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November 08, 2004


it is somewhat frightening that a nation as small as Holland should have two such murders...

Apologies if I am mentioning something that you already know, but I can't tell if you are suggesting that small countries are inherently less dangerous/stressed or if you are suggesting that Holland should be safer. I think there is a rather violent thread within the national identity of the Dutch that is relatively hidden. The ability of the Japanese to harness the Dutch treatment of Indonesians and the strife that took place after the war, as well as incidents with Moluccan separatists and the behavior of Dutch football hooligans points to this. I'm not trying to score any points against the Dutch, but I think that any attempt to link these two murders should take that into account.

Not to claim we Dutchies are all non-violent peace-loving dopeheads, au contraire, but what do Moluccan separatists and Moroccan muslim fundamentalists have to do with the "national identity of the Dutch"?

Timothy McVeigh might reflect on US national identity. Muhammed Atta does not.

Hi jasper,
Again, I'm not trying to score points here (and every country has its share of violent embarassements/embarassing violences) so please accept my apology if it sounded like I was attacking Holland. I just wanted to raise some points w/o going into great detail.

My knowledge of the Moluccan separatist movement is very limited and comes from an interest in identity, but my understanding is that the Moluccan separatist movement was originally encouraged by the Dutch government as a way of attacking Indonesian independence pre-1949 and were then dropped. I also understood that the wave of terrorist attacks in the late 70's was partly the result of the Moluccan 'temporary' status in Holland and their segregated treatment within Dutch society. I think it is very admirable the way the Dutch handled the situation with the Mutual Statement and I'd certainly be interested in your view of the situation, but my point concerns underlying traits with the Dutch national character (if there is such a creature) rather than any changes that have happened in the past 30 years. I realize that it is very dangerous to talk about a national identity as it can mislead with overgeneralizations, but as you point out, the notion that the Dutch are 'non-violent peace-loving dopeheads' misses a lot.

If it makes you feel any better, a mosque was firebombed in response.

No apologies needed, I don't feel insulted, I just don't entirely agree.

For what it's worth, it's probably better to skip Dutch national identity (not the best of terms anyway, since "volksaard" is tainted by WW II national-socialist use).

Instead, you should look at the differences between Holland and other European nations. My guess?

A mixture of "verzuiling" (""pillarization"), a very high population density at 10+ times US density (as Fortuyn said, the place is full), relatively high immigration numbers (2.91 /1,000 in 2004. Compared with 1.23 for Belgium, 2.19 for the UK and 3.41 for the US).

And then loads and loads of other things. But if you look at the way society works in the Netherlands, it seems to me that pillarization has laid a legal framework that does not help integration (government-funded religious schools etc), while getting rid of social pillarization in the '60s has changed the Netherlands and its people more than other countries.

The usual lament:"Finally we have curbed the influence of the bible-thumping fundamentalists (yes, we have those too), what do we get? Koran thumping fundamentalists."

A very modern, secular people stuck with laws that were designed to protect the vested interests of religious groups. Van Gogh was as much against these laws as he was against fundamentalists.

"Apologies if I am mentioning something that you already know, but I can't tell if you are suggesting that small countries are inherently less dangerous/stressed or if you are suggesting that Holland should be safer."

I'm not really trying to say anything about the Dutch national character. The Netherlands have about 16 million people. New York State has about 19 million people. If in New York State, a prominent politician who was known for a controversial immigration stance were killed for political reasons by an eco-nut, and two years later a filmmaker with a controversial immigration stance were killed for political reasons and nearly decapitated, I would think, "what the heck is going on in New York State".

I visited the Netherlands last summer. Lovely country, lovely art, lovely people.

Van Gogh's murder is despicable.

But I have a question regarding political correctness.

Yes, removing "Thou Shalt Not Kill" signs is stupid and cowardly. But I noticed on the link at the Belmont Club and over at Cella's Review that Theo Van Gogh was not above calling Muslim radicals "goat f------". That's a quote. Neither site commented on this epithet.

Was Van Gogh being politically incorrect or was he yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater? What response was he trying to elicit? Did it conform to eventual reality?

Here's the weird thing: in a post re: Tom Wolfe at Cella's Review, Paul Cella praises Wolfe's views on the Red State vs. Blue State two-culture thing but then objects rather mysteriously to a Wolfe statement praising to some extent the censorious effect political correctness has had on racial epithets, calling it "not worthy" of his other views. What the heck does Cella mean by his objection? No, I don't want to ask him. Somebody else who is more civil than I can.

So I'm wondering. I have this awful, sort of Tourette's impulse to run out on the street and start calling my enemies "goat f------".

I won't. But am I therefore in danger of being "politically correct" by holding back?

The thing I don't see a lot fo commenting on is the fact that the script for the film was in fact written by a (ex)muslim woman originally from Somalia. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is currently a member of parliament for the dutch liberal (Euro- or if you prefer classical-liberal) party. And it strikes me that quite a lot of politically active muslims in europe are just like her. Meaning, somewhat zelotical converts to the european way of doing things.

Theo van Gogh's murder was despicable. The main connection between this murder and the one on Pim Fortuyn is IMHO that both made statements that appealed to the radical right and thus both were perceived as assisting that movement gaining momentum. Both were murdered by a fundamentalist follower of an ideology who was well educated and 'functioning normally' in society.

Though I don't think we Dutch are more violent than other folk, we are not less violent either. The last decade or so we have experienced in our society an increase in violence which is *also* but not solely seen in connection with immigrant issues. It might shock you that quite a number of people see this as a side-effect of the continuing 'Americanisation' of western culture...

Theo van Gogh was very opiniated and expressed his opinions very rudely. He called not just moslim radicals but all moslims goatf---ers and had some very insulting opinions about moslims. He did the same with other religions though, called the Jewish major of Amsterdam an 'NSB-er" (= Dutch collaborator in WW2), had a 9 year fight in court with jews who felt insulted through remarks of his, and made frequent remarks about 'rotting fish from Nazareth' and such. That is the controversial part. However, that of course does not mean his murder is in even slightly justified.

It should be noted (and is not in the blogs referred to) that the moslim community in the Netherlands immediately strongly convicted the murder and that hundreds of Maroccans have demonstrated in protest against it.

Currently we have some extreme reactions from across the political and religious spectrum - I am afraid that in these days of polarisation and decreasing tolerance those groups will only drift apart more.

liberal Japonicus
In our more empirial days we had the Aceh-wars in Indonesia and eventually colonized the region. The Moluccans were our christian local army. When after WW2 the locals were liberated from the Japanese they wanted liberation from Dutch colonialistic rule too. After a lot of ruthless killing Indonesia got her independence. But the Christian Moluccans had fought on our side and were in danger. We transported 12500 people (our loyal soldiers and their families) to the Netherlands with the idea that it would be for less than a year, till things had cooled off and the danger would be gone for them. Thus we put them in provisional camps, leftover from WW2. Unfortunately Indonesia did not end as the federation of states that people expected than, and the imagined Moluccan state became an utopie - and the Moluccans were stranded and felt (justifiably) let down by the Dutch.
If you want to characterize the Dutch, I think pragmatism is the thing that comes to my mind first.

Correction: I did not read about the Van Gogh murder at Cella's Review; I meant to say Sullivan.

The Wolfe post was indeed at Cella's Review.

What "tickles" is this: the terrorist murders ARE working. The goal is to change society, so that the Dutch accept Muslim intolerance.

Blasting away "Thou shalt not kill" is more likely to have enflamed the raw emotions than the murder itself.

Either you have free speech, or you don't. If you only have it "when it's safe" -- you don't have it. The mosque attacks include rage against this change.

What "tickles" is this: the terrorist murders ARE working. The goal is to change society, so that the Dutch accept Muslim intolerance.

But the dutch are not accepting it. I have been browsing through posts from US weblogs on this subject and it seems they haven't exactly been aware of the current dutch national mood. It just shows how good bloggers are about talking and acting like they know the truth without having a feel of the issues (which is logical, it's hard to get such a feel. It's just how people behave like they know everything.

The mood here is bad. The dutch are saying they do not accept this stuff. Some politicians are acting quite politically correct (our christian democrat justice minister is thinking of taking harder measures on 'heresy', as to protect the poor muslims, and presumably use the interesting opportunity because of the murder to make it harder for people to speak out against christianity. He previously tried to stop satire against our monarchy. He's like Ashcroft in that sense.) but all are also for more extreme measures against terrorism.

It seems like the NL government actually prevented two more attacks on people who spoke critically on the islam, the MPs Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Another win for the freedom of speech.

Blasting away "Thou shalt not kill" is more likely to have enflamed the raw emotions than the murder itself.

The blasting away of the mural was barely any issue here. Not because no-one cares but because we had a murder to care about, not some nutty single action by a local government. For outsiders it's an abstract thing. They see it and take it as example of the dutch mood. In NL our mood is something which we are actively feeling, and the feeling is that the dutch are fed up with the stuff. We are not reading about the removal of the mural only to conclude from that that we are somehow giving in to intolerance.

It's easy for US bloggers to take this blasting away of the mural and use it to prove how the dutch are giving in to the terrorists, or their government, but that's missing the point. It's done because they lack more info, so I guess they just take some news message and use it to justify their opinions. Most of them already made their mind up on what would happen before hearing the news.

It's weird to think that somehow the removal of some mural, in NL a sidenote in newsflashes about a nation mourning, would inflame political emotions more than waking up to see the dead body of one of your most prominent film/tv directors and most prominent critics of religion lying in a street certainly a lot of us have been at least once. That it would inflame raw emotions more than hearing about the note on the knife put in someone's chest. For you that's an abstract thing, here it is very much something material.

I can only hope our dear justice minister along with his party and the labour party get a clue and stops living in his dreamworld of a society where no-one says any bad words against christians and muslims and where the monarchy is deemed holy.

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