The last blog of the year and at the very last moment. It was my plan to write on the plane to the Netherlands but it didn’t happen, flying is not my favorite thing. In ever smaller seats, knees beside my ears, eating a lousy meal with knife and fork from the elbow, movies with commercials – no fun really. For my seat, ‘very nice situated on aisle’, I had to pay 25 dollars extra, only the seats in the rear were ‘for free’. Mr. KLM became Mr. thrifty. The phrase ‘for free’ didn’t go down very well, after all I paid a lot of money for my ticket. And the service, ah well, the service… Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. This time I was not. The steward was probably used to working in a kindergarten and didn’t realize yet he was in a different situation now. No, compare that to the old days I thought, because the grandpa-like quite often think about the old days. The old days, in this context is about more than 30 years back, when I flew to Indonesia the first time. The cheapest ticket, 32 hours flight with stops everywhere, was 2200 guilders. Allowing for inflation that would be € 3000,– now. What I paid was less than a third of that amount. We want a lot so quantity goes before quality, and not only when we fly. That, with the diminishment of quality, the quality of life also diminishes.., ah, at least we have a lot of it.
The Netherlands; since my mother isn’t there anymore, it’s different. No reason anymore to speed from the airport to Amersfoort, no quick first visit, still sleepy from the flight, to bath myself in happiness. A center in every visit is no more. Panta rei. But celebrating Christmas here was good, about new years eve I’m not so sure. It’s just a manmade, invisible threshold, nevertheless it always evokes saudade and a mild sadness in me. The inevitable looking back, seeing much that was beautiful and good; all that went wrong or got lost comes to mind as well in a pregnant way. New years eve, not to make it into a threshold but a milestone, a monument in human size, till here we made it together… I’ll do my best.
I arrived the day before Christmas and at customs, in the shops at the airport and in the train everybody was so nice I noticed, maybe a bit because of the crew on the plane, more because the media show an image of the Netherlands that is not too pleasant. With all the moaning and nonsense in my home country, with all the war and disaster that flood the world, it’s easy to forget that most people want (to be) good and better. The language of intolerance is the same all over the world, it’s usually not the language people use among each other.
Usually not, but how for heavens sake is it possible that someone that doesn’t do anything but sow hatred becomes politician of the year? I thought that politics had something to do with (decent) governance but it turns out to be a game one can win with a rude mouth, content is of no importance. I don’t even want to consider that they did look at what the guy says. Hatred and frustration must come out of his ears but I think that his introduction of a sticker of hatred is well planned. Political gain at the cost of others, it was rewarded with the title politician of the year. What are you in the first place, a human being or….
In Indonesia pluralism is under pressure. Most people still agree with the words that ‘there is one God who has many names’. A minister of religious affairs states that ‘he doesn’t want to force people to embrace a certain religion, he only wants to inform them about the right religion’. A few hundred shia’s live in camps since they were evicted from Madura Island. Building a church is more and more difficult. Politicians enrich themselves and keep the people busy with problems that are no problems at all. Based on a imaginary identity, tolerance goes down the drain. What are you in the first place, a human being or….?
What are you in the first place, a human being or an entrepreneur? A rhetorical question.., I thought. We were talking about the manufacturing of all sorts of things, from clothing to electronics that is done in the Far East and about the mines in Africa. In how far should ordering parties care about working conditions at their suppliers?
A factory that just collapsed, weeks of more than 80 hours, salaries that equal a lousy tip, child labor and workers that can’t take it anymore and take their own life. ‘It’s the task of the entrepreneur to maximize the profits’, says R., ‘they can’t be bothered with these sort of things.’ With all the efforts R. makes to raise his kids to become responsible members of society, and he does make a real effort, he forgets that a world in which being human comes second is unlivable. What are you in the first place, a human being or…?
For the coming year I wish myself and all of you that we can put our humanity in the first place, if I want to know myself a little bit tolerance and compassion for the other are included. If our actions are in accordance with our words, it will be a good year. And that’s what I wish for you, a good and happy year.