Cul Kaleidoscope

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The Worship of Cucumbers

Cultuuromslag in de Zorg Colour in Brazil

Anthropological Magazine | Year 31 | Number 1


Independent anthropological magazine Cul is connected to the Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology department at the University of Amsterdam.

Editor’s note

Editor in Chief: Ethan Fenwick

Deputy Editor in Chief: Ines Mittal Gros

Graphic Design: Livia Aimee Kofler

Image Editors: Alžbeta Szabová

Siyang Dai

Berit Rojer

Text Editors: Alex Dieker

Morrigan Fogerty

Aleksandra Dudek

Web editor:

Treasurer: Auriel Dirks

Travel Coordinator: Hugo Bordas

Cover: Alžbeta Szabová

Guest Editor: Jorrit Boomgaardt

A special thanks to the new team and all their effort in making this first edition a reality. We would also like to thank Jorrit Boomgaardt for his contribution to the magazine.

Cul magazine is always searching for new aspiring writers. The editorial team maintains the right to shorten or deny articles. For more information on writing for the Cul or advertising possibilities, email

Printer: Ziezoprint

Prints: 200

Printed: December 2023

ISSN: 18760309

Cul Magazine

Nieuwe Achtergracht 166 1018 WV Amsterdam

Dear readers,

With a small twist and a small turn, a kaleidoscope changes patterns and colours constantly. For our first edition of this magazine, we would like to welcome you to our kaleidoscopic journey!

Similar to the ever changing lens of a Kaleidoscope, each article, image and idea presents a unique hue and perspective. From Ethan’s review of Koyaanisqatsi to Livia’s column on nudist beaches, you can see different pieces of our little kaleidoscope come together to create this years first edition.

Hence it is with great honour that we invite you to turn the pages and discover the ever-changing beauty within our first edition of this year; Kaleidoscope.

Best wishes,

Ethan Fenwick & Inés Mittal Gros

Column (ENG)

4 Koyaanisqatsi; A Myth of Modernity

Ethan Fenwick

Opinion (ENG)

6 Oh, praise be to the Incandescent Cucumber

Morrigan Fogerty

Essay (ENG)

8 On the Artistic Value of Red Glass

Alžbeta Szabová

Image Report

10 Chasing Still, Standing Chaos

Berit Rojer

Column (ENG)


Ode to the Nudist Beach

Livia Aimee Kofler

Opinion (ENG)

12 The Quiet, Overdue Demise of a Not-So-Free World

Alex Dieker

In Depth (ENG)

16 The Different Shades of Brazilians

Hugo Bordas

Essay (NL)

20 Culturele Stroomversnelling

Jorrit Boomgaardt

Book Review (ENG)

22 Paper Money in Dynamics

Siyang Dai

Column (ENG)

24 A Flicker in the Dark

Aleksandra Dudek

Column (ENG)


At the End, life still goes on

Aleksandra Dudek

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It starts with an explosion in reverse - a subtle mimicry of birth, perhaps. And as the rocket re-assembles on its way to the ground, human entropy seems ever nearer. It is turmoil and tranquility, suspense in spirituality - it is Koyaanisqatsi; or, life out of balance.

“If we dig precious things from the land, great disturbances will develop in the balance of nature, and we invite disaster.”

Long ago, in the depths of the Nevada desert, a hole opened in the earth and the Hopi people emerged. They quickly established the village of Pivanhonkyapi, where peace and harmony reigned, till one day, amidst growing boredom, they were introduced to the game of Totolopsi. Soon, everyone was consumed by gambling; all responsibilities were abandoned, and unity fell apart.

Thus, the state of Koyaanisqatsi, or life out of balance, was reached. As it encompassed the whole community, the only solution was a new beginning. In a bid to rid the village of its corruption, the village leader, with the help of the Wind God, unleashed the fire of purification. The villagers were so concerned with their game that they refused to flee and were swallowed by the blaze. And this marks the end of Pivanhonkyapi.

The film only ever suggests modern-day parallels, preferring a probing ambiguity. Yet, its panoramic aloofness, fuelled by a constant toying with reversals, accelerations, and slow motion, presents modern reality as an equally potent myth-maker. The viewer becomes part of a production line, of

a place outside of time, transcending their humanity to see the self and our world, spring forth into existence. Society takes on the determinism of choreography, and yet, the brief glimpses of eye contact, a mother and child sunbathing with a power plant in the background, serve to remind us these are people, each on an incalculable trajectory.

From the cave paintings of Horse Canyon to the bustle of the New York City subway, its detached mode is simultaneously an ode to and an indictment of the human condition. The juxtaposition of humanity, nature, and technology constantly teases the intangibility of entangled connections. A retrospective manifesto might claim ancestry

"A gourd of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans, where no grass can grow for many years, causing a disease that no medicine can cure."

to Latour’s Actor-Network Theory. Or perhaps it would claim nothing at all, preferring the ambiguity it so clearly supposes. From yet another perspective, it might suggest that life is permanently out of balance, not progressing or improving, merely changing. While culture, as shown in Koyaanisqatsi, is monolithic, the imagery hints at a process of disintegration and reintegration constantly emanating across temporal and spatial scales. Time has moved on, the great fire has not yet come, but imbalance has remained a permanent feature. Koyaanisqatsi now has the feel of a historical document, a beautiful moment to pinpoint as the start of a new era.

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Text Ethan Fenwick Image Alžbeta Szabová
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We are thrilled to announce that CUL, in collaboration with CASA, will be hosting a screening of the experimental masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi.

As we immerse ourselves in the film's mesmerizing visuals, we are invited to contemplate the intricate connections between humanity, nature, and technology, echoing the prophetic words that warn of disturbances in the balance of nature.

A brief discussion will follow, and naturally, a borrel.

We cannot wait to see you there!


Oh, praise be to the Incandescent Cucumber

Or, against Against Hereises

Morrigan Fogerty

Image Alžbeta Szabová

his is an article about the Gnostics who worshipped the ever-present Good in the fight against Darkness, and also cucumbers. There were no Gnostics who believed in an ever present Good in the fight against Darkness and also worshipped cucumbers. What did exist was a specific sub-sect of a religion that we might call Gnostic that happened to have polemics written against them in the 5th century using melons, and specifically cucumbers, as a way for Christian writers to attack the “absurdity” of their beliefs. The most known theologian of the Gnostics was the Christian Valentinus, and texts from both Valentinus's time and years after his death shed some light as to why they may have had a reason for venerating the almighty cucumber.

Defining Gnosticism is a hard task, and applying that definition to any specific religion is harder. The term arose around the 1st century AD in certain early Christian and Jewish sects and is derived from the ancient Greek gnosis meaning simply “having knowledge”. The key feature in most, if not all, Gnostic religions is a belief in an ethereal immaterial good and a material physical bad. Knowledge is then taken to be the pathway to good, and we see this in practice with early Gnostics taking an interest in alchemical and hermetical studies as part of religious practice. The early Christian leaders declared Gnostics as heretical, and much of the early texts were lost or destroyed. Looking at the surviving texts it is easy to see why Gnosticism was declared a heresy. The Gnostic Gospel of Judas, reveals to us that before the last supper, Christ visits Judas and explains to him a cosmology of angels made of pure light, who then reveal that Judas must ensure Christ’s death so that he may return to an ephemeral world made of light, recasting Judas from betrayer to ardent follower. More on the “world of light” later, but the key takeaway is that the Gnostics believed in a cosmology detached from the material world and found the highest beings of existence to be made of pure light.

The followers of Valentinus, or Valentinians, had a more concrete explanation for the world. They believed the first primal being was the Bythos (referred to as the Monad in later texts), the Bythos created the Aeons (similar to angels), and through the betrayal of a lowly Aeon the material world was created. We as humans exist between the material and psychic (spiritual; ephemeral) world and must cast off the shackles of the material world to ascend into the heavens. All these ideas stood very much opposed to the Christian Church leaders at the time, and as the Valentinians died out this opposition would resurface in various other heretical movements the later Catholic church would put down. If you’re familiar with the phenomenal film The Name of the Rose, (spoilers ahead) you’ll remember the character of Salvatore, played by Ron Pearlman, a heretic who at the end of the film is put to the stake. Salvatore belonged to a group known as the Dulcinians, a heretical sect that furthered this materiality to a point that some scholars contest they’re Christian proto-anarchists, as evidenced by their calls to destroy the feudal system and calls for equality for all people, including gender equality back in the 14th century. There’s a hypothetical allegory here; the heretics are oppressed, the church heads are oppressors, the heretics are a proletariat calling for an overthrow of the status quo, and the church heads are the bourgeoise maintaining it. I find this overly reductive for one, but before I explain why, I need to make an important aside. The heretics of today and yesterday drew important, real, and cognizant conclusions about the world around and above them. They are and were just as intelligent as we are now. I say this, because to reduce them simply to historical arguments about the dialectic between the oppressor and the oppressed, is reductive. We know that the Dulicinians wanted equality, but we don’t know why.Iit could be for the same reasons I or you want it, or it could be for some theological reason that we can’t eke out of their remaining texts. If we only look at how they mirror recent movements, we see a facsimile of them that fails to treat them as the actual

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humans that they are, humans that deserve to be understood both within their own context but also as intelligent and real people. So, what does this all have to do with cucumbers?

The year is 180AD and you are Iraenus of Smyrna, the Bishop of Lugdunum (better known as Lyon, France). You are writing your seminal text "On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis" which will be come to be known better by its Latin name Adversus Haereses translated to Against Heresies. For hundreds of years after this, your work deriding and attacking the heretical Gnostics will be a major source for future historians. In your work, you describe the Valentinians, and taking cues from other writers you employ a popular polemic against them, the worship of gourds:

This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus

Your argument then, through the years, is morphed and twisted until it reaches the eyes of me, Morrigan, the writer of this article who hears of the cucumber worshipping Gnostics, who in their belief that light is holy and pure loved

the vegetables for their transparent quality. I’ll then go on to repeat this amalgamation of historically inaccurate arguments until I start researching for this article. In fact, the pitch I had for the theme of “kaleidoscope” revolved around the idea of an ancient quintessential gnostic holding up the delicious transparent slice of cucumber to the sun, and through the eyes of my imagined gnostic the cucumbers beautiful incandescentness reminds me of a kaleidoscope. I’m entrenched in discussing these strawman arguments about the people of history for two very distinct reasons. For one this kind of straw man ad absurdity arguments are still made today, and two they’re made about groups that I’m a part of. Queer groups are consistently labeled as being unreasonable, reasonable arguments are taken to logical extremes or not given the proper context, and as a result, similar arguments arise between heretics and queer groups. I also recognize the conflict between my own goals for writing this paper and this larger connective leap. While it's easy for me to take simple examples between the two groups and compare them, I fall into the same trap that others do when they speak for historical peoples. History can’t speak, and we often speak for it, and while I find a poetic similarity between myself and historical gnostics, it would be irresponsible for me to say that we are in any way similar. I do not wish to fall into this trap.

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Chasing Still Standing Chaos

Image Report

On the artistic value of red glass

The windows you look at instead of through

The greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form, the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment by the public. The conventional is uncritically enjoyed, and the truly new is criticized with aversion.

- Walter Benjamin

Text Alžbeta Szabová

Image Alžbeta Szabová

A sudden change of light creates an unexpected shock, followed by a few moments of blindness. An unforeseen barrier that separates the nave of the church from a chapel next to it has been crossed and a vivid violent Red permeates my vision. The small room is flooded with a scarlet light that cuts through the eyes and makes it hard to focus on my surroundings. I immediately get a migraine as I start my search for the art piece located in this part of the exhibition. There is no painting or sculpture to look at, and the oppressive light is the art piece. As a cloud outside moves and the sun shines through the stained glass window, the light becomes even more saturated. With everything around me bathed in bright crimson I feel as if I have been transported into hell. Since I am currently inside a church chapel, I find this to be an amusing effect. I admire the simplicity of the piece. My senses get overwhelmed, my migraine gets stronger, and I have to leave. A few months later, I can not recall a single work of art I've seen inside the exhibition except for this red window. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the myriad of art I’ve seen in Amsterdam. I can not stop thinking (and talking) about the tiny red chapel. I’m not sure why. There’s not that much to say about it. I can not wait to go there again.

My impressions of hell are wrong - despite what I felt, the installation does not aim to allude to anything infernal. The room is a remnant of a 2018 exhibition that turned Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk into a darkroom. Back then, all of the church was filled with red light to comment upon its placement right in the middle of the Red Light district. The oldest church in Amsterdam that now mainly serves as a place for contemporary art and concerts (and the occasional sermon) was originally Catholic, but the Protestant remaking in the 16th century covered up or destroyed most of the art on the

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walls, ceilings, or windows. The 2018 exhibition looked back on this period of history which erased the intricate craftwork from the churches’ windows to suit the more simplistic design of Protestant churches. This move has sparked great controversy, to the point of death threats being sent to the exhibition curators and a lengthy legal battle over the right to replace the window glass in the oldest standing church in Amsterdam. People see it as an unwelcome change, tampering with the city’s heritage. It is one thing to place art exhibits into the building, another to disrupt its architecture. However, the old window is not that old - dating only to 1959. The red stained-glass exhibit has also opened up a space that was closed before to the public. Still, it makes a lot of people furious. It seems that an unremarkable window no one ever thought about (or can even see) is preferable to a work of art with a message attached. Change is fine; as long as it happened a long

Contemporary and modern art remain highly divisive topics with the question of what is art? and how much allowance it gets in comparison with traditional art being a subject almost everyone has a strong opinion on. I find the question of what is art? boring, arbitrary, and usually a standin for is this art valuable?, so I’d rather focus on how we determine the value of an art piece. Is the Oude Kerk’s red stained-glass window a more valuable piece because it managed to spark such strong emotions? Is there more value to an older modern glass window no one notices that blends in with the churches’ style or to a stained-glass window made traditionally that aligns more with what gothic windows usually are? Is it

worse or better as a political commentary no one in the gothic era would make?

What is the value of other stained-glass art that are globally renowned? Do people go to see the Notre Dame or Saint-Chapelle in Paris because it’s in Paris or because of the religious significance? Is it the enormous number of people who visit every year or the prevailing cultural references around us? Is it Victor Hugo that makes people look up at the biblical scenes portrayed with the glass in Notre Dame, the Disney musical adaptation of his novel or is it that one Assassin's Creed videogame where it's fun to climb it? Or because they’re 800 years old and time gives things value? Are the SainteChapelle windows valuable because they’re 70% original or does the 30% detract? Are the side windows more breathtaking because they’re 200 years older than the Rose window? Or is it maybe the context in which they were made? Can we calculate the value based on who made it and why, how much it cost, or the time it took to make it? The amount of money that went to the craftsmen and materials, the years of study the artists undertook to be able to heat the glass, mix it with cobalt, copper, manganese, and antimony, sketch out the scenes, cut the glass, paint it, heat it a second time, assemble and install it? Is it the quality of the execution, the scenes depicted, or the beauty of a church filling up with many-coloured lights on a bright day? Without the right time and place, there would be nothing to behold, and all the work would be for nothing. Are these windows more or less valuable around noon on a bright day? Many would answer these questions differently as the arguments of time, authenticity, religious and cultural significance, tradition or craftsmanship surface in discussions around art.

In the end, a person can spend their life learning all there is to know about an art piece and then experience no catharsis upon seeing it. Similarly, the whole kaleidoscope of cultural, historical, economic or religious significance can be unknown, and the observer might still walk away being changed. The context is not the only source of value. We can try to propose different measurements by which we judge art, but any universal assessment cannot take into account the unique engagement each person has with the art they encounter. The only real way to talk about art is phenomenological, making it a doomed endeavour. The true value of art is personal, subjective and ever-changing.

I guess that makes every question of value more of a question of who is the judge.

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Ode to the nudist beach

With each step the grass finds its way through the gaps between my toes, its softness a reminder of nature’s gentle embrace. I place my towel under a broad, leafy tree, its branches offering me a patch of dappled shade. I’m at a lake in the south of Austria, cradled by mountains, edged by trees. The sun is beginning to set, sending shafts of gold between the leaves. On this autumn day, I can still feel the residual warmth of the summer months. Today, I made a conscious decision to leave my swimsuit behind. This was the only way I could be sure that the fear of baring it all wouldn’t cause me to back out at the last minute. Still, I find myself trying to delay the inevitable. For just a moment, I sit on my towel, fully clothed, letting my eyes rest on the naked bodies swaying in the sun around me. Gradually, I reach down to the hem of my shirt and slowly pull it over my head. The gentle breeze against my bare chest feels exhilarating. I unbutton my shorts, carefully slipping out of them. My underpants fall to the grass beside me. There I am, naked, at the beach. I look at my body. The patches of sun turn my skin into a canvas for the sun’s affectionate caresses, tracing the contours of my being with fingers of warmth. And soon, my uneasiness around being naked melts away. It is not my first time going to a nudist beach. My mom and I used to come to this exact nudist beach ever since I can remember. When I think back, I remember spending hours and hours in the water, the simplicity of my happiness so pure. As a child, the nudist beach was a haven where judgment was a foreign concept. I never thought twice about it; I didn’t know any different. Being naked was as natural as breathing, an act unburdened by societal norms. I was naked, and I was free. As the precariousness of adolescence settled in, so did the weight of societal expectations, and my perception towards my body changed. The safe embrace of the nudist beach began to feel more like an exposure of vulnerability. To get to the nudist side of the beach, I had to go through the crowds of people in swimwear, and the sunset that had once bathed the lake in golden hues now seemed to cast judgmental shadows, and the carefree moments I cherished had become tainted by a growing feeling of shame. And so I stopped going to the nudist beach. I didn’t tell anyone I ever went there, completely disassociating myself from it, careful to leave no traces

behind. The years passed, yet the memories remained. Each piece of fabric was like a barrier between me and the waters that had once been my refuge. The whisper of the wind and the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore called out to me. And now, I'm in a lake in the south of Austria, my naked body glides through the cool water. With each breaststroke, my muscles engage, responding to the resistance of the water. A tendril of seaweed catches on my limbs as I make my way into the vastness and depths of the lake. Submerged, my ears are treated to the world of muted sounds, a tranquil realm of underwater whispers. It’s a place of solace and introspection. For just a few seconds, as long as I can hold my breath, my bare body returns to its cradle.

Text Livia Aimee Kofler
Image Siyang Dai

The Quiet, Overdue Demise of a Not-So-Free World

A Critical Reading of U.S. Political Culture and History, from Hiroshima to Ukraine

Graham Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American takes place in French-occupied Indochina, modern-day Vietnam, during the French war of occupation and before the U.S. invasion. In one scene, a British war correspondent named Fowler finds himself stranded with Pyle – a wide-eyed American CIA agent – in a Vietnamese watchtower after their car runs out of fuel on a return trip to Saigon. Fowler sees in Pyle the folly of American idealism and jabs that ‘you and your like are trying to make a war with the help of people who just aren’t interested.’

‘They don’t want communism,’ retorts Pyle, referring to the two Vietnamese soldiers sitting petrified on the other side of the tower, and perhaps to the entire population of Indochinese colonial subjects.

‘They want enough rice,’ explains Fowler, with the metaphoric maturity of a dying imperial power. ‘They don’t want to be shot at. They want one day to be much the same as another. They don’t want our white skins around telling them what they want.’

The metaphor of Pyle serving to represent the United States couldn’t be clearer. An upper-class kid from Boston who read one too many books on Democracy finds himself stumbling into a conflict halfway across the world, attempting to impose his ideas on a people who never asked for him or his absurd conceptions of freedom. Like that of the U.S., Pyle’s nominal innocence, his striving to make a better world, is wholly misguided. And like those of his country, Pyle’s adventure causes much more harm than good.

Just as Pyle could not see the falseness of his ideas, many of us are now living in a simulated reality in which the world’s political order is, and for the foreseeable future will be, dictated

by the United States, where morality and democracy are being brought to disparate places thanks to American ingenuity and values. It is true that the U.S. still runs the show in many matters, but the unshakeable faith (by those in the U.S. and Europe) in American superiority is completely unfounded. A new, multipolar world order threatens to break out at any moment. The America of yesterday is gone, and good riddance!In the

We espouse democracy and freedom in rhetorical form, yet at home and abroad we use coercion, violence, and subjugation as a means to solve our problems.

The rise of American imperial domination after World War II was always based on a false premise that America had something to offer the world besides continued war. The idea of an all-powerful, democracy-loving United States not only obscures a brutal reality but continues to distort our mental image of great power politics. China and Russia must fail, because for them to succeed is for America to fail, and that is inconceivable. It’s as if the old saying defining our neoliberal era – that we’d sooner imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism – has morphed into an unjustly, profoundly optimistic vision of American ideology. And since the leadership classes of the U.S. and Europe can’t see the world in any other way, they are leading us down the path towards nuclear destruction. The two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan at the end of WWII were gift-wrapped with the image of a smiling Uncle Sam. Now, his teeth are blackened, dirtied by the wars and financial exploitation he exported around the world, and the very weapons which gave him power might be used again because he simply can’t see how weak and deluded he’s become.

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Text Alex Dieker Image Berit Anna Rojer

In immediate years following the mass murder of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American leadership and the white-controlled mass media were almost entirely uncritical of U.S. foreign policy and the launching of an imperial agenda. As John Fousek writes in To Lead the Free World, magazines such as Time and Life disseminated the idea that ‘America’s democratic values, particularly individual freedom and justice under law, made U.S. world leadership possible, desirable, and necessary, because these values reflected universal human aspirations.’ To President Truman and his administration, the Four Freedoms which stood in stark contrast to the fascist regimes defeated in WWII should be spread across the world, on U.S. terms: freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. In the immediate postwar years, Americans had already developed a distinct desire to make the world in their image.

Tellingly, the Four Freedoms were reduced to three by 1947. In a speech at Baylor University which paved the way for the Truman Doctrine’s introduction, the president maintained the freedoms of worship and speech. I quote here again from Fousek:

‘But freedom from fear and freedom from want, with their socialistic overtones, were now replaced with freedom of enterprise…In this manner, Truman conflated freedom and capitalism, a conflation with deep roots in U.S. political culture, no doubt, but one which now served as an explicit underpinning of U.S. foreign policy…The belief that all freedom depended on freedom of enterprise would serve as perhaps the most potent rationale for global anticommunism.’

Here, the game is given away: the goal of the United States’ foreign policy after WWII was not to contain Communism and help Democracy proliferate, but to shape a world amenable to U.S. business interests. This was not a ‘war’ between two superpowers, as we are taught to believe, but rather a case of U.S. financial and military imperialism. Walter

White, the renowned leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) critiqued the Truman Doctrine: ‘Having failed miserably to assure democratic elections in Mississippi and Georgia,’ White said, ‘we will have set out to assure them all over the world outside of the United States.’ Even more to the point, ongoing lynchings of black people across the southern United States were condemned by the white press, according to Fousek, not for their inherent despicableness but because they provided Russia with propaganda ammunition.

President Truman, speaking at an NAACP rally, opined that ‘freedom is not an easy lesson to teach, nor an easy cause to sell’ to those who may be tempted ‘by totalitarian regimes, unless we can prove the superiority of democracy.’

Today, that superiority has failed to be proven, that lesson failed to be taught, and that cause remains on the shelf, unopened, waiting to be purchased. It sits there because the product being sold by America was defective. We espouse democracy and freedom in rhetorical form, yet at home and abroad we use coercion, violence, and subjugation as a means to solve our problems.

The militarist aspect of United States imperialism should go without saying, but we so often forget this in today’s world of rampant U.S. propaganda. A short list is impossible: Invasions of Korea, Vietnam, and countless West Asian countries; the funding of terrorist organisations across the world, including narco-trafficking regimes in Central America; the attempted and successful assassinations of democratically elected leaders across the Global South who aimed to break free of the ‘free world,’ and of John F. Kennedy, the one Cold War president whose aim with Russia was diplomacy, not escalation; the aiding of genocidal campaigns in East Timor, Palestine, and elsewhere; the decades-long illegal embargo on Cuba and concomitant hostage-taking of the United Nations with its veto power. The list of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Americans in the name of Freedom of Enterprise is seemingly endless.

The scope of the criminal enterprise does not end here, though. As former Wall Street analyst and renowned economist Michael Hudson has written, U.S. financial exploitation of the rest of the world over the past century took on the form of a ‘Super Imperialism’ (1972). The first globalised bureaucracy, in the form of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World

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Bank, came into being after the war, leading to countless debt crises in the Global South under the guise of ‘U.S. aid’ to these poor nations. Hudson writes:

'U.S. aid strategy thus has been designed to further America's foreign policies, whether or not these coincided with the real needs of the borrowing countries. Viewed in its broadest outlines, U.S. foreign aid has provided short-term resources to recipients in exchange for long-term strategic, military, and economic gains to the donor.'

I intentionally drag you through this cesspool of historical grievances not to scare or bore, but to prompt you to think about what this all means today. The War in Ukraine provides an example of the perniciousness of both the military and financial imperialism of the United States, and how the two fuse together. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last year said that American aims in Ukraine are simply to weaken Russia militarily, and the U.S. is willing to support the war effort in a ‘fight to the last Ukrainian’ in order to achieve these goals, according to policymakers and the mass media. NATO artillery being sent to Kyiv must be replaced, in the U.S. and Europe, by weapons from American arms dealers, and the Zelensky government is selling off state assets to Wall Street firms like Blackrock. Like countless other poor countries, Ukraine is being drained of life – metaphorically and quite literally – by a U.S. hell-bent on continued imperialism. This is not to endorse or discount the role of Russian militarism in the conflict, but to show that U.S. involvement is hypocritical and dangerous, particularly when we consider that Zelensky’s government itself was close to an agreement in April of 2022 before – according to multiple sources, including the former PM of Israel – Washington intervened to keep the bullets flying.

We think we are fighting for freedom and democracy, but all we are doing is, in the words of U.S. international relations scholar John Mearsheimer, simply leading Ukraine down the primrose path towards destruction. In doing so, we are escalating tensions with a major nuclear adversary to the point

where our annihilation appears closer than at any time since Truman issued the Anola Gay to drop 64 kilos of enriched uranium on an already-defeated Imperial Japan.

Nearly seventy years after the publishing of The Quiet American, Greene’s warning to the United States is just as prescient. After emerging from the ‘Cold War’ as a victor, the U.S. saw nothing standing in its way of achieving total global dominance. The post-war hope of ‘One World’ helmed by American ideals of freedom could now finally be achieved, the so-called ‘End of History’ with an earth unencumbered by Communism. Of course, that’s not exactly how the story panned out. Millions of people have died, and continue to suffer, in West Asia under the boot of American militarism. Countries that do not abide by the proposed neoliberal economic model are shunned from the international community and hit with sanctions designed to harm the most vulnerable.

It has become even more obvious in recent years that this period of U.S. hegemony is ever so slowly coming to a halt. And it couldn’t come soon enough.

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The Different Shades of Brazilians

As a white Brazilian born in Mbyá Guarani land, I see myself as the by-product of the different migrations linked to the nation's sad history, such as 'whitening' policies from the mid1800s and Portuguese colonisation itself. These racist policies were a deliberate political effort aimed at fostering a more European-looking population. Prevalent well into the 20th century, they promoted immigration from countries such as Italy, Germany, and Poland as a means to dilute the African and indigenous ancestry present in the population. The idea encouraged intermarriage and the birth of multi-ethnic children, ultimately reducing the visibility of non-European features. Much of my own family gained entry to the country due to these policies, as they searched for better opportunities away from Europe and were greeted with free plots of land in the mountains of south Brazil.

The legacy of these policies and Portuguese colonisation itself has left a profound impact on Brazil's social structure, cultural identity, and racial dynamics. These historical factors have contributed significantly to the complex mosaic of Brazil's population, where racial diversity remains a defining feature alongside enduring socio-economic disparities rooted in this historical legacy.

Luckily, I was born into a family that always made

sure to educate me about our nation's social issues. Thus, this piece about the beautiful and grim sides of Brazil's many shades is written from a specific position of structural privilege. Since moving to Europe, I felt the lack of general knowledge of Brazil's demographics and hence the need to utilize my privileges to share this topic with the international community. I need to acknowledge - borrowing a term from Djamila Ribeiro - that these writings come from my locus of speech: that of a white cisgender Brazilian man who is part of a left-wing sociopolitical bubble.

I was inspired by a short YouTube video where family members from Rio de Janeiro were asked to classify each other and often gave different answers, showcasing how Brazilians usually don't utilize ethnic background as a differentiator, but colour instead. The shades of colour that surge from the responses range from ‘café com leite’ (‘coffee with milk’) to ‘marrom bombom’ (‘taffy brown’) besides the usual ‘black, brown and white,’ or ‘preto, marrom, and branco’ in Portuguese.

Most Brazilians do not utilise ethnic backgrounds to define themselves as black or white, and the preferred method for classification in the country is the shade of skin colour. As most of the population is mixed and cannot be defined as any of the two main hues, it is common to hear people referring to themselves as ‘white but not enough’ or ‘black but not enough’, thus creating a large ‘pardo zone’ Pardo is a colonial word that comes from the Portuguese coloniser's attempt to characterize Indigenous populations. The etymology comes from panther, as it has a color in between dark and light, yet, it ended up being used as a descriptive for any mixed-race person, whether they have Indigenous, European, or African background. Brazil is arguably one of the most diverse countries on Earth: it has the largest Japanese diaspora, more Lebanese than Lebanon itself, and the largest African population in the Americas. This diversity is something very normal for Brazilians, but since coming to Europe I found out that it is not a widespread notion outside of the country. Easily over 90% of the time someone asks where I am from I receive looks of shock and doubt when I proudly answer ‘Brazil’. It is something I take in a slightly annoyed but mostly careless way, with a hint of debauchery. Yet, I am fully aware of how this showcases how the privileges I have back home are translated into Dutch society. These reactions sadden me as they surely make me feel seen as less Brazilian, but honestly, Brazil is as much of a settler colonial nation as the United States and Australia, and I am fully aware that I am not ethnically Brazilian nor a rightful owner of the land.

Going back to Brazilian diversity, Scholar Cida Bento writes in her book O Pacto da Branquitude (Whiteness's Pact) that the European colonial rhetoric always highlighted skin tone as a basis for distinguishing status and worth. Analysing the European's view of non-Europeans, we see that he gained strength and identity, a kind of substitute, clandestine, underground identity, that positioned himself as the ‘universal man’ when compared to non-Europeans. This is how ‘Brazil,’ with its poorly-led ‘independence’ done by a Portuguese prince, constructed its inter-demographic relations for the last 500 years. I share what Cida Bento believes is fundamental: the recognition and debate about this heritage by white people. Differently from the United States and South Africa, Brazil

Cul Magazine 17

never had clear-cut segregation laws, yet institutional racism was and still is hidden in our legislation. The government encouraged mixed couples as it had the intention to ‘whiten’ the population, a common practice in Latin America. In the case of Brazil, this not-so-hidden practice grew after the abolition of slavery in 1888, one of the latest dates in the world. Most of my family settled in the south of Brazil during this whitening period when poor Europeans were welcomed with pieces of land and citizenship. Germany, the Netherlands, Italy… in this region of the country it is hard to find a white person without a second passport, while in the meantime, many Brazilians don't own any passport at all.

There is a certain rhetoric that Brazil is not racist because of its miscegenation, but this couldn't be further from the truth, and as long as Brazilians do not acknowledge that they're part of a racist society, people of colour (POC) will continue to be oppressed. Brazilians understand that racial hatred exists abroad, but not in their homes, and this is the perversity of our racism: it was constructed in such a skilful way that Brazilians reached the point where blindness became the norm. No one explains this concept better than the famous Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre. For him, the term denotes the belief that Brazil escaped racism and that Brazilians do not view each other through the lens of race and do not harbour racial prejudice towards one another. Because of that, while social mobility may be constrained by many factors such as gender and class, racial discrimination is often considered irrelevant within the confines of the concept of racial democracy.

One of the largest national mobilisations where this notion came along was the establishment of the ‘quotas’ system: a public policy based on equity where there's the allocation of certain spots for students from public schools and, within this reserve, some spots are for self-declared black, ‘pardo’ or indigenous people. In Brazil, public education – which is free – is terrible, haunted by budget cuts and underpaid professors. The exception is university, as this is the best higher education you can get in the country, but universities have become elite and white spaces due to how bad public education is and how hard it is to get in, so quotas came to change that. This is still a very polarising topic in Brazil, but not for me. Speaking from personal experience, the existence of these quotas allowed our educational system to become a lot more diverse. My mother teaches at the Medicine school of my hometown's federal university, known for being the best and hardest course to get into in the whole state. Before quotas were implemented, she used to teach for a 95% white class, mostly sons and daughters of renowned doctors. However, after quotas, her class is at least 50% POC, with people from public high schools and other regions of the country.

Many say this quota system is unfair, and that ethnic and social backgrounds are unrelated to education, yet, this is proof of Brazil's blindness. I did not get into the university I wanted because of the reserved spots for quotas, but for me, this was natural and extremely valid. I had the opportunity to

study in private schools, my family had the funds to put me in extra classes when I was doing badly in a course, and most importantly: they could pay for a private university. Of course, I would have loved to go to one of the best universities in the country, but I understand my privileged position and how I could have just studied harder if I wanted it that much. According to Sérgio Penna, a Brazilian geneticist, the biological differentiation of humans in race is outdated and dangerous, having caused some of the most outrageous crimes in history. With our bare eyes, it is not race we see, but the superficial biological diversity within our species in traits such as skin colour, hair form, and eye shape. These variations are not enough to justify racial classification since our biological diversity is too small, yet racism does exist. Racism can be related to the category of a ‘racialised group’, which is very much alive and can be of great sociopolitical value by offering a way for those who have historically been treated as members of ‘inferior races’ to assert and defend themselves collectively. We need to be talking about racism, racialisation, and racialised groups, not ‘race’.

Brazil's diversity is something to be proud of: it is a beautiful reflection of our country and how welcoming it is, yet the history behind it is one of sadness, genocide, slavery, and indenture. Brazilians come in every colour and shade – it is what makes us so unique in the global scene. But Brazil cannot continue living the lie of racial democracy, first because race as a biological differentiator does not exist, and second because it is a racist and unequal nation, where people will be privileged according to their whiteness. Brazil is a spectrum of colours and ethnicities, but the opportunities afforded to individuals are still dictated by the shade of their skin. To truly honour Brazil's diversity and move toward a more equitable society, acknowledging and confronting these historical injustices is imperative. It's time for Brazilians to confront the pervasive racism that continues to shape its cultural, mediatic, and social spheres, fostering a more inclusive nation.

Cul Magazine 19

Culturele stroomversnelling

Small Places Large Issues

Toen ik op de UVA aan mijn studie antropologie begon, was 'Small Places Large Issues' het eerste boek dat ik moest lezen. Erikson stelt hierin dat antropologen grote vragen in een kleine setting onderzoeken, omdat daar de directe interactie zichtbaar is. En het daardoor voor antropologen mogelijk wordt om grote vragen te beantwoorden. Nu werk ik als manager van een innovatieteam bij een Amsterdamse welzijnsorganisatie. Zowel bij de gemeente, als bij organisaties in het maatschappelijke middenveld, klinkt een roep die aan Erikson’s 'Small Places Large Issues’ doet denken.


Er komt een zorgcrisis op ons af. Aan de ene kant stijgt het personeelstekort. Aan de andere kant nemen de zorgconsumptie en zorgkosten toe, als gevolg van vergrijzing en voortschrijdende technologische mogelijkheden. De aanstaande piek, die over 15 jaar wordt voorzien, wordt besproken als het zorginfarct. In de denktanks van Amsterdam Vitaal en Gezond, zoeken gemeente en zorgverzekeraars samen met de zorg- en welzijnssector naar een radicale cultuurverandering. Er wordt gekeken naar

nieuwe vormen van domeinoverstijgende samenwerkingen tussen zorg en welzijn. Dit is voer voor antropologen, want het levert een cultuurclash op, doordat de domeinen niet dezelfde taal spreken.

Nog interessanter zijn de niet-westerse voorbeelden van vermaatschappelijking van de zorg die de denktanks zoeken. Community care in de buurten van Amsterdam, ten behoeve van afschaling en preventie van de zorgconsumptie. En daar zit wat in. Want de buurt is dé plek waar we elkaar op het gedeelde plein tegenkomen. Daar kennen we de gezichten en wordt ons empathisch vermogen getriggerd. Naar het Japanse voorbeeld, waar de gemeenschap naar ouderen omkijkt. En waar die ouderen dan ook stokoud worden.

Dit ultieme Japanse voorbeeld vindt echter plaats in een totaal andere culturele context. En een cultuuromslag die tegen de individualisering in gaat, is geen gemakkelijke. Daarvoor moeten zeggenschap en financiële middelen van de zorg naar de buurt verschuiven. Want, zoals antropologen al lang weten, is een gemeenschappelijke vijand of een groot gedeeld belang een voorwaarde voor een hechte gemeenschap. Antropogische kennis van Small Places is nodig om onze

20 Cul Magazine
Text Jorrit Boomgaardt Image Alžbeta Szabová

westerse Large Issues het hoofd te bieden. Maar voordat we nu allemaal in het vliegtuig naar Japan stappen, kunnen we ook onderzoeken welke kennis er al in de niet-westerse culturen van bijvoorbeeld Amsterdam Nieuw-West aanwezig is. Wanneer dat door de toegepaste antropologie via citizen science samen met bewoners onderzocht wordt, brengt dat kennis naar de buurt. En kan het de emancipatie van culturele minderheden een stap verder brengen en leiden tot nieuwe vormen van inclusiviteit.

Small Places Very Large Issues

Helaas komen er nog veel meer en nog veel grotere issues op ons af. Technologische ontwikkelingen gaan steeds sneller. De Nederlandse transitiedeskundige Jan Rotmans, stelt dat we niet langer in een tijdperk van verandering zitten, maar in een verandering van tijdperk. En zoals zo vaak leiden culturele stroomversnellingen tot chaos. De steeds sneller gaande technologische veranderingen staan aan de basis van een aantal potentieel catastrofale crises:

Ten eerste zitten we in een klimaatcrisis die geen uitleg behoeft; ten tweede is er een bestuurscrisis, waarin de politiek slecht in staat is om crises als de milieucrisis te keren,

omdat het amper over de eigen vierjaarcyclus heen kijkt; ten derde neemt mede hierdoor het vertrouwen in de democratie af, en nemen mensen niet langer genoegen met het slechts eenmaal in de vier jaar uitbrengen van hun stem; ten vierde kennen we toenemende polarisatie door internetbubbels, wat resulteert in verharding van het politieke en publieke discours; en ten vijfde is er een identiteitscrisis die uit globalisatie en onzekerheid voortkomt en leidt tot toenemend populisme.

Eén oplossingsrichting

Een sprankje hoop ontstaat doordat de oplossingsrichting steeds dezelfde lijkt. Net als bij het zorginfarct moeten we zeggenschap, middelen en kennis zo laag mogelijk beleggen. Bij diegene die het aangaat. En zoeken naar nieuwe directere vormen van doe-democratieën. Dit vraagt van de instituten een culturele aardverschuiving van systeem- naar leefwereld. Er lijkt zelfs een oorzakelijk verband: de steeds sneller gaande veranderingen maken het moeilijker om top-down op meetbare resultaten te sturen. Met als gevolg een beweging van bottom-up processen, met volledige vrijheid binnen kaders. In ieder geval lijkt de oplossingsrichting op bovengenoemde crises dezelfde: de versterkte betrokkenheid die ontstaat wanneer we verantwoordelijkheden en bevoegdheden zo laag mogelijk beleggen, creëert onderling vertrouwen, creativiteit en dialoog. Wanneer de leefwereld, de buurten, aan zet worden gebracht, verandert het discours van een essentialistische naar een processuele. Wijlen Gerd Baumann, tijdens mijn studie verreweg de populairste antropologiedocent op de UVA, stelt in The Multicultural Riddle dat:

It is in these cultures of conviction that multicultural practices can be observed at their most creative… and that they will entail all kinds of innovative dialogue between and among different minorities.’

(Gerd Baumann 1999: 152-3)

Er zijn directere vormen van (doe-) democratieën te vinden, die snellere en duurzamere oplossingen voor het klimaatprobleem kunnen ontwikkelen dan de huidige generatie politici met hun vierjaarcyclus. En een deel van de oplossing ligt in de

lokale circulaire economie van de buurt. In een directe doedemocratie wordt identiteit gecreëerd in plaats van dat we verder wegzakken in de identiteitscrisis. Wanneer mensen elkaar vaker fysiek tegenkomen en over kwesties in dialoog komen, nemen polarisatie en populisme af en verzacht het discours. Experimenten met nieuwe vormen van doedemocratieën leiden tot nieuw vertrouwen in die democratie. Welke etnografische beschrijvingen zijn er van directe doe-democratieën in Small Places? Welke lessen kunnen we daaruit leren over wat wel en niet werkt bij het ontwikkelen van nieuwe ideeën en het nemen van besluiten? En welke antropologische inzichten helpen bij het overwinnen van de cultuurclashes in het maatschappelijke middenveld en met de civiele samenleving?

Van systeemwereld naar leefwereld

Een noemenswaardige inspanning om de opgave volledig centraal te stellen is het Nationaal Programma Samen NieuwWest. Hier werkt de gemeente met vrijwel alle organisaties uit het maatschappelijk middenveld en informele organisaties samen aan een nieuw paradigma. En hier wordt de overgang van systeem- naar leefwereld in volle diepte zichtbaar. Was de zorgtransitie en de daarbij horende samensmelting van zorg en welzijn een cultuurclash, dan is dit dé clash of civilizations. Een culturele aardverschuiving over alle instituten heen. En ook hier kan de toegepaste antropologie via citizen science kennis naar de buurt brengen.


Dan hoeven we van de genoemde crises alleen nog het personeelstekort op te lossen. Wellicht kunnen we na citizens science starten met employee science. En samen onderzoeken hoe we het hiërarchische middenmanagement kunnen vervangen door zelfsturende teams. Om daarmee uiteindelijk een hoop personeel te besparen.

It takes a village to raise a child

De wereld heeft antropologen nodig. En hoe interessant is het voor antropologen om een cultuurclash in eigen omgeving te onderzoeken? Om daarmee het gezegde verder te brengen.

Van: 'It takes a village to raise a child.’

Naar: ‘It takes a village to raise a child, take care of the vulnerable, and find solutions to very large issues.’

Geïnteresseerd in het onderwerp? Neem vooral contact op. Jorrit Boomgaardt 06-39717859

Cul Magazine 21

Paper Money in Dynamics

Book review on Burning Money -The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld

In Burning Money: The Material Spirit of the Chinese Lifeworld, Fred Blake delves into the intricate and often enigmatic relationship between materialism and Chinese culture. In this book, Blake explores the practice of burning paper money in China. Burning paper money is a ritual practised across Chinese descents throughout history and reflects the Chinese cosmology of the afterlife. When the paper money is ignited and swallowed by the flames, the care from the people to their beloved in the netherworld is carried through the ashes that fly in the wind. Apart from the deep exploration of the function of ritual itself within the book, the continuity and change in the form of paper money over time raises an interesting discussion on how paper money develops in diversity under the influence of globalisation and consumerism.

Another type of paper money, so-called 冥币 (ghost money), is usually modified to appropriate, either by imitation or contagion, the value of real money. For this type of paper money, it looks quite similar to the real money design (colour, typography, size), but the profile on the money is the Jade Emperor (the emperor of the netherworld) instead of Chairman Mao's head on the yuan; the People's Bank of China on the left top of the money is replaced by the Bank of Sky and Ground. Here, the sky refers to the netherworld that people who passed away lived in, and the ground refers to the world that we live in.

More than paper money

In Chapter Burlesque, Blake provides a thorough examination of the role of consumption and foreign culture in changing the mode of production of paper money and its form. He argues that there are two forces that are changing the practice of burning money. Firstly, the influence of consumerism increases the diversity of paper money in contemporary China. The form of paper money is no longer confined to the form of actual money but has been reified to the actual objects of modern life. As the society we live in changes, so does the What is paper money?

In China, the spirits of the dead are considered to have the same life as the living. Similar to this world, the netherworld also follows the same rule. The spirits of the dead are sentient and subject to cold and hunger. Dead people need money to support their livelihood. Therefore, the money people burn in this world will be sent to the netherworld for the spirit to consume in the netherworld. The netherworld is like a reflection of reality on the surface of the water; burning money serves as a bridge of communication that connects the two. Paper money refers to paper replicas of things that take the form of money. The imitation of cash is accomplished by perforating sheets of coarse paper manufactured from grass straw, while imitations of silver and gold include colouring paper or applying yellow paint to shining foil. The basic paper is simply sheets of coarse paper with the natural colour of the vegetal fibres. Marked only by its grainy texture, it is often called "grass paper" (căozhĭ) or "money paper" (zhĭqián).

Cul Magazine
Book Review

netherworld. The machines that started to appear in the 20th century, such as laptops, iPhones, aeroplanes, and sports cars, have been imitated into a new type of paper money and sent to the netherworld by burning flames. The dead can enjoy modern life as well. It is not only new machines that are being imitated; paper money products encompass all aspects of a person's life: food, shelter, entertainment, friendship, marriage, technology, etc. Blake's research on money burning is in the 21st century, yet in China today, you can see papermade KFC family buckets, iPhone product gift packs, and even some people burning ChatGPT to programmers that live in the netherworld. We might imagine there will even be paper UFOs burnt to the netherworld in the future. The diversity of paper money will only increase along with the changes in the material life of society.

Secondly, the production of paper money shifted from handmade to machine-made. As paper money was no longer limited to the appearance of "money", a large number of paper products were printed by machines, and rough designs and bright colours became the common features of these new types of paper money. Regarding the authenticity of paper money, Blake asks whether this less-hand-produced paper money is still valid. These include manufacturing processes that transfer labour from hand to machine, from flesh to steel. They lose the domesticity and rusticity of artifice in their mass production due to an industrial order.

As the type of paper money becomes more and more diverse and closer in appearance to real objects, people's depictions of the netherworld become more and more specific. The beliefs of Chinese people on how the netherworld looks are highly linked to their practice in the "real world". The spirits of the dead are not free, they need to follow the rules, and obey the law, with the responsibility for forming a family, and carrying on the family line. Burning a lady made of paper for my dead single brother was in the hope that he might be able to have a wife and children in the netherworld; burning a paper-made condom for my father so that he wouldn't have a brother in the netherworld, which would be a violation of the one-child policy in China. All those practices are built upon the social norms of the world they live in, rather than the pure fantasy of

an afterlife world. And such deceptions of the netherworld are grounded specifically in the context that people are living in.

While many researchers delve into the realm of belief concerning the ritual of burning paper money, Blake's unique emphasis on material culture offers audiences a fresh perspective on this ancient practice. As we conclude, I leave you with a compelling quote from his book. If the topic piques your interest, I invite

“The paper burning custom is not simply the product of people who use it “religiously” or whose livelihoods depend on its manufacture and distribution—these two sites form a chain of values from the commodity to the sacrament—but is constituted in a manifold of discursive practices that extend from remote villages to urban apartment blocks, from ritual manuals to the mass media, from groups to individuals, from the multitude of devotees to legions of scoffers, and every position in between, each with as much say as the other in what the custom means.”

All those practices are built upon the social norm in the world they live in, rather than the pure fantasy of an afterlife world.

Cul Magazine 23

A Flicker in the Dark

On some nights after the lights are turned off, my eyes wander to places concealed by the dark.

A few of these places are still dimly illuminated by the light of the landing sneaking in through creaks in the wooden door. To the left of the door, I see two shadows laughing as they draw figurines resembling their older siblings on a piece of paper. They are undoubtedly my sister and I, only 10 years past, impatiently waiting for our mom’s call for dinner. Right by the window, the silhouette of an elderly woman waves as she leans on the windowsill. Many years ago, our grandma would always wave at us until we disappeared out of sight. These are warm and comforting memories.

In other parts of the room, there is not one ray of light. It is hard to make out what sceneries are unfolding there, which might be because they are in a very distant past. The consist of the kind of memories I would have rather seen shattered alongside the round glasses I used to wear as a kid. But consolation is in vain. Sometimes the most unbearable memories are burned into one’s vision.

And so my mind ventures to places I wish it would never venture to again. Holding onto what little light is left in the room is

like fighting a losing battle because, at the end of the day, my mind has a mind of its own. Yet I still try to turn the tides of this constant struggle night by night, desperately running for the light switch. But it always disappears as everything around me dissolves into the night.

‘’I had hoped you would’ve made it this time,’’ a voice whispered. ‘’Better luck next time.’’

Urging sunlight forces my eyes open. Behind me lies an endless foaming sea, eating away at the grains of sand around my feet like a starved creature. Unsure of what to do, I start walking around the beach. It is deserted, and then I notice him. Carefree, sparkly eyes, curly hair combed by the wind. I watch him chase after an ever-ascending kite, but he doesn’t have much time left. Soon the kite will be up too high for him to seize. He falls face flat into the sand as his last valiant attempt to catch the kite fails. I run up to him to help get him up when his eyes lock with mine in a moment of instant recognition. I am him and he was me. I try to warn him of the impending danger, the tumultuous sea which was soon to swallow the world whole, and the starved creatures lurking in the dark, but all comes out in an incomprehensible foam. He turns around scared and darts off in the direction of puerility.

24 Cul Magazine Column

In vain.

I can only watch as he reaches the sea and encounters the calamities of what is to come. Wrinkled, unfamiliar hands claw at him from below the surface, until he too disappears below the waves. I turn around, unable to bear the all too familiar muted screams.

Make it stop.

I open my eyes to a lurid light devoid of any warmth: grey hallways, packed with faceless people coming in and out of different adjacent rooms. But he catches my eye again. Carefree, sparkly eyes, curly hair. He’s busy chatting to some people.

‘’That can’t be.’’ I think to myself. I grab his wrist through the crowd and he jolts around. His bright eyes widen in horror as he recognizes me again. He screams as all of him but one thing dissolves into the dark. His face remained, staring right back at

me. Lifeless, exhausted eyes. Hollow cheeks. Incomprehensible foam comes out of his mouth. I am him and he is me.

‘’That’s enough’’. I say. ‘’No. We’re not quite there yet.’’ My own voice replies indifferently, seemingly unfazed by the spectacle.

I open the door to a dark room. Screams are coming from every corner. The vowels are sharpened and articulated. I can’t help but wonder if the words were sharpened for my skin or for scales. Regardless of intent, they still puncture my skin in a million places. At the end of the day, skin is much more fragile than scales.

The room falls silent. Thoughts begin rolling in, a long list of names and events, the good and the bad, immortalised until the night ceases to exist. There are many doubts, regrets and lingering questions. To be haunted by what-ifs is a final testimony to the everlastingness of the past.

Could everything have been different?

But timeless questions have timeless answers.

At last, the light of the morning sun slips through the window, and I finally close my eyes.

Cul Magazine 25 Column

At the END, life still goes on…

in the familiarity of the rooms. But they do not find it, for a mere heartbeat can never fill the void left by someone so close to you.

Suddenly the green of hope is replaced by the frustration that you wanted to say so much and you could not. And you think, and questions arise, and you feel, but you do not know what, and you want to say something, but you struggle to find the words because you do not know.

after, if anything? How do I get there? Who will I be when I die? How will the world go on without me? Although death has always fascinated people, and the subject gave rise to many questions, it was in vain, for just as death was a mystery, so it remains to this day. In all its complexity, however, the phenomenon of death has changed over the centuries, as have people's attitudes towards it.

Well, have they?

Death has always meant and will always mean the loss of someone. No decision can stop or undo it. Death puts a final mark on our lives whether we come to terms with it or not. Yet some try to fight it. They want to slow down the process. They do not allow themselves to think about death at all. But when it happens, you freeze. The moment you lose someone, as a thousand thoughts go through your mind, you do not know where to go, you do not know where to stop, what to say. It feels like the world stops for a moment because you have to process what has happened. But it does not... and life just goes on.

And you wonder: What about the high-fives you gave each other every day, what about the newspapers you read together, what about the TV shows you used to comment on endlessly, what about the hugs that said goodbye and the smiles that greeted you the next day?

The walls of an empty home, covered with memories unable to escape your mind, make your heart beat faster. Every corner brings up the presence of this person, the person whose sight made your cheeks blush and your eyes light up. Those eyes, now swollen from tears, seek solace

The change that death brings into your life leaves a mark on your soul. Suddenly, the palette of colours in which you see the world becomes limited to just a few. The pain that seeps through does not make it any easier to come to terms with the fact that loved ones are leaving. For the rest, is that even possible?

And here you are, standing alone, in the center of the world that seems unbothered by what has happened. And you want it to stop for a minute, you want the world to grieve with you, to help you recover. But can you? Instead, you seem to buckle under the weight of not knowing what comes next.

But what if you still had a moment? What if you knew how much time was left?

Would you do things differently?

26 Cul Magazine
Cul Magazine 27
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