Dutch nationalism: Je maintiendrai

Those who have ever been to the Netherlands and / or have read some of my blogs must already know this: we are not big on nationalism.

Sure, we have our symbols.

Tulips-in-Holland.jpgAs far as our flower goes, I suppose it must be the tulip, all though I don’t think that’s actually official. But the rest of the world associates us with it, and we carry it with pride.

Our national bird is somewhat of a mystery to me. I think we might not have one. All the cool birds of prey were already taken, I guess, and claiming a bird of paradise didn’t fit with our Calvinist attitude, even though we could’ve adopted one from our colonies

Our coat of arms looks like this:

wapen-van-nederland-met-motto-je-maintiendrai-2622a3-1024.jpg

….which brings me to our motto: Je maintiendrai, which is French for We will hold on

Yes, you heard me: French.

If we speak French in the Netherlands, you ask? Not a word! We speak Dutch, and if anything else it would be Frisian. Our English is pretty good on average, followed by German. Our French; deplorable.

I guess our founders decided it was better for PR to avoid the guttural sounds that are inherent to our own language when presenting ourselves abroad. And French is sexy enough, non?

But let’s proceed… Because let’s be honest, the choice of language is not the only thing that’s off…

Let’s look at some other country’s mottos:

  • Ordem e progresso; it may not be a very accurate description of the current state of the country, but it’s something to strive for: Order and Progress. You can do it, Brazil!
  • We’ve all heard of Cuba‘s: Patria o Muerte: Country or Death! A bit over the top maybe, but I’m definitely fired up! (no cigar and or rum pun intended)
  • And what to think of Egypt‘s: Ankh, uza, seneb, which translates to Life, health, well-being. Beautiful!!! Makes me want to move there.

Now, back to the Dutch motto: We will hold on.

crickets chirping.gif

Are you inspired yet? No, me neither….

It sounds like the motto of a slightly apathetic and bored teenager at her great-aunt’s 97th birthday.

I’m still hoping there is some historically interesting and motivational story behind it, but I think that what it all boils down to is a peoples that has struggled to make a living on a marshy bit of land that keeps flooding.

I mean, I get it. It’s super demoralizing to have to keep rebuilding your house and loosing all your livestock and all… But maybe that wasn’t the time to design that coat of arms…

Because look at us now! We battled the elements, built ourselves some pretty sturdy structures and have kept our fields dry ever since (*knocks on wood*), making it possible to feed and breed the best bloody dairy cows IN THE WORLD. And don’t forget the tulips!

So, we didn’t merely “hold on”, we whooped the sea’s ass! How about we write THAT at the feet of those fierce looking lions??

*pushing my luck here, knocking on wood again*

One of the Dutch provinces that we pumped dry, for example, has Luctor et emergo as a motto, which is Latin for “I struggled and emerged”. Something to be proud of, no?

I suggest we update our motto, as it was clearly written by the same people who thought our national anthem should ignore all things Dutch, and focus on some German guy, loyal to another king, as explained in a previous post.

First contender: If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.

Still open for suggestions…

refugee travel song

My grandparents were brave people. In the second world war they decided the course this Hitler guy was steering Europe down, wouldn’t do. They were in no immediate threat but were fed up with the oppression and decided to flee the country. They bought a small boat, really not designed for open seas, and set sail to England. They joined the allied forces there and fought for the future of their country and the children they would bring into this world. I am grateful for the sacrifices they were willing to make and their courage to stand up for what they believed in.

I guess in modern times we would refer to my grandparents as refugees. I will be posting a more elaborate blog about the story of my grandparents soon, but for now I leave you with a song by Cuban singer, Celia Cruz, with lyrics that apply to the thoughts my grandparents must have had at the time, as much as they do to Celia’s feelings towards the country she left behind.

In case I don’t return, I take your flag with me
regretting that my eyes, now liberated, do not see you.

Why I had to leave anybody can understand.
I thought I would return to your soil any minute

But time keeps passing by and your sun keeps crying
Your chains remain strong and I keep waiting and praying to the sky

I always felt fortunate to have been born in your arms
And eventhough I am no longer there, I left you a part of my heart

Just in case, in case I don’t return

Soon the moment will arrive that the suffering will stop
Let’s not hold any grudges, oh my lord
so we can share our feelings together

Even though time has passed I have carried your name with me
with pride and dignity all across the world and I have told  them your truth

But my land, don’t suffer anymore; my heart, don’t go to pieces
There is no evil that can last a hundred years, nor can my body

And I never wanted to abandon you, I brought you with me in every step
And with me you will stay, my love, like a flower on my lap

Just in case, in case I don’t return

If in case I don’t return, the pain will kill me
And if I don’t return to my country, I will die with the pain

If in case I don’t return, the pain will kill me
My country, beautiful land, I love you so dearly.

If in case I don’t return, the pain will kill me
My heart aches without seeing her for so long

If i case I don’t return, when I die
I want my flag to be draped upon my tomb

If in case I don’t return, I hope they bury me with music
with music of my beloved lands