Why am I so furious?
Well, at the start of 2009, I moved from Southampton to Portsmouth, a town that seemed lively, friendly and welcoming but in reality is very hostile, even turns out to be famous for that and for its violent tendencies throughout the UK.
Your entire life quickly becomes about fighting off misogynistic, xenophobic and gerontophobic trolls of all ages and abilities in the streets and in the supermarkets and offices here. And little else.
Because Portsmouth is also highly misogynistic and sadly reminiscent of that line in the Eagles’ Hotel California: “You can check out any time you want but you can never leave”.
Apparently, it is typical for Portsmouth that people move to it, then lose their income and get trapped in poverty here. It’s mostly crammed onto a small island off the south coast of England. Portsea Island. That makes it a very limiting place to find yourself stuck in. It’s not very obvious that it’s a real island, though, and I too had failed to notice that.
(I’ve just – 17 October 2021 – applied for an Amazon warehouse role. The sign-on bonus that Amazon is currently paying makes it possible for me to travel to such a job. I used to work in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam, am totally not a desk jockey, was used to a faster pace and am not a 9-to-5 person so I’ll probably like the work. [18 October: How that ended? Click on this link to see the screenshot. Invite received but no appointments available. A pity. I know at least one Amazon driver who would be great to work with – an English woman – and if that is what most of Amazon’s staff is like, then I would probably enjoy working there. Because of my hacking/stalking situation, I am not eligible for Universal Credit, by the way, but that isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world.] There is also a shortage of lorry drivers – truckers – but the free training that the UK government offers to people who want it seems to be mostly available through a small number of exclusive channels. Anyway, trucking would probably be too sedentary for me. I also recently applied for a 3-month job at a local ferry company but my hacker interferes with literally everything that I do and blocks far too many incoming and outgoing communications.)
In addition, I have been the long-term target of something known as sadistic stalking, which in my case includes extensive hacking, and has more or less coincided with my move to Portsmouth. It’s a complicated story.
I’m not quite sure who is doing what in practice, let alone why, though some form of neurodiversity clearly plays a role (depending on how you define neurodiversity). (It began within 24 hours after an encounter, but it seems that it’s not that person but someone else.) No matter how understanding and compassionate I am with regard to neurodiversity, I must acknowledge that the stalking not only has wrecked my life in many ways, but has also revealed to me the coldness and shocking shallowness of people in general to an extent that I still find hard to believe. And I had been far from naive. But I am an incurable optimist, granted.
Most people happily leave you to rot, quite literally, and it’s not as if I was a hateful and heartless woman who made everyone think “good riddance” either.
There have been sadly insecure Dutch and English men who started kicking me rather viciously once they realised that I was powerless and down for the count. Just because they could. Nothing new about that. Most of thesee men were supposed to be my peers but apparently felt intimidated by me in the past. None of them ever even attempted a PhD, come to think of it. Sigh. What else is new?
In my personal life, I’m through with men now. For good. I lost my sex drive within a year after moving to Portsmouth, in a seriously permanent way, and I lost the need for intimacy within the following two years. This had to do with the stalking, but men in Portsmouth are so obnoxious and so accustomed to violating women’s personal boundaries. Generally speaking, men hate women too much, far more than I had been aware of, even though I am a lifelong feminist in the sense that I firmly believe that women are full-fledged human beings.
Men who make good colleagues, by contrast, that is a different story but my professional life ended when I moved to Portsmouth. Time will tell whether this too was for good.
Nobody’s been emotionally supportive – boosted me – throughout this ordeal. To the contrary. People have even said things like “Jesus! You really need to get out of that place, fast!” (meaning Portsmouth or my flat, well aware that I was no longer able to) and then walked away, even the ones who had made promises of practical – not financial – support and then without even the slightest sense of shame or embarrassment turned me away when I dared rely on such a promise.
One woman stood by me for a long time, however, and she stood by me from the very beginning. Another woman called my local police, from Canada, which the local police mentioned to me one day. (The local police have been worse than useless.) One man oddly enough reported me missing to the police in my home country after some hacking interference but without having tried to contact me in any other way.
Other than that, there is no support for stalking victims. None whatsoever. Nobody helps you figure out what on earth – what pathology or form of neurodiversity – you are dealing with, let alone how to deal with it. You’re on your own. The motive in my case is a desire to degrade (ruin) and control the victim. I think I was picked because it was easy. A single migrant who didn’t know anyone here and who wasn’t rich. I also fit the other criterion, that it would be “fun” to ruin me. But that classic criminology perspective may not be accurate. In any case, it does not help victims much.
My main background is in the earth & life sciences. I became self-employed when I was still living in Amsterdam, working with clients and associates from all over the world. The clients? For example university scientists, publishers and high-end engineering consultancies, parties that create and deal with knowledge and technology in the earth, marine and environmental science realm.
I am a Company Director as well but the company currently isn’t trading.
My self-employment has suffered badly under the stalking and under Portsmouth’s destructive hostility. Portsmouth City Council used to send me these surveys about how to attract more businesses, but sticks it head in the sand over the city’s real problems. So I no longer want its surveys because Portsmouth City Council does little more than obediently carry out the UK government’s instructions. It has no vision and no spine. Portsmouth deserves better but as long as it keeps pushing the “Pompey born and bred” meme, rejecting strangers, this town will continue to make up the end of the line.
Nowadays, I also write books, make videos and sometimes I create online courses, among other things.
I’ve always been highly versatile and flexible. I used to work in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam, possess legal insight and experience, and I have recently gained a great deal of insight in otherisation and how it can impact people’s lives.
I therefore often focus on diversity, otherisation and inclusivity as well as the rights of nonhuman animals.
We all share the same planet and we – modern humans – inherited it from species like dolphins and whales as well as parrots and other modern birds. They’ve been around for 50,000,000 to 55,000,000 years. 50 to 55 million years. Modern humans? Only 250,000 years. 250 ka.
Planet, people and other critters, that is bioethics sensu lato. All living beings matter. Without diversity, the world would become a very dull place with almost no innovation and likely also no entertainment whatsoever… This is why we need the world to become less eugenically driven and much more inclusive. We need equality, we need to enable and allow everyone to live life to the full, and in their own way, without any abuse.
We also need to do this in order to preserve the human species. Because if we can’t show compassion for our own species, we won’t have it for other species either. And that would mean that we’re doomed, basically. Because compassion for other species forces us to look after the planet, thus after ourselves. Everything is connected. The earth system is a giant piece of machinery that always strives for balance regardless of whether we humans like that or not.
All kinds of others are still being otherised, pushed out of society, even though we’ve also made a lot of progress and continue to make a lot of progress in this area. That’s the area of inclusivity.
What do I mean? Consider that in 19th-century England, John Stuart Mill called his wife “disabled by society”. Not because she was “disabled” but because she was a woman.
This still happens too often to people who deviate from the “eugenic” ideal of the able-bodied and mentally mainstream, well-to-do white male and to anyone who is otherised because he or she does not resemble us in some way, who deviates, even if it is only the fact that someone has red hair, is poor, has an Essex accent, uses a wheelchair, is autistic, is from a different country or does not drive a car but walks a lot. They can truly become disabled by society.
Inclusivity is not crowding people, obsessing over people, fussing over people as if they are five-year-olds or one-year-olds, however. Inclusivity is about giving people enough space to be who they are. It’s about respecting all people, as human beings, and observing everyone’s human rights.
We’re not there yet, but we are learning. We are making headway.
Success is to be able to live your life in your own way. That is bioethics sensu lato.
“All living beings are entitled to respect and should be treated not as means but as ends in themselves.” This is the bioethical imperative, formulated by Fritz Jahr around a century ago.
- I am a former board member of the Environmental Chemistry (and Toxicology) Section of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society.
- For eleven years, I served as associate editor for the international newsletter of the Geochemical Society, which is based in the US.
- I was a board member and member of many committees at the NIMF foundation for women in science and technology in the Netherlands.
- For about a year (from right after my move from Southampton to Portsmouth until it folded), I was a member of the Portsmouth Environmental Forum, established and supported by Portsmouth City Council.
- I’m a member of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG).
- I’m a former member of the Amsterdam American Business Club and of the Southampton-based SHEA Business Club (BNI-style business networks) as well as of Toastmasters of The Hague (public speaking and networking).
- Yes, I am a feminist. No, I do not believe that women are “defective males” (unlike most English people, I should add).
Below is some info about my writing background, one way in which I used to gather information from all sorts of people. In addition, I used to do a lot of scientific editing, which was also a great way to learn what various people were up to.
For my latest books and some free downloads (PDFS), see https://angelinasouren.com/free-downloads/
As a component of my business activities, before I moved from Amsterdam to Britain at the end of 2004, I was part of the editorial team of Elements (@ 55 euros per hour, excl. of VAT). It was a print magazine published by the company Arcadis.
I have interviewed people all over the world, on location as well as by phone and e-mail, from China to Chile and from Amsterdam to Paris and Oxford.
I particularly remember finally being able to catch up with a very busy person (Herb Dempsey, who is now one of my LinkedIn connections) on his mobile phone at an airport somewhere in the US where he was waiting for a connecting flight. I needed to talk with him about the company’s involvement in the BioWatch program for an article of which you have just seen an image.
I also remember speaking with two highly sympathetic people who were based in China at the time, working for Arcadis: Thomas Kustusch who is German and Theo Tombeur who’s Belgian. Talking with Wim Verheugt and Ties van Kempen about the Black Sea particularly stands out as well, of course, in view of my professional background.
Of course, I remember my interview with Keith O’Nions, who had just been knighted as well as been appointed to become the next Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence. He is a kind and highly entertaining person. I had a killer sinus headache when I interviewed him and it affected my conversational skills badly, but Keith patiently remained enthusiastic. I was still based in Amsterdam then and combined this interview in Oxford with giving a talk in Plymouth afterwards, at PICOIII.
Interviewing Claude Allègre was an interesting experience as well. I have also edited a large number or scientific papers and grant proposals. What that did for me was introduce me to and keep me in touch with all kinds of scientific research. This helps you develop a strategic perspective and enables you to connect people across disciplines, even though you’re not in a science policy advisory position, not working for the NSF, NWO or the EU.
Much later, while I was living in the UK, I wrote some flash fiction that is somewhat reminiscent of the work of Spike Milligan, an Englishman who lives in Belgium told me.
Some of it is probably closer to Donald Barthelme’s quirky style.
Some of it is simple. Some of it is like a zen koan.
My flash fiction is available from various online retailers.
Later, I translated one of Richard Bintanja’s books into “The Ultimate Brainchild” of which the topic suits nicely within the context of the new eugenics.
It is a very well-crafted novel with a Gattaca-style theme even though it is very different from Gattaca. It features a form of neurodiversity, a two-tiered world in which those who can and those who can’t are at odds. One of the groups is persecuted. Guess which one?
I have also contributed considerably to more than a handful of popular science books in the Dutch “For Dummies” series.
My first academic publication, in marine biogeochemistry (in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta), had only me as author and was published as a tripartite discussion with a contribution from Jim Moffett, on whose work my article was a comment, and another one from Brad Tebo. It was accepted without any revisions. In part, it was a rewrite of a shorter article that I had submitted to Science in 1996 and after resubmission was deemed more suitable for a specialised journal.
At around the same time, I convened an AGU conference session in Boston on the role of fungi in the marine environment, supported by a grant from the Dr. Catharine van Tussenbroek Fonds.
That got me invited to a conference in Hong Kong, but I only submitted an abstract as I was unable to travel to Hong Kong at the time. Fortunately, I was able to participate in the PICO-III symposium in Plymouth later that year, which I combined with a trip to Oxford where I did the O’Nions interview.
(Lay people are quick to assume that scientists get paid to talk at conferences. Nope! They pay to be allowed to participate and present. Something similar goes for publishing. That does not mean that your work is accepted as long as you pay! This is where something called peer review comes into play. Thankfully, some scientific journals no longer charge scientists for publishing, but the natural and physical sciences remain a very expensive profession, also requiring a great deal of expensive fancy equipment. This is why grant proposals are the life blood of any decent scientist’s career.)
In 2000, I wrote a review on the environmental chemistry of cyanide, which was cited all over the world.
I also contributed a quote about the Mariana Trench for a book in Canada.
Other than that, I have written so many bits and pieces here and there (mostly on geochemistry and environmental chemistry, occasionally including health issues, and also on feminism and on women in science), that it’s impossible to list or even remember them all.
I had already started writing stories and articles when I was in primary school. I was on my school’s first newspaper team, went on a typewriting course when I was 18 and purchased my own typewriter shortly after.
As a teenager, I sent a letter to a national weekly – more or less a Dutch counterpart of RadioTimes – about a play by G.B. Shaw that had been aired. They published it.
In the early 1980s, I sent a letter to Tineke Beishuizen (a Dutch writer and columnist) about my mother’s illness and death in response to the passing of someone in Tineke’s vicinity (her mother in law, if I recall correctly). I received a letter back from Tineke, asking me for permission to use the letter as a column (adapted, of course) in the women’s magazine Libelle, as well as a lot of encouragement to write more. We spoke on the phone; I called her from a phone booth in Hilversum or Baarn as I didn’t have a landline in those days when we weren’t as connected yet as we all are today.
I also submitted an item to women’s weekly Viva, about my cat Tim who I’d adopted from the shelter around the time when I began working on my Master’s. Viva published the item and sent me a voucher in return. (I think it was for 25 guilders’ worth of flowers.)
A bit later in the 1980s, I sent about a dozen letters to the editor of Dutch national daily De Volkskrant, responding to articles in the newspaper. Almost all were published and all or almost all in the Saturday edition. Most were about violence against women and children.
I wrote these letters after I had been raped by an intruder who had climbed onto the balcony of my student flat while I was asleep. Writing the letters was part of my process of working through what had happened. I also signed up for a self-defence course for women at Vrouwencentrum Kenau in Amsterdam and I read books like Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will to try to understand what had happened to me.
Right after it happened, my friend Juul Everaars – who was a geology student as well – hopped on her bicycle to be with me to support me and my two siblings drove up from the south. (I called Juul first, the police next.)
The rapist returned half a year later. I woke up, walked to the door in combat stance, but I grabbed a knife along the way and it hit a glass. The sound alerted the guy. When I moved the curtain slightly to be able to look onto the balcony, I found him crouched right there in front of me, at the glass door. He jumped up and disappeared over the balustrade. (The police officers who showed up after that told me I should have grabbed my geologist’s hammer instead of the knife as the knife was too dull according to them.) Building management then helped me move to a different flat in the complex after that. I later threw a party to celebrate that I was leaving it all behind me and moving on.
As eight or nine out of ten of my letters to De Volkskrant were published, and usually in the Saturday edition, I did not realise at all that it was quite hard to get letters published in that particular newspaper. I discovered that later, during an evening course at the Netherlands School for Journalism, when the instructor specifically mentioned it as part of the class one evening, as an exercise, to try this as a way of assessing one’s writing skills and as a challenge to set ourselves. In those days, newspapers were still print-only so editors had to be highly selective.
I also did a lot of writing for the NIMF foundation in those days and took some time out from my Master’s to focus on my work for it, including symposium organisation and PR, some of that with the amazing Hélène van Pinxteren (RIP) and the brilliant Kine Sittig as well as with Nanne Weber (RIP), Martje Roessing (RIP), Hadass Eviatar, Rineke Verbrugge, Elly Jeurissen and many others.
(Images: I took two evening courses at the Netherlands’ School for Journalism in Utrecht while I was completing my Master’s.)
In the mid-1990s, when I was living in the US, I wrote a letter to the editor of an American newspaper (the St. Peterburg Times, which won twelve Pulitzer Prizes since 1964, but later merged into a larger regional newspaper). That too was published, but its content wasn’t spectacular. It expressed enthusiasm about my experiences at the university there. Its title was something like “Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side”.