Saturday, February 18, 2006

What common ground could one have?

I was pondering today that when people totally disagree and cannot find a common ground in their particular disagreement, would there be a way to find a common ground that could soften their stances towards each other?

It is perhaps quite a naieve notion to think that that could be accomplished because I have not been exposed to someone that I totally disagree with. Not that I am so agreeable or am around like minded people. I just have not been 'circulating' in the 'outside' world as a stay at home mom so the days of having to work with people that I cannot get along with or being around people who were so diametrically opposite myself are long past. And so are the emotions that come with that.

There is a favourite expression these days to diminish the importance some people put on apparent unimportant issues; "well, in the grand scheme of's not all that important". I am sure you recognize some situations where you have either uttered those words, or something like it or where you have thought to yourself, "geez, get a grip there are more important things in life to get upset over"...or something to that effect.

Well, what do YOU think would be something that could unify people in a real situation of opposite positions? Think about it for a minute so that when the time comes, you can put whatever happens into perspective.

I have one for you was inspired by an Oprah episode. She's been on a crusade of sorts to catch wanted child molesters who have been eluding the authorities. past show 2
captured predator

She also has put to light the way child predators work and how they manipulate children very slowly to gain their trust so that they ultimately engage 'willingly' in their sexual games.

It is so scary to think about all the children that have been victimized and all those children and teens that are sitting ducks for those predators because of the internet. Another scary thing is that the predators are often married men with children and are accomplished professionals including pediatricians, lawyers and other high profile careers. It is enough to make you paranoid.

Another scary thing (there are plenty) is that children ALL OVER THE WORLD are at risk. child prostitution in poorer countries to kidnapped children here in the US being put to work by pimps in the streets of New York , everywhere need to be aware that this is a different world than when they grew up and being more distrustful these days is a very good thing...

for all of you who think you have reason to hate someone because of their culture, their religion or their colour..think again..there is a common enemy we all share .

Look into what you need to do to become aware and how to protect your family and your children..

There are indeed 'better' things to get upset over...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Anyone interested?

Now here is a novel idea. I know it is a long shot because whenever I do a search for blogger roundtable on, I am on page 4 or 5 before I show up. It is strange that the actual site does not register right away and I will have to ask the help desk about it. I said, it is a long shot but in the off chance 'YOU' ended up on my site just minding your own business and actually thinking that everything sounds interesting...If you are interested in this point, I do accept solicitation so email me! Tell me a bit about yourself, your interests and where in the world you are. I so want to get this show on the road and start a discussion...but..can't discuss things by myself. So give it a shot and hopefully soon, I have a few seats filled and we can get the coffee brewing and start talking!

Until then,


Losing my Europe

I have been feeling pretty disturbed this week. Disturbed, not as in, ready to be put in the looney bin, but disturbed at finding out the realities of a Europe that I did not know. It started before the cartoon fiasco when Theo van Gogh got murdered in Holland on November 2nd 2004.

I am feeling unsettled because growing up in the Netherlands, tolerance was instilled in me from a very young age. Things we would see on tv and not understand in terms of other cultures, my parents would say, "well, that's the way it is in their culture", and that was all there was to it. No judgement as to whether the people from 'those cultures' shouldn't or wouldn't, it was just a fact and accepted as such. Even in Holland itself, if people vehemently disagreed and even loathed someone (say as in politics) nothing, NOTHING every warranted death threats or murder. It is almost considered something beneath one to even want to kill someone just because you don't like what they have to say. To claim offense is not an excuse, and claiming religious offense is often taken with a grain of salt. In Holland's history, the Catholic Church and its agents throughout the times claimed religious offense and killed people for it. Often, religious dominance really is a guise for those in power who want to keep it.

The Dutch, being mostly protestant (although the configuration is not the same as last century) fought an 80yr war with Spain, when Charles V, the Roman Holy Emperor put out a decree to kill all those heretical Dutch (all inhabitants). The Dutch have done and been there and evolved into a society where protestants and catholics could live side by side (spain did not win btw) and where political pluralism is possible because of the tolerance of diverse opinions. Not only that, one is expected to tolerate opinions because 'yours' is supposed to be tolerated as well.
As Theodore Dalrymple says in his article Why Theo Van Gogh was murdered, "for tolerance to work, it must be reciprocal"

The current intolerance of some very conservative Muslims in Europe is most disturbing in that it is not in the arena of politics or debate where the disagreement and dissatisfaction is expressed, it vents by way of death threats where people need body guards for their day to day life, and ultimately in actual murders in the name of Islam. Furthermore disturbing is how hate always finds a breeding ground. For every murder, other innocent Muslims bear the brunt of reprisals, furthering the belief of 'it is us versus them'. How can there be an end to it? The Europe that I left in the mid '80s did not have any of the sorts and felt like a safe place to return. Now it does not. The US went through a time when fundamental Christian nut jobs killed nurses and doctors for working in abortion clinics (killing to save life because life is sacrosanct, makes sense right?) and a zero tolerance seemed to have turned the tide on that. Although I can't say for sure what made it stop. How can we make the murders in the name of Islam on Western soil stop? I am not talking about Al Qiada and wannabees, those are political. I am talking about people who claim you can't say or do this because it offends either the prophets' name, or their religion.

When I lived in Saudi Arabia for a few years, I had totally mixed feelings about living there. I did love it in a way because of the friendships I had made and the people part agreed with me if you will. The limitations on my person as a woman was not particularly enjoyable, but I adjusted and accepted it part of the culture. I did not go out and advocate that it was an insult to my religion and did not do anything to offend anyone there. In fact, even when someone offered me 'sadiqi' (bootleg alcohol) at a party, I said no thanks.

When I emigrated to Canada in the '80s, I went with the idea that I voluntarily went into another culture and had to adjust. In fact, a Canadian documentary series following the adjustment of the various immigrant groups commented how the dutch were one of the most adjusted as they embraced their new country. It's coming full circle with that tolerance again; you go into someone else's house, you adjust and accept it because it is their house with their rules. There seem to be plenty of intolerant Muslims who have not shown any courtesy or ability to do so in their newly adopted home country. What can you do??

However, if I felt totally helpless and taken aback in how to think and respond to this development of death threats and murders, here comes my blog idea full circle in the form of the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, Aga Khan who said recently in a Sunday Telegraph interview;

"I see it as a clash of ignorance rather than a clash of civilisations," he says. "I feel quite strongly about this. I think there's a remarkable degree of ignorance between the civilisations - and please note I put this in the plural - of the Islamic world and the civilisations of the non-Islamic world.

"I think we [Muslims] as part of human history have been amazingly absent from the definition of an educated person in Judeo-Christian society … An educated person in the 21st century in terms of basic knowledge of human society has got to have basic knowledge about the Islamic world.

"I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about human society and civilisation. It's not a religious issue."

So I must be attempting something right; let's educate each other out of this ignorance and hopefuly all of us in our own way, in our own worlds, can contribute to a peaceful coexistence a little bit more.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Welcome and Welcome (achelan w'asachelen)

This is for you whom I have invited to join my roundtable. Naturally an introduction is in order before you decide to join me, hopefully for at least a few rounds of honest, and generous discussion about all kinds of topics imaginable. Generous meaning no holding back for fear of misunderstanding and sharing in what you truly believe, perceive and feel.

My name is Ingrid and I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Looking back, I can see how seemingly ordinary family birthday gatherings shaped my ability to engage in intense discussions where I can completely disagree with someone without disliking or hating them for theirs. My family would get together and talk politics, world affairs, religion and some people would get upset until one person would call a time out and say, ok, enough arguing, do you want to have another drink/cake?

It's also a dutch thing; to agree to disagree. If there is anything that annoys aDutch person more than it is to disallow them to voice their opinions because opinions they have! They don't apologize for it and they don't expect you to apologize for yours. It seems pretty straightforward but after having moved to North America, I found that culturally, people react differently to you when you have a (strong) opinion. In general, my experience has been that those who react defensively do not have any opinions, or they do not know much about certain things. Funny enough, the very thing a Dutch person will talk openly and unashamedly about (politics) is somewhat of a taboo here in the US; don't talk about politics unless you really know someone because you might offend someone! (hmmm, what is left to talk about..the weather?)

Anyway, I'll try to get to the point of this blog. I want to promote in my own way, all the different viewpoints that are out there from bloggers from different countries. I want to provide a safe space where people can freely ask each other questions about each other's culture, religion, politics you name it, even if they are 'sensitive', hot topics type questions. The goal is to be enlightened, clarified and also to be heard and understood. Even when participants don't agree. The motto of this round table is "to agree to disagree" , but most of all, it is, to listen with an open ear and open heart, allow questions even if they make you feel uncomfortable, defensive or what have you, knowing that the questions comes from a need to understand.

Bloggers who live in closed societies, non democracies, and places where opinions could land them in jail are especially courageous and I will at all cost protect your identity for your safety. If I have invited you and you will accept, remember that I do not underestimate the risks you take by putting yourself out there.

After I have received confirmation of all the invited bloggers to participate, I will email an actual more specified intent and rules of engagement, so that we have a frame work in how to ask questions, how to answer (everything within reason of course) and how to work on this blog together. I will ask each blogger for links and some readings about their culture, religion whatever appropriate so that we all can learn more about each other, and those visiting the site, can refer to them when reading the contributions.
I will also ask for a consensus on the logistics of posting here (i.e. rss feed or other) so as much as I will be the chair person, you all will have a voice and be able to shape discussion and direction of this blog while participating.

One last thing, I would like for you to participate once a week for at least 6 months. We can get to know each other better, and if people want to contribute more often, great, if not, no problem. The actual time committment can be done through consensus as well.

Thanks for checking this out, I hope you join me.

Ingrid email