Wednesday 1 August 2007

Lèse majesté comes to the Netherlands

Handle your hands with caution

Something is happening in the Netherlands and creeping upon us as we live in our comfort zones with alarming indifference.

I am not one for rude hand gestures or the use of expletives in expression, but I was bit taken aback with the sentencing of a man a few weeks ago for making a middle-finger gesture at the Netherlands police.

Now, in irreverent Netherlands, a country that is hardly given to obsequiousness, a man has been fined for seriously insulting the Queen.

He will also do a week in prison even though the Justice department had asked for him to do two weeks.

Police complicity?

Now, I would take serious exception to people spouting unwarranted abuse at public figures, though I do note that the police were in some way involved and insulted in this setting.

He apparently got involved in an argument with the police and somehow the police might have been a tad tactless in allowing the argument to degenerate to the level that the man offered a Nazi salute, verbally abused the police and the maligned with a sexual obscenity the authority from which the police receives license - The Queen.

The man originates from Suriname which was once a colony of the Netherlands and this vented hatred of the Dutch and what they represent is an interesting read on the issue of relationships between old colonial powers, their recently independent states and their citizens.

It does not say whether the man had once before had encounters with the police or the law, but it should not be surprising that such hatred cannot be fostered in isolation of a causative scenario or experience - anyway, the man was wrong and his lawyer tried to excuse this on his inebriation and disorientation.

Socially critical commentary

The point of law on which this case was decided is the most interesting part of this story, whilst public figures should be thick-skinned enough to absorb such offence "the sexual insinuations make it clear that the man was not uttering commentary of a socially critical nature".

You really have to read that again and again and wonder where uttering commentary of a socially critical nature crosses the line to Lèse majesté.

It might well be that republicanism should be tempered with polite and temperate language.

God save the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

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