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Saturday, 3 October 2015

While the economic crisis might be over in The Netherlands and abroad, it seems that the mood crisis has only started “to rear its ugly head”. Perhaps exactly that is what emphasizes the real depression that we are all in.

At this moment, I am coping with having seen the picture of a life-threateningly wounded motor agent in The Netherlands.

This police agent was (seemingly deliberately) run over by a rogue truck driver, who obviously did not want to stop, when he was ordered to do so by the agent [the picture was so shocking that I simply can’t put a link towards it in this article - EL]. While the agent will fortunately live to tell the tale, his right arm was so badly hurt that it had to be largely amputated.

Uninformed readers might perhaps think that the agent had acted like one of those testosteron-laden, overly aggressive ‘coppers’ that they know from ‘reality-series’ like C.O.P.S, but that is by all means not the modus operandi of Dutch police agents. In general, the Dutch police agents are the friendliest, calmest and politest police agents that one could encounter: always looking for a dialogue first with traffic violators and (petty) crime suspects and extremely restrained in their usage of power and (lethal) force.

While people always have the unintentional habit of  softening up their past – so do I undoubtedly – I can still hardly remember individuals and small groups having used so much brutal and murderous violence against police agents and other officials in function, as sometimes happens nowadays.

Only in the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, I can recall longer periods of intense, mindless aggression against officials; for instance when squatters and football hooligans used very brutal violence against police agents, in respectively their “struggle for housing freedom” or their battles for the sake of their football club. However, those were often more or less “organized” battles between such groups and the police and hardly on-the-spot actions of individuals or very small groups of unorganized people.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to find long-term statistics about the subject of violence against government officials (for instance 50 year data), and ‘hunches’ and emotional feelings are notoriously unreliable sources of information. The following chart with data over the last three years paints a picture of slightly rising violence against officials, of which I truly can’t say that the level is strongly elevated, in comparison with ten years ago.

The number of  incidents against government officials
Picture courtesy of: De Correspondent.
Click to enlarge
Nevertheless, I would be surprised when the level would NOT be elevated, in comparison with f.i. 1995 or 2005. Can I be wrong? I can be wrong!

Too often since the great economic crisis started in 2008, police agents, traffic controllers and ambulance staff have turned into targets for overly aggressive people, who use these civil servants to vent their excessive frustrations upon.

Woe to the traffic controller or police agent, who stands in the way of the frustrated businessman in his German luxury car, the testosteron-laden youngster or the delayed truck driver on his way to an angry customer. He can become the target of a murderous attack, without even noticing it.

And that is not all...

Next to these outbursts of on-the-spot violence by individuals, the unhealthy nationalism as well as the anger against moderate politicians, other countries and the whole European Union seem still very much on the rise.

Although among professional politicians the political debate about the soaring influx of refugees is mostly held on a quite civilized level – especially when you leave the parties at the outer rims of the political spectrum out of the equasion –  this is definitely not true in other parts of society.

The expressions of disapproval, contempt and even utter indifference,  straightforward rejection or disgust about these refugees are very widespread: in the open spaces (f.i. swastikas and utterly insulting punchlines on walls of refuge centres), as well as among writers on public, online news media forums.

The opinions of many respondents to these forums are so injured, bleak and gloomy, that such respondents are nowadays known as `reaguurders’. A bad translation of this untranslatable, Dutch expression would be “bleakspondents”. And that is only in The Netherlands: one of the most tranquil, safe, wealthy and peace-loving countries in the world. Everybody who has followed the discussions and events in some East-European countries, like Hungary for instance, knows that things can be far worse overthere.

In only 10-12 years, the open, globalized and optimistical society of the end of last century has been replaced for a closed, regionalized, gloomy and introverted society. A society in which refugees are discarded like human trash by many people and in which the European Union is seen as a burden for the development of the own country or region, instead of the stabilizing and hope-bringing institution that is traditionally has been.

Extremist politicians speak with such disdain about other people and countries that one sometimes feels back in the 1930’s, while one popular pop-star cries ‘wolf’ about the – still very moderate – flow of refugees that reached Dutch shores. Populists and demagogues rule and the moderate opinion is discarded as weak and dishonest.

And on top of that, there is the suffocating influence of intolerant believers from various religions: people who judge others from their own misplaced feelings of superiority (or is it inferiority) and threaten them with fire and brimstone or, even worse, with death... Sometimes this desire is even turned into reality.

While at one hand the churches and other religious buildings run more and more vacant, the claim for power and influence –  and especially the power to judge others – of the intolerant believers is mounting to untolerable levels. Most of these people seem to long for a ‘fata morganish’ situation that has never existed in reality: their private Utopia of homogenous groups of strong, undoubting believers without adversaries and without people that just don’t buy their kind of religion. Tolerance for people with other habits and opinions is out, while ‘live and let die’ seems in fashion.

And then I always wonder: how can a depression-like crisis be over, when so many people world-wide still seem to suffer from a depression?! When there is so much distrust in society?! So little trust in our politicians and our most sacred institutions... And most important: in ourselves!

Why do governments think that almost the whole world population should be tracked and traced on the internet?! Why is The Netherlands the country with arguably the most phone and internet taps in the world, when it is also such a tranquil and peaceful country?! Why do representatives of the Dutch government make 3 billion(!!!) license plate scans per year, when the whole Dutch population is about 8 million cars (plus incoming tourists)?

What did I do wrong that my government is allegedly treating me like a suspect of hideous crimes, by tracking everything that I do and say?! These days that same government is boasting about having solved the economic crisis with their policy of mindless austerity, as well as kicking the can down the road at most national and supranational occasions. And it is bragging that we should start to spend again, as the crisis is over now.

Is it then too much to ask from my government that they simply start to trust me again?! And my fellow citizens,  of which probably around 99,99% are decent, honest and hardworking citizens? Or people that don’t have a job, but are just as honest and decent anyway?! Almost nobody of these people deserves to land in the enormous dragnet of the evermore curious and distrustful government, but yet, they do. 

And so the economic crisis might be over in The Netherlands and abroad, but the crisis in our heads certainly isn’t!

Update 5 October 2015: 

This morning I learned that the truck driver mentioned in the first paragraphs of this article had not hit the motor agent on purpose

According to the district attorney in charge, it had been proven by footage from dashboard cameras of other drivers that the incident happened unintentionally and thus indeed by accident. Although this does not change anything about the gravity of the accident and the grave consequences of it for the agent himself, it felt like a relief for me personally to learn this.

Of course, this means that my paragraphs about aggression against government officials and traffic regulators do NOT apply to this particular accident. As far as that is concerned, I am sorry for stating such in the opening lines of my article.

Yet, this does not change much about the tenor of my article, which dealt with the mood in The Netherlands being still well below par in many, many ways.