Picture appreciation: Dennis Hopper by Anton Corbijn

There is a book pictures made by Anton Corbijn, that is full of staged portraits of stars, legends of either the movie or music industry. It makes me jealous, it makes me eager to grab a camera. Even if I had the most expensive one, I could not do what he can. To say he grabs the essence of these people is a cliché, but it boils down to this. These pictures are there, you can’t ignore them. Clint Eastwood points right at you, judging you, letting you that we can’t hide from our selves. There are literary legends in this book as well: William S. Burroughs, the writer of the deeply controversial Naked Lunch and accidental murder of his wife, stands next to a target practice figure full of holes. They tried to silence him, they burned many of his books. But the words are still out there. He’s still out there. Even after all the drug-abuse he’s still there. But there’s no pretension in his eyes, you can see the weariness in there, the soul has been tainted. There’s one, one of my favorites, of an old Alan Ginsburg looking out his window. We all come to this point- if we are lucky- we look back, it has been such a journey. There has been so many journeys, no matter how amazing, it will end. There will be silence. The people will forget. There’s one of Frank Sinatra, you see him at the corner of some bar. We know him as The Voice, but here’s just some guy, drinking away his sorrows.

If I had to choose a favorite however, it would have the portrait of Dennis Hopper. The setting is desolate: wearing a suit, he’s sitting in an empty mattress in a white, looking to the side. There is a mystery to this picture. The greatest pictures always have a mystery to them. The key is his facial expression. Perhaps someone was bothering him during the shoot: he looks on edge, impatient, worried. It’s as if at just this moment, someone caught him without his mask. The best portraits manages to pass by the mask. It’s not easy to get there. You have to be really good at your job.
The best pictures forces you to make up a story: this is an middle-aged man waiting for someone. This person he’s waiting can change everything. There is a guilt in his eyes. One man that knows that the past can always come after him. He’s trying to walk the path, but he knows how easy it is for him to slip away.

Now comes the part where you piece together the things you know about this performer. This is someone who basically started the seventies counterculture cinema with Easy Rider. It was my first introduction to the death of the American dream. I was a child watching have recorded it the night before on BBC. I can still remember the shock of the two bikers being blown-away, the film just ending like that. The violence was shocking, it had little point. They just came across the wrong people. They were free and now they were dead. Even if the constitution says you are free, this doesn’t mean that the people will let you.
Later on, reading his interviews, a more conservative minded Dennis Hopper was introduced. A passionate Bush supporter, no more the drug-addled dreamer of the past. He had almost destroyed himself back then, his redemption came with his thoughtful performance in Hoosiers. He would occasionally impress in cinema, but most of the times, the films would be beneath the standards of his talent. Maybe he cared less in the end, as many cinematic legends eventually do.

Most people remember him as the evil madman of Blue Velvet. The most shocking introduction of any character: the colorful expletives, the violation of a beautiful woman. Frank Booth, a man with a psychotic obsession with Heineken. In the script he would huff Helium, but Hopper suggested to David Lynch that the chemicals should be amyl nitrate.
Most telling was that he begged David Lynch for the part: ”You have to let me play Frank, Because I’m Frank!” This was the demon Hopper knew, the demon that needed to be destroyed. The death of Frank Booth, is both the defeat of evil and Hopper’s catharsis. It’s not a glamorous portrait, but it’s a beautiful one. This was a man that needed help, that was on the brink of an early death, but escaped it. I have only looked at the edge for a distance, but even then, it’s hard finding your way back. There would have nothing romantic about my death. I would have faded away but he would have burned out. But when it comes down to it, there’s nothing beautiful about burning out either. The self-destructive artist only deludes himself. The drugs, even if it gives them a momentary lapse of genius, will inevitably hold him back. I’m glad Hopper woke up when he did.
     He still died too young (74) but I’m grateful that he was around as long as he was.
Podobny obraz***

The Importance of Being Vigilant: the Greatest Trick

A Democratic Turkey is Worth Fighting for

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania gulen erdogan
Erdogan (left) and Gülen (right) when they were still allies. 

The Obvious Villain

There is such a thing as evil in this world. We seemed to forget that. We like to think that even the wicked among us, are ultimately redeemable. Somehow they must have noble intentions, there has to be a soul worth saving. Only the movies have villains, in real life, people are far more complicated.
It’s true that people are complicated, that denouncing them as either good or bad will not do it justice. Perhaps in the cosmic battle of things, there is such a thing as redemption for even the greatest sinners. But so long as they are in this earthly plain, we can’t depend on divine epiphanies. We must recognize the wicked among us. We must see them clearly, those that pose a threat to our civil liberties, to democracy at large. We must admit the existence of evil. As Michael Caine quipped so eloquently in The Dark Knight: ”some people just want to watch the world burn.” There are people who start the fire and we must put it out.
Take the Authoritarian for instance: when a subject is presented with evidence of authoritarianism, such as jailing dissidents, controlling the media or rigging elections, one could only conclude that this person is a threat to democracy. He’s the type of character we were warned against in history, the symbol of governorship we are trying to avoid and have tried to eradicate. A governing body that is not only hostile to our way of life, but to the core of our values. The person or his political party that is trying to undermine our democratic freedoms by warping the people’s perception through propaganda, is the one we should all collectively fight against.
This was the classic story, this is how it should be.
One can only conclude then, with the popularity of the likes of Putin or Erdogan in the Western World, that we have forgotten to spot the authoritarian, our classic villain of democracy. We must try to understand the reasons. Some have concluded that it’s because the survivors of the great war, the one for the soul of Holland and Europe are dying off. Those who remember the importance of our democracy, how easy it can slip away, are gone. Others would point out our own governments gave us little reason to trust them and there is certainly truth to this claim.
In a recent book by Joshua Green called ‘The Devils Bargain’, which details the rise of alt-right icon Steve Bannon who is currently one of Donald Trump’s closest advisors, there is a poignant segment in which Bannon starts to realize the power of the Internet, how it could suck the host into an information vacuum, creating an alternative reality which could be manipulated by the populists. In this reality, the likes of Trump have become anti-establishment heroes. Even Putin, is beloved for his public criticism against the West, despite his regime being the epitome of establishment evil.
In order to be a populist, one needs to have a certain charisma, a certain skill-set of persuasion that Trump does indeed have- as Dilbert creator Scott Adams, despite his hilarious and sometimes frustrating mental gymnastics defending the likes of Trump, has made a convincing argument of. Politics is about persuading the public to your side and when it comes to the populist and the authoritarian, it boils down to alienating the public from the establishment, convincing them that they are part of an oppressed group, that their culture is in danger. The great fight for a better society is simplified. No more hard numbers. No more science mumbo-jumbo. No more hard facts but the ones that feel right emotionally. When you have enough people by your side, then you have to make sure that your enemies and their means of information, are silenced. If you have enough political power, you can weaken democratic institutions and once that’s in place, it will be very hard to stop you.
All of this is radically simple in theory and if you look at both Putin and Erdogan, you can see this theory at work. The interesting thing however is that both these politicians started out with promise. Erdogan began as a more progressive choice, Putin rose to popularity when the Russian public were deadly afraid of Chechen terrorism- many respectable historians have suggested that Russian security forces were behind the bombings that killed hundreds of Russian citizens. The implication being that Putin instigated false flag operations in order to amass support, a recognizable tactic by authoritarians.
When it became clear to these men that democracy was not going to keep them into office, they had to undermine it and they had so through fear-mongering, information warfare, jailing and even killing dissidents.
All of this information, especially in this day and age, can easily be fact-checked. You don’t have to look far, just open your computer screen. There had been days when you had dive into the library or ravage newspapers to understand our modern-day politicians but not anymore. We have everything we need.
But as we have seen, people still admire, despite all the seemingly obvious signs, these leaders. Regardless that that Putin’s actions in Ukraine has cost the lives of almost two hundred Dutchmen, we still have many Dutch people defending him, even stating that they believed it was a conspiracy orchestrated by the Ukrainian government.
The Dutch defense for Erdogan however, by a large part of the immigrant population, is far more apparent and troublesome. Before I began researching this article I did talk to some Erdogan defenders and to be honest, this became extremely frustrating. When debating them, I shared all of these articles of human-rights organizations or articles by Turkish journalists but they still refused to accept the information. To them, I was in the spell of Western propaganda. They spoke of the hubris of the West. The underlying hypocrisy of the Western-world to criticize the Turkish government while it has been robbing the rights of its own people.
Before the failed coup (or false-flag operation) Erdogan had long started cracking down on the freedoms of Turkey. Turkish-immigrants in Holland were already watching state sponsored channels from Turkey that demonized Erdogan’s opposition, in particular anyone who supported Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement. The Diyanet organization which funds mosques from Turkey, had already rallied their imams to endorse supreme leader Erdogan. In Aydogan Vatandas collection of journalist articles ‘Hungry for Power’, one could read about the seeds of the authoritarianism growing. We responded too late, we didn’t listen, perhaps because we wanted Turkey to remain loyal to their promise of housing the discussed number of refugees.
When it finally became clear to Erdogan that the only way to remain in power is to undermine European democracy, it all became too clear what future Turkey was heading towards. I would not be part of the European project, it would be just another authoritarian state. There had been hopes that enough people would vote against him in the referendum but alas, Erdogan would be victorious here- unsurprisingly there have been massive voter irregularities.
In Holland, the support for Erdogan is there, perhaps not with the majority but, as the following interview would attest, of the people that were eligible and did vote for the Turkish referendum, 70 percent of them voted in favor of Erdogan. They live, like Trump supporters, like Putin supporters, in a vacuum where Erdogan is not the villain. To some he’s a savior or a protector of traditional values. To others he’s a straight-talker, to others a necessary evil. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist- or more appropriately in this case: the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that -despite his red tail and hooves- he is not what he looks like.

The victims

The most tragic part of this is that by supporting the authoritarian, you are hurting their victims. You are dismissing the pain and suffering of their victims and families. When you say that Putin isn’t so bad, you are dismissing his war crimes committed in Chechnya, the journalists that have perished trying to discover the truth about his regime, the families that were never able to say goodbye. When Dutch people support Putin, they are dismissing the tragic loss of the families of the victims of MH17. In response, the authoritarian, as Putin has done countless of times, throws the blame somewhere else. When confronted by this interviews, he would usually resort to the Soviet-classic ‘whataboutisms.’ The authoritarian always needs a scapegoat.
The scapegoats are sometimes even the victims. The propaganda-machine goes on non-stop trying to undermine their humanity. This is no more evident than Erdogan’s favorite scapegoat: the Islamic scholar Fetthullah Gülen and his Hizmet movement. As an outsider, I didn’t know much about Gülen either. It became very clear to me that Erdogan was someone to be distrusted but I didn’t know enough about Hizmet to make an informative opinion.
After the failed coup, Hizmet sympathizers in Holland were threatened, sometimes even attacked by pro-Erdogan supporters. Despite having little knowledge about Turkish politics at the time, I was still appalled by these actions. I could not understand how Turkish-immigrants felt the need to assault opponents of the Turkish state while living in Holland. But despite my ethical objections to such cases, I had to admit that I did not know what kind of organization Hizmet was. Was the organization a real militarized threat against the Turkish state or was this mere propaganda from Erdogan’s Media Army?
When researching Hizmet, there seemed little evidence of malevolence. The independent organization that looked into the various schools inspired by the movement, received nothing but adulation for its inclusiveness, the atmosphere and the curriculum. When it came to the founder himself, Fethullah Gülen, there was little evidence of villainy, in fact, scholars around the world praised him for his stance on universal human rights.
But in order to this subject justice and inform myself properly, I decided to contact someone from an organization inspired by his philosophy. I came across Platform INS, a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to spreading Gülen’s Universal values by organizing courses, symposiums and publications. Many of these courses aim to better integration and bring communities together. Their mission is to highlight the ethical values we all share in Holland. INS, is the Arabian word for humanity and its chosen name illustrates their aim to reach a broader public, not just immigrants.
When I requested the organization for an interview I was given the e-mail of Saniye Calkin. After some time, we did finally set a date for the phone interview but at the last moment, she had to delay this because she was protesting the Turkish consulate for the arrest of the Amnesty International Director in Turkey Idil Eser. While this arrest illustrates the worsening freedoms in Turkey, it did convey the moral convictions of my subject.
When we did finally talked, I only became more convinced that Hizmet, at least to how it has inspired Platform INS, has brought positive results to civil society and that Erdogan’s objections to its existence, had little to do with it being a threat to Turkey.
Even now, many Turkish supporters of Hizmet fear being too upfront about this. The sudden rise of the pro-immigrant political party Denk, which has refused to condemn Erdogan and defend Hizmet, has only worsened the situation. But through it all, people like Saniye Calkin, refused to be silenced and they have persisted in their convictions.
In this interview, I discovered the reach and power of Erdogan, even within Turkish communities in Holland. Bringing disenfranchisement, in some cases we have people being disbarred from celebrating their faith, to tearing people’s family apart because of their opposition against his regime. And in some extreme cases, violence was involved. Erdogan, like many populists, has put a spell on his supporters.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania Denk partij erdogan
Tunahan Kuzu, Selçuk Öztürk en Farid Azarkan, members of DENK party. 

We don’t know the future of Turkey but as long as Erdogan rules, it doesn’t look good. Here’s hoping that people like Saniye, and her message, will continue to inspire the best of us.

This will be my second interview with someone affected by Erdogan’s reign and I consider this a spiritual sequel to my former article ‘The Importance of Being Vigilant: Understanding Erdogan his Followers’ in which I interview exiled journalist Abdullah Bozkurt which you could read here: https://welcometothehumanrace.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/the-importance-of-being-vigilant-understanding-erdogan-and-his-following/

***

Before we start this interview, could you tell me why you are a good authority on Hizmet?

Saniye: My name is Saniye Calkin and I’ve known and been involved with Hizmet for over fifteen years; starting out as an eager volunteer. Once you really begin to grasp the tenets of Hizmet, your own way of life, the goals you initially had for yourself, begin to change. Originally I was an economist, an accountant but at a certain point I made a switch from the business-world to a more societal one, especially when this concerned the Muslim community. Before Hizmet I was much more individualistic- just make some money and spend it- but at a certain point, you do want more in life. You begin to feel a greater sense of societal-responsibility and want to contribute more to society. My first steps to this higher goal was working for the Center of Emancipation and Diversity for the local municipality. Perhaps Perhaps because I was a woman, curious about universal values. When I began pondering about the universal values of Hizmet, about its notions of freedom, equality, diversity, and when I started to delve deeper into the movement, I knew I found my place. For the last four-five years I’ve been involved with Hizmet consultations, both locally and nationally. The last few years I have been director of Platform INS, an organization which aims to better society. Ever since I’ve really gotten to know Hizmet, I’ve felt more involved with society but I’ve felt a greater urgency to contribute. This is about wraps up my qualifications on the topic. I’ve been born and raised in the East of Holland, in Enschede and I currently live in Amsterdam.

Would you consider the Hizmet organization more humanistic than religious?

Saniye: Well first I want to point out that you keep talking about the ‘Hizmet organization,’while there is no actual definitive organization of sorts. You can’t really say that this is a ‘Hizmet organization’. There are people who are inspired by its founder, Fethullah Gülen and consider themselves Hizmet sympathizers, who started foundations in honor of its tenets. This does not however, immediately make it a Hizmet organization.
   The second question, whether or not Hizmet is more religious or humanistic, well if look at my organization Platform INS, I would say it’s more humanistic because we strive for a peaceful society where everybody can live in freedom and to achieve this, certain universal values are imperative. Next to this I would wonder if this has actually anything to do with religion. We ask questions regarding the betterment of society and how Hizmet can contribute to this- Hizmet also means ‘service.’ How can we be in better service for people and society, wherever you live, and it’s those questions and how to have this conversations in order to accomplish them, that is central to the tenets of Hizmet. Religion is something personal to me, something I receive my strength from, my daily input, this is something for the individual. If you come to my organization you’ll be welcomed with open arms. You will see that we have a very diverse group of colleagues.
    Look the one can do it out of religious conviction, but to me, it doesn’t matter if someone is Muslim or Turkish. Religion is just something I receive my daily strength from. Hizmet is a social movement which inspires people to contribute more the world around them and the people that inhabit it.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania platform ins
Logo of Platform INS.

From my own research, Hizmet inspired schools have a good track record.

Saniye: Well I have say that last week a rapport came out where Hizmet is referred to, again and again, as an exemplary model for integration. My two oldest children, just happen to receive the graduation percentage of their school and if you did read that with VWO there’s a 93 percent graduation average and with HAVO 90, than its hard not to be impressed with its quality. If you also look at the target-group, all very diverse, you are very happy as a parent that you they get a hundred percent out of your kids. So all of this very familiar to me.

To tell you the truth, I’m an outsider and researching information about Hizmet wasn’t easy. You can find much praise, as well as the opposite. It’s hard to rummage through the muck.

Saniye: I think the most important thing is that, not just for the subject of Hizmet but for everything else as well, that we have to be critical and wonder about the negativity surrounding something. When necessary, I’m critical about Hizmet about a few points. But when I look at the education factor, I can only use my own children as prime examples. Truthfully, school isn’t always easy for my kids, but they still manage to get through VWO (preuniversity secondary education). Every year again, through motivation and a sense of responsibility. The results are there in their rapport card.

What are the greatest misunderstandings regarding Hizmet and the Gülen movement?

Saniye: What is very important, since I’m actively involved with Hizmet for the last four or five years, and I think we had this intention and have succeeded in this actually, is to combat the unfamiliarity regarding Hizmet. Now there have been an increasing interest for Hizmet in the last years, especially due to politics and media coverage. There has also been constant extensive research about the Hizmet movement, for example the one made by Martin van Bruinessen in 2010, by order of the House of Representativeness, a literary research paper by Thijl Sunier and Nico landman, last Wednesday there was a field field investigation orchestrated by RadarAdvies. We haven taken the advice of these investigations, even when we receive acclaim, like Bruinessen calling us the ‘best integrated migrant group of Holland.’ But at the same time, he also advised the movement to be more open and transparent, and then you have to answer: ”okay, so how are going to achieve this?” We knew there was a need for transparency and we worked on it. We made a website: http://www.hizmetbeweging.nl and if you look at the website, a lot of questions are already answered, such as: ”who are we?” ”What is our mission?” ”What is our philosophy?” ”Who are these people?” At the same time we know that transparency has its drawbacks, as you well have noticed the last few years, especially after the failed coup in Turkey.
   We really have made steps through sites, organizing programmed, through publications, all with the intention to show that ”this is who we are, these are the people involved, this is what we believe.” We opened up Hizmet consultations, people have joined us at our table, all with the intention to be transparent about the movement and its founder. Still, we can’t help that large groups perceive as terrorist or as traitors to our country.
But there’s no denying the steps we made nor the results that came out of it. If people still have questions, we encourage people to ask and we have given them all the means to. We want people to ask more about us. I did recently also write an opinion-piece and I do hope this will reach media outlets.

What are the most common criticism regarding, or perhaps better phrased as propaganda, regarding Hizmet or the Gülen movements?

Saniye: Unsurprisingly, criticism usually comes from Turkey. Erdogan naturally needed a scapegoat to justify all the things he did there. He knows this very well well. Even before the failed coup, he labeled Hizmet as a terrorist movement. He even stated that there have been previous failed coup attempts. But knows very well that the movement has never incited violence or has anything to do with terrorism. We saw e from the previous year, or the last three years to be exact -right around when the corruption scandal came out-, the start of his purges, all the things that he has done to make sure that no one defies his fabricated narrative. You try to find justice through the court of law, but the court has died for some time now in Turkey. Even so, he has tried to convince the outside that Hizmet was behind the failed coup attempt and in my eyes, he hasn’t succeeded in this, because no matter how hard he cries this out, most people can see through his lies.
   The thing is, he’s not just an enemy against Hizmet, he’s an enemy against anyone who is against him, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you are against Erdogan you are either a terrorist or a traitor to your nation. The thing that really got to me was the arrest of the director of Amnesty International. First he was arrested, then he was a accused to trying to set up a terrorist coup. It’s just absurd. You shouldn’t see this as something between Erdogan vs. Gülen, as an ideological battle for the soul of Turkey, it’s much broader than this. It doesn’t matter if your Kurdish, if you’re part of Hizmet, if you’re a secularist, it doesn’t matter to him. We can see this day in and day out and he sadly gets away with it.
   I’m just happy we are in Holland, because despite a rough year, a year in which I have been intimidated, insulted and threatened, we have persisted. We won’t be silenced. We continue to proud in what we believe in. We only hope that the outside the world deepens their knowledge about Hizmet, so that they understand what we are trying to do. That’s why Hizmet is more of a social movement, not a political one. It’s not about about politics, it’s a social movement that aims to better society.

Is that’s why it’s such a threat to Erdogan, because it so popular, because it isn’t constraint by religion and reaches out to a broader spectrum of people?

Saniye: Of course, and at first, he had Gülen’s support. But when you look at the people now, what they go through, I’m very happy that Gülen finally said: ”well I’ve supported you for all these years, as did Holland, the EU and the secularists when we saw how you applied yourself…” But when he changed, when it was became obvious what kind of leader he would be, Gülen said ”no more,” and the EU agrees. I’m very happy that Gülen rescinded his support, that he didn’t defy his own values but this was naturally unacceptable for Erdogan. You have to understand, he doesn’t just want to arrest his enemies, he’s talking about exterminating them, wherever in the world they may be. So in his mind, Hizmet people shouldn’t exist anymore, shouldn’t walk the streets anymore, and this proves that he’s just not a danger to them, he’s a danger to the rest of the world. It could be Hizmet now but who is it going to be later or tomorrow?

I can assume then, since I have found no credible sources on this, that the Hizmet movement or Gülen himzelf has never encouraged violence against the Turkish state?

Saniye: Absolutely not, he even has said that there should be an independent national inquiry and, he has said this on the first day even, that if it turns out he had anything to do with it, he would come to face the court in Turkey himself.
   If you look at the movement in several countries, around 150-160 countries, to the people, who they are, it’s all more evident that Erdogan’s vision conflicts with reality. Gülen himself time and again, focuses on our collective responsibility to the world and when it comes to radicalization, remember, he was the first Islamic scholar after 11 September, who made a statement that said that ”a Muslim can never be a terrorist and a terrorist can never be a Muslim.”

Do you think the failed coup was a false flag operation?

Saniye: If look collect all the information and evidence, if you look at how it was set up and watch the footage of some of the bombings then it indeed looks like something staged. But like you, I eagerly want to know who were behind it, and it doesn’t matter who they might be, those people needed to be tried in the court of law. But you can’t just arrest thousands of people just because they have a subscription with this newspaper, or they have a child at this school or have a account at this bank, or they sympathize with Hizmet, or you gave a donation here. This is why these people are arrested and most of the time they don’t even know why they were arrested apart from that there was a coup and they either possibly complicit or merely capable of doing one. Same with the Amnesty director. Like you I’m very curious who was behind it and hope that the truth will come out.

(Note: according to a thorough rapport by The Stockholm Center for Freedom, shared to me by Saniye Calkin after this interview, their conclusion has been that ”The body of evidence gathered by SCF that was summarized in this report points out at the elaborate scheme in the disguise of coup attempt in order to benefit Erdoğan and his associates. July 15 events certainly deserve further review, closer scrutiny and deeper investigation.” It’s certainly a worthwhile read: https://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/15_July_Erdogans_Coup_13.07.2017.pdf )

My position is, is that even if it wasn’t a false coup, Erdogan certainly took advantage of the situation, using it as an excuse to get rid of his enemies. So whether or not it was false, in my eyes it doesn’t really matter, his actions afterwards speak volumes about his character and him as a leader.
My next question: are Turkish immigrants in Holland still afraid to publicly support Gülen or the Hizmet movement or has there been improvements?

Saniye: I know a lot of people who despite everything, are still very open about what they believe in, myself included. Who state, rightfully and proudly: ”this is a free country and we have the right to be who we want to be.” But the fear is certainly still there. There are still tensions inside communities. What is very dangerous now is that opposition against Hizmet was done publicly, we would receive calls or they would express their disdain via social media. Point is: it was all visible, you knew from where to expect them, where they would appear. Well two weeks ago, a rapport came out which talked about militarized thugs of Erdogan being active in Holland. I’m not sure if you heard about this?

Now I haven’t heard about this, please continue…

Saniye: This was two or three weeks ago, the AIVD (General intelligence and Security Service) came out with a rapport, and I can send this to you if you want, but these militarized thugs have been in active in Turkey for some time and now they have set up shop in Holland, doing the criminal bidding of Erdogan in Holland. The fact that the AIVD felt the need to came out with this publicly is very worrisome to me.

That’s horrible, and you know that far-right groups will use this example as an excuse to say ”see integration is not working!”

Saniye: Well you that with integration, because that’s always the main question: does this benefit or obstruct successful integration? I can say at least about Hizmet, looking at any of the inquiries, that it has the highest rate of success when it comes to successfully integrating individuals. We also must delve into the inquiry, be open to it, not fear the outcome. We must always wonder: what do the scientists say? What are the facts?

Do you think the Turkish state media has had a negative influence on how people, from either Turkey or Holland, view Hizmet or Gülen?

Saniye: Certainly, because even people in Holland are bombarded with the media blasting in their living-room or by social-media and this goes on day in, day out. The message of the media certainly has a great influence.

There’s a book I read from Aydogan Vatandas, ‘Hungry for Power’ which is a collection of journalist articles, and this was all written before the coup, but even then he wrote about his worries about Erdogan, particularly in how he started to acquire or take over various media outlets. These very channels are being watched in Holland by Turkish immigrants. All of these channels are very pro-Erdogan and give a completely warped view about what is going on there.

Saniye: Yes but in Turkey the media is in the grips of the supreme leader Erdogan. An flow of information is dictated by him. Yesterday I was appalled knowing that over one million people were protesting, demanding justice, maybe you’ve heard about this, all of these people using their constitutional right to criticize Erdogan and his regime, but what does the Turkish state media air? Old speeches of Erdogan himself.

I compare the situation with Dutch people watching Russia Today and who become in turn, pro-Putin. If you compare Erdogan and Putin together, despite their differences, at the very least you can say that they are anti-democratic. But still they have supporters from the Western world, despite that this person stands against all of the freedoms we enjoy here. This support doesn’t just come from people who don’t know any better, it even comes from the educated ones, the people that SHOULD know better. And this is all because of the particular media outlets they watch…

Saniye: It’s a shame, because for some time Turkey was doing really well, so well in fact that steps were made to let it possibly join the EU one day. Now that option is completely out the window and whether Turkey will become the next Russia or China, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is how dangerous Erdogan has become. How he has proven to the world what is he willing to do in order to protect himself and his regime.

It’s a shame because as you said, Erdogan started out very well. He was a poster-boy for the Islamic leadership of Turkey, of the whole world in fact…

Saniye: That’s why he received the support from so many diverse groups because he did do good things, there was promise to his regime, till a certain point. And when you state openly that you can’t support this man anymore, that’s when he comes after you, he just can’t take it.

It’s similar to many populist leaders: playing the victim card. Always acting as if the whole world is against them. Moving on to a different subject: do you think DENK (Think, the pro-immigrant party who in the last election won three seats) has been a positive or polemic influence in political discourse?

Saniye: Well let me think, well, concerning Think, in the election I have carefully paid attention to the Turkish media and watched the spots starring the gentlemen of Think and they’ve pulled out all stops, did whatever they could to get their seats. I’ve read messages from mosques from the mouths of Imams, imploring people to vote the party. But on that point, regarding the values they apparently hold so dear, I would say: apply this to everyone, every individual and group, in Holland! Don’t dismiss the rest of the country. When it comes to rights, when it comes to being disenfranchised, wanting to find your place, let their voices be heard! Because none of us want this. I’ll give you an example, I can send you a picture of the last day of Ramadan, which was… Let me think 25th of June?

Perhaps, I’m probably the wrong person to ask this…

Saniye: Yes, well on 24-25th of June, there was on the door of a Diyanet mosque, where there was a celebration of the end of Ramadan, in Holland, In Breda, that Hizmet sympathizers were not welcome inside the mosques, to join the service. Well if you talk about disenfranchisement, discrimination, if you talk about these things, if this happens in Holland, or well it doesn’t matter where this happens, but you have to let you voice heard. But sadly I haven’t heard a peep from them, and that’s when you lose credibility in my mind. Do what you say, say what you do but do it because if you don’t, you lose credibility from a lot of people.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania moskee niet welkom gulen
A mosque in Breda stating that Hizmet sympathizers are not welcome to take part of the service. 

I have similar views about the party. I once wrote an article about Think (https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/chris-van-dijk/failures-of-holland-s-pro-immigrant-party), in which I state that the party had promise, but that has failed in the end to contribute anything positive to political discourse.
One obvious sign of the party’s polemic nature is the way they communicate to their followers: using Twitter or social-media. Oftentimes denigrating or refusing to converse with traditional media outlets- an obvious example is Donald Trump who communicates with his voters mostly through Twitter. They try to turn the people against the establishment, in order to make themselves look like the Underdogs. Now, ignoring the use of internet trolls or their refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, the biggest red flag in my mind is how they have refused to criticize Erdogan. Going so far, that they have even voted against the release of imprisoned journalists in Turkey right?

Saniye: That’s true.

And it’s unfortunate. Their presence only gives more firepower to extreme right-wing groups, like (Geert) Wilders and his kin.
Just to clarify on something, the Diyanet is a Turkish organization that funds mosques?

Saniye: Yes Diyanet is an organization that funds mosques through Ankara. All of the imams, even the content of their sermons come from Turkey. I’ve have seen a program that showed that various mosques held the same sermons on the same day, same time. All of financed by Turkey.

I’ve also read that before Erdogan completely switched to authoritarianism, that a lot of mosques were more progressive or more inclusive. Later these imams were replaced with more, let’s say, Pro-Erdogan imams you could say.

Saniye: Well I know for sure that in Turkey, but also in Holland, they have listed which person supports who. They know this very well or else Erdogan’s purges wouldn’t have been so effective and we saw how fast this went. But this even happens in the consulate in Holland, where if you want to do some work for them, that people have been denied because behind their names are four letters, a word Erdogan likes to call them. This happens in Turkey all the time but in Holland as well.

I was also shocked after I heard, though I’m not sure if the numbers are entirely correct so please correct me if I’m wrong but that 60/70 percent of Turkish immigrants voted yes on the Turkish referendum in Holland?

Saniye: Well let’s say, how many people voted… Almost half I believe, 40-45 percent? Well it’s important to know that from the people who voted, seventy percent voted in favor for Erdogan. That’s a big difference, even though it’s a still a lot. Which is still, if you look at Holland and Germany, extremely high. And naturally you wonder how they could vote this way, especially after all the stories and everything that has happened here in Holland alone. These people consider me a traitor to my country or a terrorist, that’s how they see and they refuse to sit in the table with me because of it.
   Examples like this does give people the chance, to look at both Hizmet sympathizers and to the characteristics of Erdogan sympathizers, the difference being obvious. You hope that at a certain point people will see who Erdogan really is: a danger to all of humanity, not just a specific group of people. When you know about the militarized thugs and his purges. First Erdogan calls people to the streets and they might grab the flags at first but it’s not going to stop here. These are very scary things. You just hope that people see this and make the right decision for themselves and their fellow men.

Do you think there’s enough awareness about these subjects, such as his militarized thugs?

Saniye: Well when was this, Friday around two or three weeks, AIVD brought out the rapport, and naturally you don’t hear much from them but they do state the seriousness of this topic. The media does talk about it but you can’t force people to listen. You hope that people know what kind of people were dealing with here. And you must understand these thugs have been reigning hell in for a longer time now. First in Turkey, then Germany and now they are starting in Holland.

Do you think he won the referendum honestly?

Saniye: He’s reached just 51 percent and if you look at how he reached that number, it’s hard to be suspicious. You wonder if he still dares to do it again, especially after all his tiresome effort to barely get more than fifty percent by his side. But you know how it goes with countries run by dictators where voting results suddenly turn to their favor by a whopping 99 percent. You see this happening in neighboring countries of Turkey. So I can’t be sure about whether it was an honest victory, but there’s enough cause for concern.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania referendum turkey protests
Protests in Turkey against the result of the referendum.

A completely different question, but something I would like some clarification on, especially since I found conflicting information about this: is the Hizmet movement positive regarding LGBT rights?

Saniye: What is central in Hizmet is our humanity and it doesn’t matter if you are gay or lesbian, everybody deserves respect. So no, it shouldn’t make a difference, certainly not with Hizmet.

My final two questions: are you positive about the future of Hizmet and its message?

Saniye: I think that with Hizmet and most of its proponents, that it’s a way of life: this is how you we live, this is how we are in society, this is how we can be in service to people. That we can do something for people without expecting anything back, that you contribute something to this world of ours. Look it doesn’t matter if Gülen is around or not, or that many of his inspired organizations will disappear, it doesn’t matter. The people who have been inspired by Hizmet will persist. This is a something very positive. I see it as a chance for people to show what they really believe in. And of course it’s a very painful if you see what happens to Hizmet sympathizers in Turkey. Even here in Holland, because the past few years even my children haven’t been spared, my own family has deserted me because I’m part of Hizmet, they refuse to even see me in Holland. There are many examples of these. But despite all of this, it does give you an opportunity to show the world what you really believe in, that you don’t give up despite of it. If you look at it from the viewpoint of integration, it’s something very positive. The people are finally crossing down Turkey in order to focus solely on Holland, accelerating successful integration.

Are you as positive about the future of Turkey?

(A big sigh before she answers)

Saniye: if Erdogan continues in the same manner, there will be chaos and imbalance in this world, including in Holland. He’s consistently railing at his opponents and everything is going so fast. As long as he’s there I don’t see it going the right direction. This worries me a lot.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania referendum turkey protests

***

The Bit-parts

We honor those who never stopped chasing their dreams,
but we forget about those who get lost along the way.
We don’t think about all the ways they see while they are going the wrong way,
when they make the wrong friends,
when they fall in love with the wrong people.
There come the vultures, there comes the hunger.
Soon enough, we fail to even to recognize them on the streets,
we ignore them when they beg for change, we mock them when we see them talking to themselves.
The best thing to do, in order to protect our own delicate feelings, is to pretend they don’t exist.
When they make their presence known, don’t perceive them to be human beings. Instead, see them as decorations, like department store dolls.
They look like human, their eyes speak of a troubling history,
but that’s just how they made them.
They market them as ‘quality craftmanship of an uncaring God.’

They aren’t hungry, they want to be here.
Sometimes they entertain us and we throw pennies in their hats
and they thank us.
There are here to add to the atmosphere, to make your life,
the only one that matters, more urgent.
To inspire you to make the best of life.
You are the star, the rest of the cast are just bit parts of your greater story.

And when you can’t help but wonder and feel sorry for them,
just tell yourself:
”don’t worry,
They won’t die there alone,
the light will find them one day.”
Don’t question the logic, just move on, don’t look back.
Before you know it, it seems like they were there in the first place.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania street photography homelessness
Photo: Gabrielle Lurie

***

Our Disease 21 (ending)

    A Brave New World 

A man in an overcoat was chasing a naked man to the sea. They stepped on sharp sea-shells, blood would seep from the naked man’s feet. The naked man’s clothes were behind him, a trail to follow. There was a high-wind, there seemed to be a hurricane on the horizon. The overcoat flapped into the wind, its long collar would flap against the man’s determined face. Particles of sand would be blown away, its eolian effect seemed like an elegant dance. The naked had a crazed smile into his face, but there was no fear. He stood upright as he headed to the water. The water would be cold, the naked would freeze to death. There was high-tide, waves kept crashing in on each other, a soapy puddle on the shore. They were the only two people on the beach.
”You know this what they always wanted,” screamed the naked man through the howling wind, his head turning back as he walked forward ”this was their mission all along. It was all about me, it was never about me. You were were just weak enough to do their bidding.”
The man in the overcoat said nothing. He just walked forward, like a sheepherder moving his sheep towards the edge of the cliff.
”You’ll never get away with this. Once you do this there’s nowhere you can hide. I matter in this world! People will look for me! It’s not that they miss me, it’s that they depend on me!”
The naked man saw the water coming closer, a streak of fear touched his heart. ”I was your friend you know. I only wanted the best for you. Nobody understood why I bothered for you! But I did! For some fucking reason I cared!”
He stopped then, just an inch from the water. He took a deep breath.
”Move,” said the man in the overcoat.
”It’s cold out there Harry, please don’t make me do this.”
The man in the overcoat pointed his revolver to the back of his head. The naked man, Stone, turned around. They looked into each other, Stone tried to see doubt in his eyes but he could see it; this man, this old friend, was about to kill him.

A day before, they were in Dale’s apartment. It was a small yet modest apartment, it was filled with photographs and posters of the wall of all the greatest musicians of history. It showed Dale’s sophisticated and diverse taste. A poster of Frank Zappa’s Tinseltown Rebellion album cover, a enlarged photograph of Frank Sinatra taken by Anton Corbijn, a poster of Dr. Dre’s classic album The Chronic, B.B. King, they stemmed from the time when music meant something, when albums were appreciated. When people laid down to listen to the whole album, in sequence of each song, appreciate the flow of each song, sometimes a story or a message would be found there. His music ranged beyond the American plains, there were foreign albums covers Harry had never heard about. He had never been inside Dale’s apartment and he was certainly impressed.
”I’m glad to see you man. Tell you the truth I missed you, this Reilly dude is a fucking nutjob,” said Dale sitting on a chair infront of Harry and Stone who were sitting on his couch.
”I missed you too Dale,” said Harry.
Stone was a little annoyed by the camaraderie. He sensed there was something wrong with Harry, he was silent most of the way. He felt belittled somehow. He knew Harry always considered himself morally superior but now it was something different, almost as if he considered himself a higher human being.
”I love your place. You surround yourself with icons. True believers.”
”Thanks.”
”My mom used to debate Sean Reilly. She always said he was a creep. Can’t say I was surprised after the scandal broke out.”
”Shit man, he’s a moody motherfucker. Heard his meltdown on the internet?”
”We will do it live! Fuck it!” yelled Dale animating Reilly, which annoyed Stone deeply. Dale and Harry were laughing.
Stone took a big gulp and started to talk: ”You are old-school, aren’t you,” said Stone.
”I listen the modern day music too. I just like the culture of when this music came out. It was much more special then. There’s so much now. So many movies, so much music. We got hardly time to appreciate it all.”
Dale’s hair was shorter, there were a few wrinkles but apart from that, he looked the same.
”I would still like to hear some of your music though.”
”You can probably find it Online,” said a sighing Dale as he licked the joint shut. This surprised Harvey as he remembered that he always wanted the music to remain with him.
”Really?” said Stone, a bit too theatrically, ”I thought you were all about the authenticity of your art?”
The TV was on, it was mute. TAXI DRIVER was playing. Travis just shot the pimp played by Harvey Keitel.
”I am but someone hacked my laptop, stole some of my music,” he lit the joint, took a deep puff.
”Really?”
Harvey looked at Stone, enraged.
”Yeah, it nearly destroyed me man. I mean, most of my music I got tucked away safely but some of the stuff was good man. My babies. I didn’t think people would steal it. Nobody’s ever heard of me.”
”Well I’m sorry dude, that’s really a shame. Did you see any reactions of your music?”

”Yeah, people were raving.”
”Well that’s good. That must have felt good.”
”I don’t care. It was mine. It was my music…”
A silence, Dale passed the joint to Stone, ”you know nothing about that do you?”
”Off course not!” said Stone, smiling, ”I resent the accusation.”
”I remember you were so adamant about hearing my music.”
”You can’t blame a guy for being curious.”
Dale said nothing, he still didn’t trust him.
”You know Dale is dating Tara,” said Stone turning to Harry, ”you remember her? She was the hooker that was with me a few times last year? Apparently she quit her job and is now seeking an honest living. Would you believe that?”
Dale turned away, becoming angry for Stone’s words about his lover, ”You made her an honest woman! You should be proud of that Dale!”
”That’s enough Stone,” said Harry, ”leave her out of it.”
”What? I’m happy for him,” said Stone taking a deep puff, looking into Dale’s eyes, ”though it’s a shame though. She was really good at her job.”
Dale got up from the chair, walked up to him angrily, as if he was about to pounce him. Stone laughed at his effort.
”Oh what? Am I supposed to be threatened.”
”You can leave now Stone, I don’t want you here.”
”You are the one that started it. I come here in good faith. I bring you drugs and alcohol, even a friend you thought was dead. And this is how you thank me?”
”Please get out of here Stone.”
”Nah, I don’t feel like it.”
Dale stood there, he didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t a fighter. He knew there was a force inside Stone that he could not beat. It was not his strength, or his ability to fight, it was something else. It was the lack of mercy, his deadly seriousness. The casualty of bloodletting. The will to win no matter what.
Harry got up, ”let’s go Stone.”
”You know I could make a call and make you disappear. Your girlfriend could call to the police and they wouldn’t do a thing. You know why? They would get word from their captain by me, that they shouldn’t bother and they wouldn’t. Cos I’m the man. I’m the man that has ruled this country since its inception. And you don’t fuck with the man!”
Harry lifted up Stone from his collar, looked at him with ferociousness that surprised Stone, ”l said let’s go!”
Stone smiled, nodded, ”fine, fuck this little hipster pad.”
Stone moved to the front door, yelled back, ”say Dale, if your girlfriend can’t find a job, she can always come and ask me for money. I have things for her to do.”
He opened the door and left. Dale took a deep breath, he almost felt like crying.
”What are you doing with him Harry? You return from the fucking dead with him?”
”Don’t worry about him. I’ll make sure he won’t bother you again.”

”Where did you go Harry? What’s up with you? There’s something up with you. You aren’t the same.”
”I’m better Dale, I swear, I haven’t been this happy for a long time.”
Dale looked at him skeptically, ”it’s a crazy world out there, people can get lost. People can find them in places and never come back. Even when they think they’ve escaped, there still really there.”
”Dale, one day I’ll tell you what I’ve seen, one day you will see the world as I saw it. One day I will take you with me.”
”Take me with you? Where?”
”I can’t tell you yet but you will see. We will make you see.”
”We?”
Harry suddenly hugged Dale then. He hugged him for nearly a minute. Dale didn’t know what to do. The hug was an intimate one, almost like a goodbye.
”I followed the music Dale, just as you said. And it was beautiful, it was so beautiful…”

They were on their way to Stone’s rented beach house. Stone was driving, smoking a joint as he did. Harry was looking out the window, it was nearing the night. He could see a storm coming.
”Would you believe that guy?” Laughed Stone, ”unbelievable. The arrogance of some people really astounds me.”
”Did you steal his music?” asked Harry.
Stone said nothing for a while but handed him the joint, Harry took it but didn’t smoke it, he just looked at him and asked again: ”did you?”
”That little fucker was so arrogant about it, I just had to know if it was any good. And you know what? It wasn’t. It fucking sucked.”
”You shouldn’t have done that Stone. It wasn’t for you to listen or to judge.”
”Oh please. He put it on his computer. His own fault. If it’s on your computer it belongs to everyone. If he wanted it to remain private, he should have made an effort.”
”Doesn’t matter Stone and you know it.”
”You gonna smoke that joint?”
”You can have it.”
Stone angrily grabbed the joint, ”what’s up with you anyway? I don’t like this new version of you. You’re too quiet. You were always in your head but now you’ve been spacing out all day. You didn’t smoke and had barely anything to drink so somethings up.”
”I’m fine.”
”Oh yeah, you’re fine. Sure. Well I hope you appreciate what I’ve been doing for you. I’m trying to show you a good time and you’re acting like a fucking zombie.”
”Thank you Stone.”
”That’s more like it. Wait till you see this house I rented. It’s too cold and windy to swim now but it’s a sight, it’s such a beautiful sight.”
”I bet it is,” said Harry fondling his revolver in his overcoat.

They finally got there. He parked next to a delicate little wooden beach house. The sky was turning gray, the night was coming. Stone got out of the car, ran towards the beach, stopped, lifted up his hands and yelped as he look towards the beach, the high-waves crashing and turning.
”Isn’t this beautiful Harry? Surely this is something you and I can share. Doesn’t that make you feel peaceful listening to that? Doesn’t the waves center everything in your head? I could listen to this forever. We might be able to swim but I’ve got a jacuzzi and…” He saw Harry pointing the revolver then. He laughed at first, ”what the fuck is this Harry? You getting a sense of humor?”
”Walk to the sea and get undressed while you do so.”
”What?”
”What to sea and get undressed while you do so.”
”Oh go fuck yourself Harry, stop playing…”
Harry pointed the gun to the sky and pulled a trigger. The gunshot echoed and shook both Harry and Stone. The sound, its loudness, changed everything. Harry had to pause before he pointed the revolver to Stone again and said: ”this is really happening Stone. Do as I tell you…”
”I’m not getting undressed…”
”I want to see the emperor without clothes. I want to see wolf without sheep’s clothing. The demon without a disguise…”
”Harry come on…”
He shot another warning to the sky, the sound made Stone shiver.
”Come on,” said Harry, a smile coming to his face now, ”let’s take a walk together. This is something we can both enjoy…”

A man in an overcoat was chasing a naked man to the sea….
”I don’t want to die. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to die. I thought about death, I accepted that it could come sooner or later but no, not like this. Not here. People like me aren’t supposed to die like this. We are supposed to die old, in our sleep. We never get punished.”
”There has to be some accountability. There has to be some justice.”
”For what? The boy?”
”For the boy, for all the boys and girls in the world. You all get away with it. Everyone of you. We fuck up and we pay for life. You guys fuck up and everyone suffers and you get another clean break. It’s not fair. There has to be some consequences…”
”We make things happen. We make the engine run because you guys have no idea what to do with this world. So we take a little extra for ourselves. We deserve it! We aren’t like you guys who can only bitch and moan about how things are not good enough! We actually make a difference! The only way you can make a difference is by killing me! That’s why they go crazy out there, because they can’t make a difference, they can’t change the world. So they go around shooting people, hoping to kill the right person. And it doesn’t solve anything. It’s just another senseless tragedy. Life moves on…
The adrenaline stopped Stone from freezing, but he felt panic going through him, he refused to show it, ”you people just want to be coddled, want everything for free. You want the roads fixed, you want free health-care, an affordable car. None of you has the vision, none of you has what it takes to make this country great! We even give you a vote and look what you do with it? You still complain even when you get what you want! This country is the way it is because of you guys! Not us! You outnumber us!”
Harry said nothing, just stared him down, panic became overpowering, ”You kill me, you end your life too. You’ll be in Mexico somewhere and someone will hit you over the head and you will die alone. If you have a girlfriend there, they will kill her too. Cos this world is shit. It’s all shit. It’s like my daddy always said: it never changes, the people will always be shit. It’s always supposed to go like this. It’s destiny! A period of relative sanity until we go fucking ape-shit again. We’ve passed the Rubicon now. The end is nigh. Maybe a few centuries more and that’s it. We won’t live to see it, but we can see the machines taking over. We can see it! You can see it too, can’t you Harry?”
Harry’s hand was trembling, there was a fear he couldn’t do it. He had to remind himself:
”I’ve had this dream, that they will one day take me there. They were angels. They were with me all the way. I was never alone. They would stay with me. I just had to go all the way. I just have to be prepared to do what is necessary.”
”It’s just a dream Harry, it’s not real. They were just using you. They were just fucking with your head…”
”It has to be real Stone, if it isn’t real then there is no point…”
”Harry we can find a solution together. I know I’m a piece of shit. I know I’m an evil motherfucker but if you give me a chance than we can make a difference. We can make it a better world! Old America and new America. We could combine the two. We could make a world full of dreamers again!”
”I’m sorry Stone.” Harry stepped forward and Stone stepped back, he felt the water now, it was so cold, he yelped.
”Fuck it’s so cold Harry please, please…” he ran to the side away from the water, ”please don’t make me go into the water, please…”
”I just want the bugs to go away. I want to cure us. You are the disease, you’ve been festering into our consciousness for millions of years now. I don’t want to do this but I have to. In order to make a change, we have to be prepared to do what’s necessary, to lose something of ourselves…”
”This is fucking murder Harry! You can’t do this please!”
”…You thought that by killing the boy, Alan, that you took away my innocence. But no that blood is on you. This blood will be on me, but it will be necessary. You’ve helped them for far too long. The world is changing. The revolution is coming. And this is your guillotine, the blade is coming down…”
”I’m your friend Harry! I’m your friend! We’ve known each other for years! Please, I don’t want to die. There are things I want to make right! I just need another chance please…” Stone was on his knees now, begging. Harry pointed the gun to his temple, his hand trembling again.
”You can’t help the way you are. You are a parasite, you are programmed to act this way. In a way I know you think you are doing the right thing. I know that…” Tears were streaming down his eyes, ”I just want to go to that place. I want to go back to mom. She is proud of me you know? She is waiting for me.”
”She’ll be proud of you if you put the gun down Harry!” He then turned his head, seeking any soul to save him, ”help! Please for the love of God help!!”
”My dreams will come true. I will be a hero. They will reward me, I will fall in love again. I can be an angel too, guiding the next person…”
”She’s proud of me. She forgives me. She told me that, this is what I need to do…” His hand steady now, Stone saw the glare in his eyes. Stone got up and ran, tripped and ran in desperation, crying as he did so. Harry closed his eyes when he aimed and pulled the trigger, Stone’s right shoulder exploded in gore, he cried in pain, tripped but kept running. Harry ran after him. The waves kept on crashing in on each other, the wind kept howling.
Harry shot again, he hit the back of Stone’s leg. Stone felt to the sand, the cold water crashing in on him. He crawled towards his waves, crying for his mother as he did so. The coldness reminded him of death approaching. The end, the nothingness that was upon him. He cried that he was sorry for everything.
Harry looked up at the gray sky for a moment, clothing his eyes, taking a deep breath, smelling he air. Time seemed to stop for a moment.
The waves pushed Stone back to the shore but he crawled right back into the waves, as if it could save him. Harry opened his eyes. When Stone was pushed back again, he turned around, looking at him, a last plea for mercy.
Harry looked back, they said nothing for a while.
”It’s true,” said Harry, ”the waves, they center everything in your head. It’s transcendent. I could listen to this forever.”
Stone smiled bittersweetly, ”I know, I wanted to share this with you.”
”Thank you,” said Harry pointing the revolver at him. Stone didn’t move. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath. He smelled the air.
A hole exploded behind the back of Stone’s head. He was dead instantly. Harry looked at his dead body for a while, the waves pushed him to closed to the shore, as if rejecting him. Harry sat down, looked at him, his lifeless eyes. It was always the most disturbing part, the eyes that said nothing anymore. The eyes locked into the void. Harry reached out and closed his eyes.
”I’m sorry,” Harry said, wiping his tears. He threw the gun into the sea and sat down next to the corpse of an old friend, a sacrifice to the Gods.

He sat there, looking to the coast.  It was night, close to midnight. He was ready, waiting for them. There was the fear that Stone was right: maybe it was all in his head, maybe there was no such place, maybe there are no angels. He couldn’t think like that, you have to believe, keep the faith. He started the revolution, the new world was coming for him.
There was a light far ahead, a boat perhaps. It was coming his way. Harry smiled, he couldn’t wait.
The light flickered, disappeared for a while and then came back. The waves kept crashing in on each other, the wind kept howling. One could listen to this forever.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania winslow homer
Art by Winslow Homer

The end

Our Disease 20

Kill the Bug

It was a beautiful dream. It was a dream full of angels. He had a sudden mission in life: to return to the world and save mankind from the bugs eating their brain. If he did this, they would come for him. He would be allowed to live among them, in the place that followed the promises of his country, promises he had heard about since he was a child at school. Promises that were broken again and again.
There was a preacher, an old friend who he could never say goodbye to, his mother, the lover that would one day find him, there was the demon that turned out to be an angel. There was no fear, we conquered it. We were ourselves, we were free to explore our eccentricities, it would be explored on paper. So many people were lost in the old world, now we found each other and made sure nobody got lost. Everyone was welcome, the tired as well as the poor. If we could only see ourselves for who we are, if we weren’t so afraid, this world could be ours.
He had asked the angels what he was supposed to do.
They told him to watch for the sign, you would understand then. Everything would be clear.
But you must go all the way, it’s the only way to escape this world. The only way to escape this prison.
Reality is the dream, all you have to do is wake up and pull the trigger.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania david lynch i fight with myself
Art by David Lynch

***

 

 

Our Disease 19

    The Return

The waiting-room used to be filled with darkness, a faint light, its walls were scarlet red. There were windows now, light shone brightly inside the olive green room. It was a pleasant place to be, a man would feel calm here.
Her next patient sat there, smiling around him. It looked much better than before. A woman came out the room and smiled at the person in the waiting-room, he smiled back. Perhaps there was a certain attraction the man thought, perhaps I still got it.
The patient entered Dr. Benway’s office. To Dr. Benway, it was like seeing a ghost.
”I really like what you’ve done to the place. It looks much better now.”
”I can’t believe it, it’s really you.”
”It’s me, I’m back.”
He sat in front of her, looked around. The room was another pleasant olive green. There were paintings on the wall. The paintings evoked the natural beauty of this world, a transcendence one could capture if we were to really look.
”When you called I thought it was some practical joke.”
”You recognized my voice did you?”
”You didn’t sound the same. You sounded like a different person.”
”I’m the same person but with a different state of mind.”
She looked him over, he looked better. The scruffy hairs were gone. Clean clothes. His eyes were clear, it evoked even a calmness that seemed so unnatural to him.
”You look good.”
”Thank you, so do you.”
”You’ve been missing for over a year Harry. You can’t blame my reaction. People naturally assumed you were dead.”
”I needed to wander the world a bit, be invisible, do some soul-searching. I needed to get acquainted with America.”
”Where did you go?”
”I’ve been about everywhere. I’ve met a lot of people, so many beautiful people…” Harry paused, as their faces came back to them, ”I’ve fallen in love with his country again. For a long time, I thought it was lost, without a chance of salvation. I forgot how beautiful this country really is. I went to all these different states with different laws, I’ve talked to people. People took me into their houses. I’ve even been with a few women,” Harry smiled, thinking about the young girl he had, the older woman, a woman of his age. How beautiful they are. How there was nothing more beautiful than a woman.
”Maybe I’ll tell you about this one day, but I’m only here for a few days. Hitting the road again soon.”
”So why have you come back?”’
”I wanted to come clean. Been doing a lot of thinking on the road. Even about the things I didn’t want to think about. You were there for me for many years, you’ve tried to make me confront them. And now I have. I wanted to thank you for pushing me as far as you did.”
”Well it’s my job,” she smiled, feeling touched.
”When Sheryl left me I was a wreck. Deep down I knew it wasn’t going to work. I spend years convincing her that I was worth loving, but it shouldn’t have been like that. Her love had faded, it was her choice. When she left me, I lost it. I was a wreck…”
He took a deep breath.
”During this time, my mother was enduring a relapse. A failed relationship had brought her over the top, she called for me. I didn’t answer because it was too painful for me to admit that my relationship had ended. She killed herself and I blamed myself.”
He took a deep breath, it still hurt, he went on: ”It wasn’t my fault. I should have picked up but I didn’t know what was going on. There were signs sure, but you can’t blame it on yourself. She was a troubled person. I loved her and she loved me. She wouldn’t want me to feel guilty about this neither.”
”No she wouldn’t Harry.”
”So for years, I locked myself in a little sound-stage and committed myself to my weekly podcast, leaving my literary ambitions behind. I think I’m going to write again, though I still miss my podcast. I had an audience, even met some people who loved my show.”
”I miss it too Harry.”
”I really miss mom. She was my angel. I like to think she’s still around. I like to think she’d be proud of me.”
”She would be. I’m sure of it.”
”It still hurts and sometimes I want to hide again, but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’m ready to move on.”
Dr. Benway smiled, she felt paternal over Harry, just like she did with many other patients. She was so proud of him, so hopeful.
”I need to go now Dr. Benway, I have a schedule to keep.
”So where are you going to go?”
”I don’t know. I still think there’s this place in America somewhere, where there are people like me. People who want to devote themselves to truth, the values of what America once stood for. Maybe I will find that place and if not, that’s okay too.”
He got up and when they shook hands he said: ”life is an absurd fucking place. Sometimes I don’t see it. Sometimes it looks like an endless series of human tragedies. But then I look beyond, then I think of you, I think of my mother, I think Crispin, Dale, all the people that I loved, all the people that loved me. And things seem better.”
They wished each other good luck on their journey. When he left the room, he said ”auf wiedersehen.”

They were packed and ready to go, when there doorbell rang. ”Could you get that!” she yelled from upstairs as she was finishing up her make-up in the bathroom.
”Honey, you better come downstairs,” her fiancée called out.
When she went downstairs, to the front-door, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
”I’m sorry I couldn’t be at the wedding,” Harry said, ”but I just heard about it.”
”Harry,” Sheryl said, her fiancee patting her shoulder, ”you were messing. It’s been a year… We thought you were..”
”Yes, I know. I’m sorry for making you that. It was selfish of me. I was in a different place back then. I just wanted to say sorry for this and congratulate you on your engagement.”
She held back the years, it came so close to bursting. For a period of time, she had blamed herself for his disappearance, even mourned him. The romantic love had been long gone, but she still cared of them. This will always be, even if they did not share the same bed together.
”I know you probably blamed yourself for a while, but you shouldn’t. You should do what’s right for you, and I’m happy you moved on…”
”Thank you Harry…” She didn’t know what else to say, she felt like hugging him but composed herself.
Harry turned to her fiancée. A year ago he saw him making love to Cheryl through a webcam footage. He watched it in a wail of tears. Now this memory was laughable. You have to laugh at the absurdity of life.
”I’ve heard your a good man,” Harry said, ”I know you’ll take good care of her.”
”Thanks, nice to finally meet you” said the fiancée who was in a loss for words as well, ”We are going for a little road-trip, meeting some family.”
”Good, it’s a beautiful world out there.”
She could see he was the old Harry, the happy person she fell in love with so long ago.
”I’ve got to get going now, but good luck on your journey. I always wanted you to be happy. In the end that mattered most.”
She reached out to hug him, she told him she was sorry. She was sorry she couldn’t love him the way he needed to be loved. He said there was no need.
”I’m glad your back,” she said.
”So am I.”

It was a cheap hotel-motel room, but it didn’t matter to Harry. A luxury life was alien to him to him now, if it were offered to him, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. On the road, you have to give things up. There was a king-size bed, a TV screen on the wall, a closet, a tiny bathroom, that was it. He would be only there for a few days and to be fair, that was all he could afford anyway. He was running out of money, the trip back had been expensive to him. The savings were almost gone. He didn’t know what he was going to do for money, but he didn’t worry much. He had made some friends on the road, people would try to help him. In America, the people are there for you. In America, you are not on your own.
When he entered his small room, there was a box in the center of his bed. Walking up to it, he saw that there was an envelope taped on top of it. A familiar voice then: ”you expected a package?”
Stone came out the bathroom, steam following from the shower. A towel was covering his middle, just like the last time he saw him.
”You remember what you told me last time we saw each other?”
”I do.”
Stone looked worse than he did before. There was a bigger gut, an unshaven white beard, receding hair but with a long mullet at the back. There was a tiredness in his eyes. The ferociousness was still there but the year has aged him rapidly.
”Am I supposed to be scared,” smiled Stone, walking up to him, inches away from his face.
”I don’t think you get scared,” said Harry, smiling back, ”it’s not in your nature.”
”You know, you look good, I thought you would look worse but you look better.”
”You look worse.”
”My lifestyle, however thrilling, comes with a few sacrifices,” Harry grabbed a chair and sat down, grabbed a cigarette from the pack on the table and lit one. He offered Harry a cigarette too, Harry shook his head.
”For old times sake.”
Harry took it then, Stone lit it for him.
”They just let you in this place?”
”I said I was an old friend and then I gave the manager some money and he didn’t care either way.”
Harry sat down on the bed, ”you’ve been busy I guess, knowing what’s happening with the world.”
”Yeah, president is not doing such a hot job. Tell you the truth, I don’t think I can save him.”
”He hasn’t changed much after the campaign, he pretty much seems like the same guy.”
”He was the people’s elect. The rumors were there in the campaign, the signs were all there and the people were still stupid enough to vote him. They got what they voted for. Don’t know why people are shocked.”
”How have you been Stone?”
”I think I should ask that question to you.”
”You thought I was dead?”
”For a while I did, it took me a while to find you. You just disappeared into some black hole. My guy eventually found you in some fucking hippie commune in the west. Then later you were in Alaska for some fucking reason. I thought about confronting you there but I was a busy and I thought you needed some time.”
”I would tell you I’m sorry but to tell you the truth, I wanted you to think I was dead, but I wasn’t naive to think that I could pull that off.”
”You were hoping I would take you down, just to be safe?”
”A part of me hoped this in the beginning.”
”Shit man,” Stone took a deep puff, ”you still don’t see me as a friend, do you?”
”I’ve thought a lot about you.”
”Did you figure me out?”
”In a way, I do think you wanted to help me. But I also think you were enabling the worst in me, that my unhappiness was a prove of your success. That your dream, your America, was the superior than my America.”
”Now you’ve returned. Did you expect to see me?”
”I expected to see you eventually.”
”You happier now?”
”I am.”
Stone smiled, not sure if he was happy about this myself, ”so my instincts were correct. You needed some time with yourself. I guess my handling of your situation…”
”The boy’s name was Alan Kurd.”
”The boy’s name doesn’t fucking matter,” said Stone ferociously, ”what matters is that you never bothered again.”
”They send me the boy’s file, that’s all.”
”Good,” Stone was tapping ash from his cigarette on the floor.
”How long are you staying?”
”Not for very long.”
”Let’s have a couple of drinks.”
”I don’t drink anymore.”
”Come on, for old times sake. We can go see Dale, you know he’s working for that piece of shit Sean Reilly? He went from you to Reilly, poor guy. He’s not even allowed to smoke weed in the sound-booth.”
”I wanted to see him before I go.”
”Perfect, let’s go then, I’m gonna brush my teeth,” Stone went in the bathroom, ”I’m really happy to see you Harry. It’s easy to lose touch with old friends. Hope we can pick up where we left off.”
Harry said nothing, but turned to face the box. He ripped the envelope lose and opened it. There was a piece of paper, it said: ”WHEN YOU’RE READY.”
Harry took a deep breath, got up and opened a door of a cabinet attached to the wall. There was a box full of separated cutlery, he grabbed a knife. He used this knife to open the box. Inside the box was another wooden box. Harry looked back to see if Stone wasn’t coming. Stone was brushing his teeth, whistling a tune as he did. Harry opened the box. Seeing what was inside, Harry knew what was expected of him.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania paris texas painting
Art by Thomas Pramhas

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Our Disease 18

The Sad Man in The Coffeeshop 

There was a man that walked into a coffee-shop. He stood in the center of the room, looking around. It was as if he was looking for something. Sometimes he would stare at a corner of a room, the customers were thinking that he was looking at them. There was a sadness in his eyes. He remained standing there for over an half an hour, finally a kindly barista walked up to him, asked him if he was okay, if there was anything she could do for him.
”No thank you,” he said, ”I’ll be leaving soon. I don’t mean to bother anyone.”
”It’s okay,” said the barista, ”would you like to sit down? Did something happen?”
There was a pause before he answered, ”there used to be a playground here. There was a sandpit there. A swing right there. They demolished it long ago. I never really cared. We shouldn’t, we should move on. But I’m looking back at things, even if it might hurt. I think this is a good place to start…” A pause, he looked at the barista who listened intently, she was only a teenager, ”my best friend died about your age. He would have become a great man. We lost touch before it happened. So many could have become great men, so many didn’t get a chance.”
He looked at the teenager, smiled for her, yet his sad eyes remained.
”Thank you for listening, you take care of yourself,” he turned around and headed out the doorway, it was unusually bright outside. The barista would see him leave and disappear into the light. He made one final remark before he left: ”and for god’s sake, take care of each other…”

He was sitting next to Crispin, both on a separate swing, gently moving along with the wind. Crispin, still looking like the sprightly twelve-year old, was sucking on a lollipop. There was darkness above, the rain was coming soon.
”You want a lollipop?” asked Crispin.
”Why not,” said Harry and Crispin handed him a lollipop from his pocket.
”It’s strawberry, your favorite.”
”You remembered.”
”We remember everything here.”
Harry ripped open the plastic and put the lollipop on his mouth. They both sucked on the lollipop for a while, enjoying the silence.
”There are some who fall to deep and were never able to come back up,” said Crispin.
”I know.”
”In the end it’s very simple but not very easy.”
”I’ve seen people who were lost in there. I’ve seen their eyes. It happened to the one of the people I loved the most.”
Crispin turned to Harry, ”you know, she’s very proud of you. I hope you know this.”
”I think you are just telling me that. I don’t think that’s true.”
”I think you are telling yourself the opposite because you have trained your mind to do so. I think that for a man who values the truth, you lie to yourself all the time. This is what we do. This is what we train our minds to do. It’s the disease. The bug is making us lie to ourselves.”
”Well I guess I’ll figure that out. In the end, I’m supposed to realize you are right and I am wrong.”
”This is not a competition. I don’t want win by being right. I want you to be happy.”
”I find it hard to believe that’s possible in this stage.”
”It’s going to take some time.”
”How long?”
”This depends, each person is difficult. You gotta get through your own pace. You’ve already made some pertinent moves, believe it or not. You’ll get there. You just gotta have faith.”
Harry sighed, he could feel him coming closer.
”I’m scared Cris,” said Harry, ”I’m really scared.”
”I know, it’s normal to be scared.”
He could see him coming, his white face and dark eyes.
”It’s going to hurt a lot.”
”Yes, you will have to confront the pain. You will have to wrestle with it. Eventually you’ll be free.”
Harry began to swing forth and Crispin followed his league. He was swinging back and forth, getting higher and higher. He was coming closer, he was so close.
”I never said goodbye,” said Harry, ”I never gave you a proper goodbye.”
”You never have to.”
Suddenly the swing, the cable that held it, disappeared and Harry felt himself falling. He screamed and reached out to the dark skies. It began to rain. There was a strike of thunder. Then everything went silent. Harry couldn’t even hear himself screaming.

Art by Jeff Lemire

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