LEARNING DUTCH - JANUARY 27, 2010
JAN 24 , JAN 18, and JAN 15.). This episode deals with gaiety in Dutch society.]
An article in the Dutch press mentions that a gentleman carrying the "wrong" shopping bag was beaten up by two men.
The incident occurred as the victim was leaving the shop 'Gays & Gadgets' on the Spui Straat with a purchase. Two persons described as young men accosted him verbally, then physically pushed him around. He used his cell phone afterwards to call the police - whereupon the two men returned and proceeded to viciously kick and punch him, even after he had fallen to the ground.
The victim has been hospitalized.
The assault happened right in the centre of the city - the Spui Straat runs parallel to the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, the shop mentioned is less than three minutes walking distance from the Dam Square in one direction, or the Central Station in the other direction, it is right in between the Kortekorsjespoortsteeg and the Lijnbaansteeg. The area is a popular shopping and nightlife locale.
The victim is fifty years old.
The attackers are young men, maybe even juveniles, and possibly of Moroccan extraction.
The time was early evening.
The location is one of the busiest parts of the city, with a greater police-presence than almost anywhere else in town.
Oh, and by the way - though the newspaper informs us that he is straight, the victim was attacked for being perceived to be homosexual.
But his sexual proclivities are not material. Or at least, should not be an issue in so liberated a country as the Netherlands.
[The Netherlands is among the top destinations world-wide for sex-tourists, and all manner of sexualities are enthusiastically indulged - see this post:
People can get beaten up for any reason in Amsterdam; one can get beaten up for being gay, for being Moroccan or American, looking at someone funny, or even, if you can imagine it, for being Jewish - see:
But as there are far more gays than Jews in post-war Holland, getting beaten up for being gay does seem to be more common.... see item no. 2 in this post:
A good sound thrashing is a very Dutch solution to anything that ails you, often called 'een goed pak slaag' or 'een schop onder de kont'.]
NEWSPAPER READERS REACT
The comments underneath the news article are potent indicators of a society quite different from our own.
I have taken three to stand in for all of them.
Example no. 1.
"Mijn kop eraf als dit geen homo is, maar nu moet hij wat rechtbreien voor zijn vrouw. Hij kocht gewoon een valentijns kadootje voor zijn vriend, homosexualiteit is verwerpelijk en ronduit walgelijk, deze viespeuk heeft een onwetende vrouw thuiszitten die nu risico loopt allerlei vieze ziektes op te lopen."
koos rademakers, amsterdam 21:35 27.01.10
Translation: 'My head off if this ain't a homo, but now he has something to knit straight for his woman. He simply bought a Valentine's present for his friend, homosexuality is reprehensible and all-round loathsome, this filthy bugger has an unknowing wife sitting at home who is now at risk of all manner of filthy diseases.'
Commentary: Mr. Koos Rademakers does not seem concerned about the assault, and wishes to jump to conclusions unsupported by any evidence. His spitefulness towards gays is, in the context of a hate-crime, both misplaced and a perfect illustration of the problem. His comment is a classic example of blaming the victim as well as of bigoted thinking - tendencies still common in old-world circles; the Dutch police standardly caution Jews and foreigners to stop being so provocative.
Given the prevalence of people like Mr. Koos Rademakers that is sage advice.
NOTES: To knit something straight (iets recht breien) colourfully expresses the effort required in constructing a believable excuse.
Verwerpelijk means rejectable, repulsive, to be disdained.
Viespeuk literally means a filthy butt-end of something. A peuk is commonly a cigarette butt, of which there are numerous examples on Dutch streets now that smoking in bars and cafes is outlawed, just like in California.
Example no. 2.
"Hoe kun je als blanke man de gemeente Amsterdam om hulp vragen. De prioriteiten van deze discriminerende gemeente liggen bij andere bevolkingsgroepen. Ook Guusje Ter Horst heeft in haar politiekorps een voorkeur voor gekleurde mannen en vrouwen. Dit is de officiele PvdA lijn."
Andre, Leimuiden 21:40 27.01.10
Translation: 'How can you as a white man (ever) ask the city of Amsterdam for assistance? The priorities of this discriminatory municipality lie with other ethnicities. Even Guusje Ter Horst has a preference for coloured men and women in her police force. This is the official Labour Party program.'
Commentary: There is a perception in the Netherlands that 'those folks' are coddled more than 'us white natives', and that this is the fault of the Labour Party. In actual fact, given that not being lily-white in the Netherlands always marks you as neither 'really Dutch' nor 'our kind of people', and because of research that has shown that all else being equal, the person with the Dutch name gets the job-interview and the apartment, I find it hard to support this point of view.
Having lived over there as an American, I do not consider the position of outsider in Dutch society very coddled.
NOTES: Moroccans get blamed for everything that is wrong in Dutch society, precisely like Jews and Catholics once were castigated. There are still a large number of Catholics in the Netherlands, but they have been politically emancipated in the last three or four generations, and nowadays it would be politically incorrect to blame them for anything.
Especially now that they are considered equally Dutch and human.
Guusje Ter Horst is the minister of the interior in the current government. She too is blamed for everything that is wrong in Dutch society. To the best of my knowledge she is not of Moroccan extraction.
Example no. 3.
"Ik zelf als homo moet er een beetje om lachen dat een hetero door een andere hetero door een inschattingsfout in elkaar wordt geslagen. Maar dit geeft mij wel reden om een hetero die mij zou slaan omdat ik homo ben, in zelfverdediging te gaan en hem helemaal terug kapot zou slaan, hier wordt ik agressief van. En ik zal vast niet de enige zijn, niet alle homos zijn zo lief. Dit gaat nog es goed fout."
Frank de Vries, Eindhoven 21:50 27.01.10
Translation 'I myself as a homo have to laugh a little bit that a hetero got beaten up by another hetero because of a wrong assumption. But this verily does give me a reason to thoroughly beat the crap out of a hetero who might assault me in self-defense, I really get aggressive from this. And I am probably not the only one, not all homos are so sweet. This will go seriously wrong at some point.'
Commentary: Mr. DeVries in Eindhoven seems to have a streak of schadenfreude a mile wide, and a keen (albeit insane) appreciation of the entertainment-value of bloodshed.
I would caution my readers not to jump to any conclusions about the good people of Eindhoven based on his example. Most of them are quite decent, although, as Brabanders, they do represent a more primitive Netherlandish stratum - what George Bush Sr. might have called 'a kinder, gentler' Dutchness.
NOTES: Brabanders, per the scribe of Paris five centuries ago, were "men of blood - brigands, rapists, and incendiarists". At that time they were also notorious mercenaries. They are no longer mercenary. At least not so much.
Eindhoven, in the Kempen region, is a dreary industrial city near the Belgian border, hometown of an electronics firm of some note.
There are times when reading the Dutch newspapers convinces me that the Netherlands is far more dangerous than San Francisco. Certainly more violent.
But that perception is deceptive, the two are not comparable.
The Netherlands is more densely populated than the United States, and Dutch urban areas are neither in composition, nor hinterland served, equivalents of American metropoles. Certainly San Francisco north of Market Street is safer than Amsterdam or Rotterdam - but there are parts of the Bay Area which at times resemble a war zone, whereas the two Dams are actually somewhat quieter than the Bay Area taken as a whole.
Labels: DUTCH LESSONS