Dutch historian Rutger Bregman asks the question whether people are inherently bad or good. Should we follow Hobbes’ view that civilisation is necessary in order to keep the bad at bay, or should we listen to Rousseau who claimed that it was civilisation that had corrupted men? In his book ‘De meeste mensen deugen‘ (which will be published in English in a few days as ‘Humankind: A Hopeful History‘) Bregman analyses a ton of scientific research – from archaeology to psychology, biology and political scientific research – to show that although we tell ourselves differently, mankind is inherently good. And that research that seemed to show otherwise (think Milgram’s experiment, consider the Stanford prison experiment) are actually based on a false representation of the facts that resulted from those experiments. People were not bad or evil, but when scientists push them in a certain direction people will follow. Because if there is a flaw to humanity, according to Bregman, it is that they want to help others, even if that means they need to do bad things.
Researching the conversations at the Nordic Summer University from 1950 until 2020, I’ve been spending a week at the Danish National Archive, going through thousands of letters, reports, program leaflets. It’s been a great experience so far.
My aim with this specific research project (funded by NSU and The Nordics) is to trace the spirit of NSU, to trace the study programs throughout the years and see how they changed. Some things have been written about this, most notably Kritik og Krise written by several NSU-ers and published in 2000 (which can be downloaded here: http://nordic.university/organisation/history/). But the chapter in that book that talks about the study program is mostly anecdotal, and clearly not systematic.
Although there are some things that are more known, like how feminist studies in Scandinavia started at NSU, I want to explore this question more systematically. In this project I want to know everything there is to know about the study program. (Ambitious, right?!) How did it develop over the years? What choices were made, based on what requirements? I want to find out how the conversation changed over the years.
The Nordic Summer University is a voluntary organisation where researchers, artists and basically anybody can start a ‘study circle’: a topic that is discussed during individual circle meetings in the winter and at the summer session, where all circles meet for some days, a week or even longer. The topics of the study circle were apparently interesting and important enough for people to spend their time and energy on, and attracted other people who were interested to discuss these topics together at the Nordic Summer University. Tracing these conversations at NSU therefore means tracing the conversations of the nordic countries, of what was considered important and fundamental to study together in an interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating environment.
As part of the project ‘Tracing the Spirit of the Nordic Summer University‘ that culminates in the 70th anniversary of the Nordic Summer University in 2020, several projects have been selected to do (artistic) reseach on a specific those traces. I also applied, and my project was accepted. Which means I’ll be going to the National Archive in Denmark that holds the physical archive of NSU, to do research.
The past couple of months I’ve been teaching a course on fiction writing at Volksuniversiteit Eindhoven. It was great, or at least I thought it was. Talking about something I love doing, something that is close to an addiction… writing fiction.
The students were great. They brought in their written work, which we talked about. What are the strengths of this author, what can be improved? What works, what doesn’t work? And most of all… why? When do you stop reading, what do we want to read more of, what is superfluous? But the students also raised great questions, and kept me sharp. Every class I would bring one story from a well-known author as an example, and they’d always ask… why did you want us to read this?
We have one extra meeting coming Tuesday, to discuss some works in progress that we’re aiming to send in to a contest. I’m really looking forward to it, and will also miss having this regular group to discuss writing with.
I’ve also realised that I want to continue reading and writing together with others. And that I like doing that in English, even though this first course was nice, Dutch is not the main language i enjoy writing fiction in. So I’ve started a Discord server and invite people to join who want to get involved with writing fiction as well. If there are enough people who want to do so in Dutch, that is also possible, but for now I’m starting out in English.
Sign up through my newly launched Patreon site and join the discussions, voice chats, assignments, challenges. Every month will focus on a different aspect of writing fiction, with writing challenges to participate in. Maybe I’ll see you there?
And if not online, hopefully in September another course will start at Volksuniversiteit Eindhoven, on creative writing. In English, this time! (Time and dates to be announced)
Her tears froze half-way down her cheeks. Summer had left overnight while he had packed his bags. Why hadn’t she brought gloves?
Marika took up the ball that was laid down at her feet and threw it far away. Rayleigh ran after it, hairs flowing up and down, just a few seconds slower than her small body. A few moments later the dog was back again, ball pressed between teeth.
It’s always dark on the dark side.
“Get up!”Benjamin was rudely shaken from his slumber. His feet were still cold, but he had just managed to loose consciousness for a few seconds when the guards got to him again.
He started crying.
“Stop crying. We’re going. You know the deal. We have to move you to the other base.”
Benjamin quickly got out of what was supposed to be his bed. A tiny layer of hay and a blanket that had seen better days. He knew better than to ask if he could bring his blanket. When he’d have this blanket and the blanket that was waiting for him at the other prison together, he’d probably be able to sleep a bit. Continue reading “The Prison on the Dark Side”
You don’t always go where you think you’re going.
“Welcome to flight 39221. My name is Elsebeth and I’ll be your hostess for today. I am here to make this experience as pleasant as possible. Would you like a drink, sir?”
Harold looked to his right, to what was supposed to be a window, but there was nothing to see. Just a vast blackness that extended until forever. At least, that’s what it looked like. It wouldn’t go on forever, obviously.
“When will we be arriving?” He turned to the lady wearing a purple dress that fitted her tight like a second skin, carefully covering her five tentacles.
The impossible can only happen when you are able to see it.
“Hello, how can I help you?” This was the fun part of his job, David knew. That moment he picked up the phone and anything was possible. It was why he always volunteered for the weekend shift. No stupid assistant to take his calls. Now he didn’t have to miss out on all the fun. A sheep in labor that needed his help, a cat that had thrown up his own bowels. Of course, most days nothing exciting like that happened. Lately, the most pleasurable thing he got to do was snipping the balls from guinea pigs. But even that got boring after a while.
“Kind Sir. Am I correct to think that you the veterinarian?”
A short story of exactly 100 words.
This is a drabble, which is a specific type of story of exactly 100 words. Which includes the title. That might sound easier than it is.
This drabble is called ‘Growth’ and is written especially for a contest organised by The Writers Block on Steemit, based on the prompt that was given: fighting & rays, which had to be included in the story.
It felt like the thing to do. Slowly I moved on. Everybody thought I was ridiculous, they couldn’t see me moving. But I knew I was going in the right direction, going up. There was no other way to go, fighting against something invisible that tried to keep me in the dark. The lack of resources, of time. Existence seemed meaningless. I was all alone, resisting the urge to give up.
But when I moved my first leaves above the soil that had trapped me, I felt the rays warm me. It was all worth it. Spring once more.
Punishment is not what it used to be.
Jack tapped his fingers on the arm rest. “Are we going yet? I want to get this over with.”
His case-worker looked over some files. “In a minute, this is your fifth visit, right?”
“Isn’t that your job to keep track of my rehabilitation?” Jack looked at him with big innocent eyes behind which he was hiding all the mischief in the world.
Brad sighed. Fifth meeting. He hated those. “Okay, we’re going. You’re in for a treat. Today we’re going all the way back to 2021.” Continue reading “Self-Termination – Short Story”