Friday, January 22, 2016

Vriendschap is….

It’s a challenge, sometimes, to go from translation to meaning outside one’s native language and culture.

A friend posted a list of words today on Facebook:


I recognize a couple of root words, but not the compounds.  Still, the first level of meaning comes from simply understanding the words.

Range rich .... in felt … listen-gevig … solving-corpse … surprisingly solid … weathered helpful … back merrily ….

Sometimess, then, it only makes sense when I think about meaning rather than vocabulary,  I typed the whole list into Google, which yielded a presentation from Nyenrode Business University:

Vriendschap is

These begin to make some sense: maxims that express what it means to be a good friend.  Paraphrasing what I recognize (with the help of a Dutch dictionary):

The ability to receive everyone with open arms.
The ability to be heartwarming.
The ability to pay sincere attention.
The ability to solve every problem.
The ability to exceed expectations.
The ability to capture hearts.
The ability to be a good friend.

What is the context?  The 137 slides are part of a business presentation titled Vriendschap is….  beginning:

Vriendschap is … (idealiter) …     Friendship is ... (ideally) …

Welwillend zijn ten opzichte van elkaar 

Sympathetic to one another

Voor elkaar het goede wensen   

Wish one another well

Dat van elkaar weten,

   They know each other

En dat doen omwille van het goede, het aangename en/of het nuttige 

And do that because it is good, pleasant, and / or useful

So, more clear, but why?  The slides are part of an MBA program called the Theater van de Vriendschap, described as:

'Wat een zegeningen biedt vriendschap! Stel dat je uit de samenleving de spontane hulpvaardigheid wegneemt. Er zou geen huis, geen stad meer bestaan, zelfs het land zou niet meer bewerkt worden. Is het misschien moeilijk te begrijpen hoe groot de invloed is van vriendschap en eensgezindheid, probeer er dan begrip voor te krijgen uit het tegengestelde: onenigheid en tweedracht. Geen familie, geen stadsvolk heeft zo'n stevige grondslag of ze kunnen door haat en ruzie te gronde gaan. Daaruit valt in te zien wat een groot goed eensgezindheid is'

Tijdens het Theater van de vriendschap gaan we op zoek naar manieren om op eigentijdse wijze deze diepe inzichten van oude filosofen te realiseren.

"What a blessing friendship is! Suppose you remove the spontaneous helpfulness from society. There would be no house, a community (town) could no longer exist , even the country would no longer be put together. It might be hard to understand how great the influence of friendship and unity is, so perhaps try to gain understanding from the opposite: disagreement and discord. No family, no city of people can have a solid basis if they are ruined by hatred and strife. It is not hard to see what a great good consensus is'

During the Theatre of the friendship we search for ways to demonstrate these deep insights of ancient philosophers in a contemporary way.

And so it goes, an expat among the Dutch.  Start with vocabulary, up to meaning, finally to context.  And, sometimes, with luck, I might even get to Understanding.

Of couse, in this case, I still have no clue why my friend posted the words in isolation on Facebook…

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Back in the day….

My best friend from back on Northland Avenue, Lakewood Ohio, posted these photos from back in the early 60’s, when I was probably around 11 years old.  ‘Amazing to see it all – it seems so long ago.

Lakewood long ago 4Lakewood long ago 1Lakewood long ago 2Lakewood long ago 3

‘and today (via StreetView)


Sunday, January 17, 2016

What to make of Trump?

DSC08715 (862x1300)

Increasingly, conversation turns to the Donald when people find out that I’m American.  Would the US  seriously consider electing Trump as President?  I pass it off with a smile and assurances that this will pass.  It’s as though Richard Branson were to rung for Prime Minister:  Surely that would attract similar raised eyebrows and transient enthusiasm among folks fed up with politics as usual?

But what’s propelling his popularity, they ask.  Surely people can’t be blind to what he is saying about walls, women, and Muslims.  They must be doubting his temperament and qualifications for representing America on a world stage?

In this vein, I like John Dickerson’s analysis for Slate: Trump is a phenomena with the potential to anneal the Republican Party as well as to destroy it. 

Anyone aspiring to presidential leadership must be prepared to deal with other world leaders saying and doing emotional, irresponsible, thuggish things.  Trump is, in one sense, a demonstration of how potential leaders might deal with these people, with logic, with persuasion, with principal, and with strength.  So far, none of the other Republican (or Democratic) candidates have shown any ability to effectively counter Trump’s rhetoric.

When looking at the underlying economic woes of working class America, the middle-class backlash against urban elite culture, or the rise of nativist sentiment, the forces driving Trump are not suddenly about to vanish.

The worst impulses to respond with anger need to be confronted.   Thoughtful positions that lead to real solutions need to be proposed and argued.

On reflection, there seem to be five positions that I might take in a serious conversation about Trump’s candidacy:

  • He’s entitled.  America enshrines Free Speech as a foundation of democratic government.  Everyone has a voice, and society is best served when all points of view, even distasteful ones, are brought into public discussion.  This leads to interesting conversations about libel and slander laws, which are much looser in the US than in Europe.
  • He’s right. America does have problems with controlling immigration across its borders, with cultural assimilation of new migrants, and with the concentration of wealth and power in the upper 1%.  Trump is only saying what everyone in Amercia (and, for that matter, in Europe) is already thinking.
  • It’s performance.  Trump is doing and saying outrageous things to get and to keep media and popular attention.  It builds his brand, drives customers to his properties and television appearances, and buoys the political pundits and fundraisers.  Pay no attention to the theater: the party professionals and donor class will reassert themselves with time.  Watch the Establishment Lane.
  • It’s meaningless, and ultimately self destructive.  The Republican party has been embracing crazies and encouraging fringe positions for years.  The progression from Gingrich to impeachment to Bush to the Tea Party hits its nadir with Trump.  And the Party has to face this in order to purge itself of the temptations it offers: it’s Farage/UKIP, it’s Wilders/PVV.
  • It’s beyo9nd me.  Simply shake my head and say that I’ve been gone a long time.  I don’t know what people at home are thinking any more.

trump_koreaI recommend Edward Luce’s commentaries, writing in the FT, for thoughtful analysis of the whole thing.  His column today captured the European worry perfectly:

Within the next three weeks, we shall find out if the rise of Donald Trump is silly season froth that comes before voting, or whether we are in the midst of a dramatic upheaval in US politics. My head is agnostic. But my gut tells me things are changing for the worse.