Monday 23 January 2006

No harsh tongue for Mrs Verdonk

Love Holland, hate Holland
I find that living in the Netherlands excites extreme emotions of love and hate as each day brings interesting review.
Nowhere is that exemplified better than in the antics of the government of the country where populist politicians hold sway as they tinker with the assumed norms of Dutch tolerance proposing incredible hiss-making ideas.
At times, one does wonder if it is worthwhile wasting copy on this stuff, but there comes a time that commentary is needed before the extreme becomes the common.
Pim Fortuyn the populist politician was murdered by another pure Dutch man in 2002 all because questioning tolerance intolerantly creates scope for some to become intolerant to the extent of tolerating themselves the acts of intolerant crime.
That could also be read backwards, where dealing with intolerance in an intolerant way rather than instructively and educationally helps foster more intolerance that shocks a nominally tolerant society.
A language ban of sorts
Two issues excite my commentary, the first being the endorsement of policy that requires Dutch to be spoken in public places by the Minister of Integration and then the nomination of a ethnic minority politician for the Nobel Peace Prize. (topic for another outing).
The first can only be so instructive that one definitely feels utterly fortunate to live in the Netherlands as a full-fledged European citizen with very marketable skills.
I can only wonder how much sleep is lost by the government in trying to think up the next “smart” thing that makes people involuntarily pliant to a state that is looking like a lot worse is about to happen.
We have been getting used to laws in other lands that ban smoking in public places, which can be understandable for social and health issues. Where a law exists, the flaunting of it can exact due legal process leading to sanctions.
Even is the law to ensure that everyone carries a form of identification around on the premise that it stops terrorism; I would even try to research the logic behind that.
Every now and then the police obstruct bicycle paths at night to nab riders who ride without lights at night; they exact fines and cautions which is understandable for safety reasons to protect riders and the public.
Spreek je Nederlands? (Do you speak Dutch?)
The speaking of Dutch in public places is an interesting development in the debate of trying to retain Dutchness in a country overcome with the paranoia of losing their identity to that of immigrants of North African ancestry.
This is followed on with the concept that speaking Dutch automatically confers a congenital infestation of knowing everything Dutch in manner, comportment, societal values and integration.
It makes one wonder where indigenous Dutch criminals and social misfits got it wrong since they probably cannot speak any other language than Dutch.
Language as part of culture
Language does help foster an identity, along with traditions, customs and accepted values of the people. However, I am of the opinion that the Dutch would always be caught up in this paranoia until they have learnt to be glowingly proud of their heritage.
For instance, every summer, I am dressed up in traditional Africa attire for work and it excites interest from everyone as to the origin of the clothes, what they are made of, what occasions warrant the wearing of the clothes and many other points of costume trivia.
I cannot say that I have ever seen any Dutch person in anything typically Dutch, and where that is mentioned, it elicits derisive commentary.
It is therefore no surprise that people adhere to their cultures in Diaspora than adopt host cultures when the host citizens cannot find enough to celebrate of their heritage, history and culture.
Introducing the speech police
Most interestingly, the thought that fills all with trepidation is how to enact a law that forces people to use a particular language in public and how it is enforced through the use of the police when the law is broken.
With the promise of a reward everyone can inform and spy on one another and report on the Openbaar Taal Misbruik Aangifte (Public misuse of language reporting) Internet site – for short.
Better still, declare a war on all other languages and put the country in a state of emergency as a threat to the survival of the Dutch requires every means to call all patriots to arms against the onslaught of other insignificant and culture-busting tongues.
Using your mobile phone you can record the event and MMS it to a toll free number, the national crime-watch television programme can then air the footage to nab the offenders.
It might be that someone speaks out loud in their home in another language and because it is heard on the streets that infringement can bring an unsavoury sanction.
I did not live in either the Nazi times or the McCarthy times of the 1950s in America, but one can only begin to see how this once rather tolerant country is unconscionably being lead down a path of unspeakable restraint in the quest for maintaining their identity.
It probably would mean that no other language can be taught in schools just as the black South Africans only had Afrikaans as their language of instruction in the Apartheid times.
So widely spoken, indeed …
Language can be used as a tool to prevent people from being relevant in any other place than their locality.
As Dutch is so widely spoken in the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and partly in Indonesia and France with South Africa speaking a variant that is not considered Dutch; it is so tumultuous a requirement for a language spoken by a grand total of 24 million people, with two-thirds in the Netherlands.
If only the language were more forgiving to those who strive to learn it through imperfections and inadequacies, it might probably be more widely spoken. That difficulty probably informs why the only one known pidgin Dutch is Papiamento and that only consists of 25% Dutch.
A seriously difficult tongue
That is most enlightening; but I lament my grasp of the language after almost 6 years of sojourn, and it contrasts sharply with how much I picked up of German in three months of evening lessons in the United Kingdom.
As it happens, this idea which is promoted as a “code of conduct” in Rotterdam by the party gave birth to the likes of Pim Fortuyn is heralded as bastion for the protection of the Dutch psyche.
Innocuous as it seems, it is probably the most sinister abuse of premise and purpose this century.
Pioneers of another misery
We should not forget that the Dutch pioneered the profiteering in slave trade having taken over from the Swedes and left it long before it became popular with other Europeans as the East Indian Company brought cleaner profits from trading in spices.
Pioneering another dastardly set of repugnant ideas which on the surface would make even right-thinking people acquiescent should not come as a surprise of Dutch ingenuity embedded in their heritage.
Mastery of the language is a commendable goal, trying incentive through expressed pride would probably do it better than the coercion that is really aimed at immigrants of no particular means.
If only I could find a harsh tongue for this “code of conduct”, I would not have half expressed myself with greater indignation.

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