Sunday, 20 October 2019

Ik sta achter de boeren

Recently, Dutch farmers have – rightly – started protesting against demands of “their” government that they cull their herds of cattle and pigs in order to comply with some idiot EU/UN rule about limiting emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides.

Now, isn’t government supposed to be for the benefit of the governed? All the governed? So, what benefit is there to ordinary Dutch people from these limits? None at all, I’d say. Where is the science which, objectively and without political bias, quantifies the bad (or good) effects of these emissions? And what is the loss to ordinary Dutch people (and the rest of us) if their supposedly “liberal” government is allowed to pursue these policies? Biefstuk, ossehaas, spek… I don’t need to go on.

Let’s fast backward to 1984, and Margaret Thatcher’s campaign against the UK coal miners. At the time, I confess, I was so naïve that I supported Thatcher. I did so because the miners’ union had gone beyond reasonable bounds of behaviour; and because the trade unions had run the country for most of the previous 20 years, and I was sick of it.

Just two week-ends ago, I played the tuba in my brass band in four performances of “Brassed Off.” (The stage version of a UK film set in a mining community in 1994, in the aftermath of Thatcher’s purges.) Our performances were a great success, and we, cast and band, enjoyed a standing ovation from 300+ people on the Saturday evening – only the third time I have ever experienced that.

And there’s a speech, given by the main character (Danny Ormondroyd) at the end of the play. I’ll quote two excerpts:

“Over last ten years, this government has systematically destroyed an entire industry, our industry. Communities. Homes. Lives. All in the name of progress and a few lousy bob…

“Point is, if this lot were bloody seals, or bloody whales or summat, you’d be up in bloody arms – but they’re not. They’re just men. Honest, decent, fallible men and women. And not one on ‘em with an ounce of hope left. Oh ay, they can knock out a good tune, but what the fuck does that matter? Unless they matter. Unless we matter.”

I’ll adapt Danny’s speech to where we are today. Actually, apart from replacing “progress” by “sustainability,” I don’t need to change anything but the first sentence. The second excerpt is spot on, even today. Whoever wrote it deserves a Knobble Prize for Witterature. So, here’s my opener:

“Over last thirty years and more, political governments, and the EU and the UN, have actively sought to destroy our industries and our civilization.”

Back to my Dutch farmer friends. Like the French gilets jaunes, they are under assault by the corrupt criminal gangs endemic in politics today, and they don’t like it. As yet, unfortunately, like the gilets jaunes they don’t seem to have any real idea of what they want. I have a hint for them: what they should want is for people to matter. You matter; I matter; we matter. Op mij; op ons; op jullie.

I lived in Holland for three years, 40 years ago. While my Dutch may be remedial these days, I have enjoyed the company of many fine Dutch people. And I stand with the Dutch farmers in their struggle against those that would destroy our civilization. Ik sta achter de boeren.

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