I do not get it...

10 Oct 2006 | 427 words | netherlands xenophobia deportations

A little bit more than a year ago 11 people burned to death, locked up in a deportation prison on the premises of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. they had been locked-up there because their presence in the Netherlands had been deemed illegal by the xenophobic dutch government.

A while ago some organizations staged a poster competition that called for designs for a poster to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the blaze and today they revealed the winning design at ImagineIC (link is in dutch). while i really liked the initiative to have this poster competition i am rather puzzled by the outcome: all of the designs are extremely abstract and to be honest, i absolutely do not get the winning design:

Makes me see a Dutch flag and the words ‘sour’, ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter’. somebody better explain me what this has to do with 11 people burning to death as the closest association i have is that burned flesh does have a distinctive ‘sweet’ smell, but i am quite sure that is not what the designer had in mind.

Now one of the organizers told me that i do not get it because i am ‘a foreigner’ and apparently the the govenernement has recently described the economic situation in the Netherlands as having been ‘sour’ during the past four years and promised that from now the times would be ‘sweet’ (hint: there will be elections in about a month).

Given this the poster still does not make sense to me. my best guess is that the Dutch must see some contradiction between their national flag and the ‘bitterness’ resulting from the Schiphol blaze. Given that most Dutch people that i know seem to have chosen to ignore the transformation into a xenophobic, paranoid, racist society which their country has undergone in the last 5 years and still believe that the Netherlands (and its flag) stand for feel-good liberalism, tolerance and openness, it might very well be the case that they perceive this poster as inherently contradictory.

Now it might have to do with the fact that i was indeed raised and born in Germany (and thus ‘a foreigner’) that i see any national flag pretty much representing exactly those chauvinistic attitudes that support murderous policies carried out against foreigners all over europe. For me this poster looks like a dutch flag with some arbitrary words on it (which first made me think of the amsterdam club called bitterzoet) and i seriously wonder how many foreigners in this country will be susceptible to the presumed irony of this design.