iSpy: The Securitization of Public Space

In a recent opinion piece published in the newspaper AD Haagsche Courant Henk van Essen, chief constable of the Haaglanden police department, argued that it’s perfectly acceptable for citizens to post photos, or videos, on the Internet of suspects who are implicated or involved in very serious crimes. He stressed, however, that these photos and videos should serve the investigation and that citizens should take due care. Van Essen sees no problem with this approach, arguing that if citizens employ thoughtful, analytic discretion it’s “a healthy form of citizen participation.”

Equally unsettling are the comments Van Essen made as regards privacy. “As far as I’m concerned,” Van Essen states in the same opinion piece, “the right to privacy is not an absolute right.” He continues, “[Y]ou do not have to earn it [the right to privacy] in the Netherlands, but you can most certainly lose it. For example, when you commit serious offenses and cause substantial injury to others. You, then, run the risk of forfeiting your own rights and [in that case] those of the victim take precedence.” It makes you wonder whether Van Essen has the same enlightened idea about “freedom.”

“Of course, these online videos of suspects must not lead to vigilantism,” the chief of police continues. “However, I don’t think that’s the main point. [Online] videos should facilitate the identification, detection, arrest and prosecution of the suspects.”

Van Essen’s statements come hot on the heels of various articles highlighting, in the case of the Boston Marathon bombings, the limitations of the “wisdom of the crowd” theory.

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This is the second instalment in a series of works by critical writers from (former) Dutch colonies. With this series we’re trying to create a genealogy/archive of resistance of people of colour in the kingdom of the Netherlands. The following are excerpts from chapters in a novel by Frank Martinus Arion.

from THE LAST FREEDOM by Frank Martinus Arion

Chapter 30

In September 1971 in Aruba, when he discovered that the children in the third grade simply could not follow him in Dutch, he started giving his lessons in Papiamentu. It immediately leaked out and he was asked to explain himself in one of two ways: was it a joke, or was it a mistake . . . ? “It’s a matter of principle,” he said. His name was in the paper. From then on he became one of a group of revolutionary teachers: like Stanley Brown in Curacao whose magazine Vitó had played an obvious consciousness-raising role and had helped prepare the ground for the uprising of May 30; like Freddy Antersijn who had gone so far as to tear up the photograph of the Queen of the Netherlands in front of his class; like the Surinamese schoolteacher Astrid Roemer who had refused to celebrate St. Nicholas Day with her pupils on December 5. His name got into the papers and after that it became impossible for him to get a job, as had happened with the others. First in Aruba. Later in Curacao. But he refused to let himself be ground down. He quit teaching, headed for Curacao and supported himself there by giving lessons in martial arts, which he had  practiced from a very young age, and by doing all kinds of jobs including working on the docks.
He met Aideline in Curacao in about 1973, just after she had graduated from college. He was twenty-three; she was a year younger. They married soon after, moved into a small house just outside Willemstad, and decided not to have children for the time being. They wanted to devote themselves to change, change in the official language on the island, in music, in art, in the economy and in politics.

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The Municipality of Amsterdam Taxed Jewish War Victims

The Amsterdam newspaper Parool reported today that after World War II the municipality of Amsterdam taxed and fined Jewish war victims for not paying their long-term lease during the war years. Documents in the Amsterdam Development Corporation (OGA) revealed this.

Jewish war victims were even taxed when their homes, which stood on leasehold land, were no longer there, either because they were demolished, or bombed. These were Jewish people (some of  whom had been in hiding, or taken to a concentration camp) whose houses were confiscated by the Germans, or the NSB.

Students unearthed documents indicating the retroactive taxation of Jewish war victims when they were digitizing public records, which, they discovered, the municipality of Amsterdam is set to destroy any day now. Not only did the municipality of Amsterdam force Jewish war victims to pay the long-term lease, but it also fined them for late payment. The municipality of Amsterdam came down tougher on the Jewish population than other municipalities.

Ronny Naftaniel of the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) is broadly familiar with this issue. Naftaniel is quoted saying, “Very few details are known. And Amsterdam has, to our knowledge, never set it right.” As treasurer of the Central Jewish Board  Naftaniel negotiated the restitution of Jewish assets. “We’ve settled it with the government. However, negotiations with local authorities have yet to begin.” According to Naftaniel after the war the municipality also unlawfully collected overdue dog-license fees and local tax (municipal property tax) from Jewish war victims. “The same thing happened with gas and electricity companies, which were owned by the city.”

The Dutch Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) says that there’s no academic research on this issue. In 1948 the case was briefly discussed in Parool, following a decision by the city council. The city council wants to look into the matter, and has consulted with the NIOD for further steps of action. The Association of Insurers and the National Archives have also been asked for information.


An Interview with Astrid H. Roemer by Charles H. Rowell

This interview occurred at the Bali Theater in Amsterdam, on Sunday, April 10,1988, at 3:15 in the afternoon.

CHARLES H. ROWELL: You are from Suriname and now here you are in Holland, and you have lived here for some time. Could you talk about that background in relationship to your writing career?

ASTRID ROEMER: I started writing in Suriname, where the only language the people speak is Dutch; and my family are all teachers, physicians, and civil servants, so the only way for me to express myself is in Dutch. In Suriname they speak fourteen languages, and Dutch is the official one. I started writing and was published in the newspapers there when I was twelve, so writing was just something very natural for me and being published also was normal, but I could not imagine being an author, because there were no authors in Suriname. The only professional writers were journalists. Before I came to Holland, I won different local awards, but still there was no reason for me to think that I would become a professional author. Then I came to Holland, when I was about twenty, and I discovered other professional authors; I would read about them in the newspapers here in Holland and then slowly in my mind thoughts grew about being a professional author. I liked the way the authors were reviewed and the way they were promoted and the way their novels were bought. Then to inspire me there was Bea Vianen, the first black woman to have an official publisher in Holland, because there were no publishers in Suriname.

ROWELL: You were publishing your own texts.

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The Spectre of Multiculturalism

Recently, Paul Mepschen and Rogier van Reekum, both academics at the University of Amsterdam, argued on Facebook, in response to a status update of Zihni Ozdil, that the Netherlands had never been multicultural. You can check out the thread here.

Zihni Ozdil's status update on the state of Dutch multiculturalist policies

Zihni Ozdil’s status update on the state of Dutch multiculturalist policies

Paul Mepschen's comment

Paul Mepschen’s comment

Rogier van Reekum's comments

Rogier van Reekum’s comments

Mepschen states that “the idea that Dutch society was once ‘multicultural’ is at least for a large part a culturalist myth, a rhetorical figure put into circulation by anti-immigration/anti-multiculturalist radicals that needed it to construe liberals and the left as multiculturalist.”

I’d like to take his comment as a point of departure to critique the larger discourse on multiculturalism and the research on “culturalization of citizenship,” which took form in the Culturalization of Citizenship conference in December 2012. According to the conference website, culturalization “refers to the growing importance that is attached to cultural heritage, the ‘canon’, and to emotions linked to culture and the nation such as loyalty, feeling at home, and belonging.”

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Doing away with the intruder’s languages: The Netherlands towards monolingualism

Two freshly released reports respectively from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom present alarming conclusions about the study of languages and cultures in both European countries on their way towards a single language and a single culture.

Benedict Anderson posed in his influential Imagined Communities that nationalism, despite its philosophical poverty and incoherence has a strong political power. Nationality, nation-ness, as well as nationalism are cultural artefacts of a particular kind that command profound emotional legitimacy arousing deep attachments. Language is one such emotional attachment of nationality.

The Netherlands was once a place of crossing cultures and the Dutch were renowned for their proficiency in foreign languages. But this is something of the past, when the country was neither modern nor efficient. In a rapid move toward a future that is more Orange, Dutch universities are boldly demolishing the country’s cosmopolitan and multilinguistic tradition—because the government said they had to. Or is there something else going on?

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Will the real Martin Luther King stand up?

Guest post by Zihni Özdil

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan reluctantly, and after pressure from Congress, signed a law that made every third Monday of January a federal holiday: Martin Luther King Day. Reagan himself was opposed to the idea because ‘the jury is still out on whether King was a communist sympathizer or not.’

Had Reagan known how King’s legacy would be pasteurized into market-friendly woolliness he surely would have signed the bill more enthusiastically.

We have all grown up with King’s 1963 ‘I have a dream’ speech. In that speech he focused on blatant segregation in southern states and called for racial harmony. It is no coincidence that precisely this speech later resonated among white liberals and, hence, made its way to the artery of institutionalized remembrance.

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Zwarte Piet and the Colonial Inheritance: The Roots of Dutch Racism Denial

The controversial painting “A Tribute to the Colonies” (1898) adorns the side of the "Golden Coach" in which the Dutch Queen annually rides, in her capacity as head of state,on the day in September (“Prinsjesdag”) in which she makes the annual budget public.  Painted 36 years after the abolition of formal slavery, it depicts contented black coolies humbly offering the fruits of their labors to the Queen and her assistants clad in ancient Greek attire–and a child among them gratefully receiving a book in return.  To the left, the queen is greeted by more formally-dressed and  respectful members of the Indonesian aristocracy.  Indonesian coolies bow lower behind them. Few visual images are so direct in their representation of the “civilizing mission” of Dutch colonialism and its hierarchies.  But for many, the link to Zwarte Piet remains anything but obvious.
The controversial painting “A Tribute to the Colonies” (1898) adorns the side of the “Golden Coach” in which the Dutch queen annually rides, in her capacity as head of state, on the day in September (“Prinsjesdag”) in which she makes the annual budget public. Painted 36 years after the abolition of formal slavery, it depicts contented black coolies humbly offering the fruits of their labors to the queen and her assistants clad in ancient Greek attire–and a child among them gratefully receiving a book in return. To the right, the queen is greeted by more formally-dressed and reservedly respectful members of the Indonesian aristocracy. Indonesian coolies bow lower behind them. Few visual images are so direct in their representation of the “civilizing mission” of Dutch colonialism–and its hierarchies. But contemporary debates over the painting’s significance and appropriateness as an ongoing symbol of state have remained caught up in a near-exclusive focus on its connection to the institution of slavery, allowing other aspects of colonialism’s broader social and ideological legacy to remain comfortably in the shadows.  Similar problems of Dutch post-colonial myopia are evident in debates surrounding the increasingly controversial holiday figure “Black Pete.”

Ethan Mark

Leiden University

Sifting through the countless negative, often aggressive and sometimes downright offensive Dutch responses to the Facebook Page “Zwart Piet is Racisme”—their numbers must be in the thousands by now, exploding exponentially with the arrival of December 5th, and they consistently outnumber supportive commentary by a margin of at least ten to one—one is struck by their similar and recurring pattern and structure.  Over and over, those who proclaim that Zwarte Piet is racist are told to “go back where they came from”; to “stop destroying a warm and innocent children’s holiday; and to “stop introducing racism where it isn’t.”  Particularly remarkable among them, however, are the following patterns:

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Mayor of Lampedusa: death of undocumented immigrants in the EU is a “massacre that has the numbers of a true war”

Giusi Nicolini, the Mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa has released a statement about the deaths of undocumented migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

“I’m the new mayor of the islands of Lampedusa and Linosa. I was elected in May and on 3 November 21 cadavers were consigned to me. These are people who have drowned while they were attempting to reach Lampedusa and for me this is something that is unbearable. For Lampedusa it’s an enormous burden of sadness. Going through the Prefecture, we’ve had to ask for help from the mayors of the province so as to be able to give a dignified burial to the last 11 bodies, because our cemetery has no more spaces available. We will create more spaces. But I’m asking everyone this question: how big does the cemetery of my island have to be? I cannot understand how such a tragedy can be considered normal. How is it possible to remove from everyday life, the idea, for example, that 11 people, including 8 really young women and two kids aged 11 and 13 can die all together as happened last Saturday, during a voyage that should have been the beginning of a new life for them? 76 of them were saved but there were 115 in all. The number of those who died is always much larger than the number of bodies that are given back by the sea.

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