Sunday, 11 June 2017

Look on the bright side

In the western parliamentary political system the democratic process is more important than winning. After an election the party or combination of parties who have a majority in parliament form a government.
This process guarantees a peaceful transition of power and a continuation of the democratic system.

In a mobocracy (or mob democracy) only winning is important.  The democratic process is followed if it leads to victory. If the process does not lead to victory, the mob is unleashed to bring down the majority party or coalition.

Mobocracies and psychic epidemics (Carl Jung) are intertwined. The mob is so mesmerized by a leader or an ideology that anything is permitted to gain and retain power.
In the interbellum years the mob was unleashed to kill, abuse and intimidate in violent street demonstrations.
The images of the Nazis marching in Germany are nowadays chilling, because we know what happened afterwards. The German mobocracy led to Auschwitz.
At the time, tens of millions cheered. The Nazis were seen as idealists who were going to change the world for the better.

The mob is stupid, it has to be led, told what to think and do. There are no individuals in the mob. There is no real discussion. The mobbies just bleat in chorus: platitudes and one liners that they have memorized.

Nowadays the mob still uses violent street demonstrations to intimidate. See the black bloc Antifa in California.
However, it also has two new weapons: abuse and intimidation on social media and the perpetual hysteria of the mainstream media that needs titillating stories 24/7.

Jeremy Corbyn is trying to turn the UK into a mobocracy. I read that Jews are worried.
I say, look on the bright side. You have somewhere to go.

The other future victims of Corbyn and his thugs have nowhere to go.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoA5Cz1aisg

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Children are our future

It is the mid-1980s. The couple who were our two best friends bought a house in a cheap neighbourhood in the east of Amsterdam. Like us they had two young daughters.
The man was already an important figure in the local Labour party. He was instrumental in having a small playground built not far from their house.
At the invitation of our friends, we went with them and their daughters to have a look at the playground on the Sunday after it was finished. It looked impressive but it was empty.
The two daughters, who were 8 and 6 years old, stayed there to play when we adults returned to the house.
After about a quarter of an hour the girls came running back, crying. Their faces were very red. A group of immigrant children had come into the playground and had started to slap them.
Our friends consoled them and were very caring. However, they also "understood" how difficult it was for immigrant children, being a minority and poor. So they did not take any further action.
They did tell their daughters that in the future they should immediately come home if they saw those children in the playground again.
Since then the neighbourhood has gone through a lot. Much of the indigenous population left and their places were taken by migrant families. There was a period with drug-related problems.
Now, thirty years later, Amsterdam is in the midst of a housing boom. The well-off are moving back into the city and buying, not renting, flats and houses.

The local paper has just run a story about a new problem in the neighbourhood. The indigenous children of the well-off, who are now the minority, do not dare to play on the streets and in the playgrounds. They are scared of the migrant children.

A youth worker blamed the problem on the indigenous children. He said they were not streetwise enough.

Monday, 8 May 2017

He pronounced my name correctly

I have had different kinds of jobs during my work career in the Netherlands.
The lowest in status was cleaner of sex shows and sex cinemas in the Amsterdam Red Light district. One level above that was bouncer and projectionist in sex cinemas. These jobs paid for my university study of Politics.

You cannot keep a good man down and I clawed my way up the career ladder to become a part-time porter/concierge at a music school for children.
The teachers at the school were either professional teachers or beginning musicians. They were all very friendly.
The music school was in the same building as the Sweelinck Conservatory (of music) who had a real concierge. Our “offices” were next to each other near the entrance of the building.
We got on well. He had been an active member of the resistance in “the war” and he told me a lot about Amsterdam in that period. He liked to tell me the stories and I liked listening.
I used to stand in for him. Then I had more interaction with the often famous musicians who taught at the Sweelinck. 
Some were just as friendly as my music school teachers. Others were not. They were arrogant and condescending to the lesser mortals who worked in the building.
As they were famous, this behavior was considered acceptable.

I have always found it strange how much “famous” people can get away with.
Two girls in my group of friends were communists who worked in the communist bookshop, Pegasus, in the Leidsestraat
Of course, they were also feminists. In the summer they dressed airily and wore miniskirts. That was the fashion then.
Harry Mulish was a famous Dutch writer.
Every now and then he would come into their bookshop. Sometimes he would ask one of the girls to get a book that was in the shop window. To get the book the girl had to bend over and he could look up her skirt from behind.
They knew what he was doing but still bent over. It was one of the quirks of a famous writer.

Getting back to my music school. The director was an organist. Nice chap.
There was one problem. He could never pronounce my name correctly. I told him many times how it was pronounced, but he just kept on forgetting it. In his world I was at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The music school was for 100% subsidized by the city of Amsterdam. The civil servant who processed the subsidy was a young lady of my age. She always came for meetings with the director in the morning. As I only started work in the afternoon, I never met her.
I do remember that the director was very agitated before her visits.

I left the music school to become a policy adviser for the city council. I started work for a department that subsidized all social and a lot of cultural activities in Amsterdam, including the music school.
My fellow policy advisers were amazingly creative. This is the department that started Paradiso, Fantasio, the Melkweg, the Sleep-In and the Vondel park project.

I confess, I had nothing to do with any of these projects. They dumped me in the city renewal.
I was the department’s representative in a number of deprived neighbourhoods.  I wrote the overall policy about where the subsidy should go and was supported by colleagues who advised on how much subsidy an individual organization “needed”.
One of these colleagues was the young lady I mentioned who processed the subsidy for the music school. One day she said that she had an upcoming meeting there and asked if I would like to tag along. See the place again.
I thought it was a good idea. Her meeting was in the morning. She had to change it to the afternoon to comply with my agenda. After all, I was senior to her.

The director was waiting for us at the entrance. He greeted me heartily and he pronounced my name correctly.


Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Depressing Thought

Ab Schuster was 5 when, in 1942, he and his family were rounded up during an Amsterdam razzia and sent to the Westerbork transit camp. From there they were deported to Bergen-Belsen.
His wartime story is told in an article in a Dutch daily, “De Telegraaf” (April 29, 2017).
The whole article is very interesting. However, it is the last part of his wartime experiences that has stuck in my mind.
In April 1945 as the allies were closing in on nearby Hannover, the Germans decided to move the prisoners to Theresienstadt that was then farther away from the front line.
There were three trains that left Bergen-Belsen on April 10, 1945.
The first two were stopped within days by the allies and the prisoners freed.
Ab was on the third train that is referred to as "The Lost Train", since allied bombings prevented it from going to Theresienstadt and instead it ambled, seemingly aimlessly, through eastern Germany. After two weeks it was stopped by the Russians.
600 of the 2,500 people on the train died, mainly from malnutrition.
A month after being freed, Ab and the other Dutch prisoners were put onto American trucks and driven back to the Netherlands. They were housed in a castle that was guarded by “marechaussee” (Royal Military Constabulary). This is a Dutch gendarmerie force performing military police and civil police duties.
When the trucks arrived at the castle, Ab heard one marechaussee talking to a colleague.
He said, “Oh, there they are again. Could they not have gassed them all?”
Ab is now 80. He has not been sleeping well for the last ten years. No more than two or three hours a night.
Those words in Dutch from the marechaussee reverberate the loudest.
I live near a synagogue in Amsterdam. It is guarded by marechaussee. If they were given the order, they would round up the Jews inside instead of protecting them. Not that much has changed. 
A depressing thought.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Copycat bomb threats

I went from cleaning/painting ships in the north of Amsterdam to international coordinator for computer parts at Honeywell International, a computer time-sharing organization.

How I got the job is a bit strange.
It was 1970. Since I had arrived in the Netherlands nine months earlier, I had been doing manual work. I wanted to do something else, so I sent a letter to all the international companies at Schiphol Airport offering my services.
I was invited for an interview by the manager of Honeywell International. He was a con artist (I found that out later) who maintained that he had been a British army paratrooper and had fought against the insurgency in Cyprus.
He asked me trick paratrooper questions like, how do you parachute into sea? I answered his questions correctly and he gave me the job.

This is before the age of the PC. Companies did not then have their own computers. They used to buy time on a computer with time-sharing organizations like Honeywell.
Computer time-sharing was a relatively new market with teething troubles.

Honeywell had a computer network throughout western Europe. The national subsidiaries had their own small warehouses for computer parts.
There was a rudimentary automatized system that supplied these warehouses from the much bigger central warehouse in the entrepot building at Schiphol, where I worked. We received our parts from Texas.

More often than not, something went wrong with the supply chain to the national subsidiaries. As a result, there were always some computers that were not functioning properly. Then there was the nightmare scenario of computer "down".
That is when I came in. I had to find replacements for the malfunctioning parts anywhere and get them to the national branches as soon as possible.

The above is a long introduction for a short story.
This is the time of left-wing terrorist organizations. There was a spate of bomb threats to buildings in and around Amsterdam. The media, even then, went overboard with their coverage of the threats, giving them exaggerated publicity.
This lead to a lot of copycat bomb threats.

One of my colleagues, Dieter, was a German gay man who had moved to the Netherlands because life was more difficult for openly gay people in Germany.
He was friendly and extremely intelligent with a rather morbid sense of humour.
We did not do the same work but we had our desks, together with two other people, in the same room. 

Dieter and a colleague were listening to the umpteenth discussion about the bomb threats on the radio. They were laughing and joking about them.
For no apparent reason Dieter picked up the phone, dialed the office and in a muffled voice said there was a bomb in the building.
Then he put down the phone and started chuckling.
I did not say anything. I just sat there shocked, with wide open eyes.
A few minutes later, we heard the sirens of the police cars and ambulances.

The manager came in and said that there had been a bomb threat and we would have to leave the building.
Dieter now seemed to realize what he had done. He looked terrified.
He went into the manager's office and told him it was all a practical joke. The police and ambulances were called off.

He was fired immediately.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Choosing an identity

At the age of 12, I started Sunday Hebrew classes at the “local” synagogue in Streatham, a south London suburb.  
I was not enthusiastic because it was a (too) long bus journey from West Norwood where we lived.
Yes, there were also Jews living in West Norwood: us.

A few years later at my grammar school in Brixton, another south London district, I studied Jewish history for an A-level in Religious Knowledge. I enjoyed that.
It was mainly stories of adventure and sex during the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties.

My Sunday sojourn at Streatham shul included a very different kind of Jewish history class. It was one long, seemingly unending, story of persecution in Europe.
Two examples from Italy have always stuck in my memory.
In medieval Rome the weakest member of the Jewish community would be thrust naked into a nail-spiked barrel and rolled down the hill to his death.
During carnival at the time of the Counter Reformation, Jews in Rome, especially fattened for the occasion, were pelted with mud by the crowds and made to run naked through the streets in the icy cold and rain.

Besides that, there were the Holocaust stories. The really gruesome ones. I can only remember parts of these stories. I try not to remember the rest.

There were reasons for this intensive confrontation with a horrific past.
The Holocaust was not yet history. It was a recent occurrence and the pain and horror was still deeply felt. 
These stories were warnings of what could happen again and why we Jews should stick together, stay in the community. Jew-hatred was an indelible part of the outside society.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries most Jews in Eastern Europe lived in small market towns called shtetls. The word “shtetl” is Yiddish, and it means “little town.”
The Jewish people I knew, like most of the diaspora at that time, had the same attitude to persecution as these extinct shtetl Jews of Eastern Europe. They saw themselves as passive victims who could not do anything about the persecution and relied on the compassion of others for protection.

There was an alternative to the shtetl Jew. The new Jew of the political Zionists. They rejected the passive victim role and the ghetto mentality. They maintained that Jews should become masters of their own destiny.

As a teenager I had to choose which identity I wanted. The shtetl Jew or the political Zionist. I chose for the political Zionist.
I was never any good at that passive victim stuff.



Monday, 30 January 2017

Revolution and the western media

Size and number of demonstrations do not say anything without the right context.
A prime example was the million people demonstrations at Tahrir square in Cairo. The so-called Egyptian spring.

According to the western media, this was the Egyptian people rising up; a revolution of "we the people".
At the elections after the overthrow of Mubarak, parties associated with the demonstrations received less than 10% of the vote.
Western pundits and media should have expected this.
There was a Pew research into views of sharia punishments. Around 82% of Egyptian Muslims supported chopping off of hands for theft, stoning for adultery and the death penalty for leaving the Muslim religion.
The western media downplayed the Pew research results because these results did not fit the narrative they were selling.

Fast forward to the first week of the reign of Donald Trump. He won the presidency with 45,9% of the popular vote.
Gallup has a daily tracking poll of his approval-disapproval rate with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points.
Trump is a divisive figure, a bully who insults women and mocks people with a handicap. There has been no presidential honeymoon. He has never had a higher approval rate than his share of the popular vote.
There are lots of large demonstrations against him. The media feeds up a constant daily barrage of anti-Trump articles, that have reached a frenzy of hyperbole since his executive order on immigration.
A family member of mine who has been watching it all, said that the overwhelming majority of Americans hate him. He should resign.

Is this the case? Is he now opposed by an overwhelming majority of Americans?
According to the Gallup poll his approval rate has dropped 2% to 43% in the last week. His disapproval rate has risen 4% and now stands at 50%, (it had peaked at 51%).

These are pretty dismal figures, but a 50% disapproval rate does not correspond to a country rising up against him. Most of those marching never supported him.
The media want to give the impression of an approaching “revolution”. Who knows it might work.

BTW, Gallup has now published Obama’s average job approval as president: 47.9%