How to reconcile radical sentiments with everyday reality in the West?

Daniel Cooper writes in on the dilemmas of radicalism, LA and post-post-graduate life.

Nearly six months have passed since I returned from my two years in the Erasmus Mundus program in London and Leipzig to the comforts and luxuries of my home city of Los Angeles, a sprawling, coastal metropolis in the most powerful economy in the world. Blessed with unfathomable material wealth and environmental beauty, Los Angeles to a middle-class young man can be paradise; a gentle and seemingly constant sea breeze swirls overhead as beautiful tanned women walk leisurely down sunny city streets. One can go surfing in the morning in Malibu, enjoy an afternoon hike through the Santa Monica Mountains alongside rattle snakes and deer—in January—and enjoy dinner at a delicious Ethiopian or Armenian or Peruvian restaurant all in the same day in this city. But for as much wealth and beauty, Los Angeles offers equal amounts of poverty and ugliness. Latino and Black Angelinos (the term for residents of Los Angeles) remain cramped in dilapidated housing projects, the results of racist city planning and zoning regulations from a time not too far in the city’s past. The maze of Los Angeles’ freeways and streets are congested with bulky gas-guzzling machines that inch slowly along, wearing away at the humanity of the people who sit passively behind their steering wheels. While the air quality in Los Angeles has improved, every once in a while an oppressive smog looms over the city, turning an otherwise green paradise full of trees into what looks like a nuclear waste zone, an ominous reminder of human fallibility. Basically, Los Angeles offers all that is to be expected in one of the major cities of the Western world. I have come to appreciate this city, and by extension the larger Western world, the only world I really know. But my journey to this appreciation has not been without tears and much painful soul-searching.

Airport Security and its Misadventures

A tragi-comedy of greek proportions seems to have played out at Bratislava airport this Wednesday:

In what no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time, Slovak officials decided to test airport security in Slovakia on Saturday by concealing plastic explosives in eight suitcases and waiting to see what happened next.

Here’s what happened next: airport security workers intercepted seven of the suitcases but failed to detect 96 grams of the plastic explosive RDX loaded into one bag, which belonged to a Slovak electrician who lives in Ireland and had no idea his luggage had been tampered with. The man boarded his flight to Dublin, retrieved his bag and went home to his apartment.

The man then unpacked but, The Irish Times reports, “the explosives had been concealed so well that he did not find them.”

Three days later, on Tuesday, it apparently occurred to someone in Slovakia that the fact that one of the explosive-packed bags had gone missing was a problem and Slovakian airport authorities contacted their counterparts in Dublin to ask for help.

On Tuesday morning, the Irish Army’s bomb squad paid a visit to the apartment of the Slovak electrician in Dublin and secured the explosives. (NYT)

Spiritual & Financial Guidance for the Penniless but Pure at Heart

The beginning of the New Year can be a time of changes and a time of re-assessment of life’s decisions. In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, BB tells his daughter:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

While the movie was a tad longer than necessary, what was nice and sincere about it was that that it makes you look at the concept of time differently, because instead of getting older like everybody else,  Benjamin keeps getting younger. For most of us, as we get older we get a vaguely uncomfortable feeling that somehow, time is running out. Actually, time is just the way it always has been. What’s really running out is you. And with this comes that inevitable realisation that you want to do something meaningful before you get run out or run over.

All P*mped Up!!

Globalistan has been a little dormant the past few days since we were reworking blog design and adding some new features. More shall be told about the latter when the time is ripe, but we are still working on things so expect some changes.

Hats off to Teresa for the awesome header. And to Ben, who reworked the design for us.

Let us know what you think of the design. Is there anything in the reworking that you see missing or different? Opinions shall greatly help us as we work on the design. The soul of a blog, after all, is in his clothes.

Culture Choc

Arabic Chocolate Letter

Having spent most of the last three months in South Africa, a minor culture shock was to be expected when I arrived back in the Netherlands last week. As beautiful a country as South Africa is, it is still dealing with the aftermath of apartheid; while racial segregation has legally been abolished, it persists in socio-economic terms. This in turn feeds into continuing socio-spatial segregation, as the ability to make use of certain amenities is inextricably linked to income. Moreover, having spoken to a bunch of white and black South Africans myself, it is clear that divisive attitudes are still in place, as a large portion of the black population lament their unrelenting marginalization, whereas many whites are fearing a Mugabe-like policy of land and income redistribution that will ‘rob’ them of opportunities. Thus, in de facto terms, South Africa is still by and large an apartheid-state.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, is internationally renowned for its tolerance towards pretty much everything. From hash to hookers to homosexuality, the Dutch condone seemingly everything and anything. While this is something that I am proud of, it has to be said that this widely held image is often a gross exaggeration. The Netherlands itself has been grappling for decades with issues of immigration and integration, and a growing xenophobia has been reflected my the make-up of the Second Chamber (the Dutch version of the House of Commons). Nonetheless, generally speaking, the Dutch remain relatively tolerant and are dedicated towards multi- or even polyculturalism.

This contrast between South Africa and The Netherlands became particularly clear to me when I was doing some groceries in a quintessentially Dutch store, the HEMA. There I noticed that the store was already full of chocolate and candy for Sinterklaas, a Christian holiday that is held every year on December 5. While the name itself, which is derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas, already indicates that this holiday has its roots in Christianity, religious elements have over time been eroded and has become much akin to Christmas in spirit and materialism. Despite this, it is not very common for Dutch Muslims to celebrate Sinterklaas. That is to say, they don’t watch the arrival of Sinterklaas with his steam ship; they don’t put their shoes near the window sill and fill it with sugar and carrots for the saint’s horse; they don’t get presents from a dirty brown bag; and they don’t get candy from the white saint’s helpers, who are called Black Peters (oh, the irony of this if you just spent some months in South Africa).

Welcome to Globalistan

Dear reader,

Welcome to Globalistan. Globalistan is a forum in which people are encouraged to share the way they see the world. It’s about connecting people through their thoughts and experiences, and encouraging people to think creatively and critically about the issues that unite and divide them.

Often we tend to understand the world in terms of boundaries-of nations, races, religions etc. We think that there is much to be gained by looking beyond the boundaries. Our humble aim is to connect people by sharing our experiences of living in a globalized world with each other.

But what is Globalistan without its people? That’s why we need you. If you have thoughts about global issues or want to share something that is important to you, send it our way.

So please contribute: Send an email to if you wish to be part of the team and we will add you as a contributor.