Volendam 1958, nationaal archief

Volendam 1958, nationaal archief

Dordrecht, January 29 2013

Dear people,

A happy new year to you all. And do forgive me for not keeping you informed, but there is not a hell of a lot happening as the Spanish revolution goes.

As I understand, it have been months of accusations, divisions and internal struggle. Once again, the movement seems primarily preoccupied with itself.

On the other hand, new actions and protests are being prepared. On February 23rd there will be a demonstration of the ‘United Waves’, representing the struggles for housing, public health care and education.

Also on a local level, actions continue. The platform against foreclosures is active all throughout Spain. Lately, they occupied a bank in Málaga and turned it into a soup kitchen.

Myself, I’m in Holland for the moment. And every time I’m here, back from the South, I have to get used to it. Holland is such a well organised little country, full of people who are generally decent and open minded. Aside from short periods of explosive irrationality, the Dutch prefer collaboration over confrontation. We haven’t had civil war or popular uprisings for centuries. Poverty in Holland is almost non-existent.

There is a very symbolic, almost biblical story that explains why. It’s a true story, it happened over five hundred years ago, right here in my home town of Dordrecht.

The Dutch, back then, used to be similar to so many other peoples in Europe. They fought each other over power. Left against right, democrats against republicans, guelfs against ghibellines, hooks against kabeljauws. That kind of thing. As political factions battled each other in the streets, the lord-their-god frowned upon the Dutch, for they had forsaken the covenant, their founding bond with the waters.

The water, to the Dutch, is both their most powerful ally and their most devastating enemy. It is the water, the sea, which is the ultimate proprietor of this country. The inhabitants only exert their dominion on a lease. And when the lease runs out, the water will take the country back.

As a matter of fact, they say that while it was god who created the heavens and the earth, it was the Dutch who created Holland. And it’s true. After the earth was crafted and covered with vegetation and wildlife, the lord carefully collocated all of the original tribes as he deemed fit. But when every land was divided among the peoples, the lord found that he still had one tribe left. To his personal embarrassment he had to admit that there was no room on earth for the Dutch.

“Let me make it up to you,” he said unto the Dutch, “I will give you a special treat, a challenge.” He plunged them into the shallow waters of a river delta and said, “Here, take this swamp. And show me what you can make out of it.”

Local proverbial wisdom states that either you pump, or you drown. And so the Dutch were forced to pump. They built dikes, canals, windmills. They harnessed the waters and they sailed off to trade in riches on faraway shores.

The lord looked down on them, and he was pleased. So he said unto the Dutch, “You have proven your worthiness, I shall make a covenant with you. You will be granted power over the waters and you will be my chosen people for as long as you will dutifully protect and respect this country, its dikes, and the life and liberty of its inhabitants.”

That was the covenant. And now, in the late 15th century, while the people were indulged in passionate mutual hatred, the covenant was broken.

For years all around Dordrecht the dikes had been neglected because of all the turmoil. And so one fateful evening – it was St. Elizabeth’s day – the waters rose.

Holland as people had known it was swept away overnight. Tens of thousands drowned. Hundreds of villages and hamlets were buried in the mud. Because of the flood, Dordrecht became an island. And up to this day, the old fishermen claim that when the full moon reaches its zenith, you can hear the bells of the churches over the water, the churches that were swept away by the tide.

It was only then, after all their efforts were turned to naught, that the Dutch painfully remembered the covenant. And Holland rose again.

This story has left only vague traces in the historical memory of this country, which is a shame. Not in the least because its biblical symbolism could easily apply to the present state of the planet.