Today we in the Netherlands had the final of the contest of greatest Dutchman of all time. It followed the same mechanism as I saw on the UK's BBC: first collecting 100 candidates, narrowing it down to 10, doing a show on each, narrowing it down to three in the final, voting for the final three. Read on for the results and some social commentary.
(Update, see at the end of the article. They had technical problems during the voting: the real winner is William of Orange, instead of Pim Fortuyn). I haven't really looked at other countries, but I remember the greatest Briton to be Winston Churchill (agreed 100%), princess Diana 2nd (bit strange to my taste) and Brunel 3th (what? totally unexpected to me; he was a one-man-industrial-revolution, though) (correction: Brunel 2nd, Diana 3th ). I heard that Germany voted for Adenauer in a similar context. Google: yes, Adenauer 1, Luther 2, Marx 3. Why Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse, Karel de grote) wasn't included? Perhaps he wasn't technically a German. Aw, whatever.
On to the Netherlands. Three of the most well-known Dutchmen abroad ended up 10, 9 and 8: Vincent van Gogh and Rembrand, two of the most famous painters and Anne Frank, the famous Jewish girl with her diary.
The one I voted for ended up 7th: Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, the leading admiral in many of our struggles with the UK back when we were almost equal naval powers. The first war was mostly a draw, we won the second one and lost the thirth. I mean, the German Guenther Prien is famous for sneaking into Scapa Flow with his U-boot and sinking a battleship, but Michiel basically sailed into London and took the English flagship back home. You can still see that ship's stern in the "Rijksmuseum" in Amsterdam :-)
The top three is formed by a post-war socialist Willem Drees on number three. Called father Drees because he initiated a lot of social financial support measures, like a 65+ years pension. According to rumors, he was very careful in spending coins, also personally. So, again according to rumors, when the US minister Marschall visited him he was invited to his home and offered an really ordinary cookie at tea-time. "If their prime minister only offers me a simple cookie, his country really must be in need of a lot of Marschall aid". So we got a boatload of money.
Number two, who really should be number one, is Willem van Oranje, or "William of Orange". Our father of the fatherland as we call him. The nobleman who stood up to the occupying Spaniards around 1550 and was the centre figure of the Dutch rising against Spain. We won our independence after a 80-year war. One of the salient points is that we actually made a profit out of the war in the end. I mean, we were selling supplies and ammunition to the Spanish fighting us... That's probably only 20% of the story and probably false, but it's a good one.
Number one, and I'm not entirely happy with that, is Pim Fortuyn, a flamboyant right-wingish politician that was assasinated in the 2002 election campaign. That was probably the first real political figurehead being assasinated after William of Orange's death in 1584. Pim voiced a lot of popular opinion in a very, very charismatic way. It is probably good that he said it, it at least had a lot of influence on the political climate. He drew a lot of people to the voting booths that didn't normally vote. (They voted for his brand-new party a few weeks after his assasination, giving them a lot of seats in the parliament; of course this party consisted of a few reasonably good guys and a lot of morons, making a subsequent implosion unavoidable half a year later at the next elections).
As someone's reaction was at the end of the television show: we didn't choose the greatest Dutchman of all time, we chose a current political issue. I can agree with that. I'm not playing down some of the issues that were rightly raised by Pim, I however don't consider him the greatest Dutchman.
The Netherlands is a bit into big shit at the moment. A controversial film director (Theo van Gogh(film_director) ) was killed two weeks ago. Shot by a (Muslim) extremist as he was a "tad" on the critical side. He was on the critical side whatever the issue, however... He had, ironically, just finished a movie on the death of Pim Fortuyn. This probably had its impact on the election for greatest Dutchman, I guess.
Anyway, we-the-tolerant-Dutch have been busy torching (literally) a few mosques (two gone, some six with very minor damage), an islamic school (#$%&! who did that) and also a few churces (minor damage all of them). What the .... is happening here?
Killing off people is not done. We should probably apply the same torture to this killer as we did to William of Orange's killer (not pretty). "Going medieval on him" so to say.
I'm a Christian and I'm quite often on the recieving end of "common opinion" here in the Netherlands. Some churches out here are seen as extremists (just for thinking strange thoughts, hurting not even a fly). Probably all christians are seen as half-morons. I mean, they're unscientific! They're old-fashioned! And, most importantly, "religion can only lead to extremist violence", as they say... I don't care to count the amount of times I've had to defend myself, as a christian, for that horrible episode called the crusades. Or the north-Ireland conflict. Actually quite a lot of people equate "faith" with "dangerous idiots" and "intellectual dimwits".
The muslims out here probably have the same problems. Plus the added benefit of having a significantly higher crime-rate. Plus drawing significantly more on the social security financial support system. Plus being foreigners and thus easy targets. Ouch, they're having a much harder time than me. And the big, big, big majority is doing OK and not harming a fly. They're to be admired for it. They are hurt just as much by an extremist that kills. I really liked the sign "don't kill in my religion's name" at the demonstration after the killing.
One thing that's not taken into account: the muslims out here are facing an almost bigger de-churching than the churces themselves. "De-churching" is probably not the English term for it, but it means that people are leaving the church (or the mosque) in droves.
We could use a prayer or two.
update: A market research firm did a poll this morning and found out that William of Orange was in fact way more popular than Pim Fortuyn. And this evening it turned out that also a lot more people voted (by telephone) for William than for Pim, but that many of those votes weren't counted as the computer couldn't handle the amount of traffic. And they agreed beforehand to only count the votes that came in during the show. Wonder how they'll resolve this, I get the feeling a lot of people aren't happy this way.
update 2: They're not going to change the official standings, but they acknowledged that William of Orange would have won easily if the hardware would have been up to the task. In the final count, William got 160000 votes in the last 15 minutes of voting and Pim 130000, a difference of 30000, while William only needed 3000 votes to take the lead.
For me, William has won.
My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.
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