Love Is Not Tourism

This writing is about me and my Russian girlfriend Marina, but tells the story of many other international loved ones who don’t feel heard. Marina and I are two out of many overlooked victims of crude decisions, made by governments in their obsessive endeavour to control corona. And while many Europeans are already continuing life, partying and enjoying their vacations throughout Europe, our crisis is far from over. 

Through the granular pixel rate of video calling, I see how teardrops are making their way down her rounded cheeks. I want to hug her tightly. I want to wipe away her tears. But I can’t. There is a wall in between us. A feeling of apathy and unsettlement unfolds within me. We look at each other in silence. How can I make her feel reassured? Will I tell her everything will end up fine, and would she still believe me? And even so, would I still believe myself?

Just now, it is announced that the travel ban for non-EU citizens will be extended. Again. Our binational relationship isn’t eligible for exemption. We would need to possess official proof of cohabitation. But it is exactly because of a similar rigidity that we impossibly had the chance to obtain any suchlike proof, not even to speak of having legalized documents. 

The goodbye fell on a drowsy valentines day, at the airport of Eindhoven. By now, that’s about five months ago. For the occasion, I gave her a stuffed animal (a small, smiling seastar). To stay hopeful, I told myself that we would see each other again in a month or so. 

That didn’t happen. This farewell would become the last physical memory of Marina until now. The last touch of her smooth skin, the last embrace by her soothing warmth. 

Ever since, not a day goes by without thinking of it. How she hesitatingly walked towards the departure hall, while holding the orange seastar I had given her. How there was an overall ominous ambience in the airport. How I was barely able to catch a last glimpse of her innocent smile, before the all too familiar doors would shut. Before I would become flooded with sadness once again. The heartfelt kind of sadness, of which all airports are the mourning witnesses. It’s the suffering of international love. 

In the following months, our fearful prophecy would turn into reality. A merciless coronavirus struck the world. The ever-rushing mankind was halted at once. Countries crawled back into their shells, to secure their own wellbeing. Inhabitants were repatriated to be with family in these uncertain times. And Marina? She’s separated from me by cold bureaucratic rules. 

In a panic reflex, the once so praised globalization was suddenly revoked; The economically interwoven world which can be held accountable for a deadly virus, inequality and many other forms of misery. But this is also an intercultural world which has brought many people together. All sorts of people, ethnically and culturally different, but united by that one thing which makes humans human: love. 

And I hope that our governments can generate the love to set ajar their doors. For Marina and I, and thousands of other loved ones which were cruelly separated when all doors were closed with a loud slam. It might even be a modest step towards a more loving world, wherein people aren’t divided into groups, based on their ethnicity, skin color or passport.  

Photo credit: Chad Madden & Kristina Tripkovic (header).

Corona Diary #6


Written On 18-06-2020, as part of my self-isolation diary.

Corona can be seen as the most successful whistleblower in recent history. A physical disease which denudes social diseases. In the wake of its rampage, it pointed out the staggering worldwide inequality and lack of access to medical care. 

In the US, corona had already addressed its weak social safety, for it’s mostly the financially vulnerable who have died there. Corona has also pointed out how spoiled we (me too) have become, indulging ourselves into limitless air travel, polluting the world. But in this particular case, corona has touched upon one of the most counternatural, outdated, hypocrite and hopefully one day condemned industries: meat processing. 

It is interesting to observe how corona sweeps across the European Union. Doing so, it cuts open all the incorporated flaws which haven’t been addressed but should have. Systematically, it removes the plaster from the normally hidden wounds of our union: the more dystopian aspects we don’t like to see, for they might destabilize the collective conscience and our way of depicting our beloved EU. 

Corona’s most recent discovery is the hidden world of massive slaughterhouses in Germany and The Netherlands. One outbreak after another has revealed that the majority of employees have been infected by the coronavirus. Its employees are predominantly recruited in Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

Dodgy job agencies aim to recruit people so poor that they don’t have a choice, other than to do the dirty jobs we don’t want to do in the west. They’re then housed in derelict dorms and are driven in buses towards the meat factory each morning. And after a tiresome day of tearing away pork intestines, these modern slaves are driven back to their barracks, which on themselves look like a pigsty.

On the news yesterday, was an enormous plant, located in Rheda, Germany. It has some 7000(!) employees, who have the honorable task to kill and process about 20.000 pigs on a good day. On its roof stands an large billboard depicting a cheerful cow and pig. I think pigs are not smiling once they know the horrors inside the building. 

The gritty abattoir, which is owned by a billionaire, even has its own football club and a stadium! The irony would be even comical, but this matter is serious. As said, most of the employees are underpaid, overworked labour-migrants from the less wealthy regions of the EU, who now also have to suffer from corona. And I thought it was the European Union’s fundamental endeavour to increase equality. Not to exploit inequality, in favour of the already wealthy! European governments are struggling to excuse themselves for slavery in the past, while modern slavery is still alive and kicking.

So irony wants that here you have a factory full of pigs who weren’t supposed to be bred and killed in the first place, processed by workers who weren’t supposed to work there, to ‘produce’ meat of which 20% will be thrown away as a consequence of revenue calculations. (Throwing away packages of meat is ultimately cheaper than giving it discount tags.) 

Perhaps they’d disagree at first, but I guess that ultimately, corona will be a true blessing for the modern slaves working there, and for the pigs, who are definitely not smiling like the banner wants to make us believe.

In the places now affected by outbreaks, it is often not the outbreak which is the most alarming. It’s not the corona infections itself that engage me into the actual news coverages.

No, it’s becoming aware of the ongoing activities which makes it poignant: the incomprehensible facts that leak to the outside world, as an unforeseen consequence of the corona discovery. For instance, that apparently, there is still a large fur industry in the Netherlands. That also, 5,6 Million pigs are slaughtered each year in our small country. 15,500 a day. We must be damn hungry. 

Photo credit: KOBU Agency Portugal

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2020. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Slow and Hard: An Enrichment

It’s probably one of the most characteristic slogans in contemporary advertisements, smartly used by tech-companies to sell their newest electronics: ‘Quick and easy!’ And the moral it serves is fully embraced by its audience. Devices seem to constantly ‘beat’ their predecessors with another added feature to easify the lives of its customers even more.

Already when you’ve just purchased that brand new smartphone, a newer, faster, and better version is available in stores. Also, you can count on a sneering look when admitting to a computer specialist the prehistoric lifespan of your laptop (which is barely two years).The underlying notion tells that technological progress would make things ‘easier’ and ‘faster’. But this alleged easiness brought along with it the exact opposite; an incredible complexity which increased dependency. So if you allow me, in this writing I would like to promote a more ancient approach; ‘Slow and hard!’ 

Anno 2020, most ordinary households own a five-hundred channel multifunctional 50 inch smart-TV with wifi connection and voice recognition. Limitless smartphone possibilities allow us to order a pizza, make a business call, scroll through the latest news updates while messaging acquaintances in New York and Amsterdam all at the same time. To a varying extent, many of us have become volatile multitaskers. The outdated -and emotionally vulnerable- processors that are our minds, need to run a tremendous array of tasks simultaneously. 

Considering the multitude of options nowadays to supervise all aspects of life, it might feel like a defeat when only one activity is undertaken. Yet, this might just be the key to finding an orderly state in the mad world of social media and technology.

Removing easiness and comfort from life might sound a bit silly at first. Deliberately withdrawing ourselves from modernity’s practical comforts can feel even counterintuitive. Because it would cost valuable time (which we don’t possess), it would require effort and patience (which we don’t have). Altogether, why would people even try to deprive themselves of the very technology they’d initially invented to ease up life?

There’s a good reason to do so. For every new gadget, app or device, with all its advantages, makes its users instantly dependent, and setbacks might lead to fargoing, often shameful behaviour. This helpless dependency reduces painfully the parameters by which we measure contentment throughout a day, because expecting everything to be quick and easy, means it also needs to be always quick and easy. But what if it isn’t? What if modern technology doesn’t keep its promise?

Well, then frustrations flourish; When a smartphone doesn’t work, an entire day is ruined. When Netflix is unavailable, the evening is wasted. When the online food order is late, we’re angry and might shout at the poor delivery guy. 

The slogan Slow and Hard on the other hand, does exactly what is expected of it, and likewise evokes no unpleasant surprises. I’ve therefore listed a few analog items considered to be ancient by now, but which nevertheless might make life a little slower and harder, in a gracious sense.

The items described underneath are terribly slow, very unwieldy and excruciatingly hard when compared to the fluidity of modern gadgets. But precisely therefore, they also stand a little closer to the true, sorrowful and tragic nature of life. No miracles are expected of them. Yet, their variety is rich and its dependency negligible.

Items to make life slower and harder:

Newspaper – Structure and Eye Health 

Days primarily consist of staring at screens. Sometimes even at multiple screens simultaneously, for instance, when looking at the smartphone while watching TV. The impossibility of such activities is well demonstrated when towards the end of the evening, neither the netflix movie was finished, nor is remembered what we were actually doing on the smartphone meanwhile. Yet, the real damage it does, is to our eyes.

Staring straight into bright light almost uninterruptedly for a day, is an unhealthy business for sure. It is unnatural and tiring, and influences the quality of sleep. Looking at multiple screens in a literal sense might, if you manage to even do so, leave you with crossed eyes. The old-school newspaper offers solace to this problem. Finding it waiting for you on your doorstep in the morning might interlude a more orderly and less tiresome day. And despite its old fashioned image, the newspaper still satisfies our insatiable hunger for information, yet in a somewhat healthier way. 

Book – Discipline and Creativity.

Firstly and most importantly; it runs without a battery. No need to cry and yell about specific cables or chargers that are missing. Secondly, one might reinvent an unmissable virtue; inasmuch as starting to read a good –physical– novel is easy, it requires discipline to finish it. In modern multitasking, there are plenty of examples wherein an activity remains unfinished, which can be quite frustrating after having started it enthusiastically.

Discipline is the ability to persistently sustain a single activity in favour of a greater goal. In this case it’s understanding the novel’s plot, with the side effect of escaping our beeping and buzzing devices. Overcoming many pages might enable the ability to extrapolate this forlorn habit (discipline) towards daily life. Also, flipping through the pages of a talented writer can provoke one’s own creativity, hence interesting ideas. 

Postcard – Nostalgia And A Touch of Melancholy.

Slower than its digital counterpart the email, but surely more meaningful, and far less liable to end up in the spam box. It’s a gift to your future self, as written postcards are the physical evidence of having travelled in faraway lands. Furthermore, finding an old postcard awakens memories of different times and reminds us of the gradual change to which life is subject.

Postcards are connected to the people we’ve met in past journeys, or to the difficulties we overcame before sliding it into the mailbox many years ago. Somehow, the safe arrival of a postcard is quite miraculous, as it went through many hands and exotic lands, ultimately onto your doorstep. It requires more effort to send a good old postcard, but without effort, it would be without meaning. 

Vinyl player – Calmness & Care.

The opposite of quick and easy. A classical vinyl player requires delicate care. Letting the needle land softly on the disc is a movement of profound carefulness. Surely no other activity can be undertaken simultaneously. Then, a pleasant feeling of relief arises when after a short rustle, the selected song starts playing.

Dropping the needle carefully and listening closely to the music is not as easy as turning on a Spotify stream, yet this analog device is certainly less complicated, deprived from irritating song suggestions, commercials and incoming messages (it doesn’t even have a screen!)

Chessboard – Insight and Concentration.

A game of chess must be a true nightmare for the average multitasker. As for a tense game can last half an hour, possibly the entire evening, or even more (the longest ever recorded chess game lasted over 20 hours.) Losing concentration because of checking incoming emails or a dodgy match on Tinder might cost you the victory. Doing so, the vast complexity of chess encourages our concentration to fixate exclusively on one specific endeavour of finally being granted to whisper that famous phrase in a mocking manner: check…mate.

Where most smartphones have a swift and intuition-based interface, the strategy which is involved in chess makes an appeal to our insight. Instead of being led by the smartphone’s suggestive interface, the chessboard demands its players to see three or four steps ahead and take all possible risks into account. At the end of a phone scrolling evening, you might feel tired and psychologically unsatisfied. Chess might leave you even more mentally tired, but it is needless to acclaim that it didn’t satisfy the mind’s hunger to be challenged.

Stove – Patience.

Worryingly, cooking at home is falling out of grace rapidly. Instead, streets are swarming with numerous delivery cars, bikes and scooters, racing through red lights to suffice all the online orders. Why cook if you could watch another episode on Netflix, while a delivery restaurant cooks and also brings your dinner? could be the argument.

Cooking is a time slurping activity. Washing dishes included, it might take an hour at least. This way, one might easily overlook its positive sides. It is less costly and generally tastier. But the advantages of cooking aren’t limited to only saving expenses and having tastier (and healthier) food. No, cooking is a true sanctuary, to which you can escape from the digital madness. Mastering different taste combinations, supervising three pots and pans on the stove demands patience and focus. Being distracted by your phone might leave you hungry, as your dinner has burnt to dust.

Additionally, cooking gives the (sub)conscious a well deserved rest after another day of staring at screens. And that enhances the further processing of whichever bothering thoughts are floating in the mind. 

Pencil – Anything.

A true dinosaur amongst the forgotten artifacts. There might be plenty of them dusting away around the house, already unused for years. Strengthened by imagination, this humble, stick-like mixture of wood and graphite allows you to draw or write anything or anyone, and it expresses hidden feelings or thoughts.

Consequently, converting unpolished ideas into smooth passages, catchy drawings or sketches might enable your occupied brain to classify the important things out of the unstructured jungle that is our psyche. Having a sheet of paper as his companion, this little friend here can mean the very departure from which wondrous works of art and literature arrive. But even more wondrous; the imperfect artistic revelations, uncovering your soul’s deepest depths.

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2020. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Photo credit:

Newspapers in Metro: Peter Lawrence

Men playing chess: Vlad Sargu

Postcards: Anne Nygard

Man cooking: Aaron Thomas

Novel: Kelly Sikkema

Vinyl player: Luana De Marco

Pencil on paper: Lalaine Macababbat

IJzeren Wegen

Er zijn verschillende mogelijkheden om Rusland te doorkruizen. De slaaptrein is daarvan misschien wel de meest bekende. De Transsiberië express, Transmongolië express, Beijingexpress, Transmantsjoerije-express, en de Noord-Korea express. Het zijn allemaal benamingen voor min of meer hetzelfde; jezelf voor een aantal dagen opsluiten in een piepende en krakende cabine, meestal zonder privacy. Het achterliggende idee luidt dat de reis belangrijker is dan de bestemming.

Deze routes worden natuurlijk ook door Russen afgelegd. Vaak maar voor een klein deel. Voor vele Russen is de trein het enige betaalbare vervoersmiddel om bijvoorbeeld familie te bezoeken. Mensen met een dikkere portemonnee, meestal uit westerse landen, hebben echter de mogelijkheid om een pakket te boeken. Dit is inclusief treinkaartjes, visum, hotelovernachting en vliegreis naar Moskou. Daarmee is het een van de weinige treinreizen die niet in de trein begint, maar in het vliegtuig. De redenering dat de reis belangrijker is dan de bestemming, die toch de drijfveer moet zijn voor een reis door het eentonige Russische landschap, wordt voor de gemakkelijkheid maar even vergeten.

Tussenliggende landen zoals Wit-Rusland of Letland zijn daarom slechts kortstondig vanuit het vliegtuigraampje te aanschouwen. Potentieel interessante plekken in deze landen drijven dan reddeloos voorbij, terwijl het vliegtuig met hoge snelheid de hoofdstad Moskou nadert. Aldaar zal voor de meeste reizigers met zo’n pakket de échte reis beginnen. Het achterliggende idee dat de reis belangrijker is dan de bestemming, treedt pas in werking in Moskou.

We verveelden ons dood in Nabareznije Chelny. En ik moest zo nodig naar Wolgograd. Vanuit financieel oogpunt was de trein de beste optie om de anderhalf duizend kilometer te overbruggen. Maar we zouden de echte prijs op een andere manier betalen (een gouden regel wanneer iets goedkoop is in Rusland, je betaalt door te lijden.) Het beginpunt van dit traject lag in Perm en eindigt in de buurt van Sochi, een reis van ongeveer tweeduizend kilometer. Zoals gezegd, zouden wij de helft van dit traject meerijden, van Chelny tot Wolgograd.

Op de vroege ochtend van ons vertrek hadden sommige medepassagiers er al een nacht op zitten en ontwaakten al gapend toen wij wat luidruchtig de wagon binnenkwamen. Het is in Rusland heel gebruikelijk voor doorsnee gezinnen om op deze manier op vakantie te gaan. Veelal gaat de reis naar een van de vele toeristische badplaatsen aan de Zwarte Zee.

Want gek genoeg grenst het reusachtige vasteland van Rusland bijna niet aan wateren die voor toerisme geschikt zijn, waardoor alle binnenlandse vakantiegangers aangewezen zijn op dit volgebouwde stukje kust. Veel toeristen komen uit duffe industriesteden zoals Perm of Izhevsk. Ze verruilen daarom hun grijze Sovjet flats in de stad voor grijze Sovjet hotels aan het strand. De heenreis duurt net zoals de terugreis tweeënhalve dag (60 uur). Je moet er wat voor over hebben.

De eerste twee uur op het spoor ben je meestal nog wel opgewekt en enthousiast over de reis. Maar al snel wordt dit minder. En na een tijdje is het moeilijk te geloven dat je ooit op de bestemming aan zult komen. Een paar uur op het spoor hoeft overigens niet te betekenen dat de trein daadwerkelijk gereden heeft. Ongeveer vijftig procent van de tijd staat hij namelijk stil op een verlaten rangeerterrein, zonder duidelijke reden.

Om de verveling aan boord tegen te gaan wordt er gegeten. Daarom brengt bijna iedereen in de cabine een jaarvoorraad aan voedsel mee. Thuis klaargemaakte kippenpoten met gekookte eieren zijn in Rusland het meest populair, wat in onze cabine zorgde voor een interessante geuren combinatie. Om tussen de vette kippenpoten door niet te verhongeren, worden er enorme aantallen zonnebloempitten of gedroogde vis genuttigd, meestal weggespoeld met anderhalf liter bier.

Wie van een treinreis in Rusland een spectaculair noch afwisselend uitzicht verwacht, zit er lichtelijk naast. Het eentonige landschap heeft op sommige momenten zelfs een hallucinerend effect op je perceptie van de werkelijkheid. Na een tijdje kon ik de ontelbare rijen berkenbomen niet meer van elkaar onderscheiden en versmolt het geheel tot één lange boom. En soms lijkt het alsof er een soort 3D poster op het raam geplakt zit. Het draagt allemaal niet bij aan de hoop dat de reis enigszins vordering maakt.

Het is in de slaaptrein een zeldzaamheid wanneer de toilet niet bezet, kapot of verstopt is. Die fungeert immers als spoelkeuken, douche, baby-verschoonplaats, rookruimte, wasserette, ontmoetingsplaats, telefoon-oplaadplaats, afvalbult en kleedkamer. Een uitkomst hiervan is dat na een dag reizen ook de verstopte toilet bijdraagt aan de geuren combinatie in de heter wordende cabine.

Mede door mijn sukkelige Russische taalkennis en lange benen was het voor medepassagiers, en met name kinderen makkelijk om mij te ontmaskeren als westerling. Dit is in Rusland doorgaans problematisch. Door gebrek aan geografische en antropologische kennis zeggen ze dan; ‘’kijk mama! een Amerikaan!’’ omdat ik toevallig Engels sprak.

Vanaf het moment dat die constatering is gemaakt, ben je voor de rest van de reis een attractie. Je hebt dan dezelfde status in rangorde als een Giraffe of Olifant in een dierentuin en krijgt de bijbehorende behandeling. Mijn inlevingsvermogen ten opzichte van circusdieren is aanzienlijk gegroeid.

De nacht in een slaaptrein is, als je geluk hebt, tamelijk onschuldig. Terwijl je wegdommelt in een lichte roes, zijn aankondigingen te horen van compleet onbekende stations. Pas dan doordringt je hoe groot Rusland is. Op vreemde plaatsen stopt de trein dan een half uur of langer, om families met grote boodschappentassen uit te laden. Toch is er één noemenswaardige bedreiging voor een goede nachtrust. En dat heeft alles te maken met een kind dat nog niet zindelijk is, en een potje. Die reizen meestal met een oma, die vervolgens gewend is om op fabriekstijden te ontwaken en het kind aan een zindelijkheidstraining te onderwerpen.

Wanneer het ochtendgloren is aangebroken, is het landschap veranderd van saaie begroeiing naar saaie vlaktes. Geleidelijk aan stijgt de temperatuur in de cabine. Een deel van het traject gaat namelijk dwars door de steppes van Kalmukkië, die ik graag de oven van Rusland zou willen noemen. Temperaturen van rond de vijftig graden zijn er geen zeldzaamheid. En er staan tempels. Opeens verlang ik weer naar die rij mooie groen-witte berkenbomen van weleer, totdat een norse conducteur iets in onze richting schreeuwt. We zijn in Wolgograd aangekomen, na 22 uur. In ons geval was de bestemming belangrijker dan de reis.

Wolgograd was voor ons de eindbestemming. Maar sommige arme zielen waren nu slechts halverwege. Voor het groepje overlevenden van deze erbarmelijke rit wacht een verdiende vakantie aan de Russische variant van de Costa Brava. Maar die dient vooral als mentale voorbereiding op de even lange terugreis. Voor sommige Europeanen is de transsiberië express het ultieme avontuur, voor ons was het bescheiden stukje naar Wolgograd meer dan genoeg.  

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2019. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Serbian Cashier

Purchasing something in Serbia.

The following phrases are taken from an interesting conversation while acquiring groceries in a local shop.

Me: “Hello (dobar dan), I would like to buy this.”

Shop assistant: ”…”

Me: *puts two ciders and sunflower seeds on the counter*

Shop assistant: ”…”

Shop assistant: *stares into the distance*

Shop assistant: *starts scanning products*

Me: “can I pay by card please”

Shop assistant: ”…”

Shop assistant: *sticks card in machine*

Machine: *payment accepted*

Me: ”Thank you! Have a nice day!”

Shop assistant: ”…”

Me: *walks out of the shop*

Cashiers in Serbia like to use words efficiently.

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2019. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

On Demand

In living rooms all around the world, there has been a remarkable change in recent years. Already for a long period of time, people gather around the TV screen in order to have a cozy evening before bed time. A film on DVD or videotape, or less known; a Blue Ray might be hired from the local cinema store, possibly from the ‘comedy’ section. Once a film was chosen and paid for, there was no way back. Popcorn or crisps are bought, completed with a bottle of coke or some beers. But on the vast majority of evenings, the preference is to passively take in whatever is scheduled by a limited amount of TV channels. In this, hides a certain laziness and the absence of pressure to entirely follow the TV program. You can chat about the foregoing day and not be afraid to miss out on something. By far, this way of enjoying before bed time leisure, has my favour.

Streaming services already exist for a longer period of time. Yet, they only became increasingly popular in recent years. So of course, smart on-demand distributors have seen this too, and simplified the acquiring process. And doing so, they drastically changed the entire living room experience.

It goes like this (and I use an average family as an example). Generally, when visiting family for an evening, the TV is already turned on. Nothing special, just some trivial programmes running on the background while discussing some recent life events. But at a certain point, somewhere between 8 or 9 PM and briefly out of interesting topics to discuss, the TV screen takes its chance and starts to regain attention of those present in the room. By then, the chatter has lessened and the room is filled with the sounds, pounding from the TVs’ speakers. Nowadays’ digital receivers are good for some 250 channels, of which usually 220 ones are totally neglected. The preferred thirty are the traditional ones, already available since the nineties. They have the unthankful task to entertain the spoilt audience.

Thus, it is time for a radical intervention by whoever has control of the remote control. Following shortly, there is a spine chilling silence, as the master of the remote control skips to channel 200 and a selection menu comes into view. It displays the unmistakable red colour of a certain streaming provider, offering thousands of programmes and films.

Subsequently, the gathered family members start to fire suggestions at the remote control master, regarding the film choice. Generally, this part of the process is very time consuming. This has likely to do with the fact that a movie is a time investment, and therefore should be guaranteed to have grand entertaining value.

But ironically, picking the movie takes averagely as long as a movie itself. Moreover, choosing a film, on the worst of watching days, might cause an ongoing 2 hours cinema-worthy arguing experience, leaving everyone exhausted. When later, a film has ultimately been selected, another danger is lurking. As the selected movie has been carefully chosen, the possibility of it being somewhat mediocre, is indigestible for the demanding crowd. And so, the omnipresence of choice often results into the remote control master returning to the main menu to start the choosing process all over again.

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2019. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Introduction

Hi there! Glad you found your way to the site. I’m Stefan, the establisher and author of The Social Writer. In this introduction, I will give a small impression of me as a person, followed by some history of the site. I started to exist back in 1991, in a mid sized town called Groningen, located in the northern part of The Netherlands. As a child, I was quite privileged to grow up in Haren, a gorgeous settlement known for its wealthy inhabitants, lush green parks and impressive villas and grand mansions. I was certainly very lucky to spend my childhood there, and I believe that the beauty and calmness of that town has instilled me with lots of hope ever since. It surely had its share in my strong idealistic endeavours I embrace today. We were a middle class family that didn’t face many financial difficulties. It was in the small town of Haren that I was confronted for the first time with (financial) inequality, subcultures, status roles and our market based consumer society, experiencing all of the challenges and difficulties inherent to these phenomena.

On the contrary, I have experienced many dark and bitter times which left deep carvings on the shape of my personality. Around the age of twenty, my family fell apart. And all the way from early childhood, via adolescence, eventually reaching adulthood, an abundance of misery battered upon me. To a certain degree however, I managed to also have a taste of the sublimity that life has to offer, and that’s primarily thanks to a thing called travel.

But the real revelation began when I found a possibility to untie myself from the confinement of my past and grabbed the opportunity to study something close to my heart: Social Work. Simply helping others. Next to its main curriculum consisting of psychology and sociology, I was taught on how to reflect upon my emotions. It meant the starting point of a long and probably neverending internal search for answers, to bring clarity about the ways and means of my scarred self.

Now, in 2020, some years have passed since the graduation, but the enormous interest for humanities remained with me, and is thoroughly practised by means of reading, meditating, reflecting and later on: writing. It’s nothing more than my thoughts converted into words. Some of my favourite books include: 1984 by George Orwell and The Course Of Love by Alain De Botton, as well as many other works on ancient philosophy and psychodynamics, like those of Irvin Yalom.

The Social Writer is simply a coalescence of the words Social Work and Writer. In the beginning, writing went a little too passionate, I would say, since it often resulted in being knocked out behind my writing desk at 3 AM with red eyes because of a coffee overdose: Irony wants that writing and sociability can hardly coexist.

Nevertheless, I’ve found that we live in rather interesting times. So I intended to write about anything I assumed to be noteworthy. Which is to say, quite a lot. So I refocused towards specific topics, roughly revolving around stories on humanity and society. After a year of writing without an audience, my lovely girlfriend remarked that keeping these notes locked in my computer until eternity, would be quite senseless. And she was right. An outlet needed to be found. Thus, in the summer of 2019, The Social Writer was launched.

Next to this, the difference between a blog and this page is roughly that a blogger is expected to be almost continuously active, and posting regularly to keep its followers’ attention. But for me, under such pressure, no ideas of sensible value would flow from my mind onto the writing pad.

I therefore think it’s safe to say that the frequency of new additions to the page ought not to exceed once, perhaps twice a month, in order to preserve its originality and inspiration. (And to not annoy the audience too much.)

At last, beware that some writings are drenched in sarcasm and irony, while others may have a more earnest approach. Yet they’re all genuine and somehow based upon what I’ve read or experienced in real life. In most of the Social Writers’ stories, I pursue to take its reader (you) on a small, perspective changing journey.

Stefan, 23-04-2020.

In Belgrade, 2019.