Wetenschap - 7 februari 2002

Column: Liberties - a bit of give and take

Column: Liberties - a bit of give and take

From the recent media saturation of Royal wedding public-interest stories, you would be forgiven for thinking that the information peddlers have very little else to report except trivia. Interest is sometimes left out of the equation altogether! I only hope news items like the weekly league table comparing popularity of Oranje dignitaries are reported with tongue firmly in cheek. Patriotism and national pride in Holland have never seemed stronger with all the flag-waving and celebrations.

Many people in the Netherlands are able to ignore feelings of self-consciousness in favour of enthusiasm. When a lowlander relinquishes the shackles of passivity, an unshakeably cynical Englishman, such as myself, can only watch in disbelief. There does not seem to be the same unspoken need for a facade of self-control that is so ingrained into British society.

Children are reputedly brought up here with less of the constraints normally referred to as discipline. Parents may be conscientious but to intervene with their child's development is perceived to be impeding. The approach is consequently very permissive, limiting interference and, as a result, I believe children accept for themselves that there are rules they should follow, instead of having order imposed upon them. There is not therefore, the distaste for authority I have observed and regrettably been instilled with in England.

English values are traditionally based on a rigidly enforced hierarchical structure. Discipline is rewarded and politeness expected. I have been driven to pursue excellence and to strive to not only better myself but also my fellow students. This obligation to competitiveness has been observed as strangely lacking from Dutch education. There is a saying common to both the Netherlands and Japan, although the interpretation is individual to each country. It is that 'the nail that sticks up the highest will be hammered down the hardest'. In Holland, students may be reluctant to stand out and prove any superiority to others. The feudal history of the Japanese encourages people to do their best for a greater good, the 'clan' (or corporation) of which they are part, without showing up their fellow members. Perhaps it is in the interests of equality that intelligence, another unfairly distributed aspect of humanity, is not such a clear-cut method for discrimination in Holland, and indeed Japan, as it is in England.

The protests about Maxima's family show there are some very vocal exceptions to an implicit Dutch need to walk the trodden path. Still, rest assured we will have the happy couple's every move happily relayed to us in full, by the forgiving press, and no doubt there will be a few more popularity league tables yet!

David Hopkins

Re:ageer