economic migrants. Making the difference between one and the other is an ideal but in practice not very easy. However the movie is not about asylum policies and dilemmas, it is about how people flee and become a refugee and how they experience the country in which they arrive.
In this movie, the Sri Lanka refugees find a house and a job in the banlieue of Paris, in one of the worst banlieues – I think the movie maker even wanted to point out that the refugees run from a war to end up in another one. It is as much a complaint against the ‘drugs in banlieue’ situation as about the refugee situation. Specifically, the total lack of law enforcement (no police or authorities at all) surprises the public.
I think the movie is brilliant in the way it depicts the refugees. I recognized every emotion, both in daily life and in the history of violence and resistence that refugees from war and conflict areas bring with them – not as a choice but as a fact. My experience with that is both friendship and work and I found the movie Dheepan shiveringly realistic and very strong in the way of showing the emotional side.
As a former French teacher, I regretted that the refugees end up in England – to their satisfaction – and not somewhere else in France, a country I love. This is, of course, a biased view 🙂 Anyway the movie ends well, which in a world of problems is nice and more encouraging to go and watch the movie than the opposite.
What surprised me is that nowadays every discussion and debate in the Netherlands is about refugees but we were only 8 spectators: 8! in a large cinema. Sometimes I wonder how much indepth knowledge people want about reality – I see loads of over-emotional people and few people able to handle the complexity that comes with refugee issues. Let’s face reality even when it is not simple. Go watch the Dheepan movie, warmly recommended!
Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice is a great documentary about two guys, or maybe an entire village in Laos in a period of starting tourism. The place is still ‘all natural’ and the first tourists arriving, mainly backpackers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, are startled by the purity of the place. The village develops in many aspects and the two guys that are particularly followed in this documentary try to improve their life by offering touristic services. The road they go is so interesting!
The tourists themselves are also quite interesting, some of their conversations are recorded. They have their opinions about life in the village and how it develops and it does not seem to match a lot with the culture and desires of the villagers themselves. Although very sympathic, there was also a note of arrogance in their song.
From the point of view ‘image taking’ the documentary has quite some ‘vague’ moments, maybe nice as a hobby for the filmer but for spectators not always attractive I thought. Fortunately, many good and sharp moments offer enough compensation 😉 So go see this documentary now because usually this kind of movies do not stay long in the cinemas. More info: https://www.facebook.com/laosdocumentary
How to make a movie that is only playing in a taxi and does not bore any minute? Taxi Teheran is a succesfull try-out of that concept although not by free choice alone. Jafar Panahi, maker of the movie and also its main character has a history of struggling with censure and oppression in his country Iran. He is not allowed to make movies during 20 years and this movie, Taxi Teheran, was made secretly and smuggled out of the country.
The movie is very funny with many surprising moments, and it has a groundtune of sadness underneath. As such, it is very Iranian: Iranians usually are well developed, social, bright and full of life, they know how to make the best out of difficult circumstances. But that does not mean that they do not feel the difficult circumstances, especially the oppression.
In Taxi Teheran we see a wonderful mix of people entering and leaving Jafar Panahi’s taxi. Even the concept ‘taxi’ in Teheran is different from other countries and that in itself creates unexpected situations. Taxi Teheran shows a lot of interesting interaction between a variety of inhabitants of Teheran. And it gives some great insights in the well developed double face of Iran, in survival and creativity against the odds.
Yesterday we were shocked by the death of 9 black people who were shot for the very reason of being black. This is the kind of tragedy that cannot be put into words – it is the downside of humanity, or should I say inhumanity. We cannot believe that it happened, but it did in Charleston, USA today. As a tribute to the victims, I re-publish a part of my diary about the international diversity conference in New Orleans 2006 (yes, shortly after hurricane Katrina). May the strength of people who were slaves, who protested against slavery and who protest against the remaining infections of that period, be blessed and reinforced. May their tears be dried by soulmates and friends.
Tomb unknown slave New Orleans
Building by remembering (New Orleans, June 11, 2006) By coincidence we walked into a church, just because the door was opened. It appeared to be the only door where in the time of slavery, banks were bought by free black people for slaves to sit upon. Outside of the church we find, unique in the USA, the grave of the unknown slave (the photo on top). A place that makes you silent. A sign of resistance, a sign of hope. It confirms the thesis of the Museum of Art, that the future is built by commemorating the past, not by forgetting it. The power to rebuilt a town like New Orleans can be found in that concept. Because it is sure that people will rebuild the town. And the question of the future is for whom they will rebuild the city (black or white).
I remember that we asked who was in the grave of the unknown slave. The answer was: no one in particular. So many slaves died here, they were buried all around so all of the ground in New Orleans is sacred, the church people said. This made me as silent as the Charleston murders did yesterday.