Like any other place, the Dutch are masters of denial. Things did not happen and when they DID happen, they were not as terrible as similar things happening elsewhere.
In my recent work I am reconstructing the Netherlands. Using the awesome question: what if?
My aim is to create a balanced mix. A view on a population that is as honest as I can get it. With its flaws and its good things. With a full appreciation of the past. Including the dark sides.
The Dutch approach to its own identity is — to say the least — troubled. Ask a random Dutch person: “What is the Dutch identity” and the biggest part of the answer will probably be: “Uh umm, er, umm; um, er, ummm, yeah. Good question. [Some politician]? Hmm.”
My intent is not to be complete here. Just to give you an idea and to jot down this thing.
- Innovation — The Dutch are quite innovative. We have some good universities, including the ones in Delft and Eindhoven. We have been on top of several things including aviation (Fokker), global trade, water works (Zuiderzee, Delta works) and lighting and electric appliances (Philips)
- Smart people — Spinoza, Erasmus, and roughly 20 Nobel Prize winners.
- Exploration — New Zealand, Tasmania, Fiji (Abel Tasman). We were one of the few to trade with
- Slavery — We traded slaves to several places including Surinam and the American coast.
- Millitary oppression and crimes against humanity — We oppressed people in our former colonies using military force, killing entire villages when we felt necessary (read this review on the war on Atjeh or Acheh for an impresison). The last known instance of Dutch war crimes is in the 1950’s
- Disdain for- and abuse of the lower classes — Until the 1900’s there were no laws against child labor. People worked for periods of 12 hours per day in the factories without any rights as we know them now.
“My child doesn’t steal”
So how do you deal with this kind of history? By selective cherry picking? Ignoring or white-washing the bad parts? By acknowledgement? Collective self-loathing about our own past? Or by blaming others? “They asked for it”?
Can you be proud of the history of the country you live in when you know all its dirty crimes as well?
One way NOT to deal with this past is by selectively ignoring it.
I think “my child doesn’t steal” summarizes this awesomely.
The power of hypocrisy
A hypocrite measures with two measures. Everything done by others is condemnable. Everything done by him or herself or their own group is “justified” in one way or another.
The Dutch (as any other) society is quite crafty in this.
“My child does not steal” and when it is caught: “it was an accident”. When other children steal, especially when it is not from “our” social circles, the child is “bad” and “will do it again” and “simple punishment is not enough”.
This hypocrisy makes it possible to look at other people and other groups and condemn them for the same crimes we commit ourselves with heavier measures we would apply on our own people.
Coming to a balanced whole
Can you love your child when you know it has stolen things? It has done bad things in the past? When it “makes you look bad” towards your peers?
And how do you deal with that behavior? What measures of punishment will you apply?
Can you be proud of your child when you know and acknowledge all the bad things it has done? Can you allow it to correct itself or will you continue to condemn it for eternity? And what behavior will you allow in the present and future, knowing what has been done in the past?
The Netherlands still is a hypocrite shit hole on some accounts. There are probably still apologies to be made for war crimes done after 1945. Either in paying the due debt or by simple acknowledgement.
Do we — for instance — remember the deaths from the 1980’s in Surinam and Indonesia after 1945 when we remember the dead on the 4th of May? Do we acknowledge the dead fallen by the bullets of Dutch soldiers in wars we were involved in recently? Or is this still a private party where anyone “not one of ours” are ignored and the Second World War is the only war that took place in recent Dutch history?
And what about human trafficking? Drug trade? Child pornography? How do the Dutch do on arms trade? Sexism? Racism? Privacy and invasion of privacy? How dirty are we behind our troubled facade? How afraid are we to show that our hands are dirty as well?
“My child doesn’t steal”, take 2
Since we try to uphold the idea that “my child doesn’t steal” it is even more important to continue to point at the flaws of others. We love to point out “the other” (Turkish, Polish, Moroccan people) as the culprit while each and every problem in the Netherlands is a direct cause of Dutch policy and Dutch culture.
“My child does not steal. My child is not lazy. My child always takes its responsibilities.”
Due to this we are also less inclined to take a good look at our own policy towards our own issues. Blaming others instead of that other option (drum rolls, growing anticipation, what will follow: “blaming ourselves?”): FINDING SOLUTIONS, allows us mostly to not take a stand, to remain ambivilent, to avoid putting down clear rules of engagement.
“My child doesn’t steal” allows for laziness in managing a country. It allows for that child to continue to bully others and commit atrocities. To be destructive and display parasitic behavior. To avoid responsibilities and avoid thinking about consequences of certain deeds. To become lazy and dependent. To allow for the blame to be put on the innocent.
“Since my child does not steal, it must have been the other ones who stole all those bikes. And no: I have no clue where those bicycles in my garage come from. They simply started to appear one by one. Those are the stolen ones!? Aha! Must have been the other ones child as well.”
What if the child DOES steal? What if you take full responsibility of that, both to the ones having damage and to your own perception?
What if this is not like a Zombie infection? What if it is?
Bad behavior should not be wiped under the carpet, to “protect” the ones involved. It should be exposed. And put into perspective.
What if you get stronger by admitting and addressing the wrongs AS WELL AS the good?