We are the Netherlands’s dirty secret
Illustratie: Norman Lindsay
An open letter to Prime Minister Rutte, concerning his comments on the independence of the Caribbean Netherlands.
After expressing the unwillingness of the Dutch Government to provide any economic support to the Caribbean Netherlands, you felt the need to encourage the secession of these regions: “Als u mij morgen belt dat u eruit wilt, dan gaan we dat onmiddellijk regelen.” “If you call tomorrow and say that you would like to leave, then we will arrange that immediately”
First, a few disclaimers. One, this article does not aim to take the responsibility off of the Islands for their current state. Two, when I speak as ‘we’, I do not claim to represent all views present in the Dutch Caribbean, or even on my home island of Aruba, but I feel my sentiments are rational enough to speak as ‘we’, if only on behalf of those sharing my views.
Colonialism is the tie that binds us
We, the Caribbean Netherlands, are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, every one of us a full Dutch citizen and a member of the EU. We don’t need to share a language to be Dutch. Like Belgium with its half Walloon, half Flemish population, Spain with the Catalans and Basques, Canada with its English- and French-speaking provinces, or India with its several hundred documented native languages. The political unity of the European and Caribbean Netherlands is a function of history, not culture. And in our case, colonialism is the tie that binds us.
Earlier this week the city of Detroit, formerly the center of the booming 20th century American industrial economy, declared bankruptcy. Its population is over 80 percent black. One might compare this to the situation of the Caribbean Netherlands. Despite all the racism in the US, recently illustrated with the Trayvon Martin case, imagine the US central government responding with: we are not going to provide any financial support to the state of Michigan, as it is not our responsibility. However, if Michigan would like to secede from the USA we would be more than happy to facilitate this.
Misuse of power
That is what you, as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said to the Islands. And yes, there have been discussions about independence, particularly in Curaçao. There are discussions of independence in Wallonia, in Quebec, and in Catalunya (to mention a few). It is to be expected of a multi-cultural political entity. But it is our process. Yes ours, that of those who have been suppressed. It is a misuse of power for the Dutch government to attempt to rid themselves of their politically awkward colonial leftovers by insulting our pride. And we will not fall for this lame attempt. While you refuse to recognize our dignity as your equal, we are no longer your slaves, and you cannot sell us or throw us overboard when we’ve lost our value. Such are the winds of time.
And for the record: we are not poor, definitely not among the Caribbean islands, there are many poorer islands which have independence. Being part of the Netherlands and being part of the European Union benefits us. It provides our children with greater educational opportunity, it facilitates our trade and tourism industry, and it protects our shores from foreign threat. So why would we throw away those benefits? Why? Why would we want to?
Ignorant and inferior
I know you and many others see us – Antillianen, Negers, Allochtonen – as ignorant and inferior, but you will not get rid of us. We are the Netherlands’s dirty secret, its bastard children, the skeletons in its closet, the shoulders it stepped on and crushed to support a ‘golden age’ of economic growth, The Other. We are part of your nation’s history and your present. We are what the Netherlands has made us.
We don’t all speak Dutch, but it was never deemed neither necessary nor desirable to be in contact with us. Our corrupt societies blossomed under a colonial structure which considered it easier to deal with one island than to talk to all of us and establish a transparent democratic system. The Netherlands has not invested in us as part of its nation. Blame us all you want, and tell yourself that the act of colonization happened hundreds of years ago, but it also lasted hundreds of years, and I will remind you that our autonomy is less than thirty years old!
Christie Mettes is a 24 year old master student Sustainable Development at the Utrecht University, who grew up on Aruba.
op 25 07 2013 at 21:04 schreef Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus:
@Christie Mettes: (1) My “apologies by replacement” for this silly and insulting remark by Mark Rutte. He studied history but apparently did not develop a sense of history. There is one element of comfort that I can offer you: also Holland itself has to suffer Mark Rutte and his government. (2) With respect to your analysis about the situation on the Islands: you might be interested in my book (PDF) at http://thomascool.eu/Papers/PENAFC/Index.html
op 27 07 2013 at 11:27 schreef Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus:
@Christie Mettes: I read in The Guardian that Caricom wants to have compensation for the slavery in the past. See my comment here: http://boycottholland.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/compensation-for-slavery
op 28 07 2013 at 04:02 schreef ArtooDtoo:
Ayayayayai, wat een zielig stuk “zelf-medelijden text” van een 24 jarige die terug grijpt naar het kolonialisme en de arme neger…
Sinds de onafhankelijkheid van Suriname gaat het er economisch inmiddels een stuk beter dan in Nederland. Terecht gaat het economisch op onze eilanden met casino’s een stuk beter dan in de rest van de Caribean maar de hoofdmoot van dat geld verdwijnt naar Italie en niet naar Nederland. Durf daar nou eens iets aan te doen en je wordt vanzelf geloofwaardig of omgelegd. Uit een negatieve Nederlandse economie valt geen geld te verwachten. op 10-10-’10 trok Nederland de Curacaosche schuldenlast naar de nullijn en nu is het alweer helemaal mis.
Tot slot vingen de Nederlanders geen negers in Afrika. Dat deden de andere negers. Kort samengevat: De Nederlanders kochten de slaven van de negers, maar dat wisten ze al lang op de Universiteit van Utrecht. College gemist of was u typisch Antilliaans “te laat” toen dit werd gedoceert ?
op 28 07 2013 at 09:04 schreef Orlando Haynes:
No. I’m sorry. I cannot stand behind your article, mostly because it’s blatantly one-sided.
The Antilles are Holland’s bastard children. This is true. Wild and unruly teenagers that Holland has a strenuous relationship with at best. Teenagers that show nothing but contempt for the way their mother has treated them and continue to assert that they would leave and become independent if they could.
But we all know deep down that, at least some of Holland’s bastard children aren’t ready to leave the nest. But still they insist on playing the victim instead of actually growing the f*ck up and learning to take care of themselves.
A bad mother is a mother all the same. And Holland has not been all bad. With that said, it’s hypocritical to complain day in, day out while still happily sucking on the financial t*t under the guise of post-colonial guilt.
Rise above that, why don’t you.
op 28 07 2013 at 12:59 schreef Bas:
The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.
op 28 07 2013 at 15:06 schreef Ireno M. Yarzagaray:
To: Orlando Hayes and R2D2, Mettens is talking only about Aruba, not even I do know next to nothing about Curacao. There were never slaves in Aruba and we don’t have a slave history. (Verify that at the University of Utrecht) We don’t and never plan to suck on the Dutch taxpayer money (Even Geert Wilders know that), we are a proud community. We see opportunity in cooperation with Holland due to our close vicinity with South America and relationship with the US. And Holland has the best school educational system, Dutch is still our official language. We (Aruba) have one of the highest educated community in the Caribbean islands, not that we are fluent in Dutch, but we sure are proficient in English and Spanish. Yes, we do need the Dutch for education purposes and trade opportunities and yes currently we do need some economic assistance, but this was beyond our control. The refinery of Valero, our second economic pillar shut down, it will take a couple of years before we can get back to square one. But we are struggling and trying and we will succeed as long you don’t drop us at this critical moment.
op 29 07 2013 at 15:28 schreef Zytha Kock:
@Ireno M. Yarzagaray. I’m sorry that my comment is not directed at the article itself, but rather at the untruth mentioned in your comment. Aruba did have slaves, of course not as many as Curacao as there was not as much livelihood, but we definitely did have slaves and Arubans (sorry for the generalization) should stop being ashamed of this fact. If you had paid any attentions to the last attempts of the ANA (Archivo National Aruba) of informing our population you would definitely know that Aruba does have a slave history.
op 29 07 2013 at 20:08 schreef Sasha Berkman:
Orlando Haynes: Whith that said, it’s hypocritical to complain day in, day out while still happily sucking on the financial t*t under the guise of post-colonial guilt.
what are you talking about?
Ik juig het juist toe dat er steeds meer van dit soort claims komen! No justice no peace!
op 30 07 2013 at 02:22 schreef ArtooDtoo:
I concur w/ Kock, Haynes.
There definitely were slaves in Aruba though hardly from Afro African origin. As slaves the indigenous Indian population was used which couldn’t match the physical strength of a negroe which was made clear by a catholic priest named “Las Casas” whom suggested negroes as slaves instead and so started the Afro African slave trade. But once again: The Dutch never entered the African countries to capture such slaves. They were purchased from the Portugese and Arabs on Africa’s West- & East- coast by the Dutch slave merchants.
op 30 07 2013 at 09:01 schreef Thomas E:
What the fuck does it matter whether or not the Dutch captured African slaves themselves?? We transported and traded them in a sickening and repellent way, as if they were a load of dirty pigs. You are talking like the butcher who says that he doesn’t kill animals, only sells the meat. How hypocrite can you get!
op 30 07 2013 at 18:57 schreef T Voerman:
Mijn Engels is niet goed genoeg om in het Engels te schrijven, dus ik hou me gewoon bij mijn moers taal.
Ik vind het maar idioot om te doen alsof je stukken land en mensen wel kan afstoten. Alsof er iemand kan besluiten dat een deel van het land hem niet meer aanstaat en het daarom maar wegdoet? Zo werkt dat nou precies net niet. Niet met de mensen die hun land uitwillen en het onze in. Een natiestaat waarin je geboren wordt als burger is geen vrije keuze, geen democratische keuze, het is een gegeven.