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…

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Amor fati

A couple of weeks ago I read this column in the Guardian (in all fairness, I saw it on FB, but it was originally posted in the Guardian 😛 ) about living with no regrets by adopting a motto inspired by Nietzsche: Amor Fati, as opposed to the world most tattooed Latin phrase attributed to HoraceCarpe Diem. I shared the article on my own wall and got some strong reactions to it, which helped me rethink what I had read and ultimately, write this blog.

The friends that reacted to the post had fully embraced the YOLO-mentality and didn’t like to see it being criticized. For them it wasn’t just a phrase. It was a way of healing. A way of life. The yellow brick road. A lesson they needed to embrace to be able to enjoy life, live in the moment, value the small things and let go of the petty ones. You catch my drift. Totally inspirational stuff. You know I love it.

So yes, I guess I can imagine it must sting when someone says living by the motto carpe diem is nothing more than “a desperate, panicky effort to avoid future sadness”.

My friend responded to this by pointing out that she wasn’t making decisions based on panicky fear but was actually applying it as “an accurate way of dealing with and solving current sadness”. I guess that’s a fair point.

But all though the way Oliver Burkeman put it into words in this column may rub some “carpe diem”-followers the wrong way, he did win me over for this new road to happiness.

He recaps carpe diem as follows:

According to this philosophy [of carpe diem], you should always take the plunge and quit your stultifying job; ask that person on a date; or (in the lower reaches of yolo culture) empty a carton of milk over your head and post the video on YouTube, all to forestall an old age full of stinging regrets. I can’t be alone in finding this all rather stressful, not least because regret seems inevitable: choosing any path always means rejecting others. So how to choose? We’re glibly told you regret the things you don’t do, not the ones you do. But this is meaningless, since any bold choice can always be rephrased as a timid one. By leaving your marriage, you opted not to discover what might happen if you’d bravely stuck it out.

And presents Amor fati like this:

Amor fati is all about living with no regrets, but not in the modern way. Carpe diem means making daring decisions, so as not to feel regret later on, whereas amor fati means (among other things) learning to love the choices you’ve already made, daring or not. After all, if a given aspect of life is truly “necessary”, refusing to embrace it means rejecting reality. And what could be more truly necessary than the past, which has already happened and can’t be undone?

loesje int 4I actually don’t think you need to choose between these two life mottos, as one encourages you to make the best of now and the other to love what has already been. They are both focused on having no regrets and I think both are valuable lessons to live by.

The only thing that I don’t like about this Nietzsche-based phrase is that it includes the word “fate”. Not a big fan of that one, as it implies things are predestined. People that have resigned themselves to have sucky lives because “that’s just how it is”, deserve a serious talking to or maybe even a kick up their behinds to knock some carpe diem into them.

I had already been applying amor fati in my life, in the sense that my average state of being is pretty much “content”. Sometimes I say to myself that I have an awesome guardian angel because nothing ever really goes wrong in my life but in reality I think that’s not even true. Things do go wrong. I am clumsy and forgetful, so things break or get lost. I just never really let it get to me. I seize every day and am totally fine with things totally blowing up in my face, all though again, I couldn’t really name an occasion when things actually did go miserably wrong. Is there even a thing as wrong? Things just evolve, no need to give it a plus or minus sign.

So to summarize it in a really sappy conclusion: Seize the day and value every step you have taken to get here.