Step 8 of 9
Where I choose to live
Fig 10: Baruch Spinoza, Ethica
One of the Western thinkers Amir felt attached to from quite a young age, was Baruch Spinoza. As an exile, having been forced to leave his home because of worldviews that were in contradiction with the rules of the religious community, Amir recognizes a lot of his own experiences in the works of Spinoza. But the fact that Amir is living in the Netherlands now makes Spinoza even more special to him. “The country I chose to live in, the country that grants me the freedom to express myself, its foundations were in part built by Spinoza. This country wouldn’t be where it is right now without him.”
Amir is still very glad that he decided to buy a plane ticket to the Netherlands when he was forced to leave. Even when he was not yet officially admitted into the Netherlands, he already felt accepted by the Dutch community. While living in the Netherlands, he made good friends who worked for the foundation Vrij Links and who granted Amir a digital platform to publish articles and speak his mind.
Amir tells us that because of this, he started to feel very passionate about the Netherlands quite soon after arriving here, broadening his activism to encompass Dutch politics and society as well. This passion, he tells us, has everything to do with the fact that he was able to choose to come to the Netherlands. “You don’t choose where you are born, but you can choose where you live. I am not predestined to be somewhere, or meant to be somewhere just because I was born there. And so, I don’t wear that label either.” His arrival in the Netherlands was a decision of free will (although, of course, his escape was not) and this makes him eager to fight for the wellbeing of the country he chose to live in.
The ability to exercise free will is an important aspect of Spinoza’s philosophical stance, and when Amir was given the chance to influence the refugee centre to where he would be transferred, he immediately knew he wanted to be as close as possible to one of his favorite places in the country: Spinoza’s House near Leiden. Besides that, he had already been published by Leiden University once. On top of that, Leiden University offered a programme called IncLUsion, through which Amir was able to take courses and build a network with other academics. When Amir was located in a refugee centre close to Leiden, he was thrilled. “The Hortus Botanicus, the Academiegebouw, Spinoza’s old house of course, but most of all the various hofjes. I am always amazed by the narrow passageways that seem to connect two totally different worlds. Sometimes the passageways remind me of my own sudden journey from Iran to the Netherlands. They take me back and forth in time.”