Back to: HOME

In this "column"


I try to create a link between Australian situations and  values and comparable situations or values in Europe. No offense is meant when I  try to be critical. Just some - at times  - provocative thoughts with  the invitation to look at things from another perspective.


I would very much appreciate comments! Click on the "Jouw Reactie" menu item. Dutch or English - no worries!

Your comments - as long as they are not rude or abusive will be placed with the relevant item.

Some observations.

The "traditional owners".

This weekend - at the start of our Rotary District Conference - and not unlike many other official events in Australia - the MC paid tribute to "the traditional owners of the land". In this case it concerned the Worimi people - a nomadic tribe that lived on the North Central Coast between Port Stephens and Taree.

While listening to this a thought came up, which I would like to share and for which I invite comments. The country I lived in - the Netherlands - was populated for thousands of years by a tribe called the Kaninefaten. (modern spelling Cananefaten).  A nomadic people that made a living in  the marshes and sand dunes near the delta where the Rhine and Maas rivers flowed into the North Sea. In the first centuries AD the "low lands" were occupied by the Romans who treated the traditional owners like slaves. Then the Romans were thrown out and for a number of centuries the land was occupied by German tribes. After that there were not many  traditional Kaninefaten left...  These German tribes  were followed by the Spaniards, the French and even the English had an unsuccesful go at it, like the Germans not too long ago.  The current population of the Netherlands is a mixture of all the tribes and nations that ever occupied the country with a fair bit of recent import from all over the world. But no one in his sound mind will ever  "pay tribute" to the traditional owners: the Kaninefaten. That is just history as the Dutch live now and they all try to be one people. That is enough of a struggle as it is. Just like in Australia.

All through history countries have been colonised, occupied, conquered and liberated again. Territories changed hands, sometimes often, sometimes only once or twice. The Worimis and all other tribes in this beatiful country should realise that today they are Australians. That some "other" Australians have made mistakes in recognising this fact is another thing - just like the prejudice and struggle around recognising other - imported - cultures that came to Australia more recently. History  and cultural heritage are great goods and should enrich the way of life for all Australians. It is part of our common culture. But "paying tribute" is stressing the differences instead of recognising what we have in common and is keeping people apart more than bringing them together.

23 March 2009.


To honour the King of Spain.

Tradition is fine but the Dutch take it - in my humble opinion - too far when, in their National Anthem they  sing that they always have honoured the King of Spain. This goes back to when after the death of Charles V  in 1558 the Netherlands - at the time seventeen provinces including what is now Belgium - were inherited by Phillip II. Phillip liked Spain of which he was King amongst other responsibilites - better than the cold and windy low lands and left it to a governor to look after the Dutch. And these Dutch were quite a hand full at the time because they had recently discovered Martin Luther and his Reformation. The King of Spain and his vassal Alva were more inclined to follow Rome and organised an Inquisition that cost the lives of many Protestants.

Freedom of religion was at the root of the Eighty Year War  (1568 - 1648) that separated the Netherlands from the declining Spanish Empire and it were the Oranges (William I and his successors) that led the rebellion and were - eventually - crowned as Kings of the Netherlands.  The National Anthem - with the name "Wilhelmus" contains a declaration of faith of Willem I in which he justifies himself and his followers for the rebellion against the tiranny of the Spanish emissaries. Hence the "I have always honoured the King of Spain... but ...".

May be it is time for a new Dutch national anthem - may be one that recognises the national culture in a greater Europe in a more contempory fashion! Although.... there are a lot of Dutch retirees buying houses in Spain these days.,,.., and after the Franco era Spain now is a Kingdom again...

24 March 2009.


Easter Road Toll

Why not "double demerits" all year round - or just the normal demerit system over Easter and other Public Holidays? Are the casualties over Easter special... ? Are there any more people killed during public holidays than on "normal" weekends - or likely to be killed or injured? Most likely the number of accidents with injury or death during long holiday weekends will be less than on other weekends because of the slower speed, not because of the demerits incentive but because of the road congestion. It would be interesting to do a study on this subject.

May be it would be better to increase sanctions (including demerits) for some offenses that contribute significantly to the road toll in general - and not only on public holiday weekends: drink driving and speeding on single lane country  roads. On the other hand the max. speed limit on dual carriage ways and motorways should be increased to 120 km/hour. European road toll statistics prove convincingly that motorways are the safest roads.

At the same time the  limitation for L and P platers to 80 km/hour should be abolished as - especially on motorways - this gives rise to extremely dangerous situations. Most accidents on motorways can be traced back to a significant difference in speed between two vehicles travelling in the same direction. When someone driving with 110km/h suddenly is confronted by another vehicle travelling 80 km/h this may cause unpredictable reactions, like overtaking without properly checking for other traffic, sudden braking that can surprise followers and other dangerous manoevers. And... L and P platers should get used to travelling with 110km/h on a motorway anyway.....

13 April 2009


I have always admired the courage and the altruism of the tens of thousands of soldiers that were prepared to fight - far from home and their families - for the freedom of others and give their life for that cause. On the other hand... I have never been able to fully understand their motivation. A lot of them had to; forced by draft legislation but the volunteers must have been attracted by the adventure and the opportunity to see something of the world as well as their indignation about the wrongs suffered by others. "Going to war" is more understandable when your own country, town, home is invaded by an enemy force. To defend your own freedom, family and possessions is far more logical than trekking across half the world to fight in a strange land.

Remembering the heros of these wars, being silent for a few moments every year and to think about what you would have done in the same situation is a good thing. Not so good is the glorification of war and violence as  a means of solving disputes that seems to gain more influence in the ANZAC rememberance experience. In whatever way you look at war - and certainly looking at the "Great" War - in essence it was a savage, senseless slaughtering of simple soldiers that were hardly aware of what was going on. Tens of thousands  of soldiers  were sent to a cruel death by vainglorious generals, directing the war far away from the mud and filth of the front. And it still happens. And today it even happens for far more controversial causes. War should never be glorified, certainly not when remembering the sacrifice of innocent pawns to satisfy the greed and vainglory of a few untouchables.

20 April 2009.