... in netherlands

Election Day (2017)

15 Mar 2017 | 435 words | elections politics europe netherlands

As i am writing this i am on a flight from Strasbourg back to Amsterdam. At the same time people back in the Netherlands are voting in one of the most contested elections of recent memory. There is a real (although increasingly unlikely) chance that the xenophobic, populist and anti European PVV of Geert Wilders will become the biggest party and that the rest of the political spectrum will splinter into 15 or more parties. The dutch elections are seen as a first test for the future of a united and democratic Europe, to be followed by the French presidential elections in a month where the Front National is currently leading the polls.

Much has been written about how this is due to fact that much of the populations feel ignored, left behind and threatened by immigrants and other outsiders. Looking out of the window of the plane this is somewhat hard to reconcile with the landscape passing 8000 meters below. The regions between Amsterdam and Strasbourg (Alsace, Luxembourg, Limburg, Brabant, South Holland) are some of the richest and happiest on earth. You can see that from above, the fields are lush and green, the tractors draw their GPS guided straight lines across the landscape, the roads and other infrastructure are well maintained, the dutch waterworks proudly face the expanses of the North Sea and the villages and small towns are orderly clusters of individuals houses, surrounded by patches of lawn and other greenery.

To anyone who has ever looked out of a plane window when flying approaching airports in South America, Africa, the Middle East or Southeast Asia this will look like paradise. There can be no doubt that Europe is one of the most fortunate places on earth and there can be no doubt that we have the resources not only to support those who have the privilege to be born here but also those who are looking to come here for a better future.

The political crisis that we are facing and that is driving much of the electorate into the arms of xenophobes and populists like Wilders and Le Pen is clearly not the result of resource scarcity. Instead it is a crisis of resource allocation. The fat, rich landscapes passing below us can easily support many more than just the lucky few that are already here. As Europeans this requires us to understand that we need better, fairer ways of sharing our collective wealth…

Meanwhile in the seat next to me: VVD MEP Hans van Balen reading the biography of his party leader and most likely election winner Mark Rutte.

Tiger mothers without claws

07 Sep 2012 | 207 words | education mediocrity netherlands

One of the most annoying aspects of the Netherlands is the profound love this society has for all things mediocre. this expresses itself in a large number of proverbs that warn against being not normal or raising your head above the ground-level.

One of the most unfortunate results of this cultural trait is what is known as ‘zesjescultuur‘ referring to the 6 points out of 10 that you need to score in an exam to pass, which are generally considered to be the optimum result of an exam since achieving any more points would require more work (and result in an undesirable deviation from the norm).

To me it is one of the big mysteries of this country how it can be that pretty much everyone agrees that the ‘zesjescultuur’ is bad and shameful and still nothing seems to change. Yesterday while sitting in a coffee shop (the starbucks type) i noticed this cover of the weekend women’s insert of the Telegraaf daily wihc effetively eradicates all hope that this will ever change:

Turns out that all the Tiger-mothers of the Netherlands aim for is that their kids score ‘better than a 6’. Guess it is time for some kind of ‘real tiger mothers’ stamp of approval…

Can someone please throw that PVV dude out of the overland bus?

10 Feb 2011 | 397 words | politics netherlands xenophobia

So apparently this idiot has fielded the idea that hijab-wearing women should be banned from using overland public transport and that the police should be tasked with removing women who wear the hijab from public transport (you can see the exchange on national public television here).

Now obviously this is a completely idiotic idea (which goes further in discriminating specific population groups that the treatment of blacks in apartheid south africa Ot the treatment of african-americans in the US before 1968) which is obviously in line with the fundamental principles of post-war Europe, but it is still kind of scary. It is people like Louis Bontes on whom the current dutch government is dependent for it’s majority. That is a sad state of affairs that probably says just about as much about the moral-integrity of PM Rutte and his cabinet as it says about the delusional ideas of the PVV.

What is striking about this latest proposal is that it does not even make sense by the PVV’s own rationale: Their last high profile intervention regarding the hijab, the idea to introduce a tax for women wearing the Hijab in public, still made some degree of sense (if you buy into their idea that the only reason why women wear the hijab in public is because they are forced by their husbands/fathers to do so to signal their ‘inferiority’). Of course that is utter nonsense, but in this scenario you could possibly argue that slapping a tax on this behavior would hurt the family income and as a consequence might make the men reconsider their behavior. Reasoning along these lines enables the PVV to package their xenophobic ideas and proposals as proposals aimed at promoting equality and freedom.

Now banning hijab-wearing women from public transport does not ‘promote equality’ no matter how you look at it. It would simply deprive Hijab wearing women from using public transport. This is clearly something that increases inequality and constitutes discrimination plain and simple. There are laws against that (for good reasons) and it is a shame that the current government does not realize (they probably do, but apparently they do not have the courage to take the consequences) that by playing their stupid ‘we have agreed to disagree’ game they are undermining the basic principle that all human beings are equal and should be treated as such by their governments.

For some there was too little terrorism this Christmas...

26 Dec 2010 | 339 words | journalism netherlands security terrorism

Xmas is almost over and unfortunately (for the news-media) there have been no instances of (attempted) terrorism this year (well that is no terrorism in the west, since bomb attacks in pakistan do not diminish the well being of us westerners). one of the entities suffering from the absence of terrorist activity is the website of the german weekly ‘der spiegel‘.

Instead of reverting to publishing ‘the 10 most … of 2010’ lists spiegel online descended like a vulture on the arrest of 12 somalis that were accused of planning a terrorist attack in the Netherlands. As usual no weapons or explosives were found, which makes you wonder how these people could have possibly been capable of carrying out an attack in the immediate future. My prediction: all of them will be released or turned over to la migra before the end of the year.

While this arrest made headlines on spiegel online (one of those +++ EILMELDUNG +++ boxes) it hardy made it to the top of any news-media here in the Netherlands (for example it is completely absent from geenstijl.nl which usually jumps on anything violent and/or related to migrants). today, a day after the arrest spiegel online is forced to run an article in which it reports that the first 5 of the 12 suspected somalis have been released from custody (surprisingly no evidence has been found for them being terrorists).

Now this would not be spiegel online if they would not use this article to continue making completely baseless insinuations directed at the somali community in the Netherlands. This culminates in the following sentence which runs afoul or pretty much every journalistic principle i am aware of:

DE: Insider rechnen damit, dass einige von ihnen Verbindungen zu Extremisten in der völlig zerrütteten ostafrikanischen Heimat haben könnten. / EN: Insiders expect that some of them [PK: somalis living in NL] could have connections to extremists in their completly torn east-african country.

I really love the combination of unidentified insiders who expect that someone could have connections…

Beyond City Limits

Kimon pointed me to this impressive article by Parag Khanna in which he argues that (mega)cities are slowly emerging as the dominant international actors replacing nation states along the way. His article titled ‘Beyond City Limits’ is well worth a read and a refreshing take on the subject of urban growth.

Ever since the publication of Mike Davis’ ‘Planet of Slums‘ in 2006 contributions to the discussion about this subject seem to have deteriorated to become a constant stream of repetitions of the observation that since very recently ‘more than half of the worlds population is living in cities’. In his essay Khanna examines what this development means on the level of international relations and politics. One of his most interesting observations focusses on the relationship between urban centers and international borders:

Instead, [Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo] seem to be headed toward division, with the new borders following and surrounding the main cities that are their gravity points, like Juba in South Sudan and Kinshasa in Congo. Or perhaps borders don’t need to change at all, but rather melt away, so long as locals have access to the nearest big city no matter what “country” it is in. This is, after all, how things really work on the ground, even if our maps don’t always reflect this reality.

One other passage that caught my eye (given today’s news it seems very appropriate to examine relocation options) is Khanna’s praise for Doha (a place that i will have the opportunity to visit next month):

Already the result in the Persian Gulf is something truly new, as a once-barren cultural zone features increasingly global melting pots like the Qatari capital of Doha, where residents hail from more than 150 countries and far outnumber the locals. If these new five-star hubs play it right, they could convince Westerners to give up their citizenship for permanent homes in a friendlier, tax-free environment.

go read the full article here.

WTF? Area secured by DNA spray

06 Feb 2010 | 348 words | amsterdam cycling netherlands security urbanism

Thursday night when cycling home from the north i spotted this sign on a lamp pole at the beginning of Ferdinad Bol straat close to where i live:

Area secured by DNA-SPRAY – the police

I am not even sure how many things are wrong with this sign, but here are a few that went through my head after i had taken this photo:

  1. how the fuck to you secure an area with a (DNA) spray? does it randomly spray something on people that are deemed to be a threat to security? or do they mix something into the air that makes people behave more securely?
  2. who’s DNA is it that is in they use for this spray? isn’t your DNA private? how come the cops have someone’s DNA to spray around with?
  3. if this is where the DNA spray area starts, where does it end? so far i have not seen any signs that mark the end of the secured area. what if i am not interested in their security and their DNA how can i cycle around the area then?
  4. and most importantly, who the fuck has asked for this? i for one do not want no DNA spray on my daily cycle route to work which as far as i can judge was plenty ‘secure’ even before they started messing with this. and why was there no public discussion of some sorts about this?

After a bit of googling it turns out that the signs are a rather blatant lie. apparently the police and the borough have decided to install spray installations in a few stores that can be used to mark robbers with some kind of substance that is encoded with a unique id of the store. apparently this substance is really hard to get of your body and can be made visible with UV light for a long while. Pretending that this scheme somehow secures ‘the area’ is as much bullshit as calling a spray with an embedded ID ‘DNA spray’. Rather pathetic that the cops get away with this kind of bullshit…

Apparently the Dutch do not understand the internet...

02 Dec 2009 | 257 words | netherlands social media stupidity

So there is this theory that while technology progresses to produce ever more intelligent technology most of humankind are actually loosing intellectual and cognitive capacities as a result of their dependence on these technologies. The obvious example of this is the proliferation of GPS navigation devices that has resulted in most people loosing even the most basic navigation skills (like finding the way to the next coffee-shop).

The 2009 end of the year zeitgeist that has just been published by Google contains even more proof for the inverse relation between technology and cognitive capabilities. Lets take a look at the 10 most popular search terms for the Netherlands:

Eight of these are the names of websites without their respective top level domain endings. Guess this means that the majority of the Dutch internet population is either too stupid to remember TLDs or to lazy to type them into the browser bar. Both explanations do not necessarily shine a good light on the cognitive capacity of those using google.nl.

Even more worrisome is the fifth most popular search term (‘google‘). Not sure how to interpret this (extremely bad short term memory? boredom that results in the urge to get lost in endless feedback loops? …?). The third most popular search term (‘online’) seems to fall in almost the same category. Apparently people are not realizing that they are online when they have access to google. And in case you are done finding you favorite website whose URL you cannot remember you can always talk about the weather (#6).

Parallel infrastructures

Over the last year or so Sara (together with Suzanne Valkenburg and Eefje Blankevoort) has explored the world of vacation parks in the Netherlands. Many of these parks that had originally been designed for dutch families to spend their summer vacations have – over the years – attracted new types of temporary and permanent residents: Kenyan athletes competing for price money in dutch running events, Afghani refugees, African agriculture students, Dutch drop outs and polish contract workers and their families. Slowly these vacation parks have morphed into an almost invisible buffer zone, assigned to those people that mainstream society attempts to keep out of sight.

The website www.beloofdeland.org (‘het beloofde land’ (‘the promised land’) is the name of one of these parks) documents 5 of these vacation parks through video, text and photo’s, contrasting their current status with archival material from times when these places where the unchallenged territory of families on vacation. Installations based on this online documentary can be seen in the context of the Made in Arnhem exhibition (from 12 september until 25 october), in the Open Air Museum Arnhem (inside a 1950s vacation house by dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld – from 13 september until October 27th) and in De Verdieping in Amsterdam (from 26 september – October 4th).

Yellow suzuki swifts issued to polish temporary workers by their temp-working agency ‘Exotic Green‘ in front of vacation homes in Patersven/Zundert (foto: Suzanne Valkenburg).

Ups and Downs in english

The English translation of the Ups and Downs report on the Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, film and games is out [thanks Natali!]. You can download the 130 page report written by a research consortium formed by TNO, SEO & IvIRon the IVIR website [pdf].

I have mentioned the report (commissioned by the ministry of Economic Affairs, the Justice Department and the ministry of Education Culture and Science here before [first thoughts, popular science edition] and as far as i am concerned it is well worth the read… [thanks Natali!]

The first world catching up with the third

19 Feb 2009 | 53 words | energy modernity netherlands lights

While cycling along the Keizersgracht this morning i noticed that a number of the buildings now use CFL lamps for the outside illumination:

CFL lightbulb in a lamp on the outside of a building on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam

Looks like the first world is starting to play catch-up with the third world.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: