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 Saddest Creatures of All

There needs to be accountability to the evil men of this world.
Nobody should get away with it,
everyone should get their fair share of punishments.
What happens when your act of evil is so great,
when piles of bodies are your doorstep

or

when there are too many ghosts following you around?
What will your penitence be?
Confession won’t do it. The priests don’t have that kind of power.
Your prison sentence goes on long after your death
and after that you’ll probably won’t endure any of it.
We can give you the death sentence but only one time,
and you owe us so many more deaths.
In order for things to be right,
you need to serve a million years,
be murdered a thousand times
and all your victims should be compensated
by your suffering and all that you profited from the suffering of your victims.

This is how the world should be, this is how we dreamed it would be.
A universe that bends towards justice,
where evil is just a spell that can be cast away,
and all our stories of despair
ends in hope for a better future.
But this is not how the world works,
there’s evil roaming around this world,
and it’s running the most powerful countries.
There’s evil in this world
and most people support it.
Most people don’t even know it’s evil,
they don’t understand history,
they don’t understand that this is nothing new,
it’s something that never dies, it’s something that always finds a way back.

Perhaps the only comfort in the end is knowing
that the saddest creatures of all
are the demons that think they are angels.
Those who thought they were saving us,
who were on a holy mission
and their delusion, sometimes of grandeur, will be read about years later
and as we do, we shake our heads realizing how pathetic they really were.
This great demon was just another pitiful human being
and the final joke is on him.

if only we could have seen it before,
we could have voted him out of office
and
instead of looking back at all we could have had,
we should have listened to the angels to begin with.
The greatest tragedy of all is not seeing the angels of this world.

They now shine so brightly,
we wonder how we could have missed them.

***

Our Disease 6

 The sheep

”Not my president!”
”He will not divide us!”
”Lock him up!”
”Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here!”
”Love! Not hate! Makes America great!”
They had heard their familiar chants. These were cries for sanity or perhaps for a return of their preferred brand of madness. Madness will always rule this world. This is not the problem. As long as you can handle the narrative of the madness. As long as you can play by the rules or find a way to break them without the madness breaking you. As long as you are able to laugh about the absurdity, you will be okay.
Harry and Stone were among the crowds of people watching the protesters marching in circle in front of city hall. The mayor was an avid supporter of the President and despite the majority absolutely loathing him, the magic of Gerrymandering kept him in power. Some protestors were holding apocalyptic signs and one of them struck a nerve with Harry: ”All of this used to mean something.”
It was an early saturday afternoon, the sun was beaming on all of us, as if encouraging the political unrest. A militarized police force was watching, some even through sniper scoops. They were dressed in body armor, holding massive assault weaponry, as if it was a warzone. That’s the thing about America: it isn’t a warzone but people act like it is and sooner or later, you can’t be surprised if the streets become to look like one.
A few months ago they decided to break up a march which erupted into violence. This has also become a fairly common occurrence in America, from all parts of the world. In fact, the violence was rather mild. Only three people died, all of them were protesters. One was shot dead on the street, another died in the hospital, another in custody (in rather unsurprising peculiar circumstances). A police officer stomped someone’s head and the victim became paralyzed. There were mass protests about this but the president had their back. According to him, they did ”nothing wrong,” and the protesters were just a bunch of thugs.
It was a small march, barely a hundred people. Such protests happens at least once every two weeks, depending on what ridiculous statement the president makes to bolster the fury of identity politics. Despite Harry mostly agreeing with the politics of these protesters, it saddened that none of them realized that this wasn’t going to do any good. As long as the party remains as disorganized and fractured, none of this was going to do any good. A strong leader was needed. Someone that could appeal to the more popular and lucrative anti-establishment sentiment but also someone incorruptible, a true believer. But true believers are in short supply and most of them are too disgusted or disillusioned to even consider politics.
”This must be how God feels,” grinned Stone with a giant blunt in his mouth, ”watching his creations pray to him as if he was ever going to intervene. I’m sure he gets a kick out of every time people thank him for something he didn’t even do.”
”It saddens me,” said a melancholic Harry gulping from a beer bottle.
”That’s because you’re a true believer. If you’re a true believer this hurts, because this used to mean something, this used to be the ultimate form of political dissent and now it has become the complete opposite: it’s engineered so that people aren’t seeing what’s really going on behind the scenes. While they are doing this charade, protesting whatever stupid fucked-up thing the president said, he’s sneaking another through the senate that will diminish the already fleeting democracy.”
He passes the blunt to Harry who takes it mindlessly.
”And let’s be honest here, most of them are also hipster liberals with only a passing interest in the lives of the real people that are suffering in this country- and around the world. They worry more about their colleges remaining as hostile to right-wingers than about the desperation and loss of meaning in the lives of millions of Americans.”
Harry passes the blunt, blows big smoke from his mouth and then takes another chug of beer.
””The consistent losses of elections has also made them more extreme, to the point that the average Joe is looking at two whacked out groups, not knowing who to join. People splintered from both these groups, engineering more political brands of extremism, disrupting whatever unity could be had and in the end, giving more power to the current and glorious president of America.”
Stone passes the blunt and after Harry pulled a big drag, he states: ”I need to get some sleep.”
”You hope to dream of a better world but you know very well, that you will always wake up in this one.”
”Maybe I was thinking of the big sleep.”
Stone looked at him and laughed, ”you think the soul is at peace there? You have no idea what’s waiting for you there old friend.
Suddenly the roar of of different chants could be heard in the distance:
”Hail our America! Hail our people! Hail our victory!”
”They will not divide us!”
”Lock them up!”
”Let’s keep America great!”
then their signature chant: trollollollintrolllllling….
”Oh god, not them,” said Harry while Stone kept smiling.
In the distance they could see a large mass of people dressed in white with black bowler hats with huge white cup supporters.
”Not the fucking droogs.”
There were less of them, though they matched their opponents fury. Many of them were carrying sheeps on a leash who were bleating desperately and wanted to stop walking. They would hit them and kick them and many of them were bleeding badly. The cops were smiling when the Droogs came. Harry suspected that they knew about their arrival.
When they came close enough, an encore of senseless screaming would commence. Both sides screaming their favorite obscenities. The droogs seem to be having the most fun. Many were throwing bananas at them- a racist reference to a previous American president of African-American descent-, putting their trousers, mooning them. Some made loud farting noises. It was a cacophony of madness and Stone was loving every minute of it.
”This could get ugly,” said Harry.
”We could only be so lucky.”
Many people were already leaving, feeling the oncoming of violence. The police seemed pumped but nobody tried to stop them. Perhaps, for many of them, it was more fun to let it escalate.
Harry then turned to Stone, realizing something, ”did you engineer this?”
Stone didn’t say anything but gave him a serious look, if only for a few seconds: ”does it matter?”
As if on cue, the two groups began to charge at each other. Harry turned and walked away. Stone stood there for a while, watching the spectacle. Harry could hear the manic bleating of sheep alongside the screaming of man, the loud screech of microphones and finally bullets. Harry began to ran away.

Forty people were arrested, five people died. None of the sheep made it.

Art by Norman Rockwell

***

Our Disease 5

Podcast 337

”Former president Dimitry Medvedev once talked about ”legal nihilism,” which in his case, was the pervasive pessimism concerning law and order in Russia,” Harry was soft-spoken today, he felt the blues coming on hard. He promised to change things but he never was able to escape the shadow of Putin, who refused to let Medvedev run the show, fearing that he would do irreparable damage to his criminal empire. Even after Putin’s death, Russia never was able to escape legal nihilism. Still now, people wanted a leader like Putin because only he was able to bring stability to their troubled country. Legal Nihilism is now hardwired in the survival code of the Russian people.”
Miguel Stone and Dale were smoking a huge joint behind the soundproof glass. Stone was giving him the thumbs up. Harry gave them the finger which delighted Stone immensely.
”Corporate giants and criminal political leaders breed ‘legal nihilism’ in a way, to sow distrust in any supervisory or regulatory practices. In order to do this, you must show them that you don’t need them. You have to spin it that any supervision on their practices is an act of tyranny. Not just a danger to them but a danger to all of us…” Harry lights his cigarette, sits there for a moment. Dead air. Dale and Stone sat there, waiting for what he was going to say next.
”It all boils down to power and letting the people believe that morale or any such ideology is involved. It used to be but those days are long gone. Not that ideological forces did much good. In many ways it could just as much trouble. But there were some in our American history that managed to struck a certain balance. Possibly the most underrated president of the Twentieth-Century is Jimmy Carter. The only former president who didn’t became just another corporate shill. Much has been said that Reagan started the disastrous economic policies of deregulation, trickle-down and though much could be blamed for the eventual inequality that transpired, at least he was a strong force for good. Least he stood for something. He talked about dreams. America meant something again. We were all still mourning our failed acid trip, the lost promise of the Sixties. He exchanged psychedelics for Jesus. A superior trade if you ask me. But people couldn’t evolve in this dream either…” Stone was talking to someone on the phone. Some important client. He was nodding, smiling.
”So the people fought to keep this dream. But things just kept going the other way. The sexual degenerate Bill Clinton came to office and they couldn’t destroy him. Bush seemed like a comeback but even the hardliners know that perhaps the years, the start of the world-changing destruction of the Twin Towers probably were too hard on him. There was need for new blood. A change from the Neo-Conservative dream. So came Barack Obama. It was time for the Liberals to dream.”
”But we all woke up from this too. His accomplishments, though underrated, was undermined by the relentless sabotaging by the republicans. The false narrative was given that he was a covert communist aiming to destroy America. He could have set it back on track but the republicans couldn’t allow it. Perhaps the world would have been a better place if John McCain had been president. Despite Obama’s admirable character, McCain was a man of honor. He would have stood up against the true evils of this world. He wouldn’t have let Putin fool him. This was a man that deserved the spot. But the truth was, much of the base he needed to appeal, was beneath him. In fact, the people they appealed to were changing. They were in an existential crisis. Things got really bad during Bush’s rule. Even though most of them bought that Obama was a danger to the nation, how could they trust their establishment republicans?
Something bigger was going on. The conspiracy nuts were growing. Alternate news-sources were warping the minds of the American people. The liberals had their shot and lost. Obama became just another establishment figure. They needed someone different.
So came Trump. So came motherfucking Trump.”
Stone smiled, hollering Trump’s name through the sound-proof class. ”Trump was the epitome of legal nihilism. Even though he was a celebrity, a noted philander and born in wealth, the people saw him as one of their own. It didn’t matter that he could hardly think of a Bible quote, the bible belt accepted him quicker than they did Hilary’s stated love of scripture. Putin saw his opportunity and filled the anti-establishment media with pro-Trump news. The ones who could see through the bullshit saw that he was merely a puppet of Putin’s regime and Trump really wanted to be Putin. He didn’t care about Putin’s beliefs or where he came from, he just wanted his kind of power. He just wanted to own the room and kill a journalist or two if they pissed him off. The American nation became an embarrassment, in a time when the world really needed our support since the legal nihilism was seemingly kicking off throughout Europe, dividing us and eventually destroying the European-Union’s dream.”
A deep puff, a sigh. Harry got to a peaceful, if bittersweet part in his mind as he spoke the last words: ”So what do we have now? I’m not say the American dream is dead because that corpse has long been decaying. The American dream is a zombie with a fake smile. It’s walking around slowly, moaning the national anthem. It’s only a matter of time before it collapses indefinitely.”
Stone mimes the word ”beautiful”, Harry nods, feeling for a moment, good about himself: ”So what do we have now? Our country is divided more than ever right now. Every state is being left to their own devises. We can smoke joints freely in this state but on the other side, the Mormons are running the show and women aren’t even allowed hot pants. Our current president says this is the best way now. Every state by himself. The government just there to protect us from foreign enemies. And while this is happening, they are stealing from the coffers and getting unimaginably rich. They don’t need anything, they have everything.
And what do we have? We have each other. This used to be enough.”
Harry nods to himself. Time for real life.
”That’s all I have to say for today. You have a goodnight. Take care of each other.”
End transmission.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania basquiat
Art by Jean-Michel Basquiat

***

Blame it on the Deep State

The Russian trolls are getting to people. Fake News is like a parasite of the brain, it latches onto the subject’s preconceived notions of the world, its natural distrust for Western authorities and makes the subject share it to his friends and families. The message is clear: ”we are all being duped people. This is the truth. Don’t trust the mainstream media. This is what’s really going on.”
The establishment did this to themselves but perhaps, it was inevitable. We enraged the demons long ago and these demons will always be there. The more we fight them, the more fire we leave behind. The fire always comes back.
Globalization was never going to make us like each other better. It’s too hard to understand the world, the people and ourselves too. The more information we receive, the more we realize that it’s far more complicated than we had initially suspected. So we simplify. We seek a comforting reality. We find the kind of news that reflects our world view. Leaders come around and tell us what we believe. Their colorful language makes them seem different. Maybe this guy is different. Maybe this guy is telling the truth.
Putin saw this happening long ago. Maybe the credit should go wider. Russian history is full of managing popular opinion. A former KGB-man, someone who spied on his people and considers himself a patriot, knows very well that the truth is too painful. The truth can ruin everything. Gorbachov can tell you this: just look at what perestroika and glasnost did! It opened borders and gave people the right to question the history of their glorified empire. No. A populist, a leader with authoritarian knows the golden rule: you close borders, you demonize the enemy and you get the journalists in line. Journalists are a pesky sort. Make sure the people hate them. Tell them they work for the establishment, that they write fake news.
Another one that’s popular today is the DEEP STATE. The opposition-this time Robert Mueler and his legal team- within the government is secretly trying to get Trump impeached. They are all using it. Not sure who started it. Perhaps it was Roger Stone. I sort of like Roger Stone. I mean I don’t like him as a person, he’s basically everything that’s revolting about humanity, but he’s upfront with it. There’s a genuineness about him. He’s pure evil and he knows it and he doesn’t care. He’s an entertaining sort of demon.
Even Newt Gingrich mentioned The DEEP STATE. This useless and irrelevant tub of lard says the president cannot obstruct justice- except if he received a blowjob, something that enraged Gingrich when he tried to get Clinton impeached. There’s also Sean Hannity, a man with such a hard-on for Trump that he wouldn’t be surprised if he was writing fan-fiction about him.
All of these supposedly respectable people have been infected by the Russian Troll. It could very well that the Trump support is just a niche market, but especially in the case of Hannity, they seem like true believers. There’s just something about about his charms, that they just can’t resist.
Watching Trump’s cabinet taking turns sucking Trump’s dick (metaphorically speaking) was painful. How could it ever get this far? I know they all have some financial stake in the game but I don’t think I could do this. Maybe if my girlfriend was taking hostage and I was forced to do this to save my life, then maybe, maybe I would consider it. But I don’t understand how they could do this and not immediately watch their mouth with soap. They had to have been high when they did this. Maybe it’s like a game of who can suck up to him the most. It was like a staged scene of Russian propaganda. Did Trump really think this was convincing to the American people? Well since many of his voters actually think he’s a Christian, I guess it could.
Meanwhile Putin is smiling, high-fifing Pepe the Troll. The divide in America was so great, it made it easy for his Russian Trolls. The infection is spreading meanwhile. Even in Holland, the message board is full of Putin supporters. There are educated people who say that perhaps Putin’s vision of the world isn’t quite so bad.
And anybody who’ve seen a glimpse of Putin’s world, knows why I’m scared. This is a world where facts are subjective, we don’t know who to trust, we don’t know if this event or that event was planned by the state, perhaps even the opposition is bankrolled by the state. Everything is a joke, nothing means anything anymore. People turned mad by the state, hunting for opposition leaders- or maybe those mad killers are bankrolled by the government? The most shameful history is warped into something glorious. The heroes could be the villains and the villains are the only ones we can trust.
Many people have been fooled by the Russian troll’s narrative. This Free Press reveals our shortcomings and in turn could instigate our own kind of perestroika and glasnost, but in reverse: close borders and a suppression of dissent. This story has been told before. It’s nothing new. Institutions can fall easily, it’s only as strong as its people. If just takes enough fools on election day.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania ralph steadman nixon

Art by Ralph Steadman
***

Our Disease 4

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a dream at all

Whenever Stone’s around, there’s hardly time for sleep. He always has with him a suitcase full of mysterious chemicals making sure there’s always time for a party. They were spending most of the time in Stone’s luxurious hotel since Harry’s place was a mess and Stone always loves to create havoc in some upper-class hotel. Occasionally there were complaints but nobody in the hotel was as rich or connected as Stone so in the end, it didn’t matter.
Despite their differences, the last few days there was much boisterous laughter, long meaningful talks into the night, a connection that wavered on and of. There were moments when Harry didn’t feel so alone more, felt part of the mad scheme of the universe. But in time, as he suspected in the back of his mind, the high faded away and then the crash happened and then everything felt even worse.
The crash was happening now.
On the leather couch in the living room, Stone was having a dispute about Russia with an high-class escort called Tara. Tara was a busty blond, nearing her thirties, her voice almost that of a child. Harry sat in front of them, smoking a cigarette, wearing a fake smile.
”Listen to me young lady, the Russian people just don’t know any better. We tried to give them more rights in the nineties and look what they did? They gave it all away because they need a strong leader. They want someone to point at people and say: ‘we must annihilate these kind of people.’ That’s what people want deep down. They want to be part of a big good vs. evil story.”
”I have more faith for the Russian people…”
Stone started bawling in laughter, winking at Harry.
”We just have to give the right example. We just have to reach the people somehow. Expose their president for the monster that he is.”
”The people have been brainwashed for centuries now. We can’t penetrate their media and we will lose the information war. He’s got them locked in. You have to understand, when it comes to propaganda, the Russians know what they are doing. They’ve perfected it. It was so good, it has even infected the hearts and minds of Europeans and Americans. It’s over darling.”
”But if we showed the human rights statistics then…”
”They will say it’s fake. Western-Propaganda.”
”But it’s not.”
”They will: how do you know?”
”Because…”
”You want to help them and mean good but they don’t want your help. They think they need to protect themselves from you.”
Tara looked sad, drank a sip of their wine.
”I’m scared about the future of our country. We aren’t there yet, but we are getting close.”
”We are almost there, we just haven’t gone to the acceptance mode yet.”
”It’s going to be alright,” said Harry, his eyes getting watery, knowing deep down, that it won’t be alright.
”You really think so?”
”My friend is just pessimistic. There’s good in us. We will prevail in the end.”
Stone started bawling in laughter.
”Just make sure you keep remembering who the monsters really are,” said Harry, getting up and heading towards the bathroom. In the background, Harry could hear the conversation between Stone and Tara continuing. Harry threw the cigarette in the toilet bowl and dropped to the tile floor, lying there, staring at the ceiling.
He thought about slashing his wrists, about bashing his head against a wall until it was a unrecognizable pulp of gore. He thought about jumping from the window, falling three floors and hopefully dying in front of the bellhop. In the end, it all boiled down to one thing; he missed her, oh a god he missed here.
He knew damn well he shouldn’t. But then he did it anyway. The time alone was egregious but he had to hear her voice.
”Sheryl Palmer speaking.” This was alone felt so painful: she took his last name.
”I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” he began, ”I just don’t who to call. You’re the only person I can turn to.” A barrage of cliches. Sometimes the extent one’s self-loathing has no bounds.
There was a sigh, contemplation. Her voice sounded a little drowsy, she hadn’t been in a deep sleep when he called but she was about too.
”It’s okay,” pause, ”what’s up?” This was a mistake but it was too late now.
There was her coldness, her refusal to express any emotion. She had given him too much already. She was already giving more. There seems to be no end.
”Well…” he didn’t know what to say. Whatever he could say would just aggravate her. But he had to express himself, he had to tell her that he loved her, even if he couldn’t say it outright.
”I had this dream. It was so beautiful.”
”What dream?”
”That’s the most painful thing. I can’t remember. It vanished from the mind. The brain just doesn’t think dreams are important to remember I suppose. But I know it was beautiful. And I know you were in there.”
”Oh Harry, she said, sighing, then: ”it was only a dream.”
It was a reasonable but nevertheless painful statement.
”It doesn’t have to be.”
”Are you drunk?”
”Yes. I’m in a hotel bathroom. Stone is discussing Russian politics with an escort.”
”You be careful with him. He handle the abyss. You can’t.”
”I wouldn’t be doing this if…” if she was still with him, ”if I knew what I was supposed to with my life.”
”Maybe you need to leave that podcast of yours alone. It’s just isolating you.”
”I can’t. It’s my world. It’s the only place that still makes sense.”
”Are you still doing therapy?”
”Not for a while.”
”Why?”
”I know all the answers and I don’t like any of them.”
”You know I care about you Harry, but I can’t help you. I can’t come too close. You know that.”
Harry didn’t say anything, as the happy memories came, so the tears streamed from his eyes.
”I understand, sorry to bother you. I shouldn’t have done this.”
”It’s okay. You should get some sleep Harry.”
He wanted to tell her that he loved her but instead: ”I always hate waking up.”
”Harry…”
”Sweet dreams.”
He hung up. The conversation in the living room was still going on. Harry closed his eyes. He imaged himself running in a rye field, trying to catch the shape of his beloved dream. He got close so many times, but the memory kept slipping away.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania david lynch  art love
Art by David Lynch

***

Our Disease 3

    Modern Men

An old friend called Harry around 2 in the morning. Harry only made a sound when he picked up the phone, he was too tired to anything resembling a word.
”It’s me, the enemy of the people.”
”Ah fuck, is that you Stone?”
”Meet me in the Interzone. We have lots to talk about.
”I was living a different live in my dreams. I prefer it than the one I’m actually living. Could we have lunch there at twelve?”
”I’m all wired. There’s no sleep for me and I’m in town. See ya soon old buddy.”
He hung up. At first Harry just closed his eyes again. Soon enough he realized that he would never return to his dream anyway.
”Goddammit. Fine,” mumbled Harry, ”I’ll go.”

It’s hard, maybe impossible, to describe to what kind of clientèle The Interzone markets itself too. At first glance it’s your typical American diner with a nostalgia for the fifties. There’s even a jukebox filled with American songs. But if you would take a closer look you see it is a place in search of an identity. There’s African, Chinese, English, even Russian art on the walls. A Catholic cross hangs on the walls as well as a Jewish star. A confederate flag but it’s painted in the colors of the rainbow. A Gadsen Flag but it’s rattlesnake seems to have a pleading smile and the words below say: ‘Tread on me, but don’t squash me please!’
Sometimes you catch people looking absently minded at the architecture. They stare at a piece of foreign art. Most of the time nobody is paying attention. They are wearing their glasses and the glasses take them to different worlds.
There’s a hint that its fractured dressing is intentional, maybe ironic. But then again, there are more places like this. This place used to mean something, now it doesn’t know what it wants to mean. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything now and maybe that’s the point.
Miguel Stone loves it here. Harry doesn’t.

”You find yourself in the weirdest places and discover that you’re finally home,” said Miguel Stone, smiling, gazing through window to the night illuminated by pink-lights. ”I met so many people that rejected the weirdness of life. Everything has to be plain. By the books. The life they know. The life their parents lived. People like me, however wicked in the eyes of the unimaginative, we accept ourselves and are rewarded by God himself.”
It wasn’t the first time they would meet like this. Stone is all over the world sometimes. You have to make time for him, he won’t make time for you. They haven’t seen each other in almost a year now. Stone always drifts in and out of Harry’s life
Harry doesn’t really understand why he wants to meet him and why Harry always agrees too. They are both completely the opposites. Stone doesn’t have any morals and therefore became a very wealthy man. Harry does alright, there’s still enough money coming in from book sales that Harry can live the rest of his life, doing his podcast. Stone, a lobbyist who runs his own firm, goes all around the world, working for mostly Kremlin backed candidates and doing a helluva job- they don’t even have to falsify the election as much because of his help.
From outward appearance, you could already digest that these two come from very different worlds. Stone was twenty years older, with pearly white hair and teeth and immaculately tailored and colorful suites. Stone doesn’t give a fuck what you think. He knows that most people hate him. Perhaps this even gives him strength. Maybe he even thrives on soft-hearted liberals or morally righteous republicans.
Harry doesn’t care about his appearance. It’s a crummy T-shirt, some faded logo with a checkered shirt to cover it. Stone’s face is bald from his thorough shave in the morning with the straight razor. Harry hasn’t shaved in months. Stone, even at his ripe old age of fifty-five still works out and is in great muscular shape. Harry is sagging all over the place. Harry tries to do the right thing, Stone prides himself of being the villain.
Perhaps it’s Harry’s genuine nature that Stone respects so much. Perhaps it keeps Stone in touch with the common man. Perhaps it’s just Harry’s humanity.

”You look like hammered shit,” smiled Stone smugly, not a hint of concern.
”I was having this beautiful dream when you woke me up,” Harry said, rubbing his eyes.
”Maybe you should thank me for it. That’s the problem with America. People dream too much.”
”You don’t need to dream.”
”I don’t need to dream. I am the dream,” Stone smiled, grabbing cigar paper from his pocket and a cigarette case. ”That’s why I love Russia. People stopped dreaming there long ago. They know themselves. They know the limit of the freedom they can handle. Give them too much freedom and they’ll give it back. Americans are the same. Slowly they’ve been giving away freedoms. Yet they still act as if they are free.”
”And you represent what dream exactly?”
”I am the true face of America. I’m filthy rich and I act like it was due to my god-given talents. I don’t admit that I’m wrong to anybody even if its very obvious. I look beautiful and I sleep with beautiful women. Sometimes even men. I’m a perfectly contended Patrick Bateman but without the bodies in the closet- though who knows,” Stone winks and opens his cigarette case: showing thick green leaves of marijuana.
”It sounds like a nightmare to me.”
”That’s because you’re human.”
”And you’re not?”
”I’m enlightened. I’m a special case.”
”And what am I?”
”You’re a dinosaur. A beautiful dinosaur.”
”Schadenfreude. That’s why you are here.”
”Maybe it’s general affection.”
”Are you even capable of having genuine affection for anyone other than yourself?”
”I don’t know. I like to think so. Maybe I hang around you for nostalgia. Back when people knew who the fuck they were.”
”Before men like you took control of the world.”
”Men like me always did. We just want more this time. Your freedoms aren’t enough. We want your reality.”
Harry sighs and sips his coffee. A part of him enjoys this conversation, no matter how it infuriates him. Stone’s presence validated Harry’s view of the world. In a world where every view seems valid, this was a comforting thing.
”Answer me this, why do I agree to meet you?” Harry asked.
”You don’t have many friends. You lost most of them. You stopped appreciating them. You cling onto the asshole that’s left.”
Harry looks out the window, a man in a torn t-shirt, with faded letters stating ‘make America great again,’ walks by the window, mumbling to himself, waving his hands around. Stone sees him too, he smiles as he reads the rambling bum’s T-shirt.
”I remember Trump when I was a teenager. That’s when the fun started.”
”I just got born then. But I’ve read enough about him.”
”One day we will manage to clone him. Hope I’ll be alive to see that.”
”So how’s the world stage? How is managing democracies?”
Stone laughs and licks his joint shut.
”It’s beautiful chaos. Especially with Oblivion around. They can’t control them. Even the most powerful men are afraid of them. Many of their firewalls have been breached already. It’s great when powerful men are scared. It means they need people like me.”
”I heard you were targeted. You tweeted about it anyway.”
”Yes I was. Some asshole threatened to expose my sexual activities if I didn’t stop lobbying for those Ukrainians. I responded by just admitting it on Twitter. I don’t care if the world knows about it or not. There’s nothing they can blackmail me on. And if they find something, I’ve got enough of them in my employ to spin the story. I can spin everything. We make dictators look like bleeding heart liberals. There is nothing they can do to rattle me.”
”I talked about them on my podcast some time back.”
”I know, I never miss a show. I thought it was hilarious.”
”I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
”I know you weren’t baby. It’s still hilarious to me.”
Stone lights up the fat joint, inhales smoothly, passes it.
”I probably shouldn’t.”
”True, you probably shouldn’t.”
Harry takes the joint and inhales.
”Has the president been targeted to?” said Harry blowing smoke, ”he denies it but that doesn’t mean shit.”
”Tell you the truth I don’t know. I might be friends with him but he doesn’t divulge everything to me. I don’t have that kind of clearance. But I think he is. The way he’s cozying up to the Eastern bloc makes it seem that way.”
”Are you proud for having made him president?”
”It’s not just me. The people voted for him.”
”Did they?”
”Maybe. Does it really matter Harry? He’s president and he will be for another four years if the constitution doesn’t gets changed again.”
Harry passes the joint. Stone looks at the joint proudly.
”I made this shit legal again. I changed the presidents mind on the issue. My finest hour. Don’t ever say I never did anything good in my life.”
”You are a regular fucking saint.”
”How are you Harry?”
Harry sighs, looks out the window. The bum with the ‘Make America Great T-shirt’ is sitting on a bench, laughing heartily about something.
”I’m fine.”
”No you’re not. You’re still sulking.”
”I’m not sure I would call it that.”
”There are probably better words. But the word you should be looking at is ‘moving on.’ She is gone. She left you for someone more hansom and successful. The healthy thing to do is find someone more hansom and successful too. Even if its just to piss her off.”
”I don’t mind being alone.”
”We all mind being alone. Even people like me. Even people who don’t even like people mind being alone. You’re the kind of person that thrives in a relationship. Without one you’re lost. Like you are now.”
”Maybe it’s the world. Maybe it’s just getting to me.”
”That’s why you need a woman in your life. A woman that keeps you grounded. You need a deep connection. I don’t. I just need power. I don’t need to be connected with anyone. I just want to have a good time being around them. That’s enough for me.”
”I don’t know. I don’t feel like I could really connect with someone again. I’ve played the game long enough. Every time I think about it makes me tired.”
”You need to get out of your soundstage and into the world my friend. Write again. I know some connections. You could write some shitty horror movie. You will meet people, fuck around.”
”I don’t want to leave my soundstage. It’s all I have.”
”You know you lost nearly half your listeners after you vehemently opposed the president.”
”I know.”
”Those people don’t care about you. They will stop listening to you the moment you break their reality. Information is a vast market but you care too much. Most people don’t. Either start caring less or do something else. The work will otherwise destroy you.”
Stone passes the joint. Harry takes a deep puff.
”You don’t like my answers Harry,” smiles Stone, ”because you know I’m right.”
Harry doesn’t say anything, he just keeps puffing. He feels his mind going to weird and mysterious places.
”I don’t think I will be able to sleep anytime soon.”
”That’s okay, I’m here.”
Outside, the drunk man with the Trump T-shirt began to cry.
”But I was having a beautiful dream…” Harry came close to the beautiful dream but it kept slipping away.
”It’s better not to dream. Especially in this world…
In my dream I was almost there…


Art by Ralph Steadman

***