Always irritating, the Dutch pick set dates in the year to be particularly irritating. The Queen's Birthday on April 30 is one such date, followed by, on 4th and 5th May, the twin travesties of Remembrance Day and Liberation Day. On the first, we remember those resistance fighters (often members of the communist movements so hated in the subsequent Cold War) who died for us in WWII, on the second, we celebrate our freedom after the retreat of the hated Germans.
That's why, when I was somewhere between nine and thirteen, a caricature of a parent figure, face red and jowls shaking, yelled at me while hitting me about the head for having been out walking the dogs between 20:00 and 20:02 on 4th May, when I should have been at home, religiously observing two minutes of silence for those who sacrificed themselves for Freedom. Like the freedom of growing up in a dysfunctional family started by a petty tyrant who, not having been born in the right time and place to be head of a prison or gulag, had to make do with his own children. One has to be careful how one tyrannizes one's children in this modern, liberated country where the neighbours are always watching, but little things like forcing them to stay up late to watch "cultural" programmes on TV and disallowing them to cut their hair can go a long way. Freedom of speech was an illusion; the idea was to guess what daddy wanted to hear and then present it as one's own opinion. When I was so young that he thought I wouldn't remember, he remarked that the starving children in India shouldn't be given food by welfare organizations, they should fight amongst each other so that only the strongest would survive. I'm not sure where that would leave a weak little runt like himself, who was combining his genetic defects with those of a mate deliberately chosen for her weakness; and yet, such a convinced Darwinist. He was also a Tolkien fan, especially when it came to fair-haired, blue-eyed warriors riding to battle. My passport stated my eye colour was blue, although it never has been. He was happier to see me hanging out with white friends than with coloured friends. When he ruined one holiday more spectacularly than usual with his obnoxious presence, provoking the children into all-round rebellion, he hit us about the head and told us that from now on we would be slaves, set to work around the house as soon as we came in from school. Then, after keeping us in apprehension all the way home, he put on his greasiest smile and granted us "amnesty". You can't keep slaves with the neighbours watching.
Yes, the end of the German occupation certainly did mean automatic, everlasting freedom for everyone. Those dead resistance fighters can pride themselves on a job well done.
Still, I was surprised at his viciousness; he'd never been that strict when we were still living in the suburbs. It reeked of fear. Looking back, I understand. We'd moved to a small village where the inhabitants, while ignoring actual vandalism, would instantly report to one's parents such misdemeanours as dragging one's feet while walking. If his child were seen irreverently outside at that sacred time between 20:00 and 20:02, he imagined the village would come down on him like a ton of bricks. Maybe he had flashbacks to when his mother emigrated from Austria to the Netherlands with her children and her German accent, at a time when animosity towards Germans was strong. Maybe he was afraid they'd find out his grandfather had given his earnings to Hitler. The fact that many Third Reich civilians were simply forced to cough up their cash would not be accepted by the angry villagers, would it? Or would they ignore that and notice what I noticed in the course of growing up: that the man would have made a perfect Nazi. Maybe they would think, as I did after his treatment, that the perfect way to celebrate liberation from tyranny would be pumping him full of lead.
Although he wasn't an actual war criminal covering up a dark past - he was born in 1945 - he certainly acted like one. He was demonstratively anti-German and none too honest about his own place of birth. When we went on holiday to Germany - I was very young at the time - I expressed some vague anti-German sentiment absorbed directly from the bosom of the family and he embarrassedly hushed me up. Regarding the Nazis that had been imprisoned for life, his sentence was swift: kill them with cheap bullets rather than feed them for years with taxpayer money. (He was strongly against anyone living on taxpayer money, because he felt he was paying too much taxes.) He was indignant against the Dutch clods who didn't dare to fight the German invaders but who did, as soon as the invaders had pulled out, round up any girls who had been sleeping with the enemy and shave their heads bare. This indignation had nothing to do with his own background, of course! In short: when such a man emphasizes the importance of remembering Those Who Fell For Us, my gut reaction is revulsion.
What an outcast I was: the only one to callously ignore the enormous anonymous sacrifice made just so I could eat and sleep and play with my Playmobil in safety and freedom. Did I not at least owe history two minutes of grovelling a year as piecemeal payment of this towering debt? After those slaps, I started to pay more attention to how well other Dutchies were tending to their debt. It seemed more and more of them, especially the younger generation - callous ignorants like me - forwent the honour of playing statue under the flag for a set time and then, depending on locale, singing the first verse of the Dutch national anthem, starting with "Wilhelmus van Nassaue, ben ik van Duitsen bloed": "I, William of Nassau, am of German blood". But there was a voice of dissent from the older generation too: a woman who hated 4&5 May because she was the child of a German soldier and had been given up for adoption to a couple who told her from the cradle how grateful she should be. What, having German blood is bad when your name isn't William of Nassau? Why should she feel guilty, and lucky to be "forgiven", when she hadn't done anything wrong?
Once away from home, where The War had been waved over my head all year round to show me how grateful I should be, I found out that there are war survivors who, unlike my lived-through-war-as-infant mother and my never-in-the-war father, could talk about the conditions of that time calmly, without accusing me, and without pretending that The War was the beginning and end of all wars. One generally enlightened man who had seen a bit of the world, candidly said that some of the resistance fighters might as easily have ended up on the other side. This as opposed to the aggrieved tone of media and average cloggie alike whose purpose, I now see, was to make people who hadn't done anything wrong in The War because they weren't there yet, feel guilty and indebted. Indebted to who? Now there's an interesting question. Supposedly to Those Who Fell For Us, but Those Who Fell For Us are dead, so they can't collect the proceeds. So who's collecting the proceeds for them? Those cowards who clearly didn't Fall For Us, since they are still alive?
That's a heartless way to characterize those that suffered under the German occupation, and somehow made it through alive? In fact, not all of those who suffered were so inclined to bawl about it; there were also those who wanted to leave the past behind them and get on with their lives. There were those who observed their silence for their friends, and their losses, and their personal memories. But those who do bawl about the martyrs who Fell For Us, are basically saying the only good resistance fighter is a dead one, and the living must pay for their disgrace. Apart from the outright war profiteers - those who seek to control others by waving past wars at them are, however pathetically, war profiteers - I'm sure plenty of bawlers were simply traumatized human apes. (Humans are unsavoury at the best of times; trauma makes them more so.) One example being the father of an interviewed literary figure - Renate Rubinstein? - who, whenever his family looked too happy, exploded at them that he didn't have it so easy when he was a prisoner in the German camps. Another example: a history teacher in a newspaper interview emphasized how he rammed The War, and the importance of never letting it happen again, into his pupils. Like the starving Dutch population, he had been forced to eat tulip bulbs. (Which is not so safe these days, poisoned with insecticides as they have become.) And the icky taste still lingered on his tongue. So, in a one-person anti-war effort, this man used his profession as a cover for unloading his personal trauma onto a bunch of defenceless, powerless schoolchildren. That is child abuse. The War produced a generation traumatized from having been in The War, which produced a generation traumatized from not having been in The War, and being hated for that by the previous one. But of course The War justified this kind of bullying in the way that 9/11, where Those Who Fell were the people jumping out of very high burning buildings, justified the oil wars. 4&5 May weighed on me like a ball and chain. Ironically, I would have felt free once the last war survivor was dead and gone.
The sense of oppression coming from Remembrance Day and Liberation Day is not my imagination. These days were instituted to remind this country of the horrors of war, and celebrate the end of war. But war didn't end, it just moved elsewhere. Besides, as horrors go, the Dutch were lucky; in Slavonic countries, not just ethnic minorities but the whole native population was subject to ethnic cleansing. And while the Germans committed atrocities, so did the allies. Besides, Germany had anti-Nazi resistance fighters too, and WWII came out of WWI, which in turn came out of crazed European imperialism of which one country was as guilty as another. If we owe so much to Those Who Fell in WWII, how come we don't seem to owe anything to Those Who Fell in WWI and before, and why are the Germans always the blackhats when fascist movements sprang up everywhere and even rose to power in two other countries - why don't we hate Italy, for instance - and if we were safe and free now, why have I always felt unsafe and unfree? Were the people who hung out the Dutch flag on 4&5 May also anti-war activists during the wars in Vietnam and neighbouring countries? Did they protest against the nuclear arms race, especially the planting of nuclear missiles all over Western Europe? No, that was largely the initiative of the post-war generation, the hippies whose demands for social reform were the real cause of today's freedom. They are remembered as left-wing parasites (which I'm sure many of them were - but standing up to tear gas can be heroism, too) and not commemorated at all, least of all annually. The war generation produced an organization of former resistance fighters called "Stavast" ("take a stand") which was right-wing and racist, remarkably like the Germans I was taught to hate.
4&5 May are neither about the horrors nor about the end of war. They are expressions of narrow-minded Dutch chauvinism wallowing in a victim-hero role while pointedly ignoring the rest of the world. "If it didn't happen to us, it doesn't matter. But what happened to us must be branded on the souls of our children and our children's children." Of course, any stuff that happens to, or around, the children's children doesn't matter either. All that matters, as clogs and media insist every year, is to honour that little silence and produce false emotions in imitation of a generation that seems to think its feelings alone matter. It must give this generation a real sense of power, to be able to shut up and shut down a whole population for a given duration at a given time and date. And this generation must be hugely frustrated that a large part of the population exercises its freedom not to be shut down. Instead of complaining about lack of respect, maybe the commemorators should ask themselves how respectful their own remembrance days are. 4&5 May are insincere and oppressive. Yes, I know how tormented WWII survivors can feel. Ditto for plane crash survivors. The latter are seen as disturbed people who need help, the former as untouchable saints. Unless these saints really are on a higher plane of existence, they will feel tormented all year round, not just on 04-05 followed by catharsis on 05-05. And if they can't see that what happened to them is happening all the time everywhere, they are selfish. Yes, the saints are selfish. If war had really made them better, wiser persons, they would have stood up in a body against Reagan's arms race propaganda. But, with exceptions, war and other crises make people less wise and more self-interested. 4&5 May are celebrations of unwise self-interest.
Matters briefly seemed to improve. Years after the slapping incident, the 4&5 May speeches hesitatingly began to admit that wars happen to other countries too. As a student, I went to one freedom festival where the announcer was the coloured, dreadlocked presenter of "Bij Lobith", a TV programme for immigrants in the Netherlands. I didn't watch TV much but had seen the broadcast where he read aloud anonymous death threats sent by racist white groups. Do Nazi-type groups toil under the burden of guilt imposed on us by 4&5 May? You betcha not. Neither are they especially targeted; the average soft, clueless cloggie is so much easier to browbeat. One whip laid yearly across the cloggie back is Anne Frank, a teenager who died because she happened to have a "J" by her name in the registry. While hiding with her parents and some others, she kept a diary, which was full of frustration at the way she was pushed around by the grownups, and... It was recognizable, but so boring that I stopped reading halfway through. She didn't write that diary to become a cult figure and anti-anti-semitism icon. It was personal. (And censored before publication, I later heard.) No amount of Anne Frank worship has decreased Dutch racism or made the Dutch aware of Anne Frank equivalents in countries that the Dutch think must be subdued "before they attack us". As to the diary itself, my chief reaction was "so, your parents suck too". But with other ethnic groups allowed a part in 4&5 May, they finally seemed to be about peace and freedom for everyone, as opposed to just the f***ing Dutch. I thought more positively about those days since then, but have never had the urge to hang out the (glug) Dutch flag. I do learn from history. Like, what nationalism leads to.
From there, 4&5 May disappeared out of my life. War did not. UN intervention in the Balkan war: not a failed humanitarian operation, because it was not humanitarian in the first place. Injunctions not to compare this with WWII, even when the motives for violence were historical, and history was clearly repeating itself. The Gulf Wars, wars in Africa. The Ruandese genocide, whose causes stem from the West. And, most unbelievable to this date, the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, illegal, unjustifiable, on excuses so flimsy that the aggressor was clearly not even making efforts to fool the common people any more. Wars pushed by George W. Bush, Tony Blair, J.P. Balkenende and Aussie prime minister Howard. By the international legislation drawn up to stop a horror like WWII from happening again, and to ensure continued peace, freedom and safety for the world, these four - all respectable politicians heading a country - are war criminals, and so is anyone who collaborated with them. It must be said that there was protest against these wars in the Netherlands, and that a majority opposed the Netherlands getting involved. Was this majority mostly composed of WWII survivors, or of today's young people who don't respect 4&5 May, I wonder. I don't respect these dates and was fully against both wars, and never fooled for a second by the media into believing the "islamic threat" lie; yes, there is islamic terrorism, which would fall flat on its face if not continually funded and fuelled by the West. I realize this through intelligence, not by having had bombs explode over my head, or by keeping up a yearly mandatory silence. I bet a lot of 4&5 May observers have been completely fooled.
Comparisons between the USA and the Third Reich are no longer metaphor. It is now possible for anyone anywhere to be abducted, tortured and killed by Big Brother America - legally. The definition of "terrorism" has been widened to include peace activism, so anyone who actually understands what 4&5 May try to be about and has expressed that understanding on the Internet, is listed in a database as a terrorist. This applies to the USA, but obviously it's a matter of time before the USA's three proud allies follow suit. From the nineties onwards, successive Dutch governments have pushed for IDs to be carried at all time - leave your ID card at home, and be carted to jail - and Internet providers to store all electronic info generated by the users, which means the government can keep my emails longer than I can. Now that terrorism is the buzzword, the electorate is more passive and malleable than ever. Orwell's 1984 is well on the way to being realized; the date in the title was only an approximation.
Now you'd think that a country which yearly celebrates Liberation Day would be onto this in a flash. But this country also adores its Royal Family: two successive queens married to Germans (and this around WWII!) and the upcoming king married to an Argentinian (to what banana republic did those Nazis flee after the war?) The Dutch, too, have played the Germans' part, in what is now Indonesia, and have tried to keep their colonial possession under control through military violence. One cloggie deserted the Dutch to support the Indonesian resistance, and had his name in the papers years later, in a discussion whether this "traitor" should be allowed back into the country. Traitor? Wasn't his heroism what 4&5 May were all about? Shouldn't he have been guest speaker on the next Liberation Day? This was shrugged off by the Dutch population, just like the wars which continued in spite of opposition, just like the increasing invasion of privacy by the State. If you're a good citizen, you've got nothing to hide, right? Given the way one Dutch government after another has screwed the country, one need not fear abuse of personal information, need one? I mean, a government that participates in an illegal war would stick to rules where its own wiretapping practices are concerned, right? And what's this talk about a Parliamentary investigation into Balkenende's handling of Iraq? Let's not poke into the PM's back-room political activities, I'm sure he has nothing to hide.
In short, this year's (2007) 4&5 May promised to be as clueless as the preceding ones. "De Pers", a Dutch newspaper (like the newspapers that misled the readers on Iraq and the Balkan wars? - yup) produced a nice piece o' crap from a WWII sycophant who tried to explain 4&5 May to a Pakistani using the story of Anne Frank; ending in his clueless "So, she was a popular girl?" and the writer sighing: "If only she had been." First, this is the patronizing Dutch assumption of role of International Conscience: foreigners have to be explained the horrors of war. Pakistan is full of war and other horrors, thank you very much. It harbours refugee camps as a result of disguised-as-religious oil wars. Wars that the Dutch took part in! Second, a coloured person and probable moslem has to be educated on the noble Dutch stance towards war. Why not a Pole or Italian? There's many of both in the Netherlands. Thirdly, how would being popular have saved Anne Frank? Would it somehow have reversed the eternal mechanism of Them and Us, employed against Jews, moslems, communists, Serbians, Croations, Chechens, Catholics, Protestants, gypsies and so on and so forth? Would she maybe not have been killed, but kept alive as a literary souvenir? It is her present, agenda-serving popularity that makes me retch. Her diary details how unhappy she was with her parents - did she ever become an icon of parental abuse? Lastly: why does the Dutch writer not show any interest in any wars concerning the Pakistani? 4&5 May as manifestations of unwise self-interest are back. And they're bad.
But it gets worse. Given the blatant and continued Dutch military involvement in unjustified wars and the petition to have the responsible politicians investigated, you'd think Dutch responsibility for ending the horrors of war would be a big issue this 4&5 May. I couldn't find anything about that on the Internet. Plenty of advice for local initiatives to stress the horrors of our war and the importance of our freedom, though. I had the idea of painting, at the least, an aeroplane on my T-shirt with "CIA" on it, and wearing that to a freedom festival, but decided against it because, in the safe, free Netherlands, I feel too unsafe doing that kind of thing - Lonsdale types might beat me up, and this when social security is so bad. Besides, one planned freedom festival event made my stomach do a salto mortale.
On Liberation Day, in one of the big cities, war criminal Balkenende will be discussing in how far "safety measures" implemented against threats of "terrorism" which wants to do away with our "freedom" justify curtailing our present freedom. His motto: freedom is something we all make together. Oh, "we" have power to create freedom? Just like "we" had the power to stop Dutch involvement in aforementioned wars? From reports on his discussion with school pupils, it seems the Dutch are ready to throw freedom overboard for "safety". Safety and freedom are intertwined! Freedom is in large part safety from persecution and restraint; safety at the expense of freedom is a ridiculous concept. And how safe are we now? I don't even dare stay outside in my own garden when the neighbours are out, because, in ways perfectly acceptable to themselves, they will harrass me. My lifestyle is close to that of a refugee, complete with planning travelling times to avoid humans as much as possible, and making the house look as if I'm absent. For this politician who himself illegally occupies countries, to invoke an Enemy ("terrorism") to the overthrowing of which we need to sacrifice freedom, on the very day that freedom and the end of military occupation are celebrated throughout the country, is very Nazi. 4&5 May might, like commemorations of the WTC attack on 9/11, be seen as a gesture of sympathy towards the survivors. But, using the idea of an Enemy, 9/11 was used to promote war. So it is not exaggerated to say that Balkenende is using 4&5 May, instituted to warn against war, as PRO-WAR PROPAGANDA.
And the people swallow it hook, line and sinker, judging from all the Dutch flags hanging out, whether from self-interest, patriotic xenophobia or stupid complacency. They clearly don't mind their sacred dates being subverted this way. 4&5 May now mean: "yay us, yay war, sob sob nasty Germans, viva hypocrisy".
The Dutch would not understand why I shook a fist or flipped the bird at practically every flag I saw, especially the ones with an orange ribbon. They don't understand why I yelled at people, literally incoherent with rage, parading through the backward village where I live and where flags were hanging out everywhere. They think I must be mad to call them, good little flag-worshippers and war-commemorators, fascist bastards. They wouldn't understand why I say every Dutch flag hanging out this Liberation Day should have a swastika drawn on it, and everyone who participates in this travesty should have their head shaved bare. After all, despite applying the term "fascism" to everything that scares them (like "islamofascism") they are oblivious to the real thing, and easy prey to Hitlerian tactics. It's been on my mind before, but now I know it: the Dutch have no right to either Remembrance Day or Liberation Day. War survivors or not, they have no right to wallow in the hero-victim role; they themselves should bear the burden of guilt they pile on the Boche, because THEY ARE THE BOCHE.
I yelled and broke branches to avoid going to jail for breaking heads, because I felt violence was very much called for, then took refuge inside the house as always when there are cloggies around, and put on Rammstein as loud as I could; still not very loud, but who knows, the neighbours might hear, and I usually try to avoid being heard. Loud German heavy metal music on Liberation Day, proof of my Nazi sympathies, eh? Not really, as the band's singer/songwriter is from the former DDR, and his songs are dark, disturbing poetry on the less elevated side of human nature, but not Nazist. Rammstein are known, and mistrusted, for imitating the style of Leni Riefenstahl and the Soviet Communist regime in their concerts, which they explain is not to express CommuNazi sympathies, but to provoke thought. In short: they show that they know how propaganda works. Unlike the FFFF*****ing Dutch.
I still want to massacre the Dutch. They've always pissed me off, but now they're really begging for bullets. As usual, without even realizing.
Anyway, what have 4&5 May accomplished, that would make them so important to observe?
Political awareness, so that Nazism or something similar will never
rise to power again?
Knowledge of and repugnance against the trick of Us and Them? At least
repugnance against racism and xenophobia?
Awareness of the horrors of war?
Largely, no. (Especially not in Christian political leaders.)
Anger against warmongering?
No. ("War-on-terrorism", you know.)
The courage to stand up for freedom and against repression?
Laws against future power abuse?
Being unravelled as we speak. Like the ozone layer, largely gone.
Solidarity with war survivors?
Only if they're Dutch, dear. Fuck the niggers from Liberia. Oh wait, "War Child" is at the festivals too. Rescuing children from all the dictatorial regimes that our politicians hob-nob with.
I would like to hear one valid reason not to abolish these travesties and replace them with the much more appropriate Amnesia Day and Oppression Day, when the Dutch can forget their own heinous history and sew badges on the clothes of any ethnic group they love to hate. For the disgusting national anthem, I also offer a suitable replacement:
Wilhelmus van Nassaue, ben ik van moffenbloed.
Mijn vaderland getrouwe, schiet ik niet op een Jood.
Afghanen, Irakezen, ja die moord ik wel uit.
Door ooooorlog breng ik vrede en vang ik oorlogsbuit.
(I, William of Nassau, am of Jerry blood. True to my fatherland, I won't shoot a Jew. Afghans, Iraqis, yes, I'll massacre those. Through war I bring peace, and catch war bounty.)
I'd love to force the patriotic, Dutch flag-hangers to sing that, very loudly, in a performance recorded and broadcast worldwide on Al-Jazeera. Meanwhile, I'll recite part of a song by Rammstein, who do know how the world works:
Ihr senkt die Kreuze auf dem Kissen
Ihr meint, euch darf die Unschuld kussen
Ihr glaubt, zu toten ware schwer
Doch wo kommen all die Toten her?
(You lower the crosses on the pillow. You think that innocence may
kiss you. You believe it's hard to kill. But what caused all the
The Dutch should learn German. It might teach them something that 4&5
May clearly haven't.