Saturday 3 June 2006

The Cacophony of Rules vs The Silence of the Indifferent

We love the Netherlands

It probably has not dawned on my readership why my obsession with Lady Oddjob the Minister for Integration and Immigration or rather appropriately, of disintegration and emigration has been vociferous and bordering on the vituperative and virulent.

I now think I can put together a general context that depicts Dutch officialdom; but also affects immigrants and expatriates alike.

First, we non-indigenes come to the for many reasons, we bring with us, our culture, heritage, values and outlook to life which we have to intertwine and weave into the fabric of the host society as we adapt and integrate.

Some are better at integrating than others, most especially the younger ones in terms of language learning and relationships building.

There probably is a tendency for those who can, of right, live in the without application to vegetate to their expatriate communities if they encounter the slightest difficulty in the language and relationships building or social area. It is however, not for the want of trying.

In general, we love this place, we love the people, they have a varied and vibrant history and that is why we came here and live here. I make my home in the , happily, joyfully and fulfillingly.

Amsterdam is not Dutch Society

The tourist view the Netherlands usually extrapolated from the experiences in Amsterdam which is hardly the typical Dutch mien, when you come to settle, it is a whole new set of rules; you hit officialdom and are let utterly exasperated at the lethargy, disinterest, indifference and nonchalance of people who come to work to be seen and not necessarily to serve – you will eventually get attention, however, by then, you are at your wits end.

Digging up history to support a generalisation could be a bit unfair, but they do not necessarily have their roots in falsehood, a pattern and mode of life has been astutely observed over time to arrive at those conclusions that urban legends then tend to perpetrate.

Agreement through silence and acquiescence

Suffice it to say that indifference, collaboration, adherence and personal interest, first with officialdom that followed the rules and the populace which accepted that guidance, lead to the Netherlands losing 75% of their Jewish population to the Holocaust.[1][2][3]

Only a few years ago, we were overcome with the angst about whether Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who journaled her time in hiding was the greatest Dutch person or an immigrant who just happened to be in the [4]. Yet, a tourist’s visit to Amsterdam is probably not complete without a visit to Anne Frank’s House.

So, Mrs Verdonk’s assertion that she is only following the rules as she sees them has historical precedence in the fact that her campaign slogan had the hallmarks stemming from one used by an ultra right-wing party and also from the perception in times past that the Nazi interpretation of the rules was the accepted and valid interpretation. [5][6]

Indifference is lethal

As she threw her hat into the ring for the leadership of the Liberal Party, it was important to remember the words of The Reverend Martin Niemöller, who clearly expressed how indifference can come back to haunt you in a very harrowing way, and this is what he said of the Nazis.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out

because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out

because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the labor leaders, and I did not speak out

because I was not a labor leader.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one

left to speak out for me.

The Reverend Martin Niemöller

A lot is happening in the world today, that has people who can speak up adopting the “does not affect me” stance, I do wonder who would be left to speak up for them.

I, as both a British and European citizen do not have to be concerned about the way asylum seekers and immigrant non-European Union citizens are treated by the authorities and the hubris of the minister – I have inalienable European rights, but when you see language bans, forced contraception and people’s lives messed about for political point-scoring, one had better speak up now, because each new attack is an erosion of the whole body of rights in humanity that we possess and cherish.

Poor judgement for opportunism

This informs the situation where Mrs Verdonk’s actions in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali ended the political career of two very popular women in Dutch politics – the one of Hirsi Ali and hers. [6]

In what she did, she exuded that part of Dutch ambivalence that would make your skin creep, we immigrants sometimes do wonder if we can every fully understand what the Dutch regard as norms. As integrated as Hirsi Ali was, her undoing was that she did not adopt the “Live and let live” complacency to a the serious problem of Islamic dehumanisation of womanhood, she talked and talked out loud – that is not a Dutch norm – not at all.

Whose kind of immigrant?

So, the question remains what kind of immigrant does the want?

In what is looking like the mentality that traded Manhatten for we have three clear cases this year that show that Mrs Verdonk’s lack of judgement and perception is a handicap to any claim to leadership.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali might not have been the most loved or lovable immigrant/politician in the but she had one of the highest profiles, she is both well educated, successful and feted generously by the international community. She was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2006. Now deprived of her elected membership of the Second Chamber and Dutch citizenship, she is emigrating to the to take up a post with the American Enterprise Institute – with or without a Dutch passport.

Salomon Kalou, a very talented footballer from the Ivory Coast whose brother is going to the World Cup for the home country as captain, was recognised in spite of the 16 million eligible Dutch and probably 1000 qualified footballers, this immigrant was consider a valuable and probable asset to the Dutch dreams of football glory.

Against the better judgement of professionals where we know for a fact that people who can bring talent to the Netherlands can be fast-tracked to citizenship, his application was thwarted in a public spat that leaves much to be desired. [7]

This young man readily had a space in the Ivory Coast team to play in the world cup, but opted for the cold north in the where his application was messed around that it was too late for him to play for either the or .

Transferred to the Chelsea Football Club for a princely sum; a resounding vindication of the fact that the young man could have been a very valuable asset to the football team – he leaves for .

Taida Pasic, arrived from Kosovo at the age of 12 with her family, she quickly picked up Dutch and ended up being the best in her class for years – just months before her final exams, she became embroiled in an immigration situation which involved sending her back to Kosovo. At one time, she was handcuffed by officials in the presence of her classmates.

The brilliant girl who has since returned to Kosovo but was granted the unique dispensation of sitting her Dutch exams in the Dutch embassy wants to study law in the elite University of Leiden and a foundation in the has already offered to sponsor both tuition and living expenses.

She should return under a student’s visa and Mrs Verdonk better do well not to stand in her way this time.

Such is the way our love for the goes unrequited because some mandarin of officialdom bellows with salivating and sick-making sputum like Cerberus – Who goes there?

Many have suffered

These are the ones we know which Mrs Verdonk has through ultra vires exposed to the press in her quest to burnish her tough right-wing image.

The number of times the Second Chamber has suffered the sobriquet of a barking dog without a bite begins to bother me as Mrs Verdonk has been called at least 5 times to explain herself to parliament.

After the debate which is usually characterised with Dutch plain speaking and deference without the genuflection, Mrs Verdonk sometimes cuts the image of an unassailable overload who has one answer and everything point to that one answer to the exasperation of the members of the Second Chamber.

Rather than sanction her or pass a vote of no confidence on her, détente reigns as she is given a mandate to execute and another chance to sin again. Where the courts have ordered her to reflect she has been slothful to the point of almost mocking the context of our democracy because her populist views buoys her in the eyes of the general populace.

Where there is no effective sanction these high profile dramas of sacrificing talent and human welfare of opportunistic advantage would continue. Thankfully, the last time this happened she burnt her own bridges too. I suppose, when a mountain is immovable we can only hope there is volcano underneath it ready to help it self-destruct.

These issues should count against her, regardless of the trouble she might eventually cause – parties and people of the far right are beginning to woo her, and as long as she believes is following the rules, she might be tempted to break ranks – hopefully, that would be breaking ranks into obscurity.

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