Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shaking things up a bit

Every once in a while I read the op-ed by Dutch comedian Youp van 't Hek on the website of the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. I love the way he discusses high-profile events from the lowlands. He never fails to point out how narrow-minded some of the key players in those events can be, and how large egos can harm such a small country. Some of the best examples of course are the sell-out of ABN AMRO to RBS, Santander and Fortis, after which CEO Rijkman Groenink left what used to be the biggest bank of the Netherlands with a bonus of about 26 million euros. Or Dirk Scheringa who orchestrated the rapid growth of the DSB Bank through misleading credit terms for high-risk consumers. This eventually led to a massive walk-out of disgruntled customers, pushing the bank into bankruptcy and depriving the US speed-skating team from one of their main sponsors.
But one line of Youp van 't Hek, which he used in his show "Scherven" (Broken Glass), has echoed through my head for the last few days. When, during a dinner, one of his friends asks the father of another friend several tough questions, such as "Why, as a banker, do you provide credit to companies that contribute to the destruction of the planet?" or "Why do you think you are driving a high-occupancy vehicle because you have your own driver?", the atmosphere at the table soon deteriorates - but at least it shakes things up a bit.

Lately, quite some things have been shaken up considerably. First of all, the Dutch coalition has collapsed, after the coalition-parties couldn't reach an agreement on the duration of the Dutch mission in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. Personally, I am glad that the Labor Party stuck to their deadline of 2010 to pull out. In the beginning I supported the Dutch presence in Afghanistan because I believed we did a good job there (especially compared to the indiscriminate destruction by deadly US drones), but after seeing several documentaries, notably the one by Tegenlicht, or Backlight, I realized how surreal it is to go into a country as Afghanistan and think you can solve problems that you have nothing to do with. So it's better to pull out. Even decades of foreign intervention will not change the local situation, so why waste money on it. Obama's surge is just an excuse to impose a deadline by which the US can leave and say: at least we tried. In the meanwhile, the Taliban are waiting until those over-equipped and scared foreigners move out so that they can take over the country again.

But back to the Dutch coalition. It's an interesting experience trying to explain the procedure to an American: "So, the coalition parties didn't agree on one issue of their agenda, and therefore they can't cooperate anymore" - That's how much coalition parties trust each other. And now we're delivered to the mercy of the Dutch population. Unfortunately, the Dutch population has shown rather populist tendencies lately, giving the right-wing Party for the Freedom 17.4% of the votes, according to a poll by Synovate. That would give it the same number of seats in the Parliament as the Labor Party (27), while leaving the Christian Democratic Party the largest with 31 seats. I hope the Dutch people will come to their senses and realize that radicalization can't solve problems, but as our deputy-CEO said lately: "Something always comes out if you shake things up a bit."


At 8:07 AM, Blogger Aike said...

Het spijt me dat te horen... Sterkte!

At 10:36 AM, Blogger cheruchan said...

Inderdaad... Maar.. ook eens met je motto van 'shaking things a up a bit'.. :) Hang in there!!

At 2:30 PM, Blogger SeƱor said...

Dam gast... onverwacht en spijtig, maar je moet altijd eerlijk tegen jezelf zijn in dit soort dingen.
Sterkte man!

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Bram de Roos said...

Bedankt voor de steun. Ik begin langzaam aan mijn nieuwe onderkomen te wennen.

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