Relevant


This is Blog 18 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Relevant

Have you heard of Rutger Bregman?

He is the Dutch dude that called out tax avoiding millionaires at Davos and then drove Tucker Carlson into a hissy fit, which sounded like this:

After he went viral twice in a relatively short period of time Bregman dedicated a podcast episode to the events (in Dutch). In the podcast he gives us an insight into the type of conversations he had with his fellow journalists in the days before and after these media moments.

We live in a time where being relevant is all about clicks, views, shares and likes. How do you go viral on social media? And how do you prevent becoming “that guy that pissed off Tucker Carlson” for the rest of your life?

Bregman’s friends and colleagues expressed their concerns to him about what releasing the Tucker Carlson video would do to Rutger Bregman’s life and career. In addition they let him know they had their doubts about whether or not it was actually helping him bring across a message, or if it was actually distracting from it.

Bregman chose to come in “with an outstretched leg”. I’m not sure if this soccer metaphor is used in English at all, but in Dutch it’s a pretty common way to describe an aggressive discussion partner.

In this particular case, Rutger Bregman took out his opponents “for the greater good” and didn’t mind the injuries he may (or may not) have inflicted on the other.

All though it worked out pretty OK for Rutger Bregman I do think it’s a pity that shock-and-awe is becoming such a common thing in conversations and debates. People feel the need to say and do extremer things each time to get a point across, which isn’t exactly good for the atmosphere.

In his podcast Bregman explains that sometimes, to be relevant, you have to choose between being likeable yet forgettable or an asshole that leaves an impression.

A difficult choice.

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Milk

This is Blog 13 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Milk

The Netherlands is a country of dairy producers, processors en consumers.

I am not a huge dairy addict myself, even though a milky-crunchy cereal breakfast is one of my favorite ways to start the day.

When I started to think of ways I could reduce my ecological footprint, dropping milk was actually one of the easiest things to do. Especially now that there are so many tasty alternatives.

First I switched to soy milk, because that was the one I heard about the most. Then I tried almond milk which I quickly decided was much tastier than soy milk. Then I tried a coconut based milk and… wow… that is just such a heavenly combination with cheerios (or its Dutch equivalent) that I now run the risk of not eating anything else ever again…

Then I read an article in which dairy alternatives were discussed and I realized that oat milk was actually the better option, environmentally speaking. The video below is a pretty good summary of what I found out:

I actually hadn’t tried oat milk yet and that wasn’t an accident. I imagined oat milk would be a watery version of oatmeal, which I don’t like the taste nor texture of.

Luckily oat milk turned out to be delicious and I totally recommend it to everyone as a dairy substitute.

Oikophobia

The Netherlands had provincial elections earlier this month, with unexpected results. Right wing populist party FvD won 13 of the 75 available senate seats, to all appearances out of nowhere.

In all truth I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was, taking my last five blogs into consideration… But I was. I really didn’t see this coming, at all.

Apparently, my social bubble only consists of people who are on my side of the political spectrum and the ones that are not, no longer voice their opinions when I am in the room.

I am still ruminating on the why’s and how’s of all this, but in the meantime I would like to focus on something Thierry Baudet said in his victory speech (and repeated and explained in this interview).

In the middle of his (slightly bizar) tirade, he said the following:

It is pure oikophobia! Pure self hate.

It is a guilt complex, that apparently needs a way out. […] That arrogance, ladies and gentlemen, friends, that stupidity is what they were punished for today.

In this specific segment of his speech, he was referring to recent climate reports and political measures that are being taken to reduce our ecological impact, or in his own words “climate sorcery”.

Image: Vincent Jannink / ANP / AFP)

I realize that I am very much on the defense here. He’s talking about me. I am one of those self-hating oikophobes that believes we should repent and change our habits, traditions and culture. I even believe in climate change! I’m radical like that.

Self-hater in the house

The thing is that I can’t deny I am extremely critical of my country.

Take our role in global slave trade, for example. Small a nation as we are, our part in this slice of history was substantial and this is something we are only just starting to see as anything other than “good business”. I believe our apologies for this should be explicit and generous.

When it comes to Dutch governance in our former colonies, I guess we weren’t the worst in the region, but it was still nothing to boast about. Our position in the top twenty of wealthiest countries was achieved on the backs of others. I realize we can not turn back time but I do feel we can be more honest about this in our education system and history teachings.

Our cuisine is bland and unexciting, our landscape is basically flat-earther-heaven, our favorite pastime is complaining and I think the way we celebrate carnaval is the stupidest on the planet.

Heck, I’ve even been bashing our national anthem and motto on this very blog.

So yes, I realize that people that voted for mr Baudet were basically voting against me and my way of thinking.

Self-critique is not self-hate

The diagnosis Mr Baudet has given me and my country is oikophobia. He even wrote a book with that very title, apparently…

In short oikophobia is a word based on the Greek word “oikos”, meaning home or household. In political context it is used to describe those that criticize their own culture and heritage and defend or praise cultures outside of their own.

What bugs me is the fact that my criticism and my wish for us to improve as a nation is seen as “hateful” and “disloyal” somehow. That sentiment feels so foreign to me. The Dutch have never feared the mirror nor shunned an argument.

When did we turn into cowards? How is it that I don’t know a single person that voted for this guy? Why can’t we talk about shit anymore?

The fact that I hold my country to a high standard is because I am in fact an oikophile, not an oikophobe!

Black Pete & his opponents

In the past, Black Pete fans were predominantly Dutch children. Now that his position and appearance have come under scrutiny, adults have started rejoining the fanclub and are standing up for him.

If you ask me though, Black Pete’s real friends are the ones that wish him to be removed from the Sinterklaas celebration all together. This blog is dedicated to those people.

Black Pete & Sylvana Simons

Sylvana Simons is one of the most controversial public figures in the Netherlands. Before she became everyone’s favorite punching bag, she was a popular TV host on the Dutch version of MTV. Her unapologetic and relentless anti-Black-Pete-stance is what earned her the number one position on the Netherlands’ unofficial most-hated-figures list.

Sylvana Simons, the Netherlands’ favorite racial punching bag.

I dedicated a blog to her about a year and a half ago and some things have changed since then. The biggest change, as far as Ms Simons’ position goes, is that she has decided to focus her energy on local politics, starting in her hometown of Amsterdam.

This move wasn’t fully of her own making, given that no senate seat was granted to her after national elections in 2017. I must admit that I did not vote for her at the time either, all though I did consider it. In the end, I am happy it worked out this way, as this result means she doesn’t come up in hateful memes, harsh opinion columns and racist caricatures as often as before.

“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is definitiely a quote that comes to mind when I think of Ms Simons. This lady is pretty much fireproof. I never saw her back down from any discussion, nor did she ever pull her punches. She was a crucial spark and if it wasn’t for her, I doubt we would actually be talking about alternative ways to celebrate Sinterklaas at all.

What we need now though, is someone who can ease those flames down a bit and lead the discussion in a more compassionate way. The fire doesn’t need to die out. It does need to be fanned in a more controlled fashion so that it doesn’t burn down the house.

Fighting fire with fire. Burning down the house.

It’s not fair to Ms Simons to say she wouldn’t be capable of fulfilling such a role. I do believe however that my compatriots would never appreciate her attempts and that therefore there is no useful part for her to play in the debate at this point. She is invited to the afterparty though.

Black Pete & Jerry Afriyie

What Jenny Douwes is for the pro-Pete-movement, Jerry Afriyie is for the anti-Pete-movement. More specifically, he is the face of the protest organization “Kick out Zwarte Piet” and sister organization “Nederland wordt beter”. 

Jerry is the son of Ghanian parents and came to the Netherlands at the age of ten. I haven’t decided yet if the fact that he is still seen as an outsider (whereas Sylvana was very much seen as a traitor stabbing us in the back) actually helps him or is getting in his way. When speaking of the Dutch he does always use the first-person plural.

He has explained in interviews how his first memories of the Sinterklaas celebrations were actually purely positive ones.

Jerry Afriyie during KOZP demonstration in Rotterdam. Photo by BART MAAT

It was all fun and games, until other kids started calling him Black Pete as an insult. He realized he was actually the butt of the joke and that all was not right in this children’s celebration. He then heard from other people that children sometimes came home crying and asked to be scrubbed “clean” as their black tone was supposedly caused by chimney soot.

As he grew up, he became more vocal about this and has described having heated discussions about the matter in highschool. He ended up joining Nederland wordt beter, which can be translated both as the imperative “Netherlands, be better” and the hopeful “Netherlands shall be better”. According to its own website, the organizations incentive is as follows:

Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter focuses on a future without racism and exclusion. We believe that this can only be achieved by recognising the influence of the history of colonialism and slavery on contemporary society and on all Dutch people. The foundation works towards spreading more knowledge about the consequences of the Dutch history of colonialism and slavery.

Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter organisation is a collective of parents, poets, artists, teachers, students, academics, bloggers, filmmakers, and historians. They are contributing voluntarily to make a better Netherlands.

Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter aims to dissolve itself in 2025. We assume that the following goals will be achieved by then.

https://www.nederlandwordtbeter.nl/en/organisation/ [23-11-2018]

To people who say, “but this is what we’ve always done and nobody has ever had a problem with it”, mr Afriyie says that ignorance of the past can be forgiven, but now that we know better we must do better.

He has compared it to someone treading on someone else’s foot without noticing. When the other says “hey, you stepped on my foot and that hurt” you can choose to say “gee, I hadn’t noticed but I’m so sorry I hurt you” or you can proceed to step on it again and then say “If you were standing where I was stepping then you must have been in the way and you are just way to sensitive anyway”.

All though his confrontations with police have led to him being barred from his profession in security management, mr Afriyie will not back down. He insists that he pushes on out of love for the country and not out of disdain for it, as his opponents suggest.

He has said it is normal and understandable that this generation is finding it hard to cope with the idea that what we have been doing all along is hurtful and wrong. He says it’s fine that people blame him for causing unnecessary discomfort.

To that his response is that he is not accountable to this generation, but to the next one…

Another discussion the Dutch are failing at

As I was watching TV just now, switching from channel to channel like a 21st century zombie, I came across the following commercial:

It’s a public announcement from the Dutch 4th & 5th of May-committee, that starts out by reminding us we had lost our freedom during 5 years of World War II. The voice over continues by saying that since then, we have passed freedom on from one generation to the next. It’s something that should not be taken for granted and something we are responsible for, together. She finishes off by telling us that on the 4th of May we will be remembering the victims and that on the 5th we will celebrating our freedom. Her final question is: “How will you pass our freedom on?”.

It was only three weeks ago that I wrote about the Dutch national remembrance and celebration day, and the confused guilt trip I have been going through in the wake of it. But while I was watching the above commercial I felt I hadn’t said all I needed to say.

You see, as so many other places in the world, Dutch society is no longer succeeding at hiding it’s true (pretty racist) colors. Some of you may have heard of the discussion we’ve been trying to have about our family friend, “Black Pete”. If it rings no bells, feel free to read an old  blogpost of mine about it.

zwarte pieten en sinterklaas

Some of the same people that are trying to ban Black Pete from the Dutch celebration of Saint Nicholas, have been trying to ask for a more equal representation during the May 4th remembrance.

The point they have been trying to make has to do with a lot of things, but the one they have been speaking about most is the role of the Dutch army during the Indonesian National Revolution, which took place between Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 and the Dutch recognition of its independence at the end of 1949.

During the two minutes of silence that we hold at 8PM every year, we remember all victims of WWII during the first minute and victims of other wars in the second minute. According to the protesters, we only focus on “white victims” and choose to ignore the victims in Indonesia, for which the Dutch conscience is not completely clean.

remembrance king

A couple of weeks ago, this group of protesters announced they would disturb the two minutes of silence with a noise-demonstration to bring attention to their cause.

Politicians have tried being civil, saying: “If you are protesting to demand respect, you shouldn’t start out by disrespecting others. There is a time and place to discuss and demonstrate, but this isn’t it.”

Just like with the Black Pete discussion though, there was a small window of opportunity for society to defuse the bomb before it went off. You see, the right reaction to a person telling you that you hurt them with something you did (or didn’t do), in my opinion, is: “Really??? I made you feel that way? I had no idea and I am so sorry! Please, join me at my table. Let’s talk.”

I know, I’m naive that way…

FB frames

But I’m seeing friends on Facebook (yepp, I’m still there) putting frames on their profile pictures showing the Dutch flag and stating “I will be silent for 2 minutes”.

For most, it’s probably just a well-intentioned attempt to pay their respects to the dead. It bothers me though, because it’s so much beside the point that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The noise-demonstration is not a protest against being quiet. It is a protest against being ignored, marginalized and disrespected. The fact that you don’t understand why they feel this way, doesn’t make it less right. It just makes you ignorant.

So in their stupor of petrified ignorance my fellow countrymen are only achieving one thing: proving the protesters right.

Jaar van Verzet

Ironically, this year’s theme is “resistance” so we are all being encouraged to stand up for what we believe is right. I think the people that came up with the idea were hoping we would be standing together AGAINST racism, though…  wupps.

 

Dutch nationalism – the anthem

The Dutch National Anthem, aka “the Wilhelmus” is said to “date back to at least 1572, making it the oldest known national anthem in the world”.

Noteworthy! Something to make a mental note of in case you ever end up at some random pub quiz.

So the anthem is basically a poem, written from the perspective of our founding father, William of Orange.

The lyrics however, sound bizarrely unpatriotic. The first line is:

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe ben ik, van Duitsen bloed.

This translates to:

William of Nassau am I, of a German bloodline

I’m all for knowing and honoring your heritage but did you really have to put it in the very first line, mr of Nassau?? It kind of feels like talking about your awesome Ukranian ex and her super fit body on your first date with me… How about we talk about ME?

(LOL, that never happened to me, no worries)

 I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine.

Ok then. The second line is better, all though I am not sure which land you are speaking of exactly, as you thought it necessary to start out by emphasizing you weren’t from here, originally.

I am a Prince of Orange and quite fearless

Yes, sir William, you are indeed a prince of Orange; a title you inherited after your cousin died. Well done.

The king of Spain I have always honoured.

WHAT THE HELL? Why would you bring that up, WILHELMUS????

I’m just sort of getting over your shady mention of your German blood and now you straight out tell me in my face you are actually loyal to another bloody king?? That’s fucked up, Willy, I’m not gonna lie…

Yah, I know they grow oranges down there, but that’s not what your title means!!! (Not sure what it DOES mean, but that’s for a different day.)

The End

I kid you not, that’s it.

Or no, not true. There are actually 14 verses more, in which he mostly praises god and his family. A sort of Oscars acceptance speech, I suppose…

But yah, the part we Dutchies sing before international soccer matches and after winning medals at the Olympic games, is just this:

William of Nassau am I, of a German bloodline
I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine.
I am a Prince of Orange and quite fearless
The king of Spain I have always honoured.

Needless to say, the Dutch are not very attached to their national anthem… I dare to say that more than half of people under 30 would struggle reciting it correctly off the top of their heads. 

So you can imagine the whole US discussion about dishonoring the country, by dishonoring the anthem, by kneeling in silence, is pretty hard for us to grasp…

 

Rutte III: a new government for the Dutch

My country has been without an official government since the March 15 parliamentary election, after several attempts to form a Cabinet failed.

In the last week week though, it seems an agreement has finally been reached. The coalition will consist of the current prime minister’s center-right VVD, the conservative Christian party CDA, the liberals of D66 and the slightly creepy Christian Union. It is expected that Rutte will remain prime minister.

D66 is the party my parents support and, all though my vote did not go their way in this last general election, I have voted for them in the past as well. They are known to be the ultimate middle of almost everything. The party leader, Alexander Pechtold, is a great debater, with a friendly face and a conflict free attitude. He is the personification of the Dutch polder model.

Critics describe D66 as wishy-washy and spineless.

All though I wouldn’t go that far, I did choose to vote for a party with a stronger and clearer set of ideals, this time around. I felt it was necessary to oppose the growing right wing unequivocally. Also, I felt the environment needed to be clearly and prominently represented in a party’s program in order for it to deserve my vote.

So, I voted for Groen Links, which is a green, left-wing party with progressive ideas and a growing base of members and politicians with “true grit”, which is what I missed in D66.

What could’ve been

d66 vvd gl cda
Left to right: D66’s Alexander Pechtold, VVD’s Mark Rutte, Groen Links’ Jesse Klaver, CDA’s Sybrand van Haersma Buma

Right after the elections, the country was getting ready for a coalition of VVD, D66, CDA and Groen Links. The parties agreed on many matters but in the end, Groen Links’ leader Jesse Klaver left the negotiating table. The harsh attitude the other parties were pushing to adopt on immigration was unacceptable to Klaver.

A lot of people said he should have made a bigger effort, perhaps temporarily adopt a more flexible attitude in order to get in the control room and then work on changing the system from the inside out. I for one, do feel Klaver did the right thing here. He did not sell out on his ideals, which makes me happy I chose to vote for his party.

Rutte III – VVD, D66, CDA, CU

The slightly fragile coalition that presented its plans this last week, will have a more rightwing character than the outgoing government.

Among the most important plans of the new coalition is a large tax overhaul, with a cut in income taxes and corporate taxes, aiming on making the Netherlands more attractive for international companies.

The coalition’s answer to the refugee crisis is to allow access to several hundred refugees more than the current government does. At the same time financial allowances for asylum seekers in the first two years of their stay will be lowered.

In the environmental agenda, higher taxes for polluters have been included and our five coal-fired energy plants will be shut down by 2030.

All though I hardly feel connected with this new government at all, I do wish them all the best. Our little country below sea level is counting on them….