Fire in the hole

anger

It is an uncomforting truth that the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States isn’t really affecting me as an individual.

For one, it doesn’t make the fact any less terrifying with regards to the global geopolitical balance.

For another, I have countless friends and loved ones who will be affected as individuals because America is their home. Most of them are women, which makes it all the more horrifying that the greatest nation on Earth™ has just elected a man who’s been accused of raping a 13 year old girl.

In a way, that opening statement is a lie. This is affecting me as an individual, because it brings home the truth that the world is run by white people who’ve never had to deal with any significant issues but feel like “the other” is taking away their right to be… I’m not sure what. Entitled dickheads?

To be fair, I am white. I’m heterosexual. I live in a safe place where I don’t have to worry about drones or people mugging me when I step outside.

And it makes me so angry. I hate that I am one of the white people as much as I hate that I am a man, because both groups do really terrible things to a lot of other people who aren’t white men.

For a while, my anger was primarily aimed at baby boomers. They still deserve a significant amount of hatred. They were born into economic prosperity and a peaceful world; all they could think to do with that was amass ridiculous amounts of wealth, blow it all up in a devastating financial crisis and vote for (far-)right policies that have already ensured that their children are the first generation since WWII who are worse off than their parents.

But it’s not just generation X that has turned out to be a self-entitled bunch, it’s also my own generation. When you look at the results from the American election, a lot of white young people have fallen into the alt-right trap.

Alt-right… it sounds like something that could be a reasonable choice, but it’s just a fancy word for misogynist racists.

And there’s a party for these populists in pretty much every Western country, whether it’s UKIP here in Britain (as well as the BNP, though they’re far less relevant), or AfD in Germany or, it pains me to say, in my former homeland Luxembourg, where ADR is waving the far-right banner.

Tellingly, the A in both AfD and ADR stands for “alternative”.

Don’t bother telling anyone though, because they will shout back that [insert populist party here] is really just looking out for the little man. Have you noticed how it’s never the little woman?

All of this isn’t news, of course. Neither is a white man with a laptop writing an angry blog post about the fact that the world isn’t working the way he would like it to be. I’m aware how privileged I am.

And this isn’t about that anger. Not really. It’s about the fact that I feel profoundly powerless.

I’m angry on Twitter because I don’t know where else to focus it. But I want to focus it. I want to make a change. I don’t want to be the voice of reason but I want to be a good person who cares.

I don’t want to join a political party because none of the options are even remotely close to the ideals I have – though there is a certain irony in the fact that the Lib Dems of all people are somehow becoming the only electable party.

I want to donate more money to charities but thanks to the sheer amount of nightmares that are happening in the world, I feel overwhelmed when it comes to making a choice about which charities. I still donate (and you should, too), but it just doesn’t feel enough.

What my generation – what the world – could really use is a leader to get behind. I don’t necessarily mean a political leader, but someone who stands up to the right-wing propaganda machine and makes a difference. Someone who manages to take this frustration and focus it.

Someone who will keep reminding us that this is not normal. It’s not normal that Stephen Bannon has entered the White House. It’s not normal that newspapers call judges “enemies of the people”.

History might be shouting at us what will happen next, but for some reason the vast majority of people refuse to listen. Just like last time.

So what do we do now?

Belonging, once

bridge

I am, for all intents and purposes, in a privileged position. I have a job that enables me to pay rent, buy food, put a bit of money aside every month and occasionally treat myself to take-away, a night out or drinks with friends without worrying about breaking the bank.

I usually pass for a native English speaker. I’m Caucasian. I’ve been here for over a decade and – for now, at least – I have a legal right to live in the UK.

Once, I even belonged here. I’ve lived in a variety of places that could not be more different socially and historically – London, Cardiff and a small town in the Welsh valleys that probably doesn’t appear on most maps.

A few months ago, I ordered the book to study for the UK citizenship test, a process that costs over £1200. A sum that is ridiculous and provokes an incredulous stare whenever I mention it to British friends.

But I wanted citizenship because I felt Welsh. I’d never felt Luxembourgish, so it was a strange feeling to have found a place that seemed like somewhere I could spend the rest of my life.

Not that it was an easy journey; to be honest, I didn’t feel all that much at home here for the first year and a half. That initial period, from what I’ve been told by friends who’ve also emigrated, isn’t all that unnatural though. It takes a while to build a life for yourself somewhere you’ve never been to before and where you don’t know a soul.

I even tried learning Welsh, though the course was such a clusterfuck that I didn’t continue past the first year. I can say a few phrases, such as “dwi’n gallu siarad Cymraeg”, but obviously there’s not much truth to that sentence and it is thus entirely useless: it means “I can speak Welsh”.

Once, I had a Welsh flag on my wall. It was there for many, many years. On June 24th, around 8am, I tore it down and threw it in the bin.

That sense of belonging, so strong for all those years, had been ripped away from me. Has been ripped away from me. I don’t know if it’ll come back.

What I’ve come to realise since June 23rd, more than anything else, is that I’m European. I am deeply and utterly European. I’m much more European than I ever was Welsh and I certainly am more European than I am Luxembourgish.

Ironically, of course, it might just be my Luxembourgish heritage that has made me European. I went to a high school named after the father of the union, Robert Schuman. I filmed a documentary in his birth house for a school project. I’ve been to the parliament in Brussels, sat in various committee rooms and in the assembly itself as part of a project to bring together students from all over Europe to learn more about the institution.

I wouldn’t be living in the UK now if it wasn’t for the EU. The only right I have to live here is as a European citizen.

I’m perfectly aware that the EU is not perfect. There are a lot of things I would change, but at its core it is the world’s biggest and by far the most successful peace project ever undertaken by humanity.

What I came to realise on June 23rd is that the place that had become my home didn’t want me to be here.

I know that when people talk of foreigners they don’t necessarily think of me. They think of muslims. Indians. Africans. Chinese. The Polish with a strong accent who can’t pass as British despite their whiteness. The non-Caucasians who are visually easy to pick out of the crowd.

I know that, yes, they really do also mean me when they want to kick all foreigners out.

The British people have turned themselves into the worst of humanity. The sheer scale and efficiency at which that happened is almost admirable, in a “I now understand how the Nazis could rise to power” kind of way.

Mentally, I’ve been slowly moving to Dublin for a few months now. It’s a city I definitely fell in love with when I spent some time there during the summer last year. Arguably, it’s a fantasy escape to a place where everything would be okay. Perhaps.

And yet.

I didn’t belong in Dublin. That sense of belonging might come after a while, but it wasn’t there.

And truth be told, the thought of leaving behind Cardiff saddens me beyond belief, perhaps even more so than the result in June.

I don’t belong here anymore because here doesn’t want me to belong. I haven’t had a day in months when I haven’t worried about my future.

The constantly looming threat of the pound crashing even further and making my student loan repayments (in euros) completely unaffordable is driving me insane (it’s already become several thousands of pounds more expensive, so don’t tell me that nothing has changed yet and that nothing will until Article 50 is triggered).

I haven’t slept through a single night in… I’m not sure how many weeks. I honestly can’t say if it’s related but the constant worry can’t be helping.

May and her cronies are using me and my fellow immigrants as a chess piece in a political game that will, sooner rather than later, destroy this country.

The truth that no Brexiteer wants to acknowledge is that, of course, the UK absolutely must get a significantly worse deal from the EU than the privileges it enjoys currently. Anything else would bring about more exits and the collapse of the union.

Perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t belong here anymore. Here is a burning building with firemen standing outside having a pint and shouting “you’ll be warm in winter!”

But to be so powerless is anxiety-inducing, rage-inducing, madness-inducing. I might pay my taxes, speak fluent English and be white but that doesn’t matter.

I’ve been displaced because of a stunningly shortsighted move by a man who  forgot his daughter in the pub and (allegedly) once fucked a pig.

Today, I don’t belong. Increasingly, it feels like tomorrow I won’t either.

Liebster Award

Joël, the world’s most renowned/infamous captain of the soulzeppelin, has given me a “Liebster Award” – it’s one of those chain thingies that you might remember from ye olden days of blogging, but because it’s an award for your favourites (that’s what “liebster” means) and I get to make up my own questions by the end of this, I’m giving it a go.

It’s not like I’ve been throwing out content here anyway, so it’s as good an incentive as any (despite the fact that he nominated me a month ago).

The deal is this: I answer 11 questions that Joël has asked me (and two other bloggers) and then I come up with 11 new ones and nominate three bloggers of my own. Cool? Cool.

Up until which number do you spell it out?
The style guide in work forces me to spell the numbers out from zero to nine, and then switch to 10, 11 and so on. So that’s what I do most days. I don’t exactly have a personal preference, I switch around fairly randomly.

What memory would you want to relive again and again?
About eleven years ago, I sat on a balcony at a hotel, in one of those hot Southern countries where you can sit outside all night, with an ex-girlfriend. The night had come to a relatively shitty end thanks to someone else’s actions, so we decided to keep each other company because neither of us particularly felt like sleeping. We didn’t talk much and stayed up until dawn, before deciding to go have breakfast.
We hadn’t been dating for a while at that point and we were both interested in other people, and I liked that safety. I also liked how we somehow managed to be closer as friends. I realised then that I loved her in a platonic way, something I’d not felt for anyone before.
I don’t see her nearly enough anymore these days, thanks to living about ten timezones apart. But I think about her often.
It was a bad night that turned into a fond memory. I’d like to revisit those hours, make all the same choices but with the benefit of knowing what was to come.

If you have a newspaper or magazine subscription, which page do you open first?
I only have one, Scientific American. It’s a digital subscription on my iPad, so it automatically opens on the first page. I usually read the cover story first, though.

Which drink makes you properly happy?
It really depends on the mood I’m in. I love the first cup of tea of the day. I also love a glass of Yamazaki 10yrs or a nice cocktail. Sometimes it’s just a glass of coke or a nice beer.
Last weekend, it was a latte from Brodie’s Coffee Camper, because they’re a really lovely couple who know how to brew a mean cup and I hadn’t seen them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s also a coffee shop in a VW Camper van and how freaking awesome is that?!

If you were a supervillain, what would be swimming in your giant aquarium?
Easy: a little clownfish called Nemo who could never go home again.

What is the last song you listened to on repeat?
Paper Girl by July Talk

How do you motivate yourself to write?
I don’t. That’s pretty much my problem at the moment. I tried my hand at NaPoWriMo this year but I stopped after 15 days because… I don’t even remember what the excuse was. My creative drive is pretty dead at the moment and I’m not entirely sure how to get it back. It’s driving me nuts.

What is the last thing that really broadened your horizon?
I went to Blaencamel Farm last week, which is the place where I buy much of my fruit and vegetables from. It’s a carbon-neutral, organic farm that’s been going for about 40 years and it was amazing being shown around by the farmer and being told about all the cool stuff that happens on such a farm: I never thought about, for example, the process of removing weeds when you can’t use herbicides.
How many people these days can genuinely say they know where their food comes from? I couldn’t until a few days ago and it’s definitely opened my eyes and reinforced my views that local, organic produce is the way forward – not even so much for the “I only eat organic kale from Whole Foods because it’s a superfood” bullshit, but because organic food is really about respecting and preserving an entire ecosystem that you may not consciously see but that definitely impacts all of us.

What would you protest for/against, even if you were the only person on the streets?
I’ve only ever protested political causes. I remember protesting the Iraq war in 2003 as my first demonstration. Privacy is something I care about very deeply and the Tories’ absolute nightmare of a civil liberties destroying Snooper’s Charter might just make me go protest.
Saying that, I lost all of my political energy post-Brexit and am just filled with utter despair, so I might just bugger off onto my own little island. Not much left worth saving here.

Do you have a routine to fall asleep?
I usually listen to an audio drama or a panel show on iPlayer to drown out all my stupid thoughts that have this tendency of appearing as soon as I lie down. Right now on my list are shows like Polyoaks, Heresy, The Leak and The Now Show, among others.

Who should draw the comic adaptation of your blog?
I jokingly told my OH that I wouldn’t choose her but obviously it would have to be her. We’re already doing a webcomic together, in case you didn’t know: Flëpp & Greg.

Time to come up with questions myself and nominate a few people.

  1. What is your favourite line from a novel and why?
  2. Would you rather put up an impressionist or an expressionist painting in your home?
  3. What is your favourite cheese?
  4. What would you do with $10,000?
  5. You swap places with your alter ego in a parallel universe and have to pretend you’re them. What are they like?
  6. Humanity finally invents a time-machine but the only possible destinations are 1866 and 2166 – which period do you choose?
  7. Which time period do you choose if it’s a one-way trip?
  8. What’s your go-to breakfast?
  9. What does your perfect weekend look like?
  10. DC or Marvel?
  11. If you could find out when and how you are going to die, would you?

Nominations:

  • Jenna, because out of all the Jennas I know (one), she’s pretty okay.
  • Joël, because Luxembourg is big enough for two bloggers called Joël.
  • Lee, because she doesn’t blog much but when she does it’s worth the wait.

Aroha

Et gi selte Momenter an der Politik, déi d’Prädikat “wonnerschéin” verdéngen. Am neuseelännesche Parlament koum et dës Woch zu esou engem Moment, nodeems d’Regierung als dräizéngt Land op der Welt d’Bestiednis fir homosexuell Koppelen erlaabt huet. Ech hunn de Clip mëttlerweil schon x-mol gekuckt, an ech kréien ëmmer nees Gänsehaut, ewéi wonnerbar d’Mënschheet dach ka sinn wann se nëmmen wëll.
Wann der et nach net gesinn hutt, huelt iech déi fënnef Minutten a kuckt iech dëse groussaartege Moment un. No ufänglechem Applaus iwwert d’Victoire fänken d’Leit an der Chamber un, Pōkarekare ana ze sangen, en extrem populärt Liebeslied op Māori. Dass de Speaker ganzer véier Minutte laang waart ier en “order” rifft, mécht dat Ganzt just nach besser.

Schwaarz Loft

Wéi ech op 2e am roude Lycée war, hat d’Mme Werner, déi zu deem Zäitpunkt nach Directrice war, eng Kéier vum Portier sämtlech Plakater an Zeitungsartikele bei eis am Klassesall vun der Mauer rappe gelooss (an net mol propper). Mir woussten ufanks net, dass deen Uerder aus der Direktioun koum, an hunn eis iwwert gesiichtslos Matschüler opgereegt, déi sech dem Vandalismus higinn hunn. Déi offiziell Argumentatioun war, wéi se bis koum, dass eventuell Leit déi Schnipsele kéinten als ustéisseg empfanne well se net déi selwecht politesch Vue hätten – d’Saache waren all aus dem lénke Spektrum. Dat war natierlech Blödsinn, well d’Bild vum Heng an Tréis an den EU Fändel iwwert dem Pult sinn hänke bliwwen. Et war eis awer och ze topeg dowéinst streiden ze goen, a mir kruten dat och vun eisem Däitschproff, ëmmerhin een Anarchist, ofgeroden. Esou funktionéiert nämlech Meenungsfräiheet am CSV Staat.

Dat selwecht Joer hate mer d’Éier, de fréiere Staatsminister Jacques Santer kennenzeléiren. Hien koum moies an de Festsall iwwer d’CSV an d’Politik allgemeng schwätzen. Esou war dat versprach ginn. Et huet ee vun hannen aus dem Sall gesinn, dass de Mann entweder nach ëmmer oder schonn erëm voll wier, oder zumindest staark mam Noduuscht gekämpft huet. Ons Directrice, déi selwecht Mme Werner, ass dofir och direkt mat engem Glas Waasser – huelen ech un, mä Wodka gesäit bekanntlech d’selwecht aus – bei e gelaf. De gudde Mann huet ons dunn vun esou wichtege Momenter ewéi den “nuklearen Atombommen” erzielt a vun senger Partei, déi dee Moment an enger Koalitioun mat “deenen aneren do” war. Esou eppes gëtt nämlech aus engem, als Staatsminister bei der CSV.

Op et eng Generatioun Juncker gëtt, freet de Max a wann een sech bewosst gëtt, dass d’Éischtwieler bei de nächste Walen keen aneren Premier ewéi hien kennen, dann ass déi eenzeg méiglech Äntwert ee klore Jo. Meng Schlësselerliefnesser mam CSV Staat waren awer net onbedéngt ëmmer mam JCJ verbonnen. Ech weess net méi genau wéini oder wat d’Ëmstänn waren, mä meng Elteren koumen eng Kéier owes heem an hunn driwwer gelaacht, ewéi um Knuedler mat Tomaten op d’CSV Politiker geschoss gouf. Ech war deemools e bëssen traureg, dass ech dat net konnt mat eegenen An gesinn, well ech och dunn schonn verstanen hat, dass den JCJ kee Gudde wier.

Als een, deen sech politesch relativ wäit lénks wuel fillt, ass mir den CSV Staat an de JCJ am grousse Ganzen ni bekomm, an och wann et mer bewosst ass dass een an enger Demokratie natierlech ëmmer der Majoritéit ënnerläit, wier et mer léiwer wann dës Majoritéit net zanter 17 Joer géing de selwechte Mann un der Spëtzt halen. Et huet Grënn, firwat dat a villen Demokratien duerch d’Geschicht erduerch verbuede war an och haut an diverse Länner ass. Wuel ginn et Momenter, déi gutt verlaf sinn – d’Euthanasiegesetz beispillsweis, ewou Lëtzebuerg zur Ofwiesslung mol eng Kéier onvirstellbar fortschrëttlech ass – ma déi schlecht iwwerweien. Den Tram, zum Beispill. De Musée Dräi Eechelen. De 5611, op deen de Max och schonn agoung. Geld dat zur Fënster erausgehäit gouf, Rechter déi ofgeschaaft goufen. Muenchmol ass Lëtzebuerg angenehm kommunistesch, beim ëffentlechen Transport zum Beispill (och wann et un enger anstänneger Visioun fir d’Mobilitéit feelt). Muenchmol ass Lëtzebuerg lächerlech domm a stur, beim Antitubaksgesetz zum Beispill.

Huet de Juncker mech jemools ugesprach? Nee. Esou gutt ewéi hien d’Medien am Land manipuléiert (wat och dorunner läit, dass et einfach näischt gëtt dat d’Wuert “Journalismus” verdéngt hätt) an d’Leit virgefouert kritt (“mä eis geet et jo awer gutt” ass esou ee Saz deen ee gären héiert, an dee weist ewéi wéineg d’Leit wierklech matkréien), esou wéineg huet hien sech fir mech ewéi ee Mann ugefillt deen esou vill politesch Muecht sollt an Europa hunn.

Gëtt et eng Generatioun Juncker? Déi jeeweileg Regierung beaflosst wuel ëmmer d’politesch Orientéierung vun de Leit wann se opwuessen – op déi eng oder déi aner Manéier. Empiresch hunn ech den Androck, dass dee Schoss fir de Juncker éischter no hanne lass geet well ech wierklech guer kee Jonke kennen, dee fir hien géing wielen. Mä natierlech gëtt et eng CSJ, also mussen et jonk konservativ Chrëschten ginn (wat eng traureg Realitéit). Mä souguer den ADR huet eng Jugend, also fënnt een offensichtlech fir all Ideologie Nowuess, wann een se nëmme richteg verkeeft.

Vläit kënnt 2014 alles anescht, an de Juncker muss goen. Dozou bäidroe wäert ech als Emigrant wuel net kënnen – meng Emigratioun (a mäin Austrëtt aus der Kierch) dierfte souwisou Statement genuch sinn. Ma sou oder sou – hien ass elo schon de längste Leader an der EU. Fir eng Demokratie ass dat verdammt traureg.