Non-victorianism struck me most in Holland…

Free charge point for electric bikes

Free charge point for electric bikes

Holland is still very busy, crowded and buzzing. Traffic and people everywhere; the center of Amsterdam is so touristy, it is hardly Dutch anymore. The green lands between the built up areas are still very pretty, green, wet and sometimes covered in trees. The water management with its dikes, locks and mills is impressive as ever. My friends and relatives were warm, welcoming and eager to talk and catch up. The food is good and is probably the main reason, together with the extensive use of push bikes, that Dutch are still the tallest people in the world…. and much slimmer than Yanks, Aussies and most other Europeans. The broad introduction of electric cars and bikes and solar panels is very different from Australia. As is the general attitude towards renewable energy.
But after 13 years Down Under it is the freedom of expression, the diversity of the press, the complete acceptance of gays and lesbians, the sensible approach of issues like drugs, prostitution, refugees and terrorism that struck me most. Those values are still completely embedded in the society.
Liberalism in its pure, philosophical, sense exists widely in the Dutch society, and is very rare in Australia.
media_xl_1365369Six printed national daily newspapers provide a diversity of news accommodating the entire social fabric of the nation. Compare that to Australia with only one national newspaper, the rightwing Australian. 15 parties in the lower house… leading to necessary coalition negotiations after every election to form government; governments which necessarily are humble and prepared to negotiate. In Australia the two main parties do everything to keep others out of parliament: the greens got 9% of the votes, not even 1% of the seats in parliament. In Australia parliamentarians are simply against ‘the other side’; in Holland you have to negotiate about everything ‘with the other side’.
The Dutch parliament, residing in The Hague, is still called 'Staten Generaal', states general. It was established by the United East Indian Company to work together in trade, to compete with other nations.

The Dutch parliament, residing in The Hague, is still called ‘Staten Generaal’, states general. It was established by the United East Indian Company to work together in trade, to compete with other nations.

Holland negotiates, always seeks to find consensus, a system called the ‘polder model’. That attitude has its roots in the history. The political system in Holland is not based on structures set up by nobility and ‘the wealthy’, as is the case almost everywhere else, but by tradespeople working together (United East India Company) and the population fighting together against the water. The Amsterdam ‘Beurs van Berlage’ was the first stock exchange in the world, and established to allow ordinary people and governments to buy shares in the country’s trading companies!
I am happy to be back home, back in Australia. I have found a new ‘motherland’ here, because of its many lovely features, one of those being so very insignificant, almost non-existing to the rest of the world. Or at least very far away. And I like the space, the people and the nature.
But more than before will I miss the feeling of freedom, of sensibility and relative tolerance. I’m back in a country without free press, with a political system that is among the worst in any parliamentary democracy and based on very right wing concepts: the labour party here is more conservative than most conservative parties in Europe.
I’m back in a Victorian country and have to accept that. I do.
But I deeply miss the freedom of The Netherlands.


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