The other day a union of young members of the at present largest and most influential Dutch political party, launched a proposal in which they want the leadership to start procedures to ban male circumcision in the Netherlands. Female circumcision is illegal already, but these young politicians stressed male circumcision also violates human rights, especially children’s rights. Therefore in their opinion this practice in Judaism and Islam should be banned by law. They think claims based on an interpretation of freedom of religion, should not always prevail over secular human rights.
The initiative actually doesn’t stand a chance. But it came to mind when I watched TV yesterday night. Then Simon Schrama, the author of “History of the Jews”, was interviewed. In the course of the conversation with host Adriaan van Dis he came up with a joke. Told in my own words:
A Roman Catholic priest, a Protestant minister and a Jewish Rabbi were hiding in a log cabin, which actually was a small Vodka bar, trying to survive a snowstorm in Siberia. All three of them were on a mission to convert people to their religion. So, with the help of some alcohol, they got into an argument about who was best at his job. In order to settle the matter once and for all, one of them suddenly, out of the blue, said that each one of them individually should trace a bear and try to covert the beast once the storm would be over. And so they did after the weather had improved. Next day the priest and minister returned. The first one told he had found a hungry bear and converted it by feeding it a lot of host, the sacramental bread. He said: “The bear eagerly ate the Eucharist bread and is a child of the Church of Rome now”. Then the minister told he also had found a bear. It was a very dirty one seriously wanting some cleaning. So he brought it to a river and poured water on it’s filthy fur. He said: “The grateful bear is baptised now and so became a child of Jesus”. After quite some time the two of them saw the Rabbi stumbling into the shabby bar. His clothes were torn. His nose was swollen, his skull was bleeding and one of his arms was broken. The priest and minister asked what had happened. Then the Rabbi answered ” I don’t think circumcision is the best way to convert bears after all”.
I agree with the Rabbi :). Or rather I sympathize with the bear.
I’d better explain.
When I was four years old my parents had my tonsils removed. For medical reasons. A really painful experience at that state of surgery in the forties of last century. It’s my one huge childhood’s trauma. Ever since a shiver runs down my spine when a person with a sharp instrument comes near. Imagine what happens if anyone would target my very much loved foreskin without any medical necessity.
Of course Schrama was not making a case against male circumcision. But I take the liberty to simply abuse his anecdote to state that I can’t see why a specific ritual can be the quintessence of faith and religion. Not the offering and eating of sacramental bread, nor the baptising and neither the circumcision. After all such a ritual is nothing but a fossilized and sometimes absurd or even damaging custom. By consequence they can be abolished and replaced by something different. Which is very recommendable if it implies invasion of children’s physical integrity without any medical reason. Abolishment does not necessarily harm the spiritual meaning and experience of the religion.
So I back the – unfortunately prospectless – action by the rookies of that conservative political party I usually totally disagree with.
By sheer unjust accident Dutch isn’t the universal language.
So one of my problems with bridge-blogging is the necessity of the use of a lingua franca, in casu English. Which to the overwhelming majority of the world’s population and to me is a second language at best.
It means that every time I write in English I delegate from my comfortable Dutch intellectual Primera Division to a second or third division. In other words while it doesn’t necessarily diminish in any way the fun and pleasure of writing, it definitely tarnishes the quality of communication.
Actually this is what happens if and when Dutchmen try a conversation in English:
You see? On average one in two of our sentences is missing the bull’s eye by a mile or at least by some inches.
I’m Dutch, so I have to admit I speak Duglish rather than English.
On the other hand, who cares?
But keep it in mind please . I’m not as bad as my English :).
The great and famous Danish film director Lars von Trier creates as much scandals as he makes successful artistic movies( Europa/Zentropa, The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dancing in the Dark, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia). He doesn’t seem to care shocking people. Provocation apparently is his middle name. His last contribution to cinematography attracts publicity as much for the amount of sex as for it’s artistic value. It’s erotic drama, he himself labelled porn in the very early stages of the creative process already. And actually some reviews now speak of art house porn now.
Last Wednesday we saw this movie ( consisting of two separate films, Part I and Part II) which together last over 4.30 hours.
“Nymph()maniac” shows a story of loneliness, told chapter after chapter by a young female maverick, Joe, to an old philosopher of a kind (Seligman). At fifty now, her life proves to have been a long sexual odyssey. In a meandering dialogue in the course of the night he is her host, he keeps digressing in lame as well as sometimes brilliant metaphors. Insights which are being inspired by what the woman reveals to him about her past ( experiences, encounters and adventures the film explicitly shows). Shocking perhaps to prudish eyes.
But also the film asks a few interesting questions.
For instance about the right to live out who you are by nature. In her own view Joe is not addicted to sex, but a nymphomaniac. She can’t help what she is, even if that implies behaviour which usually meets with huge and utter public moral rejection.
And it dwells on issues of religion, sin and redemption. For instance the impact of Christianity in the Roman version on one’s conscience as opposed to the Orthodox Church of the East. It’s about different notions of guilt.
Also the film is about the still striking inequality between the rights of men and women in matters of dealing with their sexuality. What’s accepted if it concerns men, often is still denied to women.
All in all to me the movie was good enough to keep me interested to the end. And sometimes it was fascinating. In any case all of Lars von Trier’s films leave hardly any room for a dull moment anyhow.
Yet I don’t think this was his best one. Not because I agree with what has been said in some reviews about it being kind of Art House porn. Because, in my opinion it simply isn’t. But because the structure of all those separate chapters turns it too much in a sexologist handbook. It created kind of triple-jump of cinematographic storytelling. An artificial skeleton shines through it’s relevant content.
But, Lars von Trier is that good that even one of his relatively mediocre films is worthwhile. Therefore – explicit as it is- it’s a pity “Nymph()maniac” will probably stumble at the hurdles of the Censor and Anti Pornography Law. The night of Joe and Seligman probably will never been watched in Indonesia.
Which is a shame.
“Aceh mulls Shariah for non-Muslims”, the JP * reported.
In an extremely obliging mood I could describe Shari-ah as just another judicial system. A very special one though.
To be honest I actually don’t know much about the finesse of Shari-ah. Except that – if only because it tends to apply as literally as possible the writings of almost one and a half millennium ago – it is at odds with modern society. And that it is hostile to the quintessence of humanistic values which constitute the foundations of modern justice. Core believers assume it to be the “Word of God” (Allah). In other words: beyond logic and reason.
Outdated, yet even today some societies have chosen Shari-ah. And peculiar as it may be, while Indonesia is a secular state after all, the province of Aceh is one of them.
Now there is the saying “when in Rome do as the Romans”. Which in this specific case of the Italian capital I support. It would mean living the life of La Grande Bellezza in style. Which can be grandiose.
Apparently the provincial authorities in Aceh think inhabitants and visitors of Aceh also should abide by their Shariah-way-of-life . Dress code, conduct and all. Muslims and Kafir alike. Which of course for most of them (except the ones who come from peculiar parts of the world like Saudi Arab) will mean a time travel trip back to the early middle ages.
The difference with Rome is that if you ignore Roman Catholicism and don’t comply with the Roman ways and habits when you go there, you will not be fined, not be caned and not be arrested. However if you ignore their Shari-ah you will meet punishment in Aceh.
Not my cup of tea. And especially not my wife’s cup of tea. She as a matter of principle for instance only wears a headscarf in strong winds :).
So, it’s easy. While I hope to visit the wonderful country of Indonesia many times more, I will skip the most North-Western tip of the archipelago.
And hope one day they will come their senses there.
* Jakarta Post
From The Huffington Post:
“SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The Dutch have taken their domination at the Olympic speedskating oval to a new level” (10.02.14) and “For good measure, 500 champion Michel Mulder took the bronze, giving the Netherlands 10 out of a possible 15 medals overall through the first five events — a dominating performance that sets them up to crush the record for most speedskating medals by a country at a single Olympics. East Germany captured 13 medals at the 1988 Calgary Games” (12.02.14)..
Something to celebrate: Dutch victory in Sochi!
Dutch athletes finished as numbers one, two and three for men’s 5000 m. speed skating a few hours ago. Gold (Sven Kramer), silver ( Jan Blokhuijsen) and bronze ( Jorrit Bersma)! A brilliant start on the first day of the Olympic Winter Games.
This really was exciting. On this gloomy, rainy, windy afternoon, the three sporting heroes suddenly produced a serious fit of crazy nationalism. At least in the media.
As nationalism is a dangerous emotion as we all know, I think we should look for a cure as soon as possible. Maybe we (I) should pour a bucket of cold water over our (my) Dutch head (s). Or perhaps we ( I) should admit we urgently need to visit the nearest psychiatrist for a huge amount of antidote :).
From The Guardian:
” The Dutch domination of speed skating continued in Sochi on Wednesday, with a gold and bronze in the men’s 1000m” ( 12.02.14)
PS: The disease worsens. Another Gold Medal. By Ireen Wüst:
PPS: It got even worse today.Another three Dutch Olympic medals: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Michel Mulder won, Jan Smeekens finished second and Michel’s twin brother Ronald was third at the finish of 500 m. speed skating:
PPPS: Will it never stop? Today, Wednesday the 12th of February, they once more they fed our ridiculous nationalism. This time Stephan Groothuis (Gold, 1000 m. speed skating) and once more Michel Mulder ( Bronze) make us crave for loads of antidote :