Tag Archives: genocide

Five common realities – facts en logic 11

Carla and Narrator are waiting for Man outside their guest house in Florence.

“This afternoon I forgot to say that objects, symbols, rituals, words, slogans, music, literature, philosophy and religion can direct – and take over – the behaviour and consiousness of people. Two extreme examples in negative sense are:

  • a political leader and followers influence each other in words and rituals so far-reaching that a part of society proceeds to genocide,
  • a religion sect degenerates by rituals, slogans, words and behavior in religious madness.

feiten en logica 111[1]

In a positive sense, behaviour and consciousness of people are influenced – as exercises for the soul – by music, literature, religion (for basic trust), architecture, art, science. Via symbols and rituals, people feel security and belonging. An outspoken example is the hostia (sacramental bread) which – according to the Catholic Church – changes into the body of Christ after the epiklesis and the consecration during the Eucharist [2]. I think we should not delve into this further, because we use lightness and quickness as two guidelines during our Odyssey”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 112[3]

“Within the conceptional framework of Indra’s Net, every particle, every object and every living being reflects the body of Christ – as a historical person and as a Godlike being”, says Narrator.

“There is a small difference: Catholics believe that the hostia only after the epiklesis (or convocation of the Holy Spirit) and the consecration during a Catholic Eucharist changes in the body of Christ. The metaphor of Indra’s Net reflects the Catholic faith and at the same time, the disbelief in the hostia as a body of Christ in all its manifestations”, says Carla.

“You are right, we don’t have time to fully investigate the influences of symbols and slogans on the human behaviour next to our Odyssey to who are you. There is Man”, says Narrator.

“Do you like a real dinner tonight or shall we buy a simple supper in the supermarket and eat it in the park of the Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio, just like Dutch people?”, asks Man.

“Right then, just as people from Holland”, says Carla.

“I haven’t done otherwise for years, for me it’s all right”, says Narrator.

After a visit to the supermarket, they sit in the park and have the following conversation.

“Narrator, your last name Nārāyana is similar to the title of one of the older Upanishads that probably is created at the end of the Vedic period in India [4]. I refer to the following brief passage from the Nārāyana Upanishad [5] as stepping stone to my introduction to Kṛṣṇa as God in a human shape:

Nārāyana is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman.

Nārāyana is the highest (Self).

Nārāyana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the infinite Self.

The supreme person Nārāyana willed to create beings.

Everything in this world is pervaded by Nārāyana within and without [6].

Did you know this similarity in name with your last name?”, asks Man to Narrator.

“My father had told me this in one of his stories when I was a young man. Later on in my life – during my incarnation as Bhikṣu – I have read the Nārāyana Upanishad via de University Library in Heidelberg.  In Sanskrit, Nārāyana means amongst others “son of the original Man”[7], whereby “Man” in Sanskrit means “to think, believe and perceive”. The book with Buddhistic questions that I had received from my American beloved, includes the question “True Man” about the meaning of “Man”. This beginning of this question is:

“There is a True Man with no ranks going out and in through the portals of Your face [8].

Beginners who have not witnessed it, Look, Look”

And the verse in this koan starts as follows:

“Delusion and (Buddhistic) enlightenment are opposite,

Subtly communicated, with simplicity;

Spring opens the hundred flowers [9], in one puff. [10]

Delusion and (Buddhistic) enlightenment also include symbols, rituals, words, slogans, literature, philosophy and religion that direct and even take over the behaviour and consiousness of humans in a positive and negative way. The “son of the original Man” in my last name Nārāyana is not only the human man, but also indicates the “True Man” in this Buddhistic question”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 113[11]

“The difference between delusion and reality, crime and goodness are often paper thin and as a rule dependent on the framework wherein it is perceived. Your explanation about “thinking, believing and perceiving” show this. “Sein und Zeit[12] – the magnum opus by Martin Heidegger – also shows a glimp of this. Martin Heidegger has made a distinction between the “Improper Man” – or Delusion – and the “Own Self”. I am not sure if Martin Heidegger would equate the “Own Self” to the “True Man” in the Buddhistic question”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 114[13]

“I am deeply impressed by your introduction to Nārāyana and the “True Man”; you can express this far better than I can. Would you like to tell us who Kṛṣṇa is?”, says Man.

“May I do that tomorrow, let us first have our supper on this beautiful late summer evening in the park. Shall I break the bread and pour the wine?”, says Narrator.

“That is good”, say Carla and Man.

feiten en logica 115[14]

[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consecration

[3] Images of a traditional and modern monstrance. The monstrance is a holder in which the hostia (or sacramental bread) – that after the epiklesis (or the invocation of the Holy Spirit) and the consecration during the Eucharist, according to the Catholic Church changes into the body of Christ – is shown. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramental_bread.  Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance

[4] The Mahānārāyana Upanishad is, as chapter 10 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka, part of the dark – or inconceivable – Yajurveda (or Veda during sacrifices). See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taittiriya_Aranyaka#Taittiriya_Aranyaka

[5] The tekst in Sanskrit is available under the title “mahAnArAyaNa” at: http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_upanishhat/

[6] Source: XIII-4 and XIII-5 from the English translation of the Mahānārāyana Upanishad via: http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/hinduism-forum/230825-maha-narayana-upanishad-translation-english.html

[7] Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta.

[8] Next to human face, “Your face” also refers to the “face of the world” and the “face of Indra’s Net”.

[9] See for an interpretation of flowers also “One – Blossom” in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – A survey into our existence – 1. Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 50 – 53

[10] Abridged version of the Zen Koan “Linji’s True Man” from: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 167 – 170

[11] One of the unendless many manifestations of the “True Man”. Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann

[12] Heidegger, Martin, Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2006. See also: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sein_und_Zeit#Verfallenheit_und_Eigentlichkeit:_Das_Man

[13] Image of a tool to understand the main concepts in Heidegger’s “Sein und Zeit” – (Being and Time). Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sein_und_Zeit#Verfallenheit_und_Eigentlichkeit:_Das_Man

[14] Piazza Massimo D’Azeglio. Source image: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_d’Azeglio


Carla Drift – Behaviour 1

The recovery of my tropical disease took a long time. I noticed with my body that a European was not created for the tropics. I received good medical care and the residual effects of the disease disappeared after a recovery of many, many months.

These months I used to write my report of my first study trip. In the second part of this report, I described my findings about the influence of individual behaviour of offenders, rulers and opinion leaders on genocide [1].

Sreaming drill sergeant [2]

To date, genocide was never committed by an individual. An individual had not been capable to do so. This will change in the future, because the weapons of mass destruction [3] have acquired an apocalyptic destruction and operation of these weapons can take place by an individual or a small group of people operating together. Several films already give a forecast of this possibility [4].

Hiroshima Nakajima area [5]

Hiroshima Nakajima area in ruins [6]

In Central Africa few heavy weapons are present. A good deployable air force is lacking. The few available tanks are poorly maintained and there is a lack of personnel for operating this weaponry. Usually these weapons have only a symbolic value for enhancing the status of the owner/ruler.

On the other hand, there are many automatic rifles and machine guns available in this area. These weapons can afflict great slaughter among the local people when used by a limited group of soldiers, by revolutionaries, by armed gangs and by raiders. A larger group can also afflict genocide with hand weapons such as machetes.

Based on my findings I concluded in my report that in Central Africa sufficient resources – small arms, light and medium automatic rifles and machine guns – were present for a genocide. These weapons were delivered by several rich nations to perpetuate or enhance their position by supporting local groups. These weapons raise – just like the possession of spears in the past – the respect of a warrior/soldier. In reality, these weapons are usually used for deterrence or threat against opponents.

The first providers of the light and medium automatic rifles and machine guns are often countries outside Africa who want to enhance or perpetuate their influence in the politics. The first recipients are often local leaders or groups who distribute the weapons to settle or defend their influence. The individual receivers are often young men who want to establish their position within the group as a warrior or soldier: the need to receive respect in the pyramid of Maslow [7]. This respect gives next to a position in the group also opportunities for female partner choice and eventually self-respect. Sometimes older men want to defend their interests: the need to safety in the Maslow’s pyramid.

Individual people are or become part of a group. Through initiation rites [8] they are accepted in a group. Warriors often may carry a weapon after their initiation rites – they become part of their warriors group or army. The group gives the individual an identity and the mutual relationships between the individuals give a group/army an identity and a culture. In peacetime, groups of warriors should be kept busy. Traditional activities for groups of warriors in peacetime are: maintenance of equipment and skills, hunting and conquests far away from home.

Congolese soldiers with automatic weapons [9]

Most of the time the people of Central Africa coexist as good neighbours. They practise a comprehensive form of hospitality that exceeds the habits in Netherlands. People take their time to have mutual contact. For most people the material prosperity is rather low. Much attention is given to clothing, appearance and eating; other forms of prosperity are scarce. Just like in many societies and large corporations, the top layer of the society usurps the most of the limited material prosperity. This top layer has control over the distribution of food and prosperity over the entire group. If the groups are in balance internally and externally, then there still is a great inequality within and between groups, but possible tensions are dampened or smothered in many ways. Everything and everyone lives together in a more or less pleasant way.

Ashanti Yam Ceremony 1812 [10]

Literature and the findings during my research show that during internal conflicts and in conflicts between tribes, neighbours perceive each other in a radically different way. Within a fraction of a second, people distinguish between foreigners and members of their own group. When tensions arise, the own good qualities are exaggerated and the own bad characteristics are overlooked. In strangers, the bad qualities are seen a characteristic for the group and the good characteristics are neglected. The group pressure is often so great that the opinions are compulsorily imposed to the group members – otherwise forms of exclusion will follow [11].

In one of his works [12] Jean Paul Sartre described how an individual/stranger is robbed from her/his innocence and freedom of action by two mechanisms. By the mechanism of the “bad faith”, group members will reduce a stranger to an object with a very limited number of qualities – the stranger is robbed from all her/his other qualities. In line with the “bad faith”, Jean Paul Sartre describes the theory of “look” – Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen called this the “look of hate” [13]. The actions of a stranger are captured in a stigmatising look. Hereby the stranger is deprived from her/his ability to change and from his humanity; she/he is reduced to a thing.

[1] See for genocide: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide
[2] Source image: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Drill_sergeant_screams.jpg
[3] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kernwapen en http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapon
[4] E.g.: Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick – see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strangelove
[5] Source image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HiroshimaNakajimaArea.jpg.
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HiroshimaNakajimaAreaInRuins.jpg
[7] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
[8] See brief overview in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initiation
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Congo_War
[10] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yam_(vegetable)
[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment
[12] Sartre, Jean-Paul, Being and Nothingness. New York: Washington square press: 1977 – See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_and_Nothingness
[13] Luijpen, W., Nieuwe inleiding tot de existentiële fenomenologie. Utrecht: Het Spectrum, 1976 p. 284 – 285

Carla Drift – Culture

Via a reliable airport – where I bought a ticket on my temporary passport – I left Central Africa. I took a scheduled flight to North Africa. In North Africa, I travelled by public transport to Alexandria. I recollected my normal passport at friends. I stayed a week with them; we talked about the events in our lives.

Alexandria street view [1]

In the Alexandrian library, I carried out a small part of my desk research on sources for the reporting of this study trip on the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa. It was honour for me to perform this research in the Alexandrian library. The predecessor of this modern library was destroyed in classical antiquity by several fires. Many classic books from the Greek and Roman antiquity were forever lost in these fires. Research on my sources had amongst others the aim to give the lost lives by genocide in Central Africa a place in history.

Alexandrian Library [2]

I entered South Europe with a ferry. A train journey of more than a day took me back to the Netherlands. Here I could write my report during my recovery of a tropical disease.

Through my game of hide-and-seek during my stay in Central Africa and by my very causious return to Europe, no-one could easily link me to my research. I am still glad that I took these precautions, because one cannot be too careful with helpers of dictators, with arms dealers and secret services of various countries.

During this long trip, I organised the many impressions that I gained in Central Africa. Obviously I have already sorted out my research data, but in the plane, on the boat and in the train, the mainlines for the reporting of the study tour took a clear shape.

I decided to split the reporting of the events in four parts. The first part focused on culture or the behaviour of groups – perpetrators or victims – that were directly involved in the genocide. The second part covered the influence of individual behaviour of offenders, rulers and opinion leaders on the genocide. The third part described the influences on the excesses caused by organisations, bodies and countries outside Central Africa. This third part is confidential: it contains my findings on the impact of arms deliveries by traders and countries with political interests in Central Africa, on secret services with their sometimes obscure matters and the inability/negligence of international bodies. The last part of my report covered the potential legal liability of individual parties for their part in the genocide. During criminal investigation into the genocide, excavations were carried out and further research took place on the basis of my report.

Peace Palace in The Hague [3]

Before this study trip in Central Africa, I had looked upon cultures as a way whereby groups of people – including its individuals – live together en behave together. A culture was a “Modus Vivendi” of a coherent group of people. Obviously a culture changed over time, for example by changed circumstances or by migration of outsiders. But I had not linked culture with a living organization that – just like any living creature – was engaged in a “Survival of the Fittest”, as described by Darwin in “The Origin of Species”.

Origin of Species Darwin [4]

In the unfamiliar surroundings of Central Africa and on the basis of conversations with residents, I started to see more and more clearly that a culture can be compared to a living being that is always busy with survival. During the development of this idea, I noticed parallels in the history of the Western world.

In the first part of my report, I described that culture is endemically present in an individual, within a family, a village community, a tribe/group/people living in a coherent area. In Central Africa, the Nations as legal body were still in its infancy: the national culture was hardly developed. Cultures are a way of living together – a Modus Vivendi –, which provides stability and confidence. On the other hand, cultures struggle for survival and try to impose a certain behaviour to insiders; outsiders are convinced of the right attitude of a culture and – either temporarily or permanently – included in the culture or they are excluded.

Cultures are not static, they change over time as a language changes with the change of its speakers. A well-known and familiar mother tongue from a hundred years ago sounds strange/familiar to us similar as the way of living of people from a hundred years ago appear strange/familiar. Many of these changes gradually take place by assimilation or by organic growth.

A culture is not homogeneous and uniform. Within a somewhat extensive culture there is almost always a layering or stratification present. A culture also has internal tensions between mutual subcultures.

Sometimes, for example, by major changes – by a population explosion or by an important  development – or by very small coincidences during potential turning points – bifurcation points within the chaos theory – shifts can unexpectedly take place within a culture [5]. This rapid growth can cause stigmatisation, exclusion or destruction of dissenters within the own culture.

The discharge of the tensions can also take place by excesses against other (sub-) cultures. Usually cultures live in reasonable co-existence as good neighbours. Occasionally, there are differences of view that are made bearable by diplomacy, festivities, words, case law and treaties. Sometimes the tensions between cultures lead to eruption. The cause can be: a strong change in mutual relationships, a smouldering injustice from the past that manifests itself in a conflicts caused by a sudden incident. These eruptions can lead to violent outbursts. The Pax Romana around 400 a.d. in the area of the Danube is an example from the history with an ill-fated end. In Danube area, the Romans conducted a policy of divide and emperor where the favours were unequally divided between the separate cultures so that the mutual envy was greater than the tension with the Roman imperator. Once per generation, a culture was violently stripped of its wealth by the Romans and several of its allies. In general it took a generation before the culture could recover from this blow.

Around 400 a.d., the Visigoths were seeking protection close to the border of the Roman Empire near the Danube against the advancing Huns. the Romans did not allow the Visigoths to cross the Danube while another tribe was awarded this extra protection. The Visigoths seized this injustice as a reason to directly attack the weakened Roman Empire [6]. By the weakened position of the Romans – by, inter alia, internal divisions – the Visigoths were able to roam for many years in Italy and even to advance to the gates of Rome. In 408 a.d., Pope Innocent I was able to prevent an incursion in Rome by negotiation and a transfer of a large ransom [7]. Around 416 a.d. the Visigoths established themselves in the former Gaul.

Visigoths San Pedro Nave [8]

In Central Africa, the tensions within and between cultures were raised by internal tensions, changes in the relationships between cultures, elimination of the influence of the colonisers, artificial borders, population growth and decline and regular recurring drought. The new international order did not possess the power to intervene effectively.

This mixture of tension was in itself enough for the emergence of excesses. An unfortunate football match or an unfortunate election were sufficient for a violent eruption. But external influences enhanced the tensions and led to a catalyst for excesses.

[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria
[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliotheek_van_Alexandri%C3%AB
[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vredespaleis
[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin
[5] See also: Ginneken, Jaap van, Brein-bevingen – Snelle omslagen in opinie en communicatie.
[6] Source: See also: Heather, Peter, Empires and Barbarians – Migration ,Development and the Birth of Europe. London: Panbooks, 2010, p. 197
[7] Source: Norwich, John Julius, The Popes, A History, London: Chatto & Windos, 2011 p. 19
[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visigoten

Carla Drift – Travelling 2

Central Africa took me. Temporarily I disappeared in Central Africa. My passport included a different name. On paper I did research to the effects on the health status [1] of the inhabitants by the infectious disease Malaria. I also gave information about this disease. By this research I integrated in the country and lived with the inhabitants.

The infectious disease Malaria is transmitted by the malaria mosquito. When a malaria mosquito stings a human to suck blood, the saliva of the malaria mosquito can infect this person with Malaria [2]. There are several forms of Malaria with their own course of disease in the form of flaring up of the fever.

Malaria mosquito [3]

Malaria is endemic in many rural areas around the equator. The malaria mosquito thrives best in warm rainy areas or in dry regions after rain. In Central sub-Saharan Africa 85 – 90% of the fatal Malaria infections occur.


Due to this research into the health condition, I could easily travel in Central Africa. I had access almost everywhere – also in refugee camps and I got low-threshold contacts with almost all groups. These contacts provided a wealth of information about the health status.

This main entrance was a side door for my actual study on the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa. Between the activities around the interviews to the health situation, I casually asked information about the life of the people I visited. Sometimes veiled, sometimes directly, the important witnesses told me their story about the horrors they had experienced during conflicts. Occasionally I got direct statements about excesses. In this indirect way, I received important information for my actual research.

Rwanda Refugee camp in East Zaire [5]

Of course, I reported on the health situation in the areas that I visited and the information was useful. But this research was hide-and-seek in order to protect the safety of the many interviewees and for my own safety.

By the research into the health condition, I could perform my actual study trip in relative safety. The paid study trip was in principle a very dangerous journey. The State leaders in Central Africa who may have had a share in the genocide, were obviously very hostile towards our research. The victor and/or the ruler determines how actions in the past should be looked upon and within which framework these actions might receive an appropriate place in history. No strange eyes with very critical and painful remarks were desired. If the rulers or perpetrators knew of my research, then the lives of the witnesses and my research were in immediate danger.

Because I came from an European country that could offer its inhabitants a reasonable protection in Africa, I probably had not to fear immediate danger of from the rulers. Overt aggression against me would quickly cause a diplomatic conflict with the Western world and parts of Africa. Probably I would – after many not too gentle interrogations – be expelled due to interference with domestic affairs with abandonment and destruction of all my study material. The consequences for the interviewees were more far-reaching.

The rulers would not directly show their aggression against the aim of my study trip. They also played cat and mouse. Their aggression against such an investigation was always present via detours. Every roadblock, every incursion into a village, all paper controls could be dangerous. Travelling with a group of researchers who asked all kinds of delicate questions, was in my opinion a veiled declaration of war. Researchers who performed similar studies, came in big trouble.

I decided to perform my share in the research on my own. I travelled with aid and under the care of local inhabitants. As a woman I could be included in women communities. I was open to my hosts and they received me with hospitality. They protect me – as one of their children – for the dangers of the environment and for dangers of robbery and worse.

Rwanda country side [6]

During the last years of my studies, I travelled a lot on my own in Europe. This study trip in Africa, I also decided to travel on my own. From my early years I played hide and seek in many ways. On this subject I especially learned caution by reading the books of John Le Carré and Len Deighton. I decided to only travel with the help of various reliable local people.

In this unknown world with uncertainties, mysteries and doubts, I trusted on patience, tolerance and my awareness of my ignorance. I did not stick to the first signals, and I left behind all initial ideas and prejudices. Via detours – usually concealed and unobtrusive – I got an awful lot of information [7]. I let these impressions mature and I hid cryptic notes between the results of my research on the health state.
As a researcher on the health state, I lived together – in a privileged position – with the people on the places that I visited. I visited many villages and refugee camps.

Water pump in Rwanda [8]

Eventually a number of factors caused that I had to finish my study trip. First the budget was depleted. Secondly a final report was necessary for follow-up actions by the organization that had requested this research. In addition, I had to keep in mind than my stay in these areas became increasingly visible. My open-minded stay with the local people could very quickly turn into an explosive situation for everyone. With the data of my research, I travelled to a reliable airport for my departure.

[1] Carla Drift is a fictive name, the investigations into the health situation and the details are also fictitious. No person or research into the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa has been model for the posts about the life of Carla Drift.
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[3] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[4] This world map shows the prevalence of Malaria. The scale increases from light yellow to dark red. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwanda
[7] See also: Brooks, David, The Social Animal – The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement. New York: Random House, 2011, p. 248
[8] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria

Carla Drift – Travelling

After submitting my thesis on the subject “Preventing Excesses during Change and Conflicts”, I gave a presentation on this topic two weeks later. The attendees asked critical questions about the need for defence of property. They were sceptical about the possibility of words – ultimately chats do not fill gaps caused by tensions and stress. During the examination, fundamental questions were asked about the balance between the races of developments of the material prosperity and the development of the arms industry that has produced devastating instruments including atom bombs. Luckily, I had an example available on the transition from the Bronze Age [1] into the Iron Age in Greece and Asia Minor around 1200 BC. At that time, many cities were destroyed by sacking and fire. Until recently, this destruction was attributed to drifting people – the so-called Sea People [2]. Now there is more nuanced thought about this period. It is believed that the improved military technology and population growth – by use of iron agricultural tools – made it possible to sack cities and defeat  classic armies equipped with bronze weapons and chariots.

After the exam and the diploma ceremony, there was my graduation party – a beautiful party. Everyone who was important in my life, was present. My father beamed, my mother and sisters were happy for me, childhood friends from South Limburg wished me luck, but they warned me for the dangers of the human world. They asked when I would come back home and they had taken vacancies of posts at the Municipality and the Province. My student friends asked what my plans were: a post – or a journey around the world. Also my former great love was present – the magic between us was gone. I saw him as an ordinary beautiful nice young man, who easily falls in love with women – not my type. We gave each other kisses on the cheeks and promised to keep in touch with each other. Not much came of it. Through acquaintances I occasionally heard something about his life.

After receiving my Masters, I had no interest in PhD. Then I should specialize too much during the investigation and an academic career did not attract me with its hairs-splitting including a strong competition with other scientists. Before I might accept a post, I preferred to see parts of the world. I prepared a world tour of about a year. I disposed of many of my belongings and I left the special items at my family, friends and acquaintances. I only owned the contents of my backpack: 10 kilogram or two sets of spare clothes and a little more.

Backpack with belongings [3]

I planned to go to India to first. The overland journey was too dangerous with the war going on between Iran and Iraq and uncertainty about Afghanistan.

During the elaborating of this plan, I received an invitation for a paid study trip to Central Africa. A human rights organisation wished to investigate excesses in a dictatorial governed country in Africa. Before I participated in the research, I could make a three weeks tourist journey at my own expense in parks in Kenya and Central Africa.

On this tourist travel I met many dear, nice and helpful people. Their hospitality exceeds far beyond the good hospitality in South Limburg. In this environment men still know – according to the first college philosophy by Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen – the art of half an hour work for eight hours sitting in the sun. An art that I could only acquire during short periods much later in my life. I was open and people were open. They protected me – as one of their small children – for the dangers of the environment and for dangers of robbery and worse.

Savanne in Africa [4]

In Central Africa I noticed remnants of former cities. I was reminded of the ancient cities in Asia Minor during the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Several hundred years ago, this continent had undergone a similar forced revolution by the invasion and colonization of a more advanced civilisation from Europe.

City wall in Zimbabwe [5]

All the maritime countries of Europe tried to take possession of a part of Africa to assert their influence and to acquire riches. According to an old saying, a crime is underlying each possession. This occupation was accompanied by violence against the original inhabitants and with violence between the maritime countries themselves. Around 1885, Congo still had to be divided between the high-profile countries in Europe. In 1885 during the Conference in Berlin, Congo was awarded to King Leopold II of Belgium: he made Congo his personal property and named it ‘Congo Free State’. For the original inhabitants of this part of Africa it was certainly no Free State.

From the West Coast of Africa, many original inhabitants – after being captured – were traded as slaves and deported to South- and North America. Below is a photo of their symbolic gate – called “Point of no Return” – for their forced departure with an excessive unpleasant journey to the “promised” land, where a slave existence awaited. Only much later, after many hardships and strive, they would legally receive an equal status in the United States of America. In practice, the status of many people from Africa is still not equal to people originating from the maritime countries of Europe.

Gate of Point of no return[6]

More than a century ago, Africa was divided by Europe into many parts with artificial borders. The population within these parts was not homogeneous. Coherent groups were divided over different areas. After the Second World War, Europe had no longer the power and influence to keep its colonies in Africa occupied. By negotiation or after a freedom fight, many former colonies received independency along  the former imposed artificial borders. Serious underlying tensions often existed within this new independent parts and between these parts. These tensions found their way in mutual conflicts between tribes and between the new States. A number of new States had great internal tensions to establish a new public administration. Some countries fell into dictatorship with a reign of terror in order to stay in power.

Map of Africa [7]

In Ethiopia in 1974, parts of the skeleton were found of a woman who has lived approximately 3.2 million years. She is called “Lucy” [9].

Australopithecus afarensis or a woman of 3,2 million years old named Lucy [10]

By conducting this paid study, I started a dangerous career. This first paid study focused on the causes and consequences of genocide in Central Africa. I have never been very convinced of the existence of homogeneous people. I think it is better to speak of small or large groups of people with reasonably similar habits and culture. Within these groups, the differences can be significant, but outsiders often focus on the similarities. Based upon this framing, special characteristics are attributed to this group. When tensions arise, certain characteristics are used for stigmatisation of a foreign group; the own group is glorified based upon certain other characteristics. Tensions can pass into conflicts with sometimes fatal consequences and excesses for groups or parts of the group. My study focused on the process and the consequences of this stigmatisation and on the responsibility for excesses.

For the safety of the interviewee, my co-researchers and myself I can give no details about this study.

[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_Age_collapse
[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Peoples
[3] Source image: Zie ook:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backpack
[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Zimbabwe_Closeup.jpg
[6] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa
[8] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus)
[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australopithecus_afarensis
[10] See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide

Man Leben – Dust of a journey

Wovon man nicht leben kann, darüber muss man schweigen [1]

Whereof one cannot live, thereof one must be silent.

You continue with the story of your life:

“Around 1990 after studying Oriental wisdom, I more or less lost my guilt and shame about my existence. Within a short period my aunt and my godmother died in 1993. Poland was easily accessible at that time. It was time to go to Auschwitz.

The name Auschwitz is derived from the Polish city name Oświęcim near the camp. Many Jews who lived in Oświęcim before the war, called this place Oshpitzin – the Yiddish word for guest – because this place was known for its hospitality before World War II [2].

In preparation for this visit, I have studies Shoah [3] made by Claude Lanzmann. On seeing this documentary I noticed how extensive and detailed the logistics must have been for the transportation and the accommodation of the many millions of people under difficult circumstances in time of war. These were targeted and far-reaching enterprises. Many people who were interviewed between 1974 and 1985, had repressed or altered their memories of the scale and scope – and their share in it. After questioning, these people did know the scope of the transports and the purpose of the camps often with embarrassment and shame. Their share was presented as fulfilling their orders as a minuscule wheel in a big scheme.


I have also looked at the statistics. Dachau was a concentration camp or a work camp where the prisoners were brought together to work. Most deaths in these camps were caused by heavy work, malnutrition, disease and abuse. Auschwitz II – also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau – was a death camp. Accurate data are no longer available, because these data have been destroyed near the end of the war. Most estimates indicate that approximately 1.3 million people are deported to the camps near Auschwitz. About 1.1 million people died. In Auschwitz II, more than 900,000 people have died according to estimates, of which 57 000 Dutch people – probably my father was one of them. After a journey of many days by train, a selection was made at arrival near the camp. Only the strongest people were selected for labour, the others went their death [5]. The number of deceased Jews in Auschwitz II is similar to all the inhabitants of Amsterdam including several nearby municipalities.


About three quarters of the Dutch Jews have not survived the war. The Jews have been easily selected by the accurate population registers. The deportees have been written out the population registers as “emigrated”. In total, approximately 110,000 Jews are deported from the Netherlands, of which about 5,000 have survived the concentration camps. The number of deceased Dutch Jews is similar to the full population of a city like Delft – including all the elderly and new-borns.

During the Second World War the other government caused the death of between 5,4 and 6 million Jews in Europe [7]. This is more than 700 times the number of soldiers buried on the war cemeteries in Omaha Beach near Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy or Henri Chapelle in Belgium: bottomless suffering.

The train journey to Oświęcim has lasted two days. In Oświęcim I have stepped into the footsteps of my aunt. I have never spoken about my visit to the camps at Auschwitz: I cannot do that and I do not want to. A week later I have returned to Amsterdam; empty inside and empty outside.

Several months later I have written three short poems:

Dust of a journey

Cannot be shaken away

Homely ashes


Volatile lives

Included in our marrow

Infinite time


All and all the world

Shapes in time’s rivers

Animated breath

In the camps near Dachau, I could not find reconciliation. The rooms for reconciliation in Dachau were not inviting for me to enter. On my journey to Dachau I had seen the study model for the continuum in Ulm. This study model included the entire universe in all Her simplicity and limitation. This room for reconciliation gave shelter and it included everything from the universe breathable in security and responsiveness.

After my visit to Auschwitz I have looked in each mirror for hope and consolation. In the mirrors I saw my sad, angry, guilty, acquiesced eyes. And also always the questions: “Who are you” and “How are you related to it and how are you separated from it”. On our Odyssey, we pose the same questions. In standing water I saw reflections of the world. With twigs and stones I have disrupted these images for a short time, but the images came back – bleak, cold, inhospitable.


The cracked glass of the Auschwitz Monument in Amsterdam reflects a part of my feelings after the visit to Auschwitz; personally, I would not crack the mirrors.


In the course of history, Auschwitz is not completely single out. If in a hunter/gatherers society a man wants to replace another man in the relation with a woman, than this struggle may cause the death of one of the men. Groups of people have fought with each other on the ownership of land: this often resulted in a casualty rate of 10% [10]. Since ancient times, the besiege and sacking of cities included customary rituals and rights: looting, killing men and leading women and children away as slaves was common practice. Since classical antiquity, warfare with professional armies is endemically anchored in our societies. With the arising of our current States, conscription is also introduced. By registration, the States did know exactly where the young men and the horses/vehicles were located for deployment during warfare. We know the consequences: on the way to Moscow, Napoleon caused more victims amongst his soldiers than during the horrors on the retreat [11]. The casualties among the soldiers during the German/French wars run into the millions. Battlefields have always been a Armageddon, but the extent and duration of the fighting increased vastly. In addition, the number of civilian victims increased dramatically and the massacres regularly include elements of genocide – think of systematic massacres in Africa and in Cambodia.

But Auschwitz II and the other death camps under the other government in Germany are exceptional. In 1942 and 1943 when the Germany’s conquests slowed down and the war effort were directly felt by the Germans, a scapegoat was easily found and stigmatised. It seems as though the other regime – that already had for 10 years a leader as a “person in the middle” for restoration of the disturbed trust – thought that the sacrifice of a scapegoat may reduce the problems. This sacrifice has been exceptional in size, effort and duration: “The sacrifice was performed with a scientific-systematic, technical nearly impeccable style. Without hurry, well designed, registered and regulated. The direct perpetrators: not rarely brutes and illiterates, but often well-educated and intellectuals with a ineradicable love for literature, arts and music; most of them have been caring house fathers” [12].

In the areas controlled by the other government, everything and everyone should have had a smaller or larger share in execution of this sacrifice. The subsequent efforts to hide this share speak for themselves [13]. In Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah [14] we see a reflection of these efforts to shielding. If I look in the mirror after my visit to Auschwitz, I still see a fraction of this effort for shielding – like my aunt I am not able to speak about this image in the mirror: I cannot and I do not want to.

Many years later, I read that a group of American Buddhists visited Auschwitz for consolation of everything and everyone [15]. From the long lists, they have recited the names of the deceased including the year of birth year and death year. Herewith the size became visible: the age of the deceased varies between a few months and more than 80 years.

My trip to Auschwitz took on breath, two weeks, more than 4500 years, from the beginning of the universe to the present, and from the day before yesterday to the day after tomorrow.

My everyday life In Amsterdam took its course again.

More about this in the following message”, you say.

The following post continues on your life after the journey to Auschwitz.

[1] Free rendering of the last sentence from: Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennip, 1976 p. 152

[2] Source: Glassman, Bernie, Bearing Witness – A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace. New York: Bell Tower, 1998, p. 4

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_(film)

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Birkenau_gate.JPG

[5] Sources: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_(concentratiekamp)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_concentration_camp and http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust

[6] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_(concentratiekamp)

[7] Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust

[8] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiegel_(optica)

[9] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Auschwitz_monument_amsterdam.JPG

[10] Source: Keegan, John, A History of Warfare. London: Pimlico – Random House, 2004

[11] Source: Zamoyski, Adam, 1812 – Napoleons fatale Veldtocht naar Moskou. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Balans, 2005

[12] Source: First paragraph of the Introduction from – Presser, Jacques, Ondergang. De vervolging en verdelging van het Nederlandse Jodendom 1940-1945 (twee delen), Den Haag: Staatsdrukkerij, 1985 – digitale version.

[13] Amongst others the publishing of “Presser, Jacques, Ondergang. De vervolging en verdelging van het Nederlandse Jodendom 1940-1945 (twee delen)” in 1965 caused discussion on the participation of the Netherlands in this “Sacrifice”.

[14] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_(film)

[15] See “Part I” of: Glassman, Bernie, Bearing Witness – A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace. New York: Bell Tower, 1998