by Professor Ruth O’Brien & Frederic D. O’Brien (a.k.a. Fred Schwarz, Deputy Managing Editor, National Review)
Could you get more moralistic? Don’t forget the Golden Empire, or The Embarrassment of Riches, as Simon Schama called it in a culturally sensitive and astute book that captured the character and personality of the nation. Could you get more patronizing (the key word here is patron)?
Well the Dutch could. Those supposedly blond, blue-eyed stoop-sweepers have started anew magazine, DeMoslimkrant, which might be roughly translated as the demos or citizens’ newspaper. The name of this magazine indicates that it is doing no less than re-educating the Muslims about their own society, culture, and religion.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I got informally educated quite extensively in Holland, so much so that a few people in the nuclear family speak fluent Dutch. Still, although the Nederlanders are moralistic, they are also bound and determined to make things “right.” And by right, I mean the world (think globe-turning) for sure. Not only does it pay to look at Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches, but also to take a second look at Spinoza’s excommunication, and where he was imprisoned by the Dutch.
But is a magazine-reading education ever so wrong? Well, of course that depends. As long as they are culturally sensitive, and even more importantly, as long as they are using education for real reasons (i.e. authentic), it should be all right.
Authentic education is to say not imposing the white, blond-blue-eyed’s own agenda, as patronizing behavior does. With this in mind, take a look at their columnists. Looks a lot more diverse than most American newspapers, no?
Authentic means that they cannot impose their agenda the way they did back in that good old golden 17th century. This means no state- or religious-sponsored merchants picking up spices, snatching tea, or stealing silk off any roads, mind you. Then, education — particularly public education, like The City University of New York — can be read up to 1 million strong.
Public education, particularly of the print kind, can only be a good thing. A thing, in other words, that could promote peace, tranquility through gender-free dignity (e.g. notneotribalism), and tolerance on our global colliding-social-spheres scale.
Prof. Ruth O’Brien
Since neither one of us has seen a copy of this publication, I’m not sure how much scope for disagreement there is, but if De Moslimkrant is meant to help Muslims adapt to Dutch culture, it will take some doing. Just as Islam has many strict rules governing daily life, so do the secular but moralistic Dutch, and the social pressure to conform can be just as great.
A friend who has spent time in the Netherlands provides numerous examples of the nation’s libertine-busybody ethos, in which Christianity is mocked or forgotten, drugs are openly available, and gays are universally accepted, yet neighbors go to elaborate lengths to spy on each other. Strict yet unwritten social codes abound: In a koffiehuis, you eat a single piece of chocolate, no more, with each cup; entire neighborhoods take their summer vacation at the same time; the nation sits down to dinner at 6:30 pm sharp, and if you knock on someone’s door at that hour, you are assumed to be a moocher.
This makes for something of a potential culture clash with praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, and making the hajj to Mecca. As in any nation where two or more distinct cultures coexist, something’s got to give. The two may occupy separate sectors, as in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, etc.; or they can mingle freely, with some merging of cultures and concomitant loss of cultural cohesion. The latter doesn’t seem very Dutch, but neither does the alternative of French-style banlieues.
But if the Dutch think they have a problem with people taking their religion too seriously, the solution is simple: Just adopt it as an established church, and — as in England or Norway — pretty soon everyone will ignore it.
Editor Frederic O’Brien