Monday August 15. Europe Multiculturalism and public debt crisis.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 15th, 2011

My today’s NRC Dutch daily newspaper digital edition linked to a very well written article about the integration of muslim immigrants in Holland and the connection with the recent horror committed in Norway. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/world/europe/14dutch.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

The American author of this article, in my opinion, is reporting this objectively from the different segments of the Dutch society. When I read/hear Dutch journalists reporting from their posts in the USA I sense, in most cases, that they went there with preconceived negative ideas and have never been able to step outside of them to see the larger picture. In essence the Dutch, even though they travel far and wide, remain provincial, just like the majority of the Americans. Amsterdam, granted that it is a melting pot of nationalities and ethnicities, remains a big village, in contrast to other world capitals.

I like the closing sentence of the NY Times article, where the colored Dutch lady asks the question: “What is Dutch?”

I have an opinion on this that I’d like to share in this blog. When I returned to Holland in 1965 from America, for the first time since I had left in 1957, I hardly recognized the make-up of the population. And I wondered how they all would have reacted if the clock were turned back to early May 1940 when the country was overrun by the Nazi neighbors. But over the years, since, I have learned that it was a misconception that nearly every Dutchman had resisted the Nazis and if it were to happen today it would probably make little difference. I believe that the question: “what is Dutch and what is American” is an individual interpretation.

In my travels I have learned that it is so easy to break down a preconceived barrier with a smile and an attempt to reach out. I loved the reaction from the woman in Malaysia, the first predominantly Muslim country I entered, in Kudat, Borneo, when I greeted her with:  “Assalamualeikum” and her reply, with a
great big smile: “Aleikum Salem” (Peace be with you). We are brothers and sisters and we have much more in common than most of us have decided to consider.

Here in the Balkans I came to realize how much I miss the ethnic makeup of America and Western Europe. I can count on my ten fingers the Asians and Africans I have seen here.
Last week in Varna, I ran into a Vietnamese family, tourists from Berlin. I could have engaged them for hours just to lessen my graving.

The second subject is the current grave European public debt crisis. I read one opinion in the NRC, last week, that strikes a common cord with what I have observed in this blog on different occasions. That this crisis has to do with a moral degeneration in Western Europe. This reporter observes that it coincides with the steady decline, since the seventies, in Christian beliefs and the former Protestant conservatism. Buying on credit and government borrowing have gone hand in hand with these statistics.

So, there you go, fresh from my soap box.

 

 

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