The shipwrecked society

Renaissance painting of a ship in a storm

Imagine that you’re a French Hugenote Christian, running from the religious rage that consumed the Catholics. Or if you love watching Vikings, consider yourself as a Frankish or Frisian farmer looking for fertile soil to grow crops to feed your family. Or how about imagining yourself as a Jewish teenager in the 1930’s, fleeing from nazi cruelties. Even if that is all too far fetched, at least think about what it would be like to emigrate to Australia, New Zealand or Canada just as many Dutch farmers did after the war. If you were one of them, how would you feel if people condemned your pursuit of happiness talking like this?

– “Almost 500 refugees drowned trying to cross the Mediterrean Sea in a floatable raft.”

– “Good riddens!”

– “Too bad still some people survived, now they expect us to feed them and take care of them.”

– “Ka-ching! We just saved paying for 500 social security payments for the next 50 years.”

News channel RTL Nieuws closed down the comment after the last post and RTL Nieuws columnist Roelof Hemmens condemned the comments made (original column in Dutch).

My home country has always been a point of destination. Since the large emigrations in the early Middle Ages, people have been arriving and settling here. In the Netherlands, it’s relatively easy to pursue your happiness and it’s no surprise we’re one of the most happy people roaming the earth. Recent years have shown that our happiness may only be skin deep. The recession reveals our lack of experience with challenges and difficulties and we seem to have trouble facing them confidently. Fear is governing us.

But that is not all. You may know Dutch people as direct people, almost to the point of being blunt or rude. It’s because of our segregated society that we’ve been free to do so. You only worked, lived and married likeminded people, so nobody’s getting hurt when a catholic makes fun of a protestant, or the other way around. Every group had their own schools, their own churches, their own radio and television broadcasters and their own politic party. We used to be proud of our pillarized society and if you put it that way it evens sounds pretty dandy. But really. The religious pillars in our society have vanished, the segregation is the same.

Today, the problem only gets worse. With the blunt debate moving from the seclusion of living rooms to the open space of social media networks, it becomes a poison. When you express yourself so unrespectfully, so immorally, it is no longer just your opinion. Your words become a weapon. A weapon that hurts other people. But the worst thing is, your opinion becomes a weapon targeted at the foundation of the world you so desperately try to protect from those you demeaningly call fortune seekers.

It is not the economical and political storm surrounding us that is threatening our country and your prosperity. Something rotten has infected the ship called ‘Dutch Tolerance’ long before. If we ignorantly close our eyes for what is happening, the African boat refugees are not the only ones drowning.

Day 12 Writing’s 101 prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

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4 thoughts on “The shipwrecked society

  1. A very powerful post and I like the way that you have drawn the parallels with history. Perspective is something we can often lose. And yes, I think many of us are drowning if we don’t pay attention. And learn.

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