Tag Archives An Opinion

Remod-hell

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A year and a half ago, I moved from my one person apartment next to a student flat to a roomier apartment in a dullish suburb. I had high hopes: no loud parties, no hearing people move all the time, no “I have no idea who my neighbors are, as nobody ever introduces themselves anymore and they also keep moving all the time”, no “meeting your drunk and stoned neighbors for the first time at 3 am when asking them to please be quiet, as people need to work tomorrow”. I was ready for a new, quiet, life.

Not once did it cross my mind that these days, in the type of neighborhood I would be moving to, remodeling is a near constant process.

Apparently, the big advantage of living in a rent controlled, low income apartment amidst other rent controlled, low income apartments next to a student flat turns out to be that nobody ever remodels anything. Nobody. Sure, there’s the occasional nail being hammered into a wall, or IKEA closet being assembled when somebody moves in, but that’s it. People who are eligible for these rent controlled, low income apartments obviously don’t have money lying around. And if for whatever reason (upwards mobility, inheritance, winning the lottery) they do end up with a significant amount of cash, they’re just not going to spend that money on remodeling their rental. The housing coop also never remodels anything if they don’t have to. That B-stock kitchen from 1992? “Looks fine!” they say, as you show them the doors that don’t close properly and actually never have, ever. The “You should be thankful to have a roof over your head, you Brokey McBrokerson!” is implied. Not that they manage to keep that roof non-leaky, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. #SwimmingpoolInMyLivingroom2018And2019

Things are very different in the world of those with a considerable amount of money. In the last year and a half, hundreds of thousands of euros have been spent on needlessly remodeling already perfect apartments in my tiny 10 house street alone. How I know that they were perfect already? While I claim not to have hobbies, I actually do have one (1!) hobby: Funda. It’s the biggest real estate listing site of The Netherlands, for both rentals and houses for sale. #nospon So I know exactly what all those apartments that “really needed to be remodeled” after being bought looked like. They looked perfect, because they had already been remodeled before being put up for sale.

That’s another difference between the world of people who qualify for a rent controlled, low income apartment and the world of people with considerable amounts of money: in Low Income Land, “ready to move in” means that the apartment is not filthy, that there aren’t any holes in the wall and that the walls are white. In Considerable Amounts of Money Land however, “ready to move in” means “This apartment is ready to be featured in a luxury home magazine”. The floors, kitchens and bathrooms are of the kind I have never encountered in real life. I used to always wonder why we have so many stores selling floors, kitchens, and bathrooms in this country. “I mean, at some point everyone must have a floor, a kitchen, and a bathroom? How often do you replace those anyway?” Looking back, I can’t believe how naive I was.

Recently installed floors that have been walked on by 30 people at most and that could very well have lasted for 15 years, are ripped out and thrown into a dumpster. Brand new kitchens nobody has ever really cooked in get demolished three months after they were installed to be replaced by a new kitchen that looks exactly the same to me. Interestingly enough, the fancy new bathrooms don’t get replaced that often. I guess it’s because “replace a fancy new rain shower by a fancy new rain shower” is just too weird even for these remodel-loving high earners.

Having spent a sizeable part of my life in Low Income Land, I find that I don’t have much patience for this “Remodeling perfectly perfect apartments to suit my taste better”-thing. I can’t help but think it’s privileged bullshit, and that they, well, should be thankful to have a roof over their heads. And also, once you can spend 700.000 to 800.000 euros on an apartment (which with all extra costs rounds out to about a million dollars), I’m quite sure that you’ll be able to find a place that already completely suits your style from the just-remodeled apartments currently for sale. Especially considering they all look the same anyway.

I think the need to remodel recently remodeled apartments is just the human equivalent of marking your territory by peeing on the side of the couch. The fact that a significant number of the “to suit my taste”-remodelers move quite soon after the remodeling and styling of their “was already perfect to begin with, because recently remodeled”-apartment is done, to a new recently remodeled apartment that they then start remodeling again, is proof of this theory to me. “What do you care how their spend their own money?” you might say. And while it is true that it is their own money, I find this enormous waste of money positively disgusting, especially seeing that so many people live in abject poverty.

Apart from that, it’s also a huge waste of materials and natural resources. Even if it was a prerequisite for entering Considerable Amounts of Money Land that you had to rip out and replace brand new floors and kitchens, why aren’t these materials being reused? I mean, I’m quite sure lots of people renting from the housing coop would love to replace that B-stock kitchen from 1992 they’re now stuck with. I am also quite sure that there are loads of people who would love to replace their floors. I do see a couple of kitchens and floors available on Marktplaats (basically a cross between Craigslist and Ebay – Ed.), but in this neighborhood I’ve seen most of them end up in the dumpster. It’s probably less of a hassle than to find someone to donate or sell it to, and they don’t need the money anyway, I guess? But even if that were the case, why don’t they recycle their materials? As I write this, I realise that that might be because both the floors and the kitchens are made of non-recyclable mixed materials, and that throwing them in the dumpster is the only way to dispose of them. Which then begs the question why we are still mass producing these types of materials in 2021.

If you thought the trifecta of “enormous waste of money”, “huge waste of materials/natural resources”, and “environmental pollution” was already bad enough, there is an even bigger horror that comes with the constant remodeling: chronic noise disturbance. It starts with weeks and weeks of tearing, ripping, wrecking, and hammering. Then the apartment is put up for sale, and it’s quiet for a few weeks. As soon as the apartment is sold, the tearing, ripping, wrecking, and hammering resumes.

There are times at which they start a remodel on a new apartment while the “first” apartment is still being remodeled. As a neighbor you only find out about this when the noises don’t only come from the apartment on the left, but also from the one on the right. And sometimes also from the one on the other side of the street. If you’re unlucky, you’ll be suffering from continuous noise disturbance for 5 consecutive months. And not only does nobody ever announce these big remodel projects (because fuck your neighbors apparently), there is also hardly ever anyone able or willing to answer basic questions like “How long is this going to take?”, “At what time do the workers start?”, and especially “At what time do the workers leave?”. Which is really strange, as knowing what is happening makes the process more bearable.

Now you’re just stuck with the noise, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Despite google telling me that noise disturbance caused by remodeling in particular is a huge problem here in The Netherlands, there are no laws that anyone has to adhere to. Every city can write their own local laws, and the one in Amsterdam simply states that “you’re not allowed to cause a severe disturbance”. How do you quantify that? Right, you don’t.

Not only are you completely dependent on what the remodelers decide is “not a severe disturbance”, when you complain you also often get gaslighted into thinking it’s really not that bad and that you’re overly sensitive, and should “move to a shack in the woods, far from the city”. First of all, we don’t have shacks in woods here. Actually, we don’t even really have woods here at all. And second of all, we’re 17 million people on a stretch of land that is hardly 4 car hours long and 3 car hours wide: EVEN IF WE HAD FUCKING WOODS WITH SHACKS IN THEM, THEY WOULD BE EXPENSIVE AND I’M QUITE SURE THERE WOULD BE SOMEONE BUSY REMODELING THEM. Sorry for yelling.

The other “advice” people like to give is to buy a detached home. That’s cute and all, but anyone living here knows that there’s exceptionally few of them (because again: tiny country, lots of people) and unless you’re a career criminal, an investment company, or a Boomer who profited from the housing boom, there’s no way you can afford one. Awesome.

As for now, things have quieted down again on my street: all the apartments have been remodeled, sold, and remodeled again. I’m just going to enjoy the peace and quiet until the whole damn cycle starts back up again.

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When it comes to fascist ideologies, there is no “middle ground”

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In The Netherlands we’re voting for the members of the House of Representatives this week. By the time I post this, everybody has (not) voted and as usual the VVD party will win and things will sadly stay the same, but I wanted to write about my feelings in regards to a thing I’ve been seeing a lot these last few weeks, which is that “we” should “listen to each other’s points of view more”. This is usually followed by “polarization is a bad thing” and how we should find a “middle ground”.

Nope. I don’t think so. I feel literally zero desire to “take an interest” in points of view that basically add up to “some people need to have fewer or even no human rights”.

When you only have money for one pizza, one person wants pineapple, the other one doesn’t and there are no other options available, you’ll have to compromise. In this case, it’s easy: one half pineapple, the other half no pineapple, everybody gets what they want, everybody is happy.

When discussing percentages of taxes to pay, you discuss and haggle and figure out a percentage somewhere in the middle of what all parties want. Again, problem easily solved, everybody is happy.

But when it comes to things as human rights, these methods of compromising just don’t work. Say, you think everybody deserves to exist and have human rights regardless, and somebody else is like “Nah, I don’t agree with that”, how do you go about solving that? How do you get to that magical “middle ground”? Do you make groups? Do you separate them by age? Intelligence? Skin colour? By the level of illness or handicap? By if they are of use to society or not? By if you like their face or not?

It’s 2021. As far as I am concerned, people who believe that entire groups of people, some of which I belong to (despite being Casper hued I was the “blackest” kid at my high school – this is not a joke), should have fewer or even no human rights, can go fuck themselves. I don’t want any of these people in my life in any capacity, ever. Also the argument that “we should respect each other’s choices” is bullshit. I don’t respect people who choose to vote for fascists. And no, they’re not “nice people, asides from their beliefs”. They’re fascists or at least people who don’t mind voting for political parties that have fascist beliefs, which is completely unacceptable in itself.

Also, the whole “asides from their beliefs” thing probably makes sense when their beliefs are about groups you are not a part of or don’t give a shit about. I am a chronically ill “allochtoon” (= foreign of the “eligible for affirmative action”-kind, because despite what this article claims, Western foreigners are also considered “allochtoon” and “black” students) woman. Both my parents were refugees. There is no “asides from their beliefs”, their beliefs are about me and people like me. Their beliefs directly affect me and people like me, especially when made into policy. I spent my entire childhood being forced to prove my humanity and my worth, very often by adults. Later, I used my debating skills to try and make people see that discrimination, racism, and hatred of the LGBTQIA+ community is awful, unwarranted and should stop. Despite often changing people’s minds, I don’t feel that on the whole, this tactic was very effective, and these days I don’t have the mental energy to try to convince hateful assholes one by one of things that most other people consider to be completely normal.

There is more than enough knowledge easily available these days. If despite this, people choose to vote for political parties that openly propagate their fascist ideologies, then that’s a conscious choice they’re making. I however, am making the conscious decision to never waste another second of my life engaging in completely useless “discussions” with people who make such reprehensible life choices, and I sure as hell am not going to try to “find a middle ground” between their beliefs and mine, as that would only normalize their ideologies. Some ideologies are just plain wrong. Period.

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The Covid19 post

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Let me start off with the “When it’s not about you, it’s not about you”-disclaimer. This disclaimer applies to all my blog posts, but considering the topic and the tone in which I am discussing it (spoiler: annoyed. Extremely annoyed), I figured it would be good to make it explicit. Here we go:

Seldom in my life have I felt so chronically annoyed at life as in the last couple of months. Every time I said to myself: “This is it, it is impossible for me to get more annoyed than I am now”, I read some news that made me want to chop the nearest object to me down the middle with a huge axe. Even if from 14 March on I had listened to nothing but Africa by Toto on repeat, I would not have been as annoyed as I am now.

Why exactly am I so annoyed, you ask? Well…

  • The way the Covid19 pandemic was completely underestimated at the beginning;
  • The, as soon as was established that this Covid thing was An Issue, constant and extremely detailed, panic-y news streams;
  • The anti-Covid measures as instated by the Dutch government, some of which SO confusing that people went: “Yeah, whatever, never mind those rules”;
  • The fact that people went: “Yeah, whatever, never mind those rules”;
  • The Dutch government going back and forth on the matter of face masks: “No face mask!”, “Wear a face mask!”, “Don’t wear a face mask!”, “Do wear a face mask!”;
  • The fact that the Dutch media think it’s perfectly normal to give a platform to a “discussion” about if we shouldn’t just let people that are fat, chronically ill, handicapped, old or a combination of any of those just die so the “healthy ones” can continue their lives as before.

    Yes, you’re reading that correctly: a “discussion”, led by some columnist or other who apparently didn’t get enough attention that week, about who can be “culled”. At a time where people who are more at risk AND WHO GENERALLY SPEAKING ARE WELL AWARE OF THAT FACT are living in terror, some person or other decides that this is the perfect moment to act like a populist amateur eugenicist, and the Dutch press is like “Cool topic! Let’s give this person a lot of time and attention!”

    Don’t get me wrong: I am 100% in favour of euthanasia, to the point of being of the opinion that if somebody is done with life, they should just be able to get it. I don’t care if it’s because they are out of treatment options, or just because they feel that their life is complete, people should at any point in their life be able to decide about themselves when it comes to life and/or death. However, I have a HUGE problem with people “suggesting” that other people, who happen to be fat, chronically ill, handicapped and/or old, but who are just fine living their lives, should just, you know, die already, because “young and healthy people” (not getting into that one) don’t feel like adapting their lives a bit for a year or so;

  • The fact that this “discussion” isn’t even the most bizarre thing the Dutch media are giving a platform to. I’m thinking of the “Covid is a conspiracy!” tin foil hat wearing folk;
  • The fact that people that I thought were ok, have turned into one of these “Covid is a conspiracy!” tin foil hat wearing folk #disappointing;
  • The whining about the wearing of face masks and how impossible it is to wear them, because they are “So awfully uncomfortable”. Do you want to know what is actually awfully uncomfortable? Having a fucking breathing tube stuck down your throat in the Intensive Care Unit.

And no, you’re not being “gagged”, not literally and unfortunately also not figuratively, because if it was, a lot less of the useless crap above would have gotten into the world.

I honestly did not have a high opinion of humanity in general (and sometimes also in particular), but even I am shocked to see the general lack of logic and critical thinking skills in people. But what shocked me most is the often total lack of empathy and complete lack of willingness to do something for somebody else. I mean, I understand that you might not want to do something to help somebody else if it’s detrimental to you. But refusing to adhere to rules that honestly aren’t even that much of a hassle to adhere to, but could help out others tremendously? Damn. Like I told TBK aka my mom: “And I thought that I had a shitty personality!”

I do understand people complaining about their current lives though, because life is kinda shit at the moment. It’s boring and stressful, days feel like weeks and months feel like days, unemployment and money worries take their toll, relationships are crumbling because people either never see each other or see each other all the time, you could get terribly ill at any moment and even die, and most of all: nobody has any clue of how long this is all going to take. This type of insecurity is killing.

Do you now have an idea how FUCKING SHIT it is to live your life this way for weeks, months, years and sometimes even forever? Because strangely enough, we as a society think it’s completely normal that there’s large groups of people for whom this is their daily lived reality. I do understand that if you’re healthy, you don’t consider what it can be like to be chronically ill and/or handicapped. That you have no clue whatsoever what the impact of chronic illness and/or a handicap can be on somebody’s life, and what that impact looks like in daily life.

But I do think that the government has a job here to inform people about these facts, and – more importantly – make sure that laws are instated to make sure that people with chronic illnesses and/or handicaps have a better quality of life when it comes to living, studies and/or jobs.

Because that is what pisses me off the most about this whole Covid-situation: for YEARS chronically ill and/or handicapped people have explained what their daily lived reality is like, what hinders them, what could be done to make life better for them. Nothing was ever possible. To work from home: no, can’t do that. To study remotely: impossible. To have the government start a campaign to get people to stop this toxic “I don’t call in sick unless I have a 40°C [104° Fahrenheit] fever”-bullshit, where people don’t take into account all the co-workers, class mates and/or complete strangers – some of whom might be immunocompromised – on public transport that they infect: nope.“Oh come on, everybody has a cough once in a while, don’t exaggerate!” Or as my 35-year old (as in: he should have known better) class mate once incredulously smoke-wafted my way: “But… you can’t die from pneumonia?” This after I told him that, yes, I had been absent, and yes, didn’t look too well, because I had nearly died of pneumonia in the weeks before. I think you got the picture by now.

Then Covid19 happened, and previously healthy people turned out to also be at risk to be struck by the virus. And all of a sudden everything was possible: work from home, study remotely, not coughing each other in the face. Even the very Dutch custom of body slamming into each other to get onto a train first stopped. I thought I’d never see the day.

And while I am of course happy that these adjustments could be made so quickly, I am also terribly, terribly angry. Because the fact that these adjustments have been made, and have been made so quickly, shows that it was never a case of “We can’t”. “We” just didn’t want to. The government and others that decide these matters just didn’t feel like it, it wasn’t a priority, it was too much of a hassle, it wasn’t profitable.

This situation clearly shows that as a society, we have a very, very long way to go when it comes to the acceptance, let alone emancipation of chronically ill and/or handicapped people. There’s still this sentiment of “Why should we want to accommodate you, you’re being a hassle, why can’t you be healthy just like anybody else?”, mixed with a bit of “You should be thankful to this society that we don’t just let you die, you burden on humanity, you”.

With those sentiments comes the concept of “beggars can’t be choosers”, that normalises the idea that as a chronically ill and/or handicapped person, you have less of a right to an enjoyable life. You should content yourself with whatever society is willing to “give”, and you are not supposed to have any ambitions regarding studies and/or (paid) work, let alone expect to be accommodated in the slightest when trying – against all odds – to achieve these ambitions.

There’s been a lot of talk about “solidarity” these days, but I still haven’t felt it. Sure, we’re all in this together to a certain extend right now. But as soon as the Covid19 pandemic is over, everything will go back to how it used to be. Everybody will immediately forget how awful this period was and return to their jobs and/or studies, and to sniffing and coughing everywhere again, because “It’s not Covid 19, so who cares?” The chronically ill and/or handicapped will see the changes that now benefit them be turned back to “normal”, because fuck them, right? I of course hope that I’m wrong, and that this pandemic will forever change the way we live, but I’m quite pessimistic about it to be honest. I hope to be proved wrong though.1