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Jaargang 15 - Nummer 1 - 2014
Interdisciplinair Cultuurwetenschappelijk Tijdschrift







Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim
struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession of little
decisions simply to be happy in the moment.
J. Donald Walters (1926-2013)
Faculteit der Cultuur- en
Postbus 616
6200 MD Maastricht
ISSN 1566-6859
Michiel Kragten
Image editor
Denise Op den Kamp
Lea Schfer
Cover Illustration
Te Kiss (Lovers)
Gustav Klimt
Copying articles without permission
from the editorial is not allowed by any
means. All rights reserved.
Mosaek is an independent non-proft
magazine made by students from the
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASoS)
at Maastricht University. Te magazine
is an interdisciplinary mixture of theme
related and submitted articles on culture.
Mosaek is a platform for students and
Chief editors
Maxime Hensels
Saskia H. Herrmann
Michelle Friese
Maxime Hensels
Saskia H. Herrmann
Terry Lee
Jeska Onderwater
Tom Ruben
Karoline R. Samuelsen
Lea Schfer
Pia Sombetzki
Thanks to
Te Observant
Advisory board
Koen Beumer
Iris Fraikin
Riki Janssen
Nicolle Lamerichs
Jim Pedd

7 essay Feminism and pornography: a radical paradox
How and why does feminism set a new agenda for pornography?
Lea Schfer EN
17 essay Revisiting the myth of moral progress
How human morality does not necessarily progress with technological developments.
Michelle Friese EN
25 interview Vibrant Revolution
Saskia H. Herrmann EN
31 essay Het volk aan de macht
Hoe het onbehagen van de burger zichtbaar wordt
Maxime Hensels NL
41 essay Who am I and ... who decides?
Pia Sombetzki EN
49 essay The Haunt for Happiness
Jeska Onderwater EN
69 pastiche A fathers pride
Karoline R. Samuelsen EN

73 short story A Proper Conversation
Terry Lee EN
Climax 5
editorial | EN
Infallible 13
Tom Ruben | column | EN
Een jaar offline 55
Jeska Onderwater| bookreview | NL
Sergio Bambaren: 50 years 59
Pia Sombetzki | bookreview | EN
Sticks and Stones 63
Saskia H. Herrmann | bookreview | EN
Creative Writing Introduction 67
editorial | EN
What do you want to do after
becoming CEO of this company? Is there
a better position to be in? You studied
law and now you are a gardener? Why?
You could be so much higher up the
socio-economic ladder. You could make
so much more out of your life, and then
you actually would be happy. What you
are doing is not really fulflling, is it? Te
ubiquitous pressure that there is some sort
of a climax to strive for haunts each and
everyone on a daily basis. Achieve! Climax!
Conform. Tere is a general idea which
conveys the illusion of the achievable, and
necessary climax. A story which does not
climax in the answering of all brought up
questions, often appears disappointing.
Something appears to be missing. Where
does this need come from that all, and
everything needs to culminate into a
climax, an end? How audacious is it to
assume that to be possible, considering the
fuidity of life, and the world around us?
Climax will be discussed along the
three themes of technology, sexuality, and
transition. Te discussion includes topics
such as feminist porn, political transition,
and our constant need to categorise.
Additionally, this issue includes a piece
which is meant to depict the process of
criticism in the making of a column. Two
students from the Creative Writing course
at the UM Fasos faculty have submitted
their pieces as a foretaste to an extra issue
solely dedicated to the Creative Writing
class, which will be published in February.


Speaking of pornography, what comes
to mind for most people, in particular
women, is obscene, superfcial, and violent
sex. Te female reader will probably agree
that porn is something we do not want to
watch. Why we prefer not to watch it is a
simple question to be answered: It makes
us feel rather uncomfortable and obsolete.
In most communities, pornography is
seen as impropriate and condemned
material. Tere is a diference between
so called erotica and pornography, a
distinction that is often intuitively made
by most people and pointed out by Anti-
pornography feminists. Te Canadian
psychiatrists Charlene Senn and Lorraine
Radtke found a conceptual distinction of
the two they have a diferent meaning
and signifcance as Susanne Kappeler
writes in Making Violence Sexy: Feminist
views on Pornography, published in 1986.
Erotica is often referred to as artistic work,
where the sexual element is part of a wider
artistic, and aesthetic framework. One
can speak for example of Kama-sutra,
paintings or movies as erotic. Just think of
a short movie showing a woman eating a
banana or peeling an orange. Ten, erotica
is defned by including the sexual element
but it is explicit and the sexist element is not
required, according to Kappeler (1986).
Te term pornography derives from
the Greek term porne (prostitution)
and graphein (to write), and originally
described any art or literature depicting
the life of prostitutes. Here, the link to
prostitution in pornography highlights
the relationship of power and exchange
(Kappeler, Susanne, 1986), where the
sexist element is central. In pornography,
the power-relationship is revealed with
men being portrayed as always being in
the dominant role, whereas women are
naked and her genitals are shown. Te
sexual element is central focus. Tus,
Kappeler for example defnes pornography
Feminism and
A radical paradox
How and why does feminism set a new agenda for
Lea Schfer


as material that combines sex and/or
the exposure of genitals with abuse or
degradation in a manner that appears
to endorse, condone, or encourage such
behavior (p. 3). Tis
is a gender-neutral
defnition, keeping in
mind that there is gay-
and child pornography,
as well as pornography with animals
(Kappeler, 1986). A quite diferent
defnition is given by Te Encyclopedia
Britannica which speaks of pornography
as a representation of sexual behavior in
books, pictures, statues, motion pictures,
and other media that is intended to cause
sexual excitement. It becomes clear, that
pornography has no clear-cut defnition.
Instead, when speaking of pornography
one refers to a construct of particular
discourses (Kappeler, 1986) about
pornography. How pornography is dealt
with in general and in feminist writings,
depends on its focus, be it violence, or
sexual pleasure. Te distinction between
art, such as erotica, and
pornography reveals
that it there is no exact
defnition but instead it
is a topic, which boundaries are widely
discussed. Te topic of pornography
was alienating to the second-wave
feminist of the 1960s, and crucial for
the third wave of feminism, starting
around the early 1990s, when a new
perspective on pornography occurred.
Second-wave feminist writings stress
topics such as family life, the domestic
sphere and sexuality as well as legal
abortion. Tird-wave feminist oppose
their essentialist defnition of femininity
and focus on a universal feminine identity.
Instead their writings focused primarily
on non-legal aspects
of female sexuality,
economic mobility
and the multi-faceted
nature of racial, ethnic,
class and gender identities (p. 102),
the Michigan Journal of Gender and
Law (2007/2008) explains. Also, they
acknowledge and emphasize the role of
culture, media and technology in shaping
those identities (Mich. J. Gender & L,
p. 102). Additionally, their writings are
concerned with movements of justice for
workers, immigrants, gays and lesbians
and other disadvantaged groups (Mich.
J. Gender & L, p. 102). Te Michigan
Journal of Gender () explains that,
historically, second-wave feminists have
placed themselves on strong ideological
sides of the debate about pornography,
referred to as the sex wars (Ferguson,
1984; Kappeler, 1986).
On the one hand,
radical feminists, such as
Catherine McKinnon,
focus on the problem of violence and the
danger of pornography as a heterosexual
institution and an institution of gender
inequality pointing at the importance
of censorship and morality (Ferguson,
1984; Kappeler, 1986). For them,
pornography places women in an inferior
position and enhances male dominance.
Moreover, they perceive pornography
as the commodifcation of rape, as it
When speaking of pornography
one refers to a construct of
particular discourses.
Debate about pornography,
referred to as the sex wars.
depicts and enacts the problematic
values that exist in society such as
rape, abuse, and sexual harassment and
reinforces these values (Penley, Parreas
Shimizu, Miller-Young & Taormino,
2013; Queen & Comella, 2008).
Liberal feminists or pro-sex
feminists, like Lisa Duggan, Nan Hunter,
and Carole Vance reject restrictions on
pornography (Mich. J. Gender & L,
2007/08). Tey believe that any kind
of consensual sexual activity that brings
the participants pleasure is legitimate,
including pornography (Ferguson,
1984; Heartney, 1991). Tey believe
pornography to be a part of
sexual freedom and useful in
order to maintain womens
equality. In the course of the
third-wave of feminists celebrating the
centrality of sexual pleasure and the woman
who knows how to achieve it (Mich. J.
Gender & L, 2007/08, p. 122), feminist
pornography rooted out successfully.
Literally, as a critique of mainstream
pornography, feminists stepped behind
the camera themselves, in order to change
the way pornography has been done. You
may think that this is something radically
novel and revolutionary, however, it
was as early as 30 years ago, in 1984
Candida Royalle, together with Lauren
Naimi, founded Femme Productions
in order to produce adult flms that
spoke from a womans voice and could
be entertaining while promoting positive
sexual role modeling for couples to view
together as explained on their ofcial
website. Anna in t Veld wrote her
capstone at the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences on feminist pornography
and acquired valuable insights on the
topic of feminist pornography. To her,
feminist pornography is not radically
new, but radical in the sense that it ofers
a distinct view on sexual representation.
In feminist porn one fnds that women
are represented as agents of their sexuality
not just as objects. Whereas mainstream
porn is produced in order to appeal to
the male audience, feminist pornography
targets a diverse audience, directed at
straight women, or lesbians, or couples,
or queer people. Whilst the target
group is diferent, feminist
pornography represents
people and sexuality in a more
diverse way including black,
disabled, trans, and fat people and by
flming many diferent sexual desires and
pleasures, Anna explains. Because it is
diferent from mainstream pornography
it challenges dominant understandings
of femininity, sexuality, agency, beauty,
pleasure and it creates a space to
think about these things diferently.
Feminist pornography shows how
to move away from a narrow view on
sexuality and satisfaction. Herbert
Marcuse (1898 -1979), the critical
theorist who was afliated with the
Frankfurt school, is often referred to
as the leading intellectual fgure of the
sexual revolution which took place in
the 1960s in North American popular
culture. In his critique of capitalism, he
aimed at liberating sexuality by setting
itself apart from bourgeois patriarchal
Feminism and Pornography: a radical paradox
Pornography places
women in an inferior
morality. His focus on sexuality and
freedom, came to ft very well with the
sexual revolution of the 1960s and its
drive towards an alternative sexuality.
Else, it fts with the aim of feminist
pornography and its spread of alternative
sexual representations, that has become
even more popular with the appearance of
the Internet at the end of the 19th century.
In Striptease Culture: Sex, Media and the
Democratization of Desire, Brian McNair
(2002) speaks of a democratization
of sexual desires and the rise of a more
pluralistic sexual culture.
Tis idea is mirrored by
the liberal and positive
view on pornography
advocated by modern feminist theory
rejecting censorship or the heterosexual
pornography as inherently suppressive.
Mainstream pornography is, according
to Marcuse make-believe-satisfaction
and instead of being truly satisfying
mainstream pornography ofers the
audience the simplest form of satisfaction
instead of a more cultured and fulflling
experience. Feminist pornography
shows to channel ones instincts towards
a medium that can actually ofer a
more diverse experience not only for
heterosexual men but also for a diverse
audience with diverse sexual fantasies and
desires. Feminist pornography celebrates
sexually active women and their sexual
desires, and feminists produce porn
or take part in pornography instead
of representing women as objects.
Te feminists scholar, Judith Butler,
writes in Gender Trouble (1990), that
sexuality, sex, and gender are accepted as
naturally unifed categories in modern
society. Instead, one needs to understand
that gender is not inherent but based
on gender performance. Whilst being
performative, gender constitutes itself,
and becomes reality. However, it is not
fxed and naturally given but socially
constructed. Gender performance is
determined to a great extend by social
norms and ones upbringing. However,
practices such as queer performances that
break the unity of gender, sex, and sexuality,
expose and challenge
gender norms. Tis idea of
doing gender diferently
fnds expression in
feminists pornography representing
women that have agency and control over
their emotions and pleasure, as opposed
to mainstream pornography. Feminist
pornography exposes gender norms, as
well as the existing assumptions on what
is assumed to be pleasurable for women,
what it means to be sexy, or good in bed.
In feminist pornography, sexual
fantasy is the key and not reality. Feminists
writings slip easily from discussing
the goings-on inside pornographic
representations to discussing goings-on
in the world (Kappeler, 1986, p. 1).
Liberal feminists focus on the freedom of
sexuality lived out in pornography, where
one speaks of fction or fantasy instead
of reality. By bridging the gap between
sexual activity on screen, and how women
perceive themselves as being in control,
emancipated, and aware of their own
pleasures and needs, feminist pornography
Feminist pornography
celebrates sexually active
is appealing to the modern women. Is
any kind of pornography legitimate as
long as women are represented as having
agency over their sexuality and enjoy
themselves? Anna in t Veld believes that
even though feminist/queer/alternative
porn ofers a diferent view on sexuality,
it is still very important
to be critical about the
mainstream porn industry.
It is not only about the
sexual representation but also about how
the actors are actually being treated.
Tird-wave feminists put too little of an
emphasis on the impact of pornography,
in the sense that it can still harm women
who are involved in its production, even if
the sexual representation is changed. Tere
is a necessity to regulate pornography
legally, which is not established with the
change of sexual representation as found
in feminist pornography. Anna tells me
(2013) many people, and especially
women, in the mainstream porn industry
are being exploited and
that is a very serious
issue that needs proper
attention and regulation.
Feminist pornography is radical in the
sense that it changes our perception
of sexual representation and gender
roles. Te problem of securing proper
working conditions in the pornography
industry, however, has yet to be solved.
Feminism and Pornography: a radical paradox
Reference List:
Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. | Crawford, B.
Toward a Third-Wave Feminist Legal Theory: Young Women, Pornography and the Praxis
of Pleasure. Michigan Journal of Gender & Law 99 (2007-2008). | Candida Royalle (n.d.). About.
Received from: | Ferguson, A. (1984). Sex War: The Debate
between Radical and Libertarian Feminists. Signs. Vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 106-112. Te University
Chicago Press. Jstor: | In t Veld, A. (2013). Fuck the Pain Away.
How feminist porn challenges modern rape culture. Capstone (BA thesis), University College Maastricht.
| Kappeler, S. (1986). The Pornography of Representation. Minnesota, Minneapolis. University of
Minnesota Press. | McNair, B. (2002). Striptease Culture: Sex, Media and the Democratization
of Desire. London: Routledge. | MacKinnon, C.A. (2002). Pleasure under Patriarchy. In C. Williams
(Ed.), Sexuality and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell. | Penley, C., Parreas Shimizu, C., Miller-Young, M. &
Taormino, T. (2013). The Feminist Porn Book. New York: Te Feminist Press. | Pornography (n.d.)
in Encyclopdia Britannica online. Retreived from:
pornography | Queen, C., & Comella, L. (2008). The necessary revolution: Sex-positive feminism
in the post-Barnard era. Te Communication Review, 11(3), 274-291.
Feminist pornography is
appealing to the modern
12 12
Te times they are-a changin as
Dylan once sung. Can you sense it too?
As applicable as it was back then, it is
applicable now. Maybe even to a larger
extent as back then. Te world and society
is in a constant fux, however, this fux may
vary in strength. I think we have come to
an age that the fux is nearly reaching its
peak. All events will eventually culminate
in a state of euphoria, climax is upon us!
But, what will we do after this climax?
Will it be the end of time as we know it?
Will we (as a people, not you the readers,
you will be dead by then) live in harmony,
or will we ride the waves of constant fux,
going up and down, ending up in yet
another period of transition? And what
is forcing us, what is driving us to reach
this climax? Is it our own will to reach a
goal in life, an essential goal to strive for?
Or is there an invisible hand that keeps
the world spinning and heads running?
I believe we are in a transition phase
in which we will replace the old Capitalist
system with a new system. Will this new
system transcend the former, or will it just
be the old system wearing a new coat?
We need a new revolutionary genius.
Will the new Marx please stand up?
However, if he does, or already has,
we will probably not know at this very
moment. As the such a marvellous,
breathtaking, revolutionary work simply
is ahead of its time and is not understood
by its contemporaries. But you, know, it
is not about us. It is about generations
to come, how we leave this world to
the children of our childrens children.
Although we cannot decide what is
good for them, we might be able to
steer them a bit. We should look at our
current mistakes, and come up with
something totally diferent. Not based
upon current theories or methods, no
something radically diferent. Something
new. Absurd. Like Huxley, or Orwell.
To start, it will not be the sustainability
ideal as some are pursuing already.
Although it is a good thing, a very
essential thing to be honest, it is of our
time, it is more of our daily concern than
it is our future ideal. It is already devoured
by mass companies, capitalising the idea.
However, it can be partially infuencing
the new thing. Alright, it can be part of it.
Some might foresee a harmonious
world, without people. Although very
nihilist, this might be the only solution.
Tom Ruben
Bob, who??
Why always a he?
I want to live!
We can also take a look at our current
system. We should look at the essence
of all mechanisms we daily use that are
so thoroughly implemented in our lives
that we have become dependent on them.
Take the concept of money for example, a
fantastic solution, a genius tool. However,
the way we use it now is way diferent from
its initial, essential purpose. It has become
a means to an end. It doesnt sufce solely
as exchange tool, it has become the driving
force for people. It has become their
biggest fear, their drug, their fnal straw.
Waiting for the end of the month to come,
that next pay check, trying to make ends
meet. Getting as much money as possible,
killing people for it, we have become slaves
to money. Slaves of our own invention.
However, as much as we made it up
ourselves, as much as we have it in our
own hands to fx it. We often say Te way
it is going now, thats not the way I want
it to go but why dont we do something
about it then? What are we so frightened
of? Presumably that we lose our jobs, have
no income, fail. Get change, or die tryin.
* Critique on banking system?
or pointing finger at all of us?
I would place this paragraph
after the introduction.
Why are we
doing what
we do?
Hah, you 50-centian!
1. Very well written
2. Try to make sure you claim something which is important to you.
3. Your piece stimulates critical reflection for every reader.
4. Especially because not everyone might agree with you.
5. You introduce an avalanche of concepts.
6. I suggest you put the part on the current system directly after the
introduction and then subsequently elaborate upon your thoughts about a
different system, and how that could possibly look like or what you think it
might or might not entail.
7. Perhaps quote Pearl Jam at the beginning.
8. Try to keep it short, since this is a column and rather a stream of
consciousness, maybe shorten the lyrics.
All good things come to an end
Tis could be good as it gets
Hows the view from the fence?
You think we been here before
You are mistaken
Of everything thats possible
In the hearts and minds of men
When progress could be plausible
In reverse we curse ourselves
By thinking were infallible
We are tempting fate instead
Time we best begin
Here at the ending
Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam
Too much, although relevant
maybe in beginning to grab attention
of reader?
Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan.
Retrieved from:
Saturday evening, you are meeting
up with a good friend to have dinner
together. However you are feeling alone
and disregarded. During your talk, his
eyes constantly wander of to the screen
of his mobile phone, which accompanies
him almost everywhere by now. Pictures
of your train ride come back to your
mind where the passengers around you
were lost in their virtual worlds, having
left the physical space of the train into a
space of digital fows. Suddenly, you also
remember your bad conscience about all
the missed calls of your mom who expects
you to be available all the time. Ten
you realize that you were already playing
with your phone for a while, following
an urge to check your messages which
has almost become habitual by now. All
of these situations make one wonder what
has happened to our human relationships,
and our morals within a world in which
new information technologies play a
crucial role. Have we really become more
human and moral with the progress
in technology, as largely believed? Tis
article will frst examine the origin of the
latter notion, then criticize it by looking
into our contemporary behavior related to
new technologies to come to a conclusion
which is noteworthy for everyone of us, in
a world in which technology is ubiquitous.
The Enlightenment brought about a questioning of the interaction
between morals, humanity, and technology. It decisively understood
that humanity and its sets of morals would improve with technological
progress. The idea of technology as moral saviour is still
widely accepted nowadays. What is the nature of our
behaviour, considering all the technological innovations we
are facing nowadays, as for example the mobile phone? And
what can this tell us about our relationship to technology?
the myth of
moral progress
How human morality does not necessarily progress
with technological developments.
Michelle Friese





Every discovery in the sciences
is a benefit for the humanity
Tat our morality would develop
with the improvements in technology
and science is a conception chiefy rooted
in the Enlightenment (Malik, 2002).
Condorcet, a French philosopher whose
ideas were a crucial contribution to the
Enlightenment movement, claimed that
all discoveries in science would beneft
humanity: Toute decouverte dans les
sciences est un bienfait pour lhumanit.
(Every discovery in the sciences is a
beneft for humanity.) (von Wright,
1997, p.4). Technology can be understood
as the practical application ofscientifc
knowledge. With the Positivists, the
belief became tightened
that an improvement
and accumulation of
scientifc knowledge
would develop humanity
and as such human morality into a better
and better state (Gray, 2003, p.102).
Hence, a progress in science and thus in
technology is not praised for its own sake
but for its enhancement of values outside
the scientifc domain. Te goodness
attached to technological improvement
is therefore instrumental, supposing an
improvement of the human condition and
human morality (von Wright, 1997, p.7).
Confusing the end of social
perfection with the means of an
easier life
Tis is, however, not necessarily
the case. Indeed, one can observe
advancements in our material well-
being due to new scientifc knowledge
and technologies, only to mention our
enhanced standards of nutrition, health,
or housing. Te progress in technology
might have made our lives easier and
things more efcient if we for instance
simply consider how fexible we are due
to our new smart phones which do not
only allow us to keep in touch with people
whenever and wherever we like, but also
help us to organize our lives from any place
in the world. Tese material improvements
and the greater efciency created by
technological progress are indeed
aspects highly praised in contemporary
Western culture. Nevertheless, it does
not represent a progress in our morality.
In fact, von Wright
(1997) argues, there is
a confusion going on in
which the end of a social
perfection has become
confounded with the means of an easier
life. Hence, we think to observe progress
of humanity, of morality and virtue,
although we are simply mistaking it
with the goodness of an increasing
efciency and material advancement.
In fact, what is regarded as an
enhancement can even have a negative
impact on our morality. With new
technologies there are not only
subsequent improvements, but also new
problems which emerge. Tis becomes
clear if we look back at the introduction
of this article, and if we draw attention
to our own everyday life and our
relationships with the technologies
Social perfection has become
confounded with the means
of an easier life.
surrounding us. Sherry Turkle, a MIT

technology and society specialist and
clinical psychologist, researched for about
ffteen years on such relationships and
came to a worrying conclusion. With
her book Alone Together (2011) and
her clear statement Why we expect
more from technology and less from
each other she argues that, especially
communication technology has estranged
us from our very human relationships
including the relationship to oneself.
Bewitched by a technology: The
illusion of accompaniment
According to Turkle, such technology
has enabled us to be with one another
and also elsewhere
at the same time
which signifcantly
decreases the quality
of our relationships and also of our self-
refection. You indeed start feeling alone
together a feeling refected in the dinner-
situation given in the introduction.
People, Turkle explains, however highly
cherish their connective technological
devices: Tey bring more security and
have brought about positive changes in
business and education along with other
felds (compare Turkle, 2011, p.152).
Nonetheless, she argues, living in a sphere
where technological innovations enabled
us to be in such constant digital contact,
we have intensely lost track of face-to-face
conversations. Mobile phones as well as
MIT, Massachusetts Institute of
social networks actually automatically
guarantee listeners - How personal and
valuable those might indeed be needs to
be questioned. We thus tend to confuse
the reality of conversation with the
connections we have digitally and are so
signifcantly attracted to and bewitched by
a technology which gives us the illusion of
accompaniment without the demands of a
relationship. Networked, we are together
but we can feel thoroughly alone. Truly,
the technological innovations enable
us to keep in touch with many people
so that such technology is very much
embraced. Nevertheless, it is the deep
dive into a world of constant and vastly
reaching connectivity which decreases
ones appreciation of
profound personal
talks and ones efort
for complex real-life
relationships. Being surrounded by an
immense range of diferent connections
may seem like an insurance against
loneliness, can, however, leave one behind
feeling very alone. Tus, one can see
that a progress in technology also entails
problematic elements which do not ft
into the myth of related moral progress.
New pressures and expectations
Moreover, Turkle claims, technology
enables us to customize our lives and is
in fact used by individuals to keep other
persons, as connections, at a distance
which the individual can control. As
such, we are in contact with many people
which are however also deliberately
held back. It seems, she claims, as if we
Revisiting the myth of moral progress
Connections may seem like an
insurance against loneliness.
were increasingly substituting our real
conversations for a comforting hub of
superfcial connections. Furthermore,
the new technology is also used to
clean up ones human relationships,
chaotic, and demanding in real life and
much more easy and controllable in
the digital sphere. However, this multi-
connective (digital) self has to deal with
new pressures derived from the diferent
circumstances. One constantly feels
pressured to be available and to reply to
messages immediately, which decreases
the self s freedom. Being busy with digital
devices, one hence acquires diferent
habits and creates new expectations.
Tere is not only a new expectation of
constant connectivity
but also of quick
replies. Whereas one
once expected a letter
or a longer phone call
one now expects faster answers. Especially,
due to its mobility, the device keeps
one constantly under tension of new
exciting information. Turkle for instance
explains how the individual attaches a
feeling to each connection so that every
new notifcation fulflls the person. Due
to this satisfying feeling, one craves for
such notifcations and therewith tends
to often forget the importance of ones
real environment. Such expectations of
steady connectivity also ask for simpler
conversations so that the level of our
communication is generally decreasing.
Because of the demand for quick replies
and in certain cases restricted space for
words, the content of such communication
is not as qualitative as it is in a face-to-
face conversation. Due to the high pace
of communication, it is also only rarely
rethought what is sent which might entail
an imprudent nature of the content.
Indeed, facing these new technologies,
it becomes increasingly difcult for
each individual to maintain a sense of
what really matters to him or her. With
the mobile technology everyone of us,
using it and living in a part of the world
capable to easily access it, seems to have
become pauseable (Turkle, 2011, p.161).
Tus, one never really knows whether
one has the full attention of the vis-a-vis
or whether the person is lost to another
place, without even realizing it (compare
p.161). Te need
to connect in fact
demands our energy
and also our time
(p.171). By refecting
our contemporary behavior in connection
with the new technologies, it becomes
revealed that our morality does not
necessarily improve with technological
innovation as largely assumed.
Alienation from the self
Furthermore, Turkle notices that
ones social skills become reduced by
substituting many of ones conversations
with short messages. In a conversation
one principally needs to deal with issues
of negotiation and is asked to read the
other persons emotions. Moreover one
is basically demanded to deal with the
complexity of a confrontation which one
simply escapes by keeping persons at bay
Social networking to feel our self,
so that our digital presentation
might take on a life of its own.
via a digital device instead. In addition,
one also unlearns to refect ones self in a
conversation. Instead technology enables
us to present the self which we wish to be
so that we actually become alienated from
our real self. We enjoy for example social
networking to feel our self, so that our
digital presentation might take on a life of
its own. Tis is not so much problematic
in the sense that one plays with ones
identity, as it has been the case for human
beings also before such technologies, but
rather that it is happening in the public
sphere and that one is thus constantly
busy with re-forming and presenting
ones digital identity so that one loses
track of the present self. Moreover,
because the new technologies also ease
the expression of ones feelings, the
feelings get communicated before they
are truly formed. Te individual seems to
be increasingly unable to be alone and to
refect on its feelings in the private. Instead
one rather feels the urge to be connected to
feel like oneself and the urge to share ones
feelings to actually discover them fully.
Technology and society are
highly intertwined
Te technology, Turkle claims, has
indeed changed the principles of behavior
with which one faces issues of values,
identity and feelings. Nevertheless,
technology as such might not truly
have caused these new ways of dealing
with other people and feelings but it
facilitates it. It is crucial to understand
that technology does not absolutely
determine society. Society and technology
are highly intertwined and need to be
understood in such an interchangeable
relationship (Wyatt, 1998, p.19).
Technology is constitutive to and is also
constituted by society (p.20). Due to such
an highly intertwined relationship new
issues and social dilemmas are arising
which cannot be dealt with by existing
social norms. Indeed, in our socio-digital
world we can fnd a new notion of time
(compare Turkle, 2011, p.164) as well
as a new experience of place (compare
Turkle, 2011, p.156). Our new devices
have turned being alone into a problem
which can be solved, however still leave
us behind feeling lonely if we are staring
at our friend during dinner who is lost in
his very comforting world of connections.

PRO/CONTRA: How to live with
Is there a climax to reach where the
occurring issues in our social interaction
and our self-refection become too
dominant and indeed too problematic for
our living together that a signifcant change
has to occur? It is time to understand
that technology does not merely serve
us, and that our sets of morals do not
increase with more scientifc knowledge
and technologies. Hence, it is not the
question for or against technology but
about how to live with it. Technologies,
indeed, afect our morals because they
afect the way we see the world and the
way that we act in the world. However,
not necessarily for the better, as we have
explored. Indeed, the opposite idea of
its progress brought us to the point
Revisiting the myth of moral progress
at which its role as a leading force to
social perfection has become profoundly
doubtful. It is thus time to reexamine our
potentialities and limitations and to review
our self-understanding by considering
our accomplishments and their much
unforeseen consequences rather than by
considering our ambitions and hopes.
Te myth that this
bigger progress in
humanity and its
morality would
follow technological progress needs to
be rejected. Instead, we have to come to
terms with the issues at hand; we need to
re-question any prevailing norms and we
need to wonder what technology actually
means to us. Turkles research shows us
problems which are not yet tackled by any
clear rules of social behavior in relation to
the new technologies. Tere is no way of
reverting any state of technology but there
is a way to be more conscious in our use
of it. Whether or not we need to reach a
climax, a point at
which our living
together becomes
so disagreeable that
a profound change is unavoidable, we
defnitely need to start establishing new
norms and values for a life in which society
and technology are closely interacting.
We need to wonder what technology
actually means to us.
Reference List:
Gray, J. (2003). Al Qaeda and what it Means to be Modern. London: Faber & Faber. | Malik, K. (2002).
Man, Beast & Zombie. What Science can and cannot tell us about Human Nature. New
Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. | Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together. New York: Basic Books. | Von
Wright, G.H. (1997). Progress: Fact and Fiction. in Burgen, A., McLaughlin, P., Mittelstra, J. (eds.).
Te Idea of Progress. Berlin [etc.]: de Gruyter. | Wyatt, S. (1998). Technologys Arrow. Developing
Information Networks for Public Administration in Britain and the United States. Maastricht:
Universitaire Pers Maastricht.






What sparked the founding of
For me it was simply the lack of high
quality and discreet adult toy products
for women. Te topic of sex toys can be
very taboo and, because of this stigma,
most products on the market lack the
sophistication and modern design we
come to expect with other consumer
products, such as mobile phones and
cameras. Most adult toys are low-quality
novelty items that are not very attractive
and poorly constructed. I strongly believe
that women deserve better products and I
am doing what I can to make that happen.
Can you tell something about
what CRVE is about for you?
Tere currently exists a sense of shame
and stigma around female sexuality and
the design of a product should not further
contribute to it. Crave is about feeling
good and not feeling ashamed of your
sexuality. Its about being comfortable
with your own body and having classy
and well-designed products to help you
enjoy that. For me, its about inspiring
women to feel good about pleasure.
We believe that sexuality is an important
part of the human experience, yet
not many companies are treating this
topic with thoughtfully designed and
manufactured products. Crave is a brand
that is not only focused on design and
manufacturing, but also the experience:
how do you buy it, how do you travel with
it, how do you discreetly charge it, etc.
We want the experience to be something
that is easily incorporated into your
lifestyle. Tere hasnt been a brand that
has truly embraced the complete package
of design, manufacturing, and experience
for women. Tis holistic approach is
unheard of in the sex toy industry.
Do you feel like female sexual
pleasure is generally badly
represented, or talked about? If
so, how?
I feel female pleasure is very
misunderstood and we have thousands
of years of history that supports this.
Saskia H. Herrmann
Ti Chang is the co-founder and an industrial designer at CRVE in
San Francisco which designs products meant to redefine the way sex
products for women are crafted, towards products catering womens
needs with a sleek design.
For a very long time women who were
sexually aroused and desirous of an
orgasm were actually considered ill with
a disease called Hysteria. Today, we
would simply diagnose these women as
sexually healthy individuals. Te idea that
women can be as sexually active as men,
wasnt even recognized until mid-1900s.
It was only until 1952 that Hysteria
was ofcially removed as a disease by
the American Psychiatric Association.
Can you imagine the frustrations of
women who were labeled as diseased
when they were just trying to get of?!
So we have a long history of
misinformation on female sexuality and
instead, as a society we have focused on
sexuality from the male point of view. For
example, we believe that penetration is the
normal way to reach orgasm, while in
reality many women cannot reach orgasm
through penetration alone. If you look at
the location of the clitoris on a woman it
isnt surprising that penetration alone will
not sufce. So we need to be less focused
on what weve been taught as the normal
way to have an orgasm to understand our
own bodies and fgure out what works
for you and your partner. And to further
complicate things, there is no normal
way because women can be so diferent,
and thats perfectly okay.
Do you feel like there is a taboo
linked to female pleasure, and if
so, why do you think that is the
I think there is still a taboo linked to
sexual pleasure in general, but I believe
it is rapidly changing for the better. Te
taboo largely stems from deep roots in
organized religions, but this is mostly an
artifact of history, than where we are/are
going today. Currently in most cultures,
we accept masturbation as a natural part
of human sexuality, but it is still difcult
to talk about. Parents dont know what
to tell their children about masturbation
because their parents didnt talk about
it with them. So until we become more
comfortable and open with sexuality as a
culture it will always be somewhat taboo.
How would women design a
vibrator differently? And that is
apart from that they might know
their bodies better, but what is the
most common misunderstanding
in such product design in your
I believe women are very practical.
Women today are busy juggling many
aspects of their lives and products need to
be easy to use, functional, and of course
aesthetically agreeable. My approach
to creating sex toys for women is from
a holistic point of view. I think about
the entire experience of the product; of
course it must function properly, but
that is just the beginning. I think about
how the product fts into your life. For
example, how easy is this to take with
you when you travel? How easy is this
to charge? Will you be embarrassed
by this product if you accidentally left
it out? All these aspects are subtle yet
important because they make a diference
in how a user experiences the product.
Being a woman one can argue that
I have an anatomical advantage when
designing sex toys for women, and I
would agree but only to a certain extent.
Te problem is that womens bodies and
sexual preferences are very diferent: the
location of their clitoris, how they like to
be touched, and what is stimulating for
them varies from one woman to another.
So I cannot assume that what works for
me will work for an entire market. We
have rigorous testing with women of
diferent ages, shapes, and backgrounds to
ensure that we develop successful products
that are compatible across all women.
What is the importance of
aesthetics in your products?
As a formally trained industrial
designer, aesthetics are obviously quite
important to me I wouldnt be here
doing what Im doing if I was at all
satisfed with the hot pink and bright
green sex toys currently in the market.
I think when people purchase products
it is a refection of their style and taste,
in a way similar to fashion. I believe
with sex toys women should also have
the option to choose between various
styles; some like loud, bold designs while
others prefer the discreet and refned.
I personally prefer a more subtle and
understated look, sometimes bold, but
always classy, and that is the aesthetic I
try to instill into all the products. Tat
said, aesthetics are only a part of the story.
Aesthetics are an outcome of function and
emotion, and it is an aspect that cannot
exist as a thing in itself. It is an aspect of
design that needs to marry beautifully
with the engineering to evoke the right
emotional response for the market.
How does the line of sex toys
represent female climax/needs?
Where did you get the inspiration
for the different kinds of toys
Weve only launched last year, and
we decided to start with a line of external
clitoral vibes. As Ive mentioned, some
women can orgasm through penetration
but many more can not. So we decided
to focus on clitoral vibes frst. Most of our
vibrators are USB rechargeable, which is
very convenient because it eliminates the
need for batteries and wall chargers, and
especially the bulky adapters used in most
Europeans countries. USB is standardized,
and makes travel much easier because
it is compact and very discreet. We fnd
that women love the petite size of our
products and its overall discreet look.
Our bestselling product is the Duet
a dual motor vibrator that surrounds
the clitoris on both sides. It is a very
strong and focused sensation, that many
women fnd very pleasurable. Some even
complain that it is almost too efcient!
In all of our products, we made sure
the vibration is strong and quiet. No one
wants a loud machine in the bed with
them, and no one wants a weak buzzy
vibrator either, so we always make sure that
our products have a powerful and rumbly
vibration while remaining virtually silent.
I get inspiration mainly from outside
the sex toy industry. Naturally as an
industrial designer I look at consumer
electronics such as phones and computers,
but I also love furniture and fashion.
Furniture can have such clean lines and
yet remain very expressive in a subtle
Vibrant Revolution
way. Like fashion, furniture design is very
closely tied to how it is made, which I feel
is important in a well-designed product.
In what ways do you think that
CRVE might be a representation
for modern sexy and in what
ways does that utter itself?
My hope is that Crave represents
a modern brand that creates products
for women to explore pleasure in a way
that makes them feel comfortable. I
think when women are comfortable
in their own skin, that is super sex.










Vanaf de jaren tachtig van de vorige
eeuw hebben zich in West-Europa
een aantal bijzondere ontwikkelingen
voorgedaan. De toenemende Europese
integratie en de ontwikkeling van de
multiculturele samenleving hebben tot op
de dag van vandaag het huidige Westerse
politieke landschap vorm gegeven. Hoewel
beide processen in tijden van globalisering
als onvermijdelijk worden beschouwd,
gaan zij zelden zonder tegenstand. Zo
ziet men een zichtbaar ongenoegen ten
opzichte van democratische instituties
en een afnemend vertrouwen in politieke
partijen. Het verzet wordt gekenmerkt
door de opkomst van populistische
partijen die inspelen op dit gevoel van
onzekerheid en ongenoegen. Zowel
politicologen, flosofen als historici
houden zich in toenemende mate bezig
met het haast onbekende fenomeen
populisme. De Nederlandse politiek
wetenschapper Cas Mudde spreekt zelfs
van een ware populistische Tijdgeest
(Zeitgeist). Hierbij doelt hij zo wel op
oppositiepartijen als op regeringspartijen,
die vrijwel allen populistische kenmerken
in hun discours vertonen (Mudde, 2004).
In de meeste gevallen pleiten
populisten voor een directe regeringsvorm.
Zij leggen nadruk op het volk en de rol die
zij zou moeten spelen binnen het proces
van besluitvorming en presenteren zich
op die wijze dan ook als democraten pur
sang. Hoewel iedereen een ander beeld
heeft bij wat er onder democratie moet
worden verstaan, worden populisten door
velen niet als echte democraten erkend.
Sterker nog, in veel gevallen worden zij
zelfs als bedreiging voor de democratie
Het volk aan
de macht
Hoe het onbehagen van de burger
zichtbaar wordt
Maxime Hensels
Als iemand de afgelopen jaren de media heeft gedomineerd is het wel
Geert Wilders. Sinds de opkomst van de Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV)
wordt er in Nederland ruim aandacht besteed aan het
populisme. Hoewel iedereen wel een beeld heeft bij dit
fenomeen, lijkt een algemene definitie vrijwel niet mogelijk.
Hoog tijd om het veelgebruikte concept te onderzoeken.
gezien (Smienk, 2012). Nu het volk
zowel een centrale plaats in het populisme
als in de democratie in neemt, roept dit
vragen op over de relatie tussen beide. In
hoeverre heeft het populisme invloed op
de hedendaagse Westerse democratie? Is
het populisme een bedreiging voor het
democratische systeem of zorgt het juist
voor een ware climax, waarbij het volk
een steeds grotere rol in de besluitvorming
inneemt? Om een antwoord te kunnen
geven op deze vraag is een nadere verklaring
omtrent het begrip noodzakelijk.
Het Concept
Want wat bedoelen we eigenlijk
wanneer we spreken over populisme? De
term populisme stamt af van het Latijnse
woord populus, dat men kan vertalen als
het volk. Dit impliceert een sterke relatie
tot democratie dat letterlijk geregeerd
door het volk betekent (Decker, 2003).
Toch maakt de onverenigbaarheid en
de schijnbare tegenstellingen van dit
concept het haast onmogelijk deze tot
een eenduidig en afgebakende defnitie te
maken (Canovan, 2005). Zo stelt politiek
flosoof Paul Taggart dat wij populisme
kunnen vergelijken met een kameleon,
waarmee hij wil zeggen dat het zich altijd
aanpast aan de omgeving waarin het
zich voordoet (Meny & Surel, 2002). Er
bestaat daarom binnen de literatuur nog
steeds geen consensus over wat er primair
onder populisme moet worden verstaan.
Kan men het als een ideologie, een
discours, een syndroom, een stijl of louter
als strategie beschouwen? Ondanks dit
scherpe debat, zijn de meeste academici
het er over eens dat populisme is gebouwd
op de perceptie van hedendaagse politiek
als confict tussen twee homogene en
antagonistische (schijnbaar tegengestelde)
groepen. Het betreft hier een deugdelijk
volk en een corrupte elite, met de
bedoeling om een beleid te volgen waarin
de wil van het deugdelijke volk overwint
(Mudde, 2004). Volgens Cas Mudde is
deze perceptie hetgeen dat populisme
tot ideologie maakt. Het is een ideologie
die de maatschappij verdeelt in twee
groepen en die benadrukt dat politiek
niet veel anders is dan de uitdrukking
van de algemene wil (Mudde, 2004).
Echter Journaliste en Universitair docent
Tjitske Akkerman stelt dat, anders dan
ideologien, populisme geen coherent
en compleet maatschappelijk beeld
presenteert. Het concentreert zich eerder
op enkele aspecten van het menselijke
leven, waarbij een en ander onbesproken
blijft (Akkerman, 2013). De vorm van het
woord populisme, waarin het isme het
een en ander doet vermoeden, suggereert
afniteit te hebben met ideologische
bewegingen als socialisme, liberalisme en
nationalisme. Echter in tegenstelling tot
al deze ismen valt het populisme niet
binnen dit kader. Er is namelijk geen
sprake van een erkende gezamenlijke
historie, beleid en welwillendheid om zich
te identifceren met het label populisme.
Juist vanwege het feit dat de meeste
partijen die het stempel populistisch
hebben toebedeeld gekregen, hier vaak
zelf niet achter staan (Canovan, 2005).
Volgens Margaret Canovan, een
politicologe die veel onderzoek heeft
gedaan naar populisme, is het populisme
dat we vanaf de late jaren negentig
tegenkomen in de hedendaagse media een
vernieuwde vorm. Dit is een verzameling
van bewegingen, voornamelijk aan de
rechter zijde van het politieke spectrum,
die zich keert tegen de bestaande en
gangbare politiek. Hierin komt het anti-
politieke karakter van het populisme
duidelijk naar voren (Canovan, 1999).
Maar is het ook hier niet simpelweg te
eenvoudig populisme louter te associren
met rechtse politieke partijen? Door de
grote toename van Europese rechts radicale
populistische partijen sinds eind jaren
negentig, krijgt het populisme al snel een
rechts plakkaat opgeplakt. Maar wat heeft
Pim Fortuyn van Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF)
gemeen met het populistische karakter van
de Socialistische Partij (SP)? Wat is het dat
deze partijen, die zich beide aan de andere
kant van het politieke spectrum bevinden,
onder de noemer populisme doen vallen?
Linkse partijen kunnen wel degelijk ook
populistisch kenmerken in hun discours
vertonen. Zo creerde Jan Marijnissen,
partijleider en voormalig fractievoorzitter
van de SP, een beeld van de neoliberale
en op geld gebaseerde politieke elite, die
geen inzicht heeft in wat er speelt onder
het gewone volk. De partij, die opkomt
voor de arbeidersklasse, pleit niet zozeer
voor aanpassing van het kapitalistische
systeem an sich. Het is juist de elite,
die zich niets van het volk aantrekt, en
het corrupte systeem in stand houdt
(Vossen, 2010). Het kunnen daarom
zowel rechtse als linkse partijen zijn die
zich schuldig maken aan populisme. Zoals
de reeds genoemde academici laten zien
bestaan er zeer uiteenlopende gedachten
over waar dit concept toebehoort.
Desalniettemin zijn er algemeen erkende
karakteristieken, die in het hart liggen
van het populisme; namelijk in de
kern van het woord zelf (populus) dat
ik eerder als het volk heb vertaald.
Het Volk
Populisten zien het volk waar zij zich
hard voor maken als homogeen geheel
zonder interne scheidingen. Het volk
staat hierbij niet gelijk aan alle burgers
in de natie en sluit daarom bepaalde
groepen in de samenleving uit. Denk
hierbij aan de elite en minderheden
zoals buitenstaanders, immigranten en
criminelen (Canovan, 2005). De eenheid
van het volk, waar het populisme zich
op baseert, kan een sterk uiteenlopende
invulling krijgen. In linkse vormen
van populisme, zoals de Socialistische
Partij (SP), kan het volk verwijzen naar
de economisch zwakste groepen in de
samenleving. Rechtse partijen zullen
daarentegen niet zozeer nadruk leggen
op economische omstandigheden, maar
stellen eerder een vermeende culturele
identiteit centraal. De rechtse vorm
van populisme baseert zich op het volk
als culturele, of in sommige gevallen,
etnische natie. Voorbeelden hiervan
zijn de Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV)
en Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF). Ondanks
die verschillende invulling van wat er
nu precies onder het volk kan worden
verstaan, blijft de logica van het populisme
dezelfde; het idee van een eenheid creert
Het volk aan de macht
immers twee antagonistische groepen.
Enerzijds zet het populisme zich af tegen
de politieke en intellectuele elite, die de
onmiddellijke inspraak van het homogene
volk onmogelijk maakt. Anderzijds
creert de populist vijandbeelden ten
aanzien van allerlei groepen die buiten
deze eenheid vallen en die, juist vanwege
die uitsluiting, een bedreiging voor de
substantile eenheid vormen (Smienk,
2012). De vraag is of er wel gesproken kan
worden van een homogeen volk, waarbij
enige vorm van pluriformiteit ontbreekt.
Want wat verstaan wij onder het
Nederlandse volk? Volgens socioloog Dick
Pels is het vrijwel onmogelijk om hier een
eenduidig antwoord op te geven vanwege
het continu over en weer
gaan van deel en geheel.
Het volk waarop het
populisme zich baseert
is namelijk dat deel dat
zich wil uitvergroten
tot het geheel.
Ook al is het
volk waarnaar wordt
gerefereerd maar een deel van het geheel;
het is de kern, het beste deel dat de plaats
van het geheel in neemt (Pels, 2011).
Henk en Ingrid, wij Nederlanders, het
gewone volk. Er zijn vele benamingen
voor dat deel van het volk dat model staat
voor het volk in zijn geheel. Eveneens
wordt in veel gevallen de meerderheid
opgeworpen ter vervanging van het volk
in brede zin. Zo gaf Marijnissen van de
SP in 2005 aan dat het Nederlandse volk
massaal nee zou hebben gezegd tegen het
Europese referendum, terwijl dit aantal
enkel 61,1 procent van de stemmers
bedroeg. Ook Wilders refereert naar
Nederland dat zich zou verzetten tegen
de islamisering. Dit is gevaarlijk, omdat
verdediging van dat eigen deel van het
volk in de meeste gevallen gepaard gaat
met een scherpe uitsluiting ten opzichte
van de vijandige buitenwereld. Een wij-
groep impliceert een zij-groep en dit
doet het pluriforme karakter, dat zo eigen
is aan democratie, teniet (Pels, 2011).
De omstandigheden van opkomst
We hebben kunnen constateren dat
het volk een cruciale en centrale plaats
binnen het karakter van het populisme
in neemt. Hoewel een afgebakende
defnitie nog steeds
niet haalbaar is, lijkt de
kern van het populisme
te zijn blootgelegd.
Maar dit zegt nog
niet automatisch iets
over de opkomst van
het populisme. Is
het populisme altijd
aanwezig binnen de Westerse democratie
of doet het zich voor onder bepaalde
omstandigheden? Populisme als fenomeen
kan zich voordoen in alle vormen van
democratien. Desondanks ziet men
dat het populisme in de meeste gevallen
voorkomt in politieke systemen die een
institutionele transitie doormaken. In hun
werk Democracies and the Populist Challenge
(2002) noemen Meny en Surel de crisis
van intermediaire politiek, namelijk de
verpersoonlijking van politieke macht
en de groeiende rol van media in de
Henk en Ingrid,
wij Nederlanders, het
gewone volk. Er zijn vele
benamingen voor dat deel
van het volk dat model staat
voor het volk in zijn geheel.
politiek, als de voornaamste reden voor
de opkomst van populisme. Al deze zaken
benvloeden de kijk van mensen en hun
perceptie van democratie. Er is volgens
hen een politieke malaise zichtbaar in
de hedendaagse politiek. Dit uit zich in
een afname van lidmaatschappen van
politieke partijen, gebrek aan interesse,
wantrouwen in politici en de groei van
zwevende kiezers die voor een groot deel
open staan voor radicale alternatieven in de
vorm van populisme. Al deze kenmerken
zijn symptomen van de democratische
malaise. De media helpen daarentegen
niet om deze malaise te verhelpen. In
tegendeel, de manier waarop zij feiten en
opinies presenteren draagt bij aan een nog
grotere anti-politieke atmosfeer en maakt
populistische partijen alsmaar populairder
(Albertazzi & McDonnell, 2008).
De opkomst van populistische
partijen hangt daarnaast
af van sociale factoren.
De populatie is
gedwongen zich aan te
passen aan een drastisch
nieuwe situatie, waar
werkeloosheid, sociale
isolatie, buitensluiting, kwetsbaarheid
en instabiliteit deel uit maken van de
dagelijkse realiteit. Ook het toenemen
van de vraag naar semi-geschoolde
werkers en de daarbij toegenomen
stroom immigranten uit economisch
minder ontwikkelde landen, draagt bij
aan het gevoel van sociale-economische
onzekerheid onder de Europese bevolking.
Deze situatie wordt door populistische
partijen gebruikt dan wel misbruikt, die
de belangen van veiligheid en (sociale)
zekerheid voor de bevolking, garanderen
(Albertazzi & McDonnell, 2008). Het
meldpunt Polen, op initiatief van Geert
Wilders, is hiervan een passend voorbeeld.
De relatie tussen populisme en
Is het populisme nu een bedreiging
voor het democratische systeem of zorgt
het juist voor een ware climax, waarin
het volk een steeds grotere rol in de
besluitvorming inneemt? Benjamin
Arditi, een gerenommeerd politieke
wetenschapper, geeft aan dat populisme
zowel een bijdrage als een bedreiging
kan vormen voor de democratie.
Populisme kan een indicatie zijn voor
het functioneren van de democratie. Er
zijn volgens hem drie mogelijke manieren
waarop deze tot uiting komt. Allereerst, zo
stelt hij, kan het populisme een
uiting zijn van de overgang van
de liberale democratie naar een
toeschouwerdemocratie. Hier
worden de traditionele partijen
vervangen door een directe link
tussen politici en electoraat
via de media. In deze visie is populisme
geen bedreiging voor de democratie, maar
een voorafschaduwing van een nieuw
soort democratie (Smienk, 2012). Het
werkt toe naar een hoogtepunt waarbij
het volk op een steeds directere manier
zeggenschap heeft. Populisme is hier dus
een kenmerk van de transitie van het ene
democratische systeem naar het andere.
Een andere mogelijkheid is dat populisme
voortkomt uit het diepgewortelde
Het volk aan de macht
De manier waarop de
media feiten en opinies
presenteren draagt bij
aan een nog grotere
anti-politieke atmosfeer.
ongenoegen van de bevolking. Zo gaf
Maarten van Rossem een driedelig college
over het populisme en schreef hij een boek
met als titel: Waarom is de burger boos?
De opkomst van het populisme is in die
zin een herinnering aan de onvrede die
leeft onder mensen (van Rossem, 2010).
Het populisme kan, inspelend op dit
ongenoegen, zowel onrust als vernieuwing
veroorzaken binnen de institutionele vorm
van democratie. Ten slotte kan het het
functioneren van de democratie aantasten.
In dit geval kan het snel overslaan
in de tirannie van de meerderheid en
uitmonden in autoritarisme (Smienk,
2012). De Italiaanse politicoloog
Gianfranco Pasquino sluit zich aan bij
dit laatste punt en stelt dat populisme
bijna onontkoombaar onverenigbaar is
met democratie.
Ten eerste stelt hij
dat de potentie
van populisme uit
vijandigheid bestaat
door de exclusieve defnitie van het volk.
De populistische vijandigheid ten opzichte
van de uitgesloten groep, staat enige
samenwerking in de weg en houdt een
confictsituatie in stand. Dit is volgens hem
een absoluut onacceptabele uitkomst in
een democratie (Smienk, 2012). Ook Van
den Burg benadrukt die onverenigbaarheid
en stelt dat politieke vrijheid en politieke
gelijkheid fundamentele beginselen
zijn van de liberale en constitutionele
democratie. Juist de democratische
besluitvorming gaat volgens hem uit
van een meerderheidsregel, waarbij de
bescherming van de minderheid, door
de constitutie, is verzekerd (Engelen
& Sie Dhian Ho, 2004). Daarom gaat
de begrenzing van de fctieve eenheid
van het volk, waarbij minderheden
worden uitgesloten, in tegen de
fundamentele democratische beginselen.
Toch is het te eenvoudig het populisme
louter als bedreiging te zien. Zo zien Mark
Bovens en Anchrit Wille het populisme
als een mogelijke toevoeging voor het
democratische systeem in Nederland. Zij
stellen dat er een kloof is tussen hoger en
lager opgeleiden, en dat de lageropgeleiden
sterk ondervertegenwoordigd zijn in de
politiek. Het populisme kan een bijdrage
leveren aan de politieke agendavorming,
door het zichtbare ongenoegen dat leeft
onder de bevolking aan de kaak te stellen.
De populistische programmapunten zullen
dan in gematigde
vorm worden
opgenomen door de
bestaande politieke
partijen. Ook zullen
populistische partijen zich gematigder
gaan opstellen en zich voegen in het
parlementaire politieke systeem. (Bovens
& Wille, 2011). Een goed voorbeeld
hiervan is de SP, die zich gaandeweg
steeds gematigder heeft opgesteld binnen
het politieke debat (Rooduijn, 2012) De
PVV daarentegen is een ander verhaal.
Tijdens de gedoogconstructie van Rutte 1,
leek Geert Wilders zich te schikken naar
de belangen van de VVD en CDA, die
beiden in de regering zaten. Desondanks
heeft de PVV zich, toen bleek dat de
gedoogconstructie geen stand hield, in
toenemende mate radicaal opgesteld. Het
De opkomst van populisme is een
herinnering aan de onvrede die
leeft onder mensen.
opportunisme dat vaak zo kenmerkend is
voor populistische partijen, laat zien dat
de strijd naar de macht belangrijker is dan
het hebben van de uiteindelijke macht zelf.
Een andere mogelijkheid is dat de
populistische partijen en hun aanhang zich
tegen de democratie en rechtsstaat keren.
De legitimiteit van
de democratie wordt
zo aangetast en alleen
een charismatisch
leider zal dan nog
een uitkomst bieden.
Bovens en Wille achten de eerste
mogelijkheid het meest waarschijnlijk
omdat het vertrouwen in de democratie,
ondanks het zichtbare ongenoegen
in de politiek, nog onverminderd
hoog is (Bovens & Wille, 2011).
Van gematigd naar radicaal:
populisme als bedreiging
Ondanks dit vertrouwen hebben zich
de afgelopen tijd een aantal zorgwekkende
ontwikkelingen voorgedaan. Onlangs
kondigde Geert Wilders aan een
samenwerkingsverband aan te gaan met
Marine Le Pen van het Franse Front
Nationale. Hij koos hiervoor om zo ook
binnen Europa, de anti-Europa stem,
kracht bij te zetten. De PVV leek voorheen,
met uitzondering van het koranverbod,
lang in de traditie van Fortuyn te blijven.
De gematigde vorm van populisme van
de LPF fungeerde als indicator voor
het functioneren van de hedendaagse
democratie (Cuperus, 2013). Ook de SP
kan door de aanpassing aan de politieke
cultuur gerekend worden tot het gematigd
populisme. Doordat
Wilders samen
gaat werken met
partijen die voorheen
verdacht werden van
antisemitisme en die
zich tot op de dag van vandaag nog steeds
schuldig maken aan discriminerende
overtuigingen, heeft de PVV die lijn
nu verlaten. Zij heeft zich nu defnitief
gevoegd in de Europees rechts-radicale
politieke stroming (Cuperus, 2013). En
het is juist dit radicaal populisme dat een
bedreiging vormt voor de democratie
vanwege zijn anti-institutionele karakter
en de vijandigheid ten opzichte van
immigranten en minderheden. Hoewel
het verstandig is zwakheden en pijnpunten
van de democratie aan de kaak te stellen,
zal een radicale partij als de PVV de
wonden niet helen. De openheid van het
systeem en de rechten van minderheden
zijn de fundamentele principes waarop
het is gebouwd. Ook Henk en Ingrid
kunnen hier hun ogen niet voor sluiten.
Het volk aan de macht
De openheid van het systeem
en de rechten van minderheden
zijn de fundamentele principes
waarop democratie is gebouwd.
Abts, K., Rummens, S. (2007). Populism versus Democracy. Political Studies. VOL. 55, 405-
424. | Akkerman, T. (2003). Populism and democracy: challenge or pathology? Acta
Politica. 147-159. | Albertazzi, D., McDonnell, D., (ed.). (2008). Twenty-first century Populism:
The spectre of Western European Democracy. Hampshire. | Bovens, M., & Wille, A. (2011).
Diplomademocratie. Amsterdam. | Canovan, M. (1999). Trust the people: Populism and
the two faces of democracy. Political Studies. XL VIII, 2-16. | Canovan, M. (2005). The
People. Cambridge. | Cuperus, R. (2013). Waar is Geert Wilders in hemelsnaam mee
bezig? Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from:
detail/3472154/2013/07/08/Waar-is-Geert-Wilders-in-hemelsnaam-mee-bezig.dhtml | Crick, B. (2005).
Populism, politics and democracy. Democratization. 12(5), 625-632. Retrieved 8 January, 2014,
Us1OS7R2-Eh | Decker, F. (2003). The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy. Berliner
Republic. 3. Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from:
PDF | Dictionary entry Populism. Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from:
dictionary/populism | Engelen, E.R., & Sie Dhian Ho, M. (2004). Wetenschappelijke raad voor het
regeringsbeleid. WRR. Amsterdam University Press. | Mudde, C. (2004). The Populist Zeitgeist.
Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from:
abstract | Meny, Y., & Surel, Y. (Ed.). (2002). Democracies and the Populist Challenge. New
York: Palgrave Macmillan. | Pels, D. (2011). Het volk bestaat niet: leiderschap en populisme
in de mediademocratie. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij. | Rooduijn, M. (2012). Van het populisme
zijn we nog niet af. Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from:
detail/3251213/2012/05/05/Van-het-populisme-zijn-we-nog-niet-af.dhtml | van Rossem, M. (2010).
Waarom is de burger boos? Amsterdam: Nieuw Amsterdam. | Smienk, J. (2012). Populisme en
Democratie. Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from: | Vossen,
K. (2010). Different flavours of Populism in the Netherlands. Four case-studies. Paper for
the Politicologen Etmaal Leuven. Retrieved 8 January, 2014, from:
40 40


















Since the frst of November this year,
parents in Germany are free to leave out
the indication of their childs gender at
birth when it may not be identifable in
that very instant. Tis could for example
mean that you are a female but you have
XY (male) chromosomes and internal
testes. Te other way around your internal
organs such as the uterus and ovaries might
indicate that you are a female from the
inside but an enlarged clitoris resembles
more to a penis. According to the law, at
a later point, the child itself may decide
which gender, it identifes with. Firstly, the
creation of such a law reveals a problem: It
is commonly depicted as being normal
to decide for one single gender identity.
If its not oneself who does so, it is at least
expected of parents to decide for their
child to be a boy or a girl. Secondly, the
law also triggers a crucial question: What
has changed in societys perception of
gender when a law decides on probable
gender neutrality for a child? Does it
manifest a decision for gender neutrality,
or even the breaking with the usual
gender dichotomy, allowing alternative
perceptions and understandings of
gender? Something that is efectively also
playing into this topic: Where does this
need to - always categorise everything -
come from? However in the following,
I want to focus on tackling the previous
questions, in what ways the human habit
to categorise afects intersexuals. Michel
Foucault tried to answer the question of
how the perception of gender dichotomy
arose with the paradigm shift of ideals
and values in times of the Enlightenment.
His discourse theory is taken into
account to explain the process how we
distinct between men and women. Tis
Big or small, young or old, good or bad, black or white adjectives
we normally use to characterise and specify all kinds of things,
people and objects. Implied in all of this describing, naming,
defining, is also another important aspect of our day-to-day habits,
namely categorisation. How does this apparent need to categorise
affect millions of intersexual people globally, and how does it force
them to decide what role they want to play? Is it a choice made
by nature to be man or woman, or is it a mere social construct?
Who am I and
... who decides?
Pia Sombetzki
explanation helps to evaluate the efect of
such a dichotomy on the life of intersexuals.
Of course the German law does
not leave out a fnal decision on a
distinction between
male and female, nor
does it erase future
problems the neutral
child may face in a two-sex world
driven society. However, this law can
be valued as an interesting approach
trying to incorporate the existence of
intersexuality in our two-sex paradigm
that is infuenced by the modern gender
distinction between man and woman.
Foucaults discourse theory and
the application on the gender
Foucaults critical analyses range from
subjects such as power structures and
administration in modern society as found
in Discipline and Punish (1975) to the
critical assessment of the notion of women
sufering from hysteria in the 19th century
found in History of Sexuality (1976;1984).
One major ground he bases his critical
analysis on, is the discourse-theory he
came up with. Foucault defned discourse
in his book Te order of discourse as a set of
structures and rules that are
expressed in the dominant
way of thinking. Tis set
is regulated and consists of
statements which can be combined with
others in predictable ways. Tis named
prediction also relates to expectations
and thereby to the categories we have in
our mind when we describe and classify
objects or people. Such sets of statements
lead to a distribution and circulation of
certain utterances and statements, he
explains. Tis distribution and circulation
is also related to his notion of exclusion.
He defnes exclusion as
complex sets of practises
excluding other sets
of statements. Te set
that tells us that there is the one-sided
distinction that one can only be male or
female, excludes the notion that there
is a third gender which might possess
combined genitalia. Laclau and Moufe,
two political theorists, take up this
understanding and clarify that objects
exist and events happen in the real world.
Nevertheless, these events are apprehended
and interpreted within discursive structures
of which we are not always aware of and
especially not cognisant of how they
structure our perception. Tus, discursive
structures assign meanings and efects.
Moreover, even the subject itself might
be produced through discursive structures
that shape the focus and importance we
put on a topic (Mills, 2003, pp. 53-56).
Foucault furthermore clarifes that
fundamental presumptions about what
normal anatomical sex is, can be retraced
to the emergence of biological theories
of sexuality in the 17th and
18th century. Until the dawn
of Enlightenment, bodies were
not perceived as diferent from
each other. Distinctions were only made
in a varying degree in terms of perfection.
As taken from the one sex-model found in
the works of a second century physician,
named Claudius Galen, the amount of
vital heat produced by a body manifested
Future problems the neutral
child may face in a two-sex
world driven society.
A third gender
which might possess
combined genitalia.
the humans place in the great chain of
. Humans being the hottest in
nature were generally perceived as being
the most perfect. Women and men
were diferentiated not relating to their
difering genitalia but because of their
difering genitalia anatomical locations.
Te womans vagina was
perceived by Galen as an
inverted version of the
male penis. He derives
from this observations
a distinction between
the cold, inverted woman and her more
perfect, hotter male counterpart.
Tis ancient account of vital heat
laid the foundation for a hierarchy
between men and women for several
thousands of years. (Spiller, 2004, p.66).
In times of the Enlightenment the
great chain of being was diminished
and the lack of evidence in the sphere of
biology and anatomy shifted into focus in
this era. Te French Revolution displayed
new political systems of governance,
liberal democracy or liberalism and led
to the emergence of modern concepts
such as liberty, equality,
fraternity, individualism
and social contract. Another
central idea was the vision
that all men are born equal. Social
inequality could therefore only further
exist by referring to natural inequality.
Natural diferences would be used as a
distinguishing tool and thereby create a
hierarchy because they simply could not be
A hierarchical order of rank according to
degrees of perfection
said to contradict with beliefs of universal
social equality. Also works by Darwin
that distinguished between sex and race,
further strengthened and supported
the belief to have a natural distinction.
Tese theories and the legal conceptions
of the individual led to a rejection of
the notion of a mixture of
sexes within a single body.
Resulting from the rejection
of natural equality, people
with more than one clearly
categorizable genital were
described as abnormal. In contrast to
Galens belief that women could easily
transform into men, it was only during
the time of the Enlightenment that a
new biology of diferences emerged.
Judith Butler (2004), famously known
for her works on the gender discussion,
took up this two-sex world understanding
and critically observed that we started
to operate within a moral certainty of a
world of two sexes, taking-it-for-granted
that sex and sex categories are congruent..
From her point of view, it was common
to start a medical treatment on intersexual
people which were depicted
as abnormal and said to have
genetic defects for a very long
time. Underlying assumptions
were that genitals are naturally dimorphic
and that ambiguous genitals should be
altered by surgery. Te term intersexuality,
however, was not coined until 1933,
when the adjective intersexual, which
characterised an individual by having
both male and female characteristics of
which some are proper to the other, was
defned. Te term intersexuality must not
Who am I and ... who decides?
Te womans vagina was
perceived by Galen as an
inverted version of the
male penis.
A new biology of
diferences emerged.
be interchanged with transsexuality which
rather refers to a bisexual feelingness
and not to a biological unclearness.
Intersexuality: A 20th and 21st
century perception
In the 19th century, Freud
acknowledged that there is no natural
point at which we can tell what is
normal and abnormal. He declared
gender subjectivity as something achieved
in the psyche (Chodorow, 1999, p.105).
A famous case on the treatment of
intersexuality which also
refected this belief occurred
in the 1960s. John Money,
an US sexologist, proclaimed
in his book Gay, Straight and In-Between:
Te Sexology of Erotic Orientation, that
humans are born neutral. From his
standpoint, gender is something that is
learned after birth, contrasting the belief
that it is mainly defned by the genital
that decides the sex of a child at birth.
In 1965 there was a child, David
Reimer, left without a penis resulting from
a botched circumcision. Money himself
was not operating, however proposed
a reassignment of Davids gender. He,
David, should become a She. Davids
testes were removed and a hormone
treatment was started. Based on his thesis,
Money expected to successfully prove
that David will lead the same happy life
his twin brother was expected to follow as
a natural boy. In the early years of their
childhood, David and his brother sufered
a lot from the treatment and the immense
testing that was imposed on them both.
At the age of 38, David committed suicide
and the media negatively responded to
Moneys approach to force a child into a
specifc gender. Nevertheless, there was
also criticism raised from intersex activists.
Tese claimed that his reassignment of a
childs sex has failed whereby he can be made
responsible for the failure in thousands
of other cases in which his approach
was applied (Butler, 2004, p.65f.).
As this case shows, the handling of
intersexuality is clearly challenging for
a society that is merely coined by the
view of a two-sex world
model. Even though
Money tried to make a
neutral approach and
thereby abolishing the gender subjectivity,
Freud has acknowledged as hindering,
his proceeding could not guarantee the
results he aimed for. With regard to
the negative tone the media striked in
response to Davids suicide, it has to be
made clear that the results of such an
experiment could have also delivered
completely diferent results. What has to
be kept in mind for further investigation
on intersexuals, is that these are also
human beings on which it is, in a general
sense, hard to make generalisations. For
some it might be manageable in their
childhood to force them into one specifc
gender. However, for others the unnatural
categorisation of their gender might turn
into a disaster containing disorientation,
confusion and sorrow. To conclude it
needs to be remembered that intersexuals,
as well as men and women, are heavily
shaped in behaviour and reactions to
Gender is something that
is learned after birth
tons of factors of biological, societal and
all kind of other nature. How to cope
with this still unfathomed feld remains
questionable. Nonetheless, it is necessary
to fnd ways to cope with intersexuals
in a behavioural sense so that the word
ambiguity is left out of the discussion.
How do we think today?
Category is defned as a number of
objects that are considered equivalent.
(Margolis & Laurence,1999, p.191).
Being aware of categories is one thing
but how categories are built is the
other. Margolis and Laurence make the
distinction between two mechanisms that
lead to the evolvement of categories. Te
frst mechanism is grounded on the aim to
reduce infnite diferences to behaviourally
and cognitively usable proportions. Tese
proportions make it possible to perceive
the most information with the least
cognitive efort and are thereby creating
a category system. Te second mechanism
enabling a structuring of information
makes use of combinations of the objects
we perceive. Tis mechanism is triggered
by nature itself as the world is naturally
ordered in categories and does not come
arbitrary. Even though real objects do
not solely occur uniformly, e.g. pairs
and triples are probable and common.
Whatever mechanism we follow to
categorise, the extent to which categories
are diferentiated heavily depends on the
ability of our senses. Te more attributes
of an object we are able to perceive, the
more detailed we can diferentiate the
objects from each other. As it is known
that dogs smell better, it might be possible
that they diferentiate the objects they
perceive in many more categories than
humans do. Apart from senses, it is also
time, and cultures evolving at the same
time, which helps to diferentiate even
further. As people, long time ago, started
to diferentiate diferent animals such as
birds, dogs and cats, it is easier for us today
to diferentiate them even further. At
some point one did not only say that one
has seen a bird but could also diferentiate
between diferent species according to
difering colours, or shapes of wings. In
fact, humans develop prototypes of all
kind of categories and by comparison and
weighing one decides if an object matches
the prototype as good as the prototype.
Rosch and Mervis (1975) explained that
a member is more prototypical rated,
the more attributes it has in common
with other members of the category,
and the less attributes it has in common
with members of a contrasting category.
(ibid., p.196). A lemon can be perceived
as normally having a yellow skin, relatively
thick, a sour taste. Te lemons fesh is
ordered in little chambers that one can
clearly see when cutting it into half. Tese
attributes can be described as a prototypical
description of a lemon. Nevertheless, also
grapefruits and oranges share a lot of
these attributes. Te lemon has however
less common attributes with another fruit
such as a mango and even fewer with a
football (probably none with the latter).
As it can be argued by reference to these
psychological discourses and examples, it
is somewhat natural to feel the need to
Who am I and ... who decides?
categorise; especially in a complicated to
grasp grey area such as gender. However,
as the two-sex model builds a framework
we live, perceive and act within, was
initiated during the era of Enlightenment,
the way how the distinguish between
man and woman cannot be described
as only naturally developed but to a
great extent also socially
constructed. Particularly
interesting to observe is
how the distinction of
man and woman is mainly founded on
the difering anatomical genitalia and
not on other difering characteristics that
could further be recognised between the
two sexes. Behavioural, facial or vocal
diferences could be named as examples.
Te observations made in this article
fnally trigger also be recognised between
the two sexes, i.e. behaviour, facial or
vocal particularities. Does the question:
Doesnt it seem somehow arbitrary
how we distinguish men and women?
In regard to the German law that
was initiated this year, we seem to slowly
understand, once more, the naturality
of intersexuality. Nevertheless, it will
probably take some more years or even
centuries until there
happens a real shift
that completely breaks
down the prejudice of
abnormality of intersexual people. Maybe
it a sort of revolution is necessary again,
which will perform the climax of the two-
sex paradigm we live in today, and will lead
to its fnal decline. What would the motto
be? fminin, masculin ... quoi que ce soit!

Female, male whatever it is!
Reference List:
Butler, J. (2004). Undoing Gender. London [etc.]: Routledge. | Chodorow, N.J. (1999). The Power
of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender and Culture. Yale University
Press. | Im Fremdkrper. (2013, October). Retrieved December 27, 2013 from: |
Margolis, E.; Laurence, S. (1999). Concepts: Core Readings. MIT Press. | Mills, S. (2003). Michel
Foucault. Routledge Critical Tinkers Series. London [etc.]: Routledge. | Individual Amendment
Act (Personenstandsnderungs-Gesetz) - PStRndG. Page 3. Deutscher Bundestag. Retrieved
December 27, 2013 from: | Spiller, E. (2004).
Science, Reading, and Renaissance Literature: The Art of Making Knowledge, 1580-1670.
Cambridge University Press.
Complicated to grasp
grey area such as gender.
When I opened my e-mail account on
an innocent Monday morning, there were
several joyful messages waiting for me to
be read. A website whose self-help articles
I like to read every now and then, had
send me messages with titles such as: Start
every day in a joyful manner!, 35 tips to
worry less and Tis is how you will always
stay positive. In the same way, my hope
on happiness was triggered when I walked
past the psychology section of a bookstore.
Books with titles that promised to lead me
towards a happy life in seven steps were
patiently waiting to help me enlighten my
world and prevent me from ever sufering
again. It is the quest for happiness within
me that is addressed when my eye catches
titles like those mentioned. It is a human
desire to live a life flled with happiness.
According to self-help books, blogs
and workshops it is possible; one can
discover true happiness within ones life,
and as soon as you have found it, your
life will be complete. Even though the
quest for happiness is an ancient quest
and philosophical issue, it seems like the
contemporary pursuit of it has gained
obsessive characteristics. But why do I feel
like I need to read all of these self-help
books? Apparently, I still have not found
the secret to a life flled with happiness.
How is this possible in a wealthy,
informational Western society which one
expects should have gathered some decent
knowledge about happiness over time?
First of all, the idea of happiness that is
portrayed by the media is a deceiving idea.
Postmodernism has already shown us that
money does not buy eternal happiness;
even though it might certainly contribute
In our present Western society finding happiness seems to
have become a goal in itself. There is an emphasis on individual
responsibility when it comes to achieving happiness. Where
does this pressure come from and how do we deal with it?
The Haunt for
Searching for happiness in postmodern times
Jeska Onderwater




to our state of happiness up to a point

(2013, Proto & Rustichin). Although
we somehow know that happiness is
not achieved by increasingly obtaining
more material values, advertisements,
Hollywood movies and magazines still
tell us diferently. Te consumer society
provides us with a constant stream of
information that surrounds us and
infuences our ideas of happiness. It
promotes material wealth as the main
contributor to happiness. If one is seduced
by these temptations and eventually
decides to buy the promoted product,
the temporary happiness it brings quickly
fades away. Te empty feeling we are
often left with, makes us realize that
something might be lacking within us
instead of seeing external circumstances
as the cause of unhappiness. With the
knowlege that happiness is something
which we can fnd inside of ourselves,
the responsibility of happiness has
shifted more towards the individual.
Happiness in intelligent people
is the rarest thing I know - Ernest
In Western postmodern society the
pursuit of happiness has become a goal
in itself. In the still valid United States
Declaration of Independence, the pursuit
of happiness is stated as an unalienable right
for every US citizen. In the individualized
In their latest research Proto & Rustichini
(2013) have shown that money-related
happiness decreases after an amount of
36,000 GDP per person.
society of our time, the pressure to acquire
happiness as an individual has increased.
One is held responsible for ones own
actions and achievements; therefore failing
to be happy nowadays equates to personal
failure. Te idea that any individual has
the tools and ability to create the life he,
or she desires, is derived from the vivid
meritocratic ideal in Western society. A
meritocracy is a society in which merit
is achieved through the combination
of individual talent and efort. Ideally, a
meritocracy provides every single citizen
with the same rights and possibilities;
giving the opportunity to each individual
to pursue their own dreams and desires.
Te utopian vision of the American Dream
is a striking example of this conviction.
Te boy who delivers the newspaper can
become a movie director if only he would
combine efort and talent and be self-
disciplined in doing so. Although a few
exceptional newspaper boys did become
sucessful, a meritocracy is not a reality. A
great amount of ones individual success is
still determined by ones background and
a bit of luck. However, the meritocratic
ideal is emphasized in Western society.
Tis ideal suggests that with each
individuals right to self-development
the division of success can be perceived
as just; one receives from society what
one gives to society. Te example of
education can clarify this notion; the
idea that ones educational level largely
determines ones success, including ones
happiness is very vivid. Te meritocratic
ideal suggests that by means of education
everyone has equally fair chances in
leading a successful life; ones level of
education is seen as the main indicator
of ones chance on success and happiness.
Every man has his secret
sorrows which the world knows
not; and often times we call a man
cold when he is only sad. - Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow
Te ideal also puts pressure on the
individual to arrive at a state of happiness,
because when one fails to do so this is
perceived as ones own fault. It is therefore
not surprising that mental disorders
are very topical
among Westerners
nowadays. People
fnd themselves to
blame when they do
not feel happy, which gives them a feeling
of powerlessness.. But is feeling unhappy
whatever happiness might entail in the
frst place necessarily a bad thing? It is
estimated that one out of ten adults in the
United States sufers from depression; in
a country where the pursuit of happiness
is an unalienable right, these numbers are
quite worrying. In their book Te Loss of
Sadness (2007), Allan Horwitz and Jerome
Wakefeld argue that it is not necessarily
an increase of depression that occurred in
the Western world, but rather an increase
in the amount of people we call depressed.
Te authors argue that we seem to have
lost the right to be sad; natural sadness is
often too easily labeled as a depression.
Te distinction between natural sadness
and severe depression is blurred which
causes many people diagnosed as
depressed, when they actually just do not
feel happy. One wonders how one can
actually defne happiness. In his article
on how we measure happiness, Professor
of Happiness Ruut Veenhoven states that
we commonly understand happiness in
terms of how much one likes ones life
(Veenhoven, 2009, p.1). Veenhoven
here measures happiness in terms of life-
satisfaction. Happiness describes what is
good about ones life, but the term itself
does not specify about what one then
considers to be good. What is perceived
as good and satisfying largely depends
on the individuals
preferences and
priorities. In the
end, happiness is an
emotion which might
or might not occur within an individual,
commonly experienced at moments during
which he or she was not searching for it.
Love is that condition in which
the happiness of another person
is essential to your own.- Robert
A. Heinlein
One should not forget that human
feelings consist of a wide range of
emotions and sensations; there is no
distinct division between happiness and
sadness. Within both extremes there exists
a whole variety of emotions which an
individual can experience. It is therefore
unrealistic and unnecessary to strive for
a state of constant happiness. Happiness,
just as sadness and all the related emotions
in between are temporary emotions which
constantly change. A viewpoint like this
Te Haunt for Happiness
Happiness is an emotion which
might or might not occur within
an individual.
explains why one does not fnd happiness
when one truly searches for it. As Sanne
Bloemink points out in her book Happy
Me (2012), in which
she describes her search
for happiness in the
American happiness
industry, her obsessive search for
happiness ultimately leads to increased
dissatisfaction and feelings of loneliness.
Bloemink dives into the happiness
industry in New York by attending yoga
classes and mindfulness gatherings. She
starts drinking detox-smoothies and reads
popular self-help books. Ultimately, her
attempts on flling the emptiness she feels
inside by trying any self-help method she
comes across, make her
realize how it is self-help
itself that is the problem.
To only be occupied
with oneself does not respond to
our human need for connection and
community, and eventually does not lead
to happiness. Bloemink concludes that
instead of fnding answers in her search,
she only stumbled upon more questions.
She realizes that life does not provide you
with an answer in which instant happiness
is revealed. Instead of trying to search for
some state of happy perfection, Bloemink
accepts her mediocre status as a human
being with happy and sad emotions,
and decides to focus
more on the people
around her instead of
compulsively trying
to understand her inner self.
Recently I attended a lecture given
by writer Leo Bormans. Bormans is the
composer of the by now famous Te World
Book of Happiness (2011). He gathered
the knowledge and wisdom surrounding
happiness from over 100 professors all
over the world. In his lecture Bormans
stated that he could give a tip on how
to be happy in merely two words: other
people. Te audience
laughed a bit, the silence
after these words was full
of expectation. Bormans
continued: Yes, the quest for happiness is
not an egocentric one. It is about caring
for others. And, one does not attain
happiness by focusing upon material
things. It is about human beings, about
living with and caring for other people
this will lead to happiness. A solid
advice I would say- let us include it when
continuing our pursuit of happiness.
One does not fnd happiness
when one truly searches for it.
Te quest for happiness is not
an egocentric one.
Reference List:
Bloemink, S. (2012). Happy Me. Amsterdam: Nieuw Amsterdam Uitgevers. | Horwitz, A. & Wakefeld, J.
(2007). The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive
Disorder. Oxford University Press. | Proto, E. & Rustichini, A. (2013). A Reassessment of the
Relationship between GDP and Life Satisfaction. In: Plos One, vol. 8, no. 11. | Veenhoven, R.
(2009). How Do We Assess How Happy We Are?. In: Happiness, Economics and Politics: Towards a
multi-disciplinary approach. Cheltenham United Kingdom: Edward Elger Publishers.
Lezingen, collegereeksen, debatten, muziek, flm, comedy
Lectures, Lecture series, debates, music, flm, comedy
Sun 19 Jan 2 pm: Die andere Heimat
Film @Lumire, 10 Euros
Tue 21 Jan 7:30 pm: Science in Transition (Board of Governors, Observant, Studium Generale)
Debate @Mensa Tongeresestraat 53, Free entrance
Fri 24 Jan 8:30 pm: Didier Laloy and Tuur Florizoone
Concert @AINSI, 10 Euros
Zon 26 jan 14 uur: Verbroken Stilte
Film @Lumire, 4 Euros
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Debatcaf @Boekhandel Polare, Gratis entree
Do 30 jan 20 uur: Karel de Grote: einde of begin?
Lezing @Karl Dittrichzaal, SSC, gratis entree
Do 6 feb 20 uur: De Dromenwever | Douwe Draaisma
Lezing @Collegezaal, Tongersestraat 53, studenten gratis (reserveren verplicht)
Fri 7 Feb 8:30 pm: Koffe (Afrobeat)
Concert @Muziekgieterij, 6 Euros

Studium Generale is part of Maastricht University /studiumgenerale
Facebook, Linkedin, Whatsapp,
Twitter, Instagram en ontelbare andere
sociale netwerken maken tegenwoordig
een onderdeel uit van het dagelijks
leven van veel jonge Westerlingen. De
mogelijkheden aan connecties zijn
eindeloos en het lijkt een vereiste om
altijd en overal bereikbaar te kunnen
zijn. De status van connectiviteit van een
individu lijkt gerelateerd te zijn aan het
aantal platformen
en netwerken
waar iemand deel
van uit maakt,
met als uitkomst
een climax aan
verbindingen. Student Journalistiek Bram
van Montfoort voldeed aan het plaatje
van de altijd bereikbare, verbonden
jongere. Toch vermoedde hij dat zijn
internetverslaving hem soms ook in de weg
stond en vroeg zich af hoe hij zijn leven
zonder internet zou ervaren. Bram besloot
een jaar lang ofine te gaan, dat hield in
dat hij geen internet en mobiele telefoon
zou gebruiken en anderen ook niet zou
vragen dat voor hem te doen. Wat volgt
is een beschrijving van Bram zijn leven in
de niet-virtuele wereld. Een jaar ofine
(2013) leest als een dagboek, inclusief
persoonlijke brieven en gedachten van
Bram. Brams goede vriend Geo, is een
waardevolle tegenstem in het hele ofine
project. Geo moedigt Bram aan, maar
is ook eerlijk in hoe egostisch hij Bram
zijn onbereikbaarheid soms ervaart. Bram
kan Geo immers wel bereiken als hij dat
zou willen (door Geos mobiele telefoon
te bellen met een vaste telefoon), maar
andersom is dat niet het geval. Het lijkt
een paradoxaal
gegeven; door je te
distantiren van het
soms narcistische
online leven wordt
je alsnog als individualistisch gezien en
als lastig ervaren omdat je niet gelinkt
bent aan het overlappende netwerk van
verbindingen. Het is een interessante
uitkomst van het project; wanneer je beslist
om ofine te gaan zijn de consequenties
voor jezelf minstens zo groot als de
consequenties voor de mensen om je heen.
Naast Bram zijn persoonlijke
ervaringen van een ofine leven, geeft
hij survivaltips voor de lezer die iets
soortgelijks zou willen proberen. Hij doet
onderzoek naar typemachines, postduiven
en telefooncellen en geeft de lezer tips
Een jaar offline
Jeska Onderwater



Wanneer je beslist om ofine te gaan
zijn de consequenties voor jezelf
minstens zo groot als de consequenties
voor de mensen om je heen.
over de kunst van het versturen van
originele brieven. Zijn reis naar Colombia
geeft inzicht in hoe verschillende
culturen en landen omgaan met
communicatietechnologie. In een cultuur
waar tijd niet zo strikt wordt genomen, is
de druk om altijd bereikbaar te moeten
zijn ook lager. Toch blijkt uit Bram zijn
ervaringen voornamelijk dat ,zowel voor
hemzelf als de mensen waarmee hij is
omringd, zijn ofine leven nadelen heeft.
Bram zelf loopt vooral tegen praktische
problemen aan, bijvoorbeeld het feit dat
hij zijn belastingaangifte alleen online
kan doen. Vrienden beschouwen Bram
zijn ofine status soms als egostisch;
zij kunnen hem niet bereiken als ze
dat willen en de spontaniteit van veel
momenten is eraf. Een afspraak met Bram
moet immers ruim van tevoren gepland
worden, een snel smsje met de vraag
of hij een terrasje wil pakken als de zon
begint te schijnen is niet meer mogelijk.
Bram ervaart hoe leven zonder internet
en mobiele telefoon niet alleen in sociaal
opzicht maar ook veelal in praktisch opzicht
een probleem is. Na zijn jaar ofine kiest
Bram uiteindelijk voor de middenweg;
een compleet ofine leven is onhandig en
het internet zowel als mobiele telefonie
biedt veel voordelen. Maar hij geniet van
een avond waarbij hij zijn telefoon uit
zet en voelt nog maar weinig behoefte
om zijn gemoedstoestand online te delen
met anderen. Het persoonlijke in Een jaar
ofine (2013) raakt ook aan de grotere
maatschappelijke dilemmas omtrent het
gebruik van communicatietechnologie.
Het feit dat Bram zich begint te ergeren
aan vrienden die tijdens een afspraak
met hun telefoon in de weer zijn, roept
de vraag op of de aanwezigheid van
nieuwe communicatietechnologie in
het dagelijks leven ook nieuwe normen
en waarden vereist.Een jaar ofine is
daarmee een levendige afspiegeling van
de contemporaine samenleving waarin
communicatietechnologie veel invloed
uitoefent op ons sociale leven. Het boek
zet aan tot denken; moeten we inderdaad
nieuwe ethische overwegingen maken
wat betreft communicatietechnologie?
van Montfoort, B. (2013). Een jaar offline. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Moon.
In 2011, the book 50 Years was
published in the English version. Since
2013 it can also be purchased in German
for which the title then carries the name
Die beste Zeit ist jetzt. Te German title,
literally translated into the best time is now,
already hints at the message Bambaren
tries to reveal in his book. Take the chance
when it is there and dare to change your
life into what you would like it to be like.
In many short chapters which only sum up
to about hundred pages in total, he lets his
protagonist Chuck, an incredibly rich
businessman, live through his childhood
again and rethink his position in life.
Quickly, after reading the frst four
to fve chapters, it becomes clear that
the huge amount of work, Chuck, the
businessman, spends most of his time on,
is linked to his past and the poor fnancial
conditions under which he experienced his
childhood. Te reader gets to know that
already as a small boy, Chuck made the
decision to lead his life diferently when he
will be a grown-up. He never again wanted
to be fnancially restricted in any way.
When Chuck is at the age of 50 and
when the best time to make a change
arrived, the reader steps into his life. Being
on the way to one of those early morning,
really important meetings in one of his
companies, he takes a wrong exit on the
highway. As Chuck does not listen to his
really expensive brand-new navigation
system, it seems to be destiny that he gets
out in a neighbourhood that causes him to
panic. Te poor looking neighbourhood he
identifes, turns out to be the one in which
Chuck used to live with his parents when
he was a small boy. Parking in front of a
randomly chosen house, he tries to calm
himself down so to become able to drive
on within the next minutes. Unforeseen, a
sentence written on a sign, hanging at the
house he parked in front of, destroys his
plan and makes him faint. Te sign says:
Some people are as poor as that they do
not possess anything more than money.
Chuck awakes inside of the house he
has parked in front o,f before he lost his
Once upon a
time, someone
had a crisis.
Sergio Bambaren: 50 years.
Pia Sombetzki














conscience. By confronting him with a
young and fresh-looking spitting image
of him, called Dave, Bambaren lays the
starting point for a revealing trip through
the house in which Chuck was actually
raised. Tis second character stays the only
one actively shaping the ongoing life and
the story of Chuck in the book. Bambaren
developed the character Dave functioning
as a mirror for Chuck. Te way how Dave
is taking care of
the fowers in the
garden, how he
takes his time for
preparing all the diferent ingredients for
his delicious meals and how passionately
he measures the cofee that smells so good,
is what impresses and inspires Chuck and
leads him to rethink the way in which
he perceives the value of his life. From
chapter to chapter, Bambaren achieves to
slowly reveal all the little lessons he himself
learned in the foregoing years of his life.
To appreciate the little things that make
life as beautiful as it is, and that beauty
and luck are in the eye of the beholder,
is what Chucks learns in the time he
spends in the house of his parents. Te
lesson that comes up again and again and
is also specifcally mentioned as a leading
directive in the foreword, is that life is
always open for adjustments and that it is
never too late to change the course of ones
life. As hinted by the German translation
of the title, Bambaren lets Chuck
realise that the best time is now to do so.
At about the half of the book and after
some calm and valuable time in the house,
Chuck declares: Im ready. He wants to
reevaluate the life he lived in the house as
a child. He wants to take the chance to
change his life and especially his one-sided
and career-focused perspective on it. Also
Dave, as his mirror, encourages Chuck
to take the next step and to learn some
further lessons by exploring the rooms in
the house. In the frst room, by awakening
memories of his parents, it is the scent
of love that Chuck experiences. What
Chucks memory of his parents is meant
to embody, is the
lesson that love might
endure the toughest
challenges and that
it is thereby still able to grow further
by solving them. Te next room makes
Chuck remember a physics lesson he
experienced in school when he was young.
By using the image of an aquarium that
Chucks teacher flled with stones, sand
and fnally water, explaining the physical
notion of volume, Bambaren reveals the
fnal lesson that makes Chuck decide to
live his life more consciously in the future.
Te aquarium that could still absorb
water after flling it with many stones
and sand, is used by Bambaren to make
clear: All people have some gaps within
themselves and it is spiritual fulflment
that has to fll them, and make people feel
complete. Led back to the real world by
entering into it through the garage of the
house in Chucks imagination, Bambaren
fnally sketches Chuck as a changed
person. From a character that was drawn
by loneliness, stress and discontent, he is
now pictured as being aware of his ability
to change his life and also brave enough
to take the fnal fateful step -- quitting his
job and starting a new life from scratches.
Life is always open for adjustments
and it is never too late to change the
course of ones life.
Te way in which Bambaren tells the
story of Chuck and how he reveals the
lessons needed to be understood to be able
to lead a fulflled life, is straightforward.
Almost childishly the character Chuck
experiences and discovers all the little
details in the house. Also the moments
in which Chuck realises the little lessons
and begins to understand them are
clearly defnable by the enlightenments
Bambaren describes. Tereby, Bambaren
achieves that probably everybody is able
to grasp the little wisdoms that he displays
and that are important to understand to be
able to lead a fulflled life. Already the fact
that the character Chuck simply awakes in
a somehow parallel existing world and that
there is Dave, looking like a doppelganger
of Chuck, is more reminiscent of a fairy
tale than a story that could have actually
happened. Tis kind of narration and the
revelation of several little lessons which
shape the understanding of our daily lives
will probably also remind many people
of the famous story of Te Little Prince,
written by Antoine de Saint-Exupry. For
all the fans of this sweet and touching
way of telling stories, or for those who
simply see their lifes climax in form of a
mid-life crisis already coming and seek for
prevention, this slim and still thoughtful
book can only be recommended.
Once upon a time, someone had a crisis





Te book was written by Jennifer
Terry and published in 1999.Terry writes
about the scientifc and medical concep-
tualisation of homosexuality. She uses
Foucaults discourse analysis to examine
records of scientifc and medical theory,
and public debate, to understand how the
discourse about homosexuality produced
the subject of the homosexual. She further
considers each discourse to imply a power
relation of some kind. Te analysis brings
afore how homosexuality, as a concept, de-
veloped into a transgressor with symbolic
centrality. Terry focused on science and
medicine, since she argued that both have
gained substantial ground in providing
what is believed to be true and thus shaped
the way we understand homosexuality.
Te historical analysis starts with the
frst theories of homosexuality from 1864
which from then on revolved around ideas
of homosexuality being innate, a mental
disorder, hereditary, or not; a constitutional
defect, or caused psychogenically.
Te conceptualisation was based on
othering; defning homosexuality
along the lines of how a dichotomous
understanding of sex and gender should
not be. Te anxieties of transgressions of
the commonly understood gender and
sex dichotomy, were eventually translated
into legal foundations for discrimination
and exclusion, as for example the
Comstock Act of 1873 which forbid the
circulation and trade of literature which
was considered to be obscene. Te further
conceptualisation of homosexuality was
immersed in the discourse on race, gender,
sexuality, and class, and was generally
seen as an outcome of the anxieties
related to modernity and industrial
development. Te 1920s marked a shift
in the understanding of homosexuality
and new models of femininity and
masculinity defned sexuality along the
lines of implied gender norms. After
the Second World War, homosexuality
was, yet again, used in public discourse
about fears and anxieties of the invisible.
Te book shows how the
Sticks and
An American Obsession: Science, Medicine and
Homosexuality in Modern Society
Saskia H. Herrmann
conceptualisation and medicalisation
of homosexuality is an example of the
translation of societal fears, and the
projection onto phenomena in society
which are not fully understood. Te
fears of crumbling of race and class
relations, for example, was projected onto
homosexuality as a cause, which was later
used similarly in the context of fears of
communism during the Cold War. Te
process of pathologizing homosexuality
was thus an expression of what generally
changed in society, and what was feared.
Terrys analysis is an example for the social
construction of a scientifc concept, along
the lines of changes in society, which,
henceforth, was attempted to be cured
through, at times, invasive methods,
such as castration and sterilisation.
With this book, the reader is ofered
an overview aiding readers to understand
the making of the pathology of
homosexuality, and its role within history
and society. Terrys entire discussion
is limited through the assumption of
a historical linearity which she draws
between the records she analyses, which
does not consider all these records she
was unable to access, or that some links
might only be possible to be established
in hindsight. Further, it is not entirely
clear what link she intended to draw to
current discourses about homosexuality,
or generally about sexualities, and
gender identities. It was Terrys hope
that readers comprehend the violence
committed against sexual dissenters via
discourses that ofcially proclaim them
inferior, defective, and maladjusted
(Terry, 199, p.26). Te book, however,
is written on a relatively high academic
level in terms of language and usage of
terms, and thus it seems unlikely that
the book is efectively accessible to the
greater masses. Ironically, the critique
of the discourse remains to be part of a
limited and elitarian discourse itself.
Writing as a form of
personal freedom.
It frees us from the mass identity
we see all around us.
In the end, writers will write not
to be outlaw heroes of some
underculture but mainly to save
themselves, to survive as
- Don DeLillo
Writing as a form of
personal freedom.
It frees us from the mass identity
we see all around us.
In the end, writers will write not
to be outlaw heroes of some
underculture but mainly to save
themselves, to survive as
- Don DeLillo
Writing is a form of personal freedom.
It frees us from the mass identity we see all
around us. In the end, writers will write
not to be outlaw heroes of some under-
culture but mainly to save themselves, to
survive as individuals (Don DeLillo). Te
Creative Writing minor of the UM FASoS
faculty ofers students the possibility for
the acquisition of essential writing and
reading skills. Te minor was founded
based on the conviction that creativity is
both a talent which can be encourage, and
a skill which can be taught. Mosaiek works
in collaboration with the course to ofer
students a possibility for the experience of
publication, and editing. Te following
pages contain a pastiche, and a short story
of students of the course. In February,
Mosaiek will publish an entire extra issue
dedicated to the Creative Writing course.
Creative Writing






Te sun in the sky over Samangan
was hot, like almost every day in the sum-
mer. Te soil around the mans house was
sandy and dry, not giving any fower or
plant a chance to fourish. He was sitting
under an awning right next to the front
entrance, sheltered from the hotness of the
sunrays. An Afghani boy was standing in
the door staring at the sky.
Come sit down with me boy the
man said. Do you want something to
Some Chai tea would be nice the
boy replied
Its so warm, are you sure you dont
want something cooler?
Chai tea is fne.
Dear, bring us two Chai teas the
man said.
Would you like some Kishmish as
well? the woman asked as she entered the
Yes, two Chais and a bowl of
Te woman brought out two cups of
Chai, placed a cloth on the ground and
set the cups on top of it. Te boy and the
man sat down on the ground holding up
their Chai, nodding their head in a polite
gesture as they were taking the frst sip.
Has the youngest one come home
yet? the man asked.
I dont know the boy said. I have
been out since the sunrise.
Oh. Would you like some more Chai
No, I am fne, thank you.
Some Dugh then? Te yoghurt
makes it cooler than the Chai.
Sure, Ill have some Dugh.
Te man called for the woman,
requesting two cups of Dugh for himself
and the boy.
Where is the youngest one then? the
boy asked.
Out. She will be back soon I assume.
Te woman brings out two cups of Dugh
and places the cups on the cloth on the
ground between the boy and the man.
I saw a man drinking alcohol today
the boy said.
Nonsense, you did not see that the
man replied. I have never seen anyone
do that. No man would.
Of course you would not have seen
Why do you say that? I could have
seen that too.
You could have. But you have not
the boy said teasingly.
Stop this nonsense. It must have
A fathers pride
Karoline R. Samuelsen
been your imagination.
Te Dugh is nice and cooling the
boy says.
It is. Very nice.
Te boy looks up at the man as he
wipes the sweat from his forehead.
It will be over before you know it. It
wont hurt at all. the man says.
Te boy looked down at his hands,
and closed his eyes.
I will be there with you the entire
time. It will be something we do
together .
Te boy did not reply, instead he was
staring down at his crossed legs.
It will be quick and painless, and
then when its over we will be free.
How do you know it wont hurt?
How do you know it will be better?
Its our purpose. If we do this
together, the rest can be safe.
Do you really think it will make a
It will. I am certain it will make a
huge diference. Our people will fnally
be happy. And we will be a part of
something larger. Tis is what we must
Te boy remained quiet, looking
around the room.
Dont worry. I know people who
have done it before.
I also know people who have done
it before, but things did not get better
It will be diferent this time. But if
you dont want to do this you dont have
to. In the end it is your choice.
And you really want to do this?
I believe this is what we are destined
to do, to serve our country and our
people. Tis is what we have been reading
and preached about. It is our time.
Will you love me more if I do it?
Will you be more proud of me?
I will love you and be just as proud
of you either way. It is your choice.
And mother wants this too?
Your mother loves you, and
understands that this is part of our life.
You saw how proud she was after the
Are you not scared?
I am not scared because I know it is
right. And when it is over we can fnally
Ok, then let us do it. I dont care
about myself. I care about the family.
Why boy, you need to care about
yourself. Tis must be your choice.
I want to do the right thing by you.
I love you boy, but be sure that you
are content with your decision. Once you
decide, you cannot go back.
I love you too. And I will do it so
things can be better. And we will do it
Te boy walked over to the window,
gazing at the hills. He could hear the
children playing in the streets on their
way home from school.
We will save our people, the man
said. And after this the western devils
will leave us alone. Tey cannot go
You dont know that. We dont know
I know it. I can feel it. It will be
diferent this time.
You cannot be sure of that. Tere are
other things we could do with our lives.
I am sure. Yes, there are other things
you could do with your future, but this
is my future. Tis will give the rest of our
people a better future.
It is not our duty. Others can do it.
No, that is exactly it. Tis is my duty.
Tis is my purpose.
No it isnt. Once we do this, we will
be gone. It will all be over
I dont want to push you into
something you dont want. It has to be
your choice
Can I have another tea? the boy said.
Te boy walked over to the window
again, looking up at the sky.
Come sit down boy. You must think

I know, I am thinking, the boy

said. Can we just sit here for a moment
without talking about this?
You must know that I only want the
best for you, and I would not let you
do this is I did not believe it was for the
I just want to make you and mother
proud. And I know you know will be
over quickly.
It will be over quickly.
Can I ask you something? the boy
You can ask me anything. You know
Can we kindly let it rest for a bit? I
need some air.
Te man did not reply. Instead he
walked over to the boy and stood still
while resting his hands on the boys
shoulders. Go outside and get some air.
We can continue this later.
Alright. I will be back in an hour.
Boy, are you alright? the man asked.
I am fne, the boy said. I just want
to make you proud.
A fathers pride
How and why, he did not know.
Henry simply observed that the room
he was in, despite being plentiful packed
with furniture, was spacious enough for
him to pace back and forth. It consisted
of a lounge and an open kitchen, which
he now wandered in and peered out of
its window. A clear and starry sky
static as a picture, as if a black canvas
painted with numerous illuminating
dots. Tis too was a fact he simply
observed. He continued his business,
pacing back and forth, back and forth,
occasionally looking at something, like
a vase or a painting, always observing,
never evaluating. In the leather armchair,
located at the center of lounge, appeared
a gentleman. He was of middle age and
dressed exquisitelya gray striped three
piece suit, ftting the gentleman so well
that one could tell that it was tailored by
the most expert and the most expensive
master. And although one would not
think the gentleman would look out of
place, should he be encountered on, lets
say, the streets, he had an aura of another
perioda timeless period perhaps. He
read the newspaper of an unknown date
while sipping Earl Grey from a porcelain
cup decorated with china imprint.
Te two, Henry and the gentleman,
continued their business, undisturbed by
the presence of one another.
Some time passes and the gentleman
had fnished his newspaper, closed it,
laid it on the foor. He watched Henry
musingly, who now, again, wandered
into the kitchen. You know, he began,
smoothing out the folds of his jacket,
there is no necessity for us to talk, but
since we are here anyways, we might as
well kill some time. After all, the world
never seems to run out of it.
Henry stopped and hesitated. Was the
gentleman talking to him? He heard him
clearly, but could not put the gentlemans
words in to context.
Please, dont stand there looking
petrifed. Take a seat. Tat is, if you dont
mind the humble musings of an old
Henry looked to his right. He
understood the association between seat
and chair and pulled out a stool from
under the dining table.
Please here, on the sofa the
A Proper
Terry Lee
short story














gentleman gestured at the three seat
couch opposite of him. Italian made.
Much more comfortable.
Slowly, Henry approached the
sofa, took a place in the corner seat,
rested his left elbow on the arm, shifted
uncomfortably in the cushion, making
squeaking noises. Oh, excuse me, he
said, not sure if it was appropriate to lean
down or to sit up straight.
Its all right my friend. No need
to be so uptight. Just a light hearted
conversation, it need not be anything
grave or dire, that is all.
A conversation? He knew the word,
yet he could not think of the act.
Yes, a conversation. It resembles
a play (have you ever seen a play?); it
consist of a beginning, middle and end.
Mind you, it is not out of necessity that it
does so (nothing ever is), but merely as to
not bore its participants and its audience.
Even the great rationalist Plato was
quite the dramatisthe knew no matter
how enlightening his dialogues were
no one would bother with them if they
lacked excitement. Of course, youngster
nowadays, having never mastered the
art of discourse, would break of a
conversation just like that. But please
dont feel pressured. Im somewhat an
ignoramus myself; Im sure we would
work something out, Henry.
Henry. Tat was the word he
identifed with himself. My name, how
did you know?
Why wouldnt I? Everything that
you are, has always been Henry. And are
you not here now?
I dont know yours.
I have no namedo I need one
you think? True, its useful to add
fair and character to a conversation.
I see you already mastered the art of
drama yourself, Henry. Ah, you got me
cornered. A name, a name Im quite
lost now Lucifer perhaps? Or is that
too novel and suggestive?
Im not sure, but it provokes a
certain expectation.
Tats no good, Im rather bad at
dealing with expectations. Best not to
expect anything from mehow about
Maldoror? Its obscure enough; in fact
mostly forgotten.
It has a poetic ring to it.
I see, it has other strings attached
to it as well. A more common name
Vladimir then? Its common but
Te impaler were the words that
Henry associated with the concept of
Tanks for reminding me, Ive
forgotten all about that fellow. I quite
liked himdoesnt he go by another
name now? I remember Stoker wrote an
excellent novel about him.
You are a bit strange.
Strange? If by strange we mean the
otherness, the abnormal, the foreign,
in other words, the deviation from a
normative standard, then may I, if you
dont mind, enquire what this normative
standard is that you judge by?
By what indeed. Ever since he was
in the room, he seemed to be devoid of
any concrete thoughts. He concentrated
and thought hard, but could not fnd the
proper meaning to what he had said.
Eh, sorry, that was rude of me. It
was just a word that crossed my mind. It
was not meant as a judgment.
Dont refrain, my friend! Please
judge all you like. You are, after all, a
judge by profession, are you not?
I was a judge.
Te past-tense? You look too
young to be retired. A change in career
I dont know, before I knew, I was
in this room with no exposition or
No matter how hard he tried, he
could not remember. Yes, he could
remember things in general, that he
was a judge, that he was a man in his
thirties, the English language, the name
of things, but nothing that was concrete
and particular. He rubbed his forehead,
as if the act might stimulate his dormant
Lets not be hasty, the gentleman
interrupted his rubbing. It would come
to you in due time. And we have plenty
of time! Why not relax and have a drink
(it was rude of me to not have asked).
Cofee, tea, whiskey, Japanese sake, beer,
mead, Ive got everything in this room.
He was not thirsty, but he did not
want to be rude again. Ill have what
you are having.
Earl Grey it is then. Te gentleman
placed a cup on the cofee table and
poured from the china teapot. Among
the tea set, there were various other
objectsa plate of biscuits, a set of nails,
a brick, a revolver, and leaning against
the ledge of the table, an axethat
had caught Henrys attention. Tey all
looked out of place in one way or the
other. Te nails, crooked and rusted,
suggested that something needed
tinkering. Yet everything in the room was
in a neat state. Te same applied for the
brickworn and muddied, it would not
have ftted the Persian patterned walls.
As for the gun and the axe, he could
imagine them being used in situations of
emergency, yet such situations seemed
wholly foreign to this room. And the
biscuits? He wouldve overlooked
them were they not on the verge of
breaking into little crumbs. His gaze
was so diverted by these objects, that the
gentleman took notice:
You must excuse the mess, they are
leftovers from work. Some of them are
even very old relics. Ive been meaning
to clean it, but I always managed to
postpone it. We always postpone the
things we dislike with the most banal
excuses. I keep telling myself after this
article, after this cup of tea, after an hour,
tomorrow, next year. Its rather hard to
fnd the proper motivations; we need
concrete rewards, but nothing is concrete
nowadays. Take money for example,
mens most useful invention and yet the
most abstract.
Henry analyzed the objects on the
table; the gentlemans profession could
be anything, ranging from a handyman
to a law enforcer. Te association of these
objects to their respective professions
was as far as he could get, and none of
them felt right to be appropriated to
the gentleman. What is it you do for a
A Proper Conversation
living? he asked, resigned.
Coincidentally, the gentleman
pulled his collar, Im a student of law
as well. Although obviously not of such
admirable position as your honor; Im
merely a petty lawyer, and whether I do it
for a living or not, its hard to tell, as Im
highly unorthodoxI deal with law in
the broadest sense, so the compensation I
receive is also in the broadest sense.
Yes, a lawyer seems ftting. I had
thought that you were a handyman or
some sort, he pointed towards the nails
with uncertainty, failing to make the
joke. But it wouldnt have been right.
Its intuition. Its always intuition
that takes precedence over reason. Very
few could boast of such keen intuition as
yours, Henry. A pity actually. I wouldnt
have been as often misunderstood
otherwise. Tey see me inspecting an
axe, and they think Im a freman, see me
inspecting a brick, and they think Im a
builder. It is never as simplethese crude
instruments were used by my clients in
the most creative manner.
Evidence from your cases?
Evidence? Yes, they might be
considered as such from a certain
perspective; for me, they are simply
keepsakes. But you are right in that they
are all related to my cases in one way or
the other.
Te gentleman got Henrys attention.
Not because he was of a similar
profession, but because previously,
whenever Henry observed something
in the room, like the painting, vase or
the starry sky, he merely considered
them an extension of the room. Now,
the gentlemen had suggested that they
belonged to another time and space. Such
possibility was wholly new to him and he
was eager to know more.
Please, tell me about your cases,
Henry requested, not letting the objects
out of his sight.
Are you sure such dull subject is fne?
Well, take these nails that you indicated
just now, they were from a woman who
kidnapped a little girl and nailed her to a
wooden chair with it.
A horrid story. Or at least that
was a comment that Henry felt it was
appropriate to utter.
On the contrary, my friend! It was
a heart wrenching story. You see the
woman was most unfortunate. Being
little educated, the woman married at
a young age. Te husband however,
was rather indiferent to his spouse; he
considered his work more important
than family. Luckily, the woman soon
begot a child, and this child, a lovely
girl, became the womans raison dtre.
Even when her husband divorced her,
she was fne as long as she had her little
girl. Alas, fate has not been kind. Her
child passed away. In her sorrow, in her
loneliness, the woman went mad. Te
only way to quench her pain was to fnd
a replacement for her beloved daughter.
Tat, however, was not all. Although
no evidence was found, the kidnapped
girl was believed to be responsible for the
death of the womans daughter. It wasnt
by any wicked intention (then again,
Hobbes was convinced that all men are
by nature evil), it was merely a prank.
She thought it would have been funny to
push her friend into the river. Little did
she know that the current was stronger
than it appearedthings never appear as
they are, but of course she was merely a
child and wouldnt have read Kant; a pity,
might have saved a life otherwise. Really,
life turns tragic at unexpected turns.
For two weeks, the woman held
the child in her house, nailed to a chair
with her Achilles tendons cut and mouth
burned with coil so she wouldnt run of
or cry for help. Te woman had become
so delirious that she thought the child
was her own daughter. Even after the girl
had died, she still tried to feed the corpse
with her home-made cuisine. It was a
matter of time before the smell reached
the neighbors and the woman was caught
red-handed, with hammer, scissor, coal
and all lying around her house.
All evidence were against the woman
To hell with evidence! What does
evidence compare to the heart? Only
a monster would cite Newtons theory
of light instead of a poem by Byron or
Keats. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy,
and yet God forgave him. How could
we not forgive this woman who killed
out of love? And did not God also say
unto Moses an eye for an eye, a tooth
for a tooth? Te woman had both our
sympathy and approval. She should be
deemed innocent! I thus roared in the
court. Te jury wept and clapped as the
woman was freed from her shackles.
A week later, the woman was caught
again, having kidnapped another child,
nailed to a chair and all. Admittedly,
I could not argue for her right, but
sympathy could still be asked. Te jury, I
perceived, were reluctant at frst. Luckily,
half of them being mothers, they could
not but feel compassion for my client.
Another week goes by and the same
happens again. Tis time, however, the
jury grew tired of the same old story.
Even till today, I lament the fact that I
was not a better storyteller. Had I been
more well-versed in the art of rhetoric, I
mightve convinced the jury otherwise. In
the end, I only managed to get my client
the guillotine instead of a hanging. Less
sufering, you see. All in all, the case was
not entirely lost.
Henry knew more or less what the
law entailed, but he could not name any
specifc rules or articles. So although he
had his reservation for the gentlemans
arguments, he deemed it mustve been
appropriate in some time and some place.
Te gentleman, he felt, was defnitely a
helpful stimuli; he was this many steps
away from forming a concrete thought.
Te brick then. Could you tell me
about that case?
Bien sr, mon ami. But this one,
Im afraid, is less touching. In a certain
town there lived a thief with absolutely
no redemption or whatsoeveryou
know, the usual low-life who squanders
his money as soon as he gets some and
never cared for anyone in generalbut
his methodology was most interesting.
Tis thief operated in a district that was
undergoing a renovation and robbed
A Proper Conversation
unsuspecting citizens amidst the rubble
of demolished houses. During nightfall,
the time he operated, he would pretend
to be drunk and act all rowdy, waking
the whole district in the process. His
victims could hear him paces away, but
they all thought he was a drunk. And
why pay attention to a drunk? You see,
the thief avoided suspicion by being most
obvious. When he neared his targets, he
would pretend to trip and fall, causing
his targets to avert their sights from such
embarrassment, and then, in his targets
most unsuspecting moment he would
grab a loose brick and bash their heads
in. If the victim was lucky, he would be
left with a concussion and a stolen wallet.
He had reigned long in this district
till one night, when he was trailing
another potential victim. Tis time, it
was a banker, who had stayed out late
for a meeting. Coincidentally, it was also
his daughters birthday and he hoped to
make it back before midnight. He had
picked up a present, a teddy bear, and his
daughters rejoicing face was all over his
mind. So naturally, while the thief acted
obvious, to the banker he was anything
but. So absorbed he was in the thought of
his daughter, that when the thief tripped
near him, he did anything but lower
his guardhe saw clearly that the thief
was grabbing for a brick. And when the
thief swung the brick at him, he blocked
with his briefcase. Te thief was truly
surprised, never had he failed before. In
the thief s confusion, the banker pushed
him over. He was in a frenzy now, he
didnt want to die, he wanted to see his
daughters face. It was either him or me.
Te thief got his brains smashed out by
the very same brick
A taste of his own medicine,
uttered Henry, although he wasnt sure
whether the phrase had a positive or
negative connotation.
Indeed, that was what the local
authorities thought as well. Tey deemed
it self-defense. Tis low-life had terrorized
the district for quite some time, so they
were all too glad that someone had
disposed of him. Tey even gave the
banker a medal.
No case then, said Henry,
somewhat disappointed.
It has but yet begun! My client was
not the banker but the thief.
He was not dead?
He was, so he came to me as a
ghost. He was truly pathetic though,
begging and crying, I robbed and killed
so skillfully for so many years, but no
one has ever praised me. Ten come this
man, who kills me in a lucky strike and
is deemed a hero, flling the front pages
of newspapers and receiving praise here
and there. You must restore justice to me
sir. You must! Te ghost lamented as he
cried of injustice. Now, how could I have
turned down such passionate plea?
I dont understand. Te thief was
dead, and yet he was there. With you
talking to you? It seems, by means of
logic, paradoxical? he said, uncertain
whether the last phrase should have been
emphasized as a question or statement.
Not at all, Henry. In fact, dead
people are the noisiest of all. Was
Hamlets diseased father not the prime
mover of the play?
A work of fction?
Fiction or not, it does not make the
injustice done by Claudius any less real.
Te same goes for my case, whether the
thief really came to me as a ghost or not,
was not important.
Again, Henry was reluctant to
agreeing, but he considered the incentive
indeed not pivotal to the case itself.
Please continue.
As I was saying, the poor man came
to me and begged for justice. He wanted
his innocence proven and the banker
charged guilty.
Tat seems, Henry gathered his
thoughts, impossible. By your previous
arguments, he continued slowly, the
business man should be deemed innocent
by, frst, the same argument that God had
forgiven Cain. And second, the banker
paid back the thief for what was about
to be inficted upon him. It is an eye for
an eye, Henry fnished, quite amazed at
how much he had progressed.
Such deductive abilities! Youre a fast
learner my friend. But you have to take
into consideration that diferent cases
require diferent approaches. Its a matter
of what kind of mold we wish to use.
Has Christ himself not overridden the
Law of Moses by saying, Do not resist
an evildoer? It was because the times had
called for other laws. And so had my case.
Te banker oughtnt to have resisted.
I dont follow.
My friend, did not Abelard say that
to give consent to our desire is the very
root of sin? Tey got a fancy word for it,
was it intentionalism? Te moment the
banker resisted, he gave in to his desire.
His intentions were foul. He thought
his own life more important than the
thief s. He shouldve acted the better
man, surrendered all his possessions, and
let his head be bashed in. He was truly
embarrassed when I confronted him.
Te bankers daughter, in turn, was so
ashamed of her father, that in his sleep
she sufocated him with the teddy bear.
She sufocated her own father, just
like that?
Just like that. She believed she was in
the right to correct a fathers wrong. And,
Henry, youd be surprised at what length
people go through just to prove that they
are in the right. Of course, years later she
might have lamented her spontaneity
(instinct is after all the frst principle
people act by), and she might have her
hung herself. Or perhaps she died a
happy death. I wouldnt know as she grew
up too pious a woman for my tastes.
In any case, she was widely praised, for
her intentions were justifed. Intention,
intention, thats all it matters; dead or
alive, God doesnt give damn about our
material state.
By that argumentif Im right,
Henry added, somewhat insecure
whether he grasped the gentlemens
argument or not, the thief should be
deemed guilty as well. For his intentions
were also foul, even though his actions
did not cause any material damages.
Who cares about a rotten corpse?
Its not as if he would be mugging people
A Proper Conversation
againmight as well grant me the favor
and let the court be quickly dismissed.
And what about the banker? What
was the verdict?
As I said, who cares about a rotten
I guess that might be so Henry
had to give in, yet he felt proud that he
had argued for his part. He asked for the
next case eagerly.
Te axe. Tell me about the axe.
Ah, the axe! It brings back memories.
I particularly liked this client; he still
holds a special place in my heart. Or
rather I should say mind, for he was quite
the intellectual. He was a young man, a
student of law, just like you and me, an
example among his peers, and he even
had a pretty fanc. Tings, however,
took a turn in this young mans life. He
dwelled into deep philosophical thoughts
now and then (dont we all?) and a certain
thought kept recurring to him. It was
only occasionally at frst, perhaps when
he dozed of at a lecture, or when his
friend had to use the bathroom, leaving
our young friend to himself. Te thought
gradually occurred more frequent and
eventually plagued him to the point that
he sufered from insomnia. At his point,
the thought became to him the sole
principle that mattered in life. You must
be curious; I too was most amused when
I heard of it. It was as follow: He is either
Napoleon or he is not Napoleon.
Was his name Napoleon?
Were it only as simple as changing
ones name, the gentleman laughed.
Hear to the end of it, my friend. Im
sure youll agree. Mankind, our young
philosopher said, is divided into two
groups. People who are Napoleon and
people who are not Napoleon.
You must be familiar with
Napoleons conquest. He conquered
Europe on a trail of bodies and yet he
received numerous praise for it. Even
Hegel termed him the embodiment
of the Zeitgeist. All the while amidst
the murder and the destruction, Mr.
Bonaparte remained unfazed. He
marched with his head held high as
he trampled the hopes and dreams of
widowed wives and orphaned daughters.
And what gave Napoleon the right to do
so? Well, he didnt care; the question itself
never occurred to him, for he considered
himself above Gods law.
It was such a question that plagued
our young friend. Was he Napoleons
cannon fodder, or Napoleon himself?
Tere was only one way to fnd out
Te gentleman touched the tip of the axe
with his index fnger. Conveniently, the
young man knew a nasty old hag whom
everyone detested. If he were Napoleon,
if he was above Gods lawthe most
supreme lawthen he could dispose of
the old hag while remaining unfazed.
With the pretext of borrowing money, he
met up with the old hag, grabbed for the
closest weapon at hand, the janitors axe,
and splat! split the hags skull in half.
Henry frowned but said nothing. Te
thought of a womans head split into half
repulsed him, yet he thought it was the
logical thing for the young man to do by
the reasons the gentleman had relayed so
Our young man, the gentleman
continued, refected afterwards if it
was truly the right thing to do. But the
moment he hesitated, it was already clear
he was not Napoleon. Knowing he was
merely mediocre, he might as well confess
his crime now.
He confessed then? Nothing for you
to do?
Tere was everything for me to do!
When I read about this young mans
story in the newspaper Never had I
been so enlightened. Such profoundness!
I insisted on defending him, but he was,
unfortunately, altogether indiferent. He
was so ashamed that he was subjected
to the law he previously sought to
transcend, he wanted nothing to do with
it. Yes, Im afraid our friendship was
merely one-sided.
Using the law to defend him would
only prove that he was not Napoleon,
Henry concluded.
What do you see me for? Te devil?
To think of adding salt to the wound,
But reconciling him with Gods law
seems impossible to me.
To hell with Gods law. We dont
even know if the old man exists or not.
It was the jury who needed convincing.
After all, Gott ist tot, everything
is permitted, et cetera et cetera. I
pronounced our young philosopher the
new man-God. I asked them, what right
do you have to judge the new man-God?
And they trembled in fear for the wrath
of our young friend. So afraid to turn to
dust, they didnt even start the trial. Case
dismissed, you are free! As for the young
man, he got quite the religious following,
although he never recovered from the
shock that he was not Napoleon
Henry sat in silence and refected on
what the gentleman had told him so far.
Finally, he began, It seems to me, that
had each case occurred simultaneously,
you would not have won any of them.
For although I lack any concrete ideas,
I do recall the concepts of logic, such
as contradiction and consistency. You
were not consistent at all, and each case
contradicted each other. Had I been
appointed judge in any of those courts, I
would have dismissed you immediately.
Were it so easy, my friend. You say
with confdence now that you would
have dismissed me, but you are after
all not grounded in time and space.
Tats why you lack any concreteness,
Henry. Had you been part of history,
you wouldve been the one and not the
other. Had you been part of history,
you would not have spoken so lightly of
contradictions. For history is all about
contradictions. After all, how many
Copernican revolutions had we had so
far? Tree? Even one would have been
too much.
It somehow made enough sense to
Henry. He was here and not there, at any
of the gentlemans cases. What he did was
merely hypothesize, and he could not tell
with any certainty he would have acted
so and so. How would he have acted
were he at a certain time and place? What
verdict would he have spoken? Would
A Proper Conversation
the same thoughts have occurred to
him? Would he still be the same Henry?
Who was Henry anyways? Te being
encompassed in these few thoughts? Te
gentleman had said that everything that
he is, has always been Henry. But what
did everything entail? Te past, present
and the future? Or just the ephemeral
moment of being that lasts less than
a second? Was there, to begin with, a
concrete existence of a future and a past?
If there was no connecting principle
such as the passage of time, then was
there such a thing as contradiction
and consistency? He clamped his head
between his hands; so many questions
and so few answers.
No need to overstress, Henry. Its
merely a conversation, not a debate. To a
senile old man like me, there is no need
to prove right from wrong (there never is
such need). In fact, if you insist, I would
gladly give you the right to be right.
Perhaps Im too insistent. I dont
know why.
Not at all, not at all. Would you like
a refll perhaps? Or some biscuits?
No, its all right. Im not hungry. But
thank you for the ofer.
Well, dont hold back. Tey taste
rather good actually, and the gentleman
took a bite while crumbs fell from the
side of his mouth. Very crispyeven got
chocolate crusts. Are you sure you dont
want one?
Henry looked at the plate of biscuits.
Tey were round but crudely shaped.
Did someone bake them for you?
An old man like me receiving gifts?
Were it only so! Tese too, Im afraid, are
keepsakes from a case. But dont worry,
they are still fresh. Tey are always fresh
in here.
Biscuits? What kind of case was it?
I would rather refrain from this one.
It was one of the few cases I had losta
rather dark chapter in my career.
Now the gentleman got him curious
all the more. I can hardly imagine
someone else outwitting you.
If you insist, my friend, Ill detail
the events of this humiliating account to
you. But be prepared (even now my lips
tremble as I speak), it was truly a horror,
it was a massacre, a genocide! Te culprit
was a tyrant you never seen before,
although she appeared to be no more
than a little girl of the age of six or seven.
She was a curious child, always easily
fascinated by various insects, from worms
to snails, cockroaches to butterfies.
Tis time, it was the Queen of ants that
caught her attention. No matter what,
she would witness her marvelous form
with her own twinkly little eyes. Despite
her young age, she devised an ingenious
plan. She used biscuit crumbs to lure the
ants and was shown the way to the ant
hill, the palace of the queen. She dug and
dug, all the while destroying the home
to thousands of lives. In the end, with
the ant queen nowhere to be sighted, she
lost her patience and decided on a wholly
diferent gameshe trampled the ant
Ants for clients?
Very perceptive, Henry. I was
horrifed when I saw her trampling the
A Proper Conversation
ants in my backyard. To think of such
tyranny in this day and age!
I would think most would be
indiferent to the fate of ants.
You speak to my heart (my
soulmate)! For this was exactly what the
ladies and gentlemen of the jury had
thought. Te case was blown out of
proportions, why drag a girl to court for
trampling a few ants, you should visit
a psychiatrist La di da la di da. You
see, the task lies in showing the jury the
perspective of an antthat there is not
much of a diference between man and
Henry thought of the image of a
man, and then that of an ant. Rather
difcult to communicate, he inferred.
Difcult? Dont we understand a
dogs joy by the simple wagging of its
tail? And hadnt we advanced so far as to
teach apes the language of signs? Te very
same could be done with ants. And that
is exactly what I didI hired a ragtag
group of linguists and entomologists
and a few hundred years later we could
communicate fawlessly. And what do
you know? Tose ants proved to be
natural-born story-tellers: their account
of the girl was as horrifying as you would
imagine. Te little girl was guilty as
But you still lost?
Yes, the little nymph was truly
cunning. She kept denying that we could
understand ants. Look, we said, they are
talking to us with their antennae. No, I
dont see it she said. Look again, we said.
No, she said, and she gouged out her
twinkly little eyes.
An illogical action it seems.
Tat, my friend, made all the
diference. Did Berkeleys principle not
go as forth: esse is percipi, to be is to
be perceived? Wouldnt the opposite be
true as well? We kept showing, but she
saw nothing. We could prove nothing to
her, hundreds of years to waste. But its
all past now, let us put this humiliation
behind us.
Tat to be is to be perceived, sounded
logical, and the principle inverted should
therefore be logical as well. Yet it felt
absurd to Henry. He refected on the
other cases of the gentleman as well,
and he concluded thus, I have thought
about it for a while now. I was relayed
with plenty of information, but have
yet to encounter a judgment that was
satisfactory. Dont misunderstand me,
you were very convincing. I simply mean
it was not satisfactory to me. But I would
have no idea what kind of verdict I could
have reached otherwise. So far each
case and its resolution you mentioned
sounded to me logical and yet absurd;
two irreconcilable concepts and yet here
united by you. Im faintly reminded of
a concept that could entail such factors,
and that is that of the dream. Is this then,
perhaps, a dream?
A dream? A most intriguing
proposition. But it wouldnt be quite
so proper to ask me. If I were a mere
fgment of your imagination, I couldnt
possibly transcend your consciousness
and answer.
Tis is a dream then. I am
dreaming, he pronounced the last four
syllables distinctly.
Ah, by becoming conscious of the
act of dreaming, you are trying to force
yourself awake. Its interesting to observe
how life works in such dualities. Take life
itselfthe moment we become conscious
of living, we notice we are dying all the
same In any case, Henry, youre still
Not a dream then It was worth
the attempt, he added, not sure of what
else he couldve said to coat his failed
Dont give up too soon, Henry. It
all depends on whether you are truly
conscious or not. I can tell that you
are living, but living only takes on true
meaning if you ground it in concreteness.
It is when you witness the death of
your child and go mad, when you bash
countless of heads in for a few pennies,
when you want to prove to yourself
you are Napoleon and fail, when you
gouge out your own eyes to deny the
undeniable. Te same goes for dreaming,
can you ground dreaming in such
I know a dream is a dream. I know
a dream is that which is absurd but yet
appears logical.
A most trivial truth. A truth
nonetheless, but its not truth we
are speaking of. It is the inevitable
questionwhat is it that you, my friend,
are conscious of?
What was he conscious of? He looked
to his surroundings. Conscious of a
table? Conscious of a plate of biscuits?
No, the gentleman would just dismiss
them as trivial. He needed something
concrete, but he could think of nothing.
He loathed his own inability. Was there
nothing he could say?
It is in such self-loathing that a
realization had dawned on him. Tere
was something he could say. Tere was
always somethingsomething on his
mindhis own thoughts. And were his
own thoughts not concrete enough? He
looked at the gentleman, and said frmly,
Im conscious of my own thoughts.
Bravo! the gentleman clapped.
Te good old Cartesian proposition,
cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I
am. I knew we were alike, both lovers of
wisdom. It wasnt exactly what Henry
said, but it was close enough. It is,
however, an inevitable answer, that most
laymen would have come up with, to a
question that was not, I must apologize,
really inevitable, the gentleman laid his
hand on his chest and slightly bowed his
head. But, since we have come to this
conclusion anyways, we might as well
continue from there. Te real question
then, is how to proceed: Descartes had
God as his guarantee of the concreteness
of everything outside of himself. But you
dont believe in God, do you?
God indeed appeared to him as an
empty phrase. No, I dont think so.
Ten you are a solipsist; just like
A solipsist Henry knew it was
the idea where only the existence of
his own mind was certain. But he had
no experience of that idea, so whether
he was a solipsist or not, he couldnt
tell. For the time being, he went along
with the gentleman: Tat would be a
contradiction. If it is as you said that we
are both solipsists, then one of us is lying.
For the afrmation of the one denies the
existence of the other.
Well, Im not lying.
Neither am I.
A contradiction it is then.
All the better! For I am a lover of
contradictions, the gentleman said,
clasping his hands together.
But, Henry said, slowly, while
observing the two hands of the
gentleman coming together, counting
the total fngers of the clasped hands, I
dont think Im a solipsist after all. I know
of something that is outside of my mind
and is yet concrete.
Oh please share. Im most eager to
Te thought had come to Henry just
now. It was so simple. Why hadnt he
thought of it before? Something that was
by its nature concrete, that could only
be concrete no matter whatit was, he
pronounced, Mathematics.
Te gentlemans face darkened. Of
all the things to say and he mentions
mathematics! A most boring discipline!
He was shocked by the gentlemans
comment, but endured. Please hear me
out, mathematics is always concrete no
matter the time or place. Two plus two
makes four. I am conscious that two plus
two always makes four, no matter when
or where, he announced, confdently.
Te gentleman sat in silence for a
few seconds, stretched his back, leaned
forward, all the while staring into Henrys
eyes, and began, What if I were to say
that two plus two sometimes makes fve,
and sometimes three?
You cant say that. Its impossible.
Why not? Its only me and you in
this room. Its your word against mine.
Does your word take precedence over
mine? If so, then let it be. Im just an old
man that could easily be dismissed.
No it was not so, and yet Henry was
convinced that he was in the right this
Look, Henry put up his right hand
with all his fngers extended except for
the thumb, just count, one, two, three,
I counted fve. And this time, one,
two, three.
Im sure Im right. I dont know how
else to prove it to you. Anyone else would
have agreed with me. Im sure.
But there is no one else.
If only
Well, why dont you invite someone
over to be judge, the gentleman said,
pointing towards the door.
Henry was eager to prove the
gentleman wrong. He stood up and
stormed for the door. Or at least the
sensation of standing up and the rush of
blood to storm for the door were felt, but
he himself, Henry observed, remained
yet sitting on the couch, with his hands
resting on his lap.
Ill go later, Henry said, not
entirely grasping what had just happened.
Actually, there is another way to prove
A Proper Conversation
you are right, the gentleman indicated
the objects on the cofee table with a
Henrys fngers twitched. Was that
the way? Sure, he would be the only
authority left in the room, but he
would be right only by the gentlemans
defnition, thus it would indirectly
conform to the gentlemans argument.
No, no, no! You are misleading me
No need to act so agitated, Henry.
You are simply having a conversation
with an old man whose eyesight is
deteriorating. Its only natural that we
dont see eye to eye. Quite literally, the
gentlemen chuckled.
A conversation?
A simple, proper conversation.
A proper conversation? Was this
conversation itself not a concrete thing?
But the gentleman had noted that a
conversation, a proper one, consisted of a
beginning, middle, and end. Henry could
not ground the conversation in time and
space unless it was over. Until it was over,
he could not tell what the conversation
was about, what the point of it was. And
besides, he grew somewhat tired of the
gentleman. Closure is what was needed.
He looked at the cofee table. Te only
thing that was yet to be discussed was the
Te gun. What was the case of the
Te gun?
It doesnt belong to any of my cases.
Why, the gun is the most uncreative
instrument. Truly, anyone who uses a
gun to resolve anything has no artistic
Tat cannot be. Te gun was the
logical answer. Why is it here then?
Well there is only you and me in
this room. It ought to belong to one
of us, no? Have you shot someone
perhaps? In that case, I hope my previous
statement has not ofended you. In fact,
Im willing to make an exception. And
here I thought I was having break from
work. Who wouldve thought youd to
be a potential client. Shall we discuss my
No it was not so, and yet Henry was
convinced that he was in the right this
I shot someone? Is this hell then?
Im merely jesting, Henry! Tis
room looks too boring to be hell. Besides,
I dont have the artistic authority to refute
Dante. As for the gun? Who knows?
Nothing exists out of necessity. Mother
Nature drops her things on us all the
time. Shes quite the lewd woman you
No. Te gun wouldve been the
closure. We just dont know its purpose
yet. Henry hunched over and looked
intently at the gun.
Oh please, we dont even know if
that thing is real or not. You see, this is
your problem, Henry. Deep down, you
know that you are the only concrete
thing in the world, and yet you are afraid
to judge for yourself. Who cares about
closure, just walk away, take a plunge,
bash my head in!
Tere ought to be something,
Henry muttered.
If you insist, the gentleman pulled
his shirt sleeves, adjusting them, why
dont you shoot yourself?
Why doesnt he shoot himself? Yes,
it seemed to be the only sensible thing
to do. Te gun was the last object; the
last piece of a puzzle. It ought to have a
purpose, ought to be shot. And it ought
to be himself; not the gentleman. Tere
was no reason to shoot the gentleman.
It was he who wanted closurehe who
was the prime-moverso naturally he
was the one to be shot. His right hand
reached out for the gun and weighed
it. Solid and heavyalmost concrete,
but not yet. Full of resolve, he moved
his elbow in a swift arch, held the gun
against his head. Frozen in a momentarily
stasis, as if the gesture itself was
embodied with meaning, his breathing
became loud and clear. Te steel of the
muzzle rested calmly against his temple.
It felt cold and hollow. It felt righttoo
right perhaps. A twitch of a fnger. A
loud bang. Te rhythm of his breathing
stopped and Henry fell with his side on
the sofa.
An absolute darkness.
And then, fickering lights.
Between three slow blinks Henry
observed the grin of a man. Another
blink, and he was able to keep his eyes
open; he was sitting straight up with his
hands resting on his lap, the gentleman
across of him, leaning closely; the gun
was on the table, untouched.
Te gentleman laughed, widening
his grin with each streak. Such powerful
performance! Im deeply touched. He
clapped his hands. But my dear Henry,
if nothing exists out of necessity, then
why would you presume that something
would cease out of necessity?
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