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  • Writer's pictureNikko Norte

Contra-Enlightenment …

‘So, without examining Moos, you can tell what medication she needs?’ Heidi asked, uncharacteristically fierce.

‘Well, you tell me your dog is itching. Apoquel is the best I can give you,’ the veterinarian sneered, and my mind drifted to the research paper I read the night before. The uh… the testosterone level in American males, the paper suggests, is in dramatic decline since the 1980s. Reading on, I learned that my lifestyle doesn’t put my testosterone level at risk of decline, which, I figured, grinning inwardly, was probably the reason for my hope that the argument between Heidi and that veterinarian would escalate.

On our way home, no Apoquel, dusk falling, Heidi calmed down, but once home, in the English village where we settled only a few months ago, and before I had lit a fire in the hearth and some candles and had brewed coffee, she had found three Apoquel studies on her laptop. One study conducted by Apoquel's manufacturer, the company Pfizer, two independent studies. Pfizer, Heidi read aloud, concludes in its study that Apoquel suppresses itching in dogs. The two independent studies conclude likewise and warn that of dogs on Apoquel for a longer period of time than a year and a half a significant percentage dies. The Pfizer study had lasted eight days; the independent studies had been longitudinal …

‘It’s ringworm Moos suffers from. Easy to treat,’ Heidi remarked as I stared at the flames in the hearth, trying to distinguish the finer tones in the coffee I had brewed from Yemeni Matari beans, and I realize what just prompted me to think of Moos. A few kilometers east of the French village of Wissant, I wander through the fields, pondering. Out of habit, the two deer I see grazing in the distance made me look for Moos to discourage her to give chase. But Moos the German shepherd stayed in England with Heidi when I traveled to the Netherlands to assist a lawyer during a court hearing of a case against the Dutch government she started on behalf of some Afghan people whose homes were once bombarded by the Dutch military without there being a reason for a bombardment.

End of September 2022. The last few weeks, it is allowed to enter France without a negative covid test. I took advantage of that opportunity to take a ferry at Dover on my way to the Netherlands and to visit Au coin des collectionneurs in Calais to add some Blueberrys, Gastons, Lucky Lukes, and Tuniques Bleues to my collection of French comic books. Three days have passed since the court hearing, a decision of the court expected next November, and just before noon, in the pouring rain, I pitched my tent at a campsite in the village of Leubringhen, half an hour's drive from the port of Calais from where I’ll sail back to England tomorrow.

Under threatening clouds, I walked this afternoon from Wissant to the Cap Blanc-Nez, to the Cap Gris-Nez, and back to Wissant, where I drank coffee in cafe Chez Nicole and alternately gazed into nowhere and read how Blueberry fares in La piste des Sioux. Nice village, Wissant. Beautiful surroundings. If Heidi and I had ended up in Wissant a few years ago instead of in Bayeux, some two hundred kilometers down the coast, we might not have moved to the south of Spain after only a few months, a thought that made my mind drift to the movie Sliding doors at the moment Nicole, maybe not Nicole but intriguingly attractive nevertheless, put the second coffee I’d ordered on my table, asking kindly, ‘Tu es du sud? Comment tu t'appelles?Personne s'attend à l'inquisition espagnole, I thought, and I said, ‘Nikko, je m’appelle. Je suis du nord, Néerlandais, mais j'habite en Angleterre. Nicole, je présume?

Alice. Et je t’appelle Blueberry, si ça te dérange pas,’ her smile playful, one of her teeth charmingly crooked.

‘Uh-hum,’ I muttered Hornbloweresque, and as Alice walked back to her counter, I realized that that line from Sliding doors, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, had brusquely called me back to today's reality.

The contra-Enlightenment is in full swing. Governments no longer render account of their actions, fundamental human rights are being trampled, and logic and reason, and every form of intellectual discourse with it, die a quiet death. Science has been silenced, intolerance is encouraged, and as a result, obscurantism is rampant. And the uniqueness of today’s reality is that hardly anyone realizes a revolution is underway. Immersed in state-approved misinformation about the seriousness of a virus, about the existing methods to armor ourselves against that virus, about the situation in Ukraine, and about the climate, we meekly, our heads high though, have ourselves shepherded into dystopia.

Making use of our unconditional belief in nonsense, call it obscurantism, an elite soft handedly forces us into a life in which not a trace of freedom will be sacred, which, in a way, is funny because that same elite, after a hundred years of enlightenment, soft handedly forced us to hard handedly end the hegemony of clergy and nobility.

What if Boris Johnson hadn't persuaded Volodymyr Zelensky to terminate the negotiations that could have prevented the Russian invasion of Ukraine? What if Jacinda Ardern, president of New Zealand, in her latest UNGA speech, ignored by the mainstream media, had not advocated increased social media censorship but had presented untainted evidence of mankind’s influence on Earth's climate? What if the mainstream media, loyal to their vow to society, had reported the amounts of money Bill Gates and some Western governments paid to the UN as well as to an organization called WEF to develop a digital passport that will, one day soon, be dystopia’s beating heart?

Gratefully, a large part of the world’s population has accepted once again that the Earth is the center of the universe. Equally gratefully, the relative freedom we enjoyed until 2020 has been exchanged for the joy of handing over to the Inquisition those few people who refuse to renounce logic and reason. Revolutionaries rule the mainstream media with an iron fist, most governments worldwide are being held hostage or have been bribed into submision, an armed force, loyal to the revolution, is being built up in Ukraine, and ... ‘Tu manges avec nous, Blueberry?’ The tables at Chez Nicole's dining room were set, on each table a saucepan for emptied mussel shells. Guests trickled in. Alice looked at me unwaveringly, no meekness in her eyes …

A stone’s throw from Chez Nicole, I found a boucherie, where I bought a slice of beef liver. A stone’s throw from that boucherie, I found a SPAR, where I bought an onion, mushrooms, a pepper, broccoli, and eggs. Not much later, I kneeled over my gas burner in front of my tent, the weather brightening. Over eighteen kilometers I had walked on Wissant’s beach, I calculated, and my legs protested when after my simple yet nutritious meal, I got up for another walk.

Uphill it goes. In the distance, the setting sun colors the few remaining clouds deep red over the white cliffs of Dover, and ... the grazing deer look up and caper toward a line of trees, footsteps behind me. It doesn’t take long until I walk in between four men blessed with the ectomorphic physique of people from the horn of Africa. Adjusting my walking pace to theirs, I ask, ‘On the way to England?’ Seconds pass until one of the men on my left looks up from the phone he uses to navigate. ‘You police?’ his voice friendly.

‘Don't be ridiculous.’

In silence, we walk on, and I recognize in myself the signals of imminent stupidity. What if I join my new friends when they cross the Channel tonight, which I am certain is what they are up to? Weighing pros and contras, the almost military cadence of our steps invigorating, I remember I once agreed with myself that doubt, say weighing pros and contras, equals no. Still, I don't feel like parting, remember an important Amharic word I learned during my time in Ethiopia in a previous life, and say, ‘Buna?’ Again, the man on my left looks up from his phone, an eyebrow raised. ‘Only if you have time,’ I add, and I point with my thumb at my backpack.

At the edge of a forested plot of land, two men with difficult names, Mebratoe, Jemal, and I sit around the gas burner I've taken from my backpack. Only Jemal speaks. His companions, from Eritrea on their way to England with him, are silent but alert on how I pour boiling water from a kettle over the ground arabica beans in the filter on the rim of my Stanley thermos, which one of them holds steady. In their late twenties I estimate the men around me to be. Too old to evade Eritrea’s conscription, which I know to often last longer than the year and a half the government claims it to last. Jemal is too secretive to my liking, but it is clear that my African friends will try to get into England tonight. They are early, the delay I provide convenient.

‘Why did you leave Eritrea then?’ I ask Jemal as I pour coffee from the thermos into its cap and hand that cap to Mebratoe, who is sitting next to me. ‘Freedom,’ Jemal replies, looking at me as if his reply is a question, prompting me to say too rapidly, ‘In that case, you best head back to Eritrea.’ Instead of the political speech I expect, Jemal looks me in the eye, seems to struggle with a thought, and asks, ‘Why?’

Because it’s not on humanitarian grounds the EU lures you to Europe, but to misuse you to contribute to the disruption in Europe it’s stirring up and because navigating a leaky fishing boat on the Red Sea guarantees a happier life than … ‘Just a thought,’ I mutter, pouring more coffee in the thermos’ cap, which Mebratoe passes on to his neighbor.

Four pairs of eyes on me when I take the last sips of coffee from the thermos’ cap. As if directed, the focus of those pairs of eyes shift to the gas burner still on the ground between us. I chuckle, grab for the extra bottle of water in my backpack, pour water in the kettle, and brew more buna. This beautiful night. The smell of coffee. All of us lost in thought as the thermos’ cap goes around once more. Finally, Jemal rises. We follow his lead, and I feel tears burning when after some handshakes and clumsy embraces my friends disappear into the darkness. For an hour, I was back in Africa, a continent I roamed so happily for years on end, and I think of a review of the movie Sliding doors I once read and the one sentence of it that keeps coming back to me because it so applies to those who consciously live in today’s reality and refuse to renounce logic and reason: when our lives take chaotic detours, ultimately good-hearted people find each other …


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