OK, this is somewhat old news (in fact, Dutch Daily News covered it two months ago), but I still want to write about it because this follows up on earlier stories. Basically what I am trying to find out is how we, the Dutch, define Enlightenment ideals such as freedom, equality and happiness. It is clear that they are important to us, but we have been pursuing aspects of these ideals hundreds of years before theother Western nations did and as a result, when looking through a global lens, we seem to do everything exactly different.
So now a new study has come out that adds another piece to the puzzle. It appears that gender inequality is especially strong among working parents in the Netherlands. On the other hand the income of single men and women without children who work full-time jobs are exactly the same. I thought that was interesting. You’d expect at least some old-fashioned sexism to depress even those incomes by a couple of points. Perhaps that in the parts of our population where sexism is still rife (the Bible belt, anyone?) single, childless women with full-time jobs are rare.
If everybody is happy about this arrangement, then who I am to disagree? There is a difference between women being forced into inequality and women choosing inequality. Where things get weird is in relationships. The default Dutch marriage setting is that of community property (for now). The state sees a marriage as a contract between the state and two people. When the partners dissolve the wedding, the state typically demands that the high earner keeps supporting the low earner through alimony. What kind of incentives does an arrangement like that produce?
Harry, 53, lost his job as a street cleaner in The Hague due to budget cuts. Harry now gets benefits while he looks for another job. To keep his benefits, Harry has to work as a street cleaner (he has the experience, right?), but for 400 euro less a month. Keeping Harry on the streets sweeping means the government gets the exact same work done, but pays Harry less, so Harry went to the media with this one.
Usually a re-integration into the labour market job is to help people find a new job, so how does this work then? If Harry was learning some new skills in order to get a new job, it wouldn’t have made the papers.
Last Wednesday a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to pay owners of marijuana bars (called coffeeshops in the Netherlands) the damages caused by the introduction of the so-called ‘weed pass’, NRC writes.
Last year the government introduced the requirement for coffeeshop patrons to register in order to make it impossible for foreign customers to purchase marijuana. The requirement was dropped later that year, but by that time coffeeshops in the provinces of Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Zeeland had already seen a decline in income as local customers also stayed away.
Coffeeshop customers are still required to prove residency. The court felt the extra requirement of obtaining a weed pass was a “disproportionately large infringement of the interest of coffeeshop patrons.”
Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten has announced that he will appeal the verdict.
An enormous cliff wall on the planet Mercury has been given a Dutch name. NASA named the cliff after the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship Duyfken, the first European ship to reach Australia in 1606. The Duyfken cliff is 500 kilometres long and lies in the southern hemisphere of Mercury.
Tomorrow the Dutch army will detonate two World War II bombs on the site of the former army base in Blerick, just across the Meuse from Venlo.
Both bombs are English 500-pounders that were found last May at depths of 1.5 and 1.75 metres respectively. After the failure of Operation Market Garden in 1944, the Meuse became the front line for several months. Although Blerick had been liberated in December 1944, Venlo had to wait until March 1945.
The mayor of Venlo called the destruction of two bombs in his municipality “nothing special”, but he stressed that he had nothing but respect for the bomb disposal unit, Dichtbij writes.
The army base was built in 1910 on top of the old Fort Sint Michiel. Even in literature the area saw action. Twin brothers Beekman tried to help stop the Nazi invasion in 1940 from casemates in front of the base in the book Beekman en Beekman, which according to its publisher is the best selling novel ever in the Netherlands, Wikipedia writes.
Basically the police need help and what better help than people who think it smells funny over at the neighbour’s place.
In Heerlen’s case, embarrassement played a good part in bringing up the scratch and sniff card. A marijuana nursery was discovered in a building with a daycare centre, something you don’t read about every day and not good publicity for a city that has been fighting its drug-induced image for so many years. [Insert bad joke about children learning what pot smells like at a young age ].
“The police in this country are underpaid and often have a serious attitude problem,” I heard recently. After having to call 112 (the Dutch 911) for the firefighters to deal with a short circuit in my house a while back, the cops reluctantly wrote up a report, treating me like a puppy that had wet the carpet.
The police do have an image problem, at least at 24oranges. They’ve arrested people based on their skin colour, they tried to fine a woman while she was having a miscarriage and fight the reopening of a cafe because it played gangsta rap.
A Dutch reality show that arrests people causing problems on the road stopped a motorcyclist for driving too fast, tailgating and weaving who turned to be cop in civilian clothing. He made excuses about being busy and “we are all just people.” It cost him 220 euro, giving the police some excellent national publicity.
I have developed a particular fondness for motorcycle cops. A few years ago, a friend told me he’d lost a female friend of his, a wife and mother, to an off duty motorcycle cop who drove through a red light in Amsterdam and ran her over while she was crossing the street. He got off with some community service or something like that.
Following the trend of protesting or trying to shed light on issues by setting up a Facebook page, a resident of Amsterdam’s De Pijp district who lives on the Van der Helstplein (Van der Helst square) has had enough of the heaps of trash accumulating there and has set up a Facebook page called Van der Helst-belt.
The square is full of restaurants and cafes, which would explain the preponderance of trash, but not why it isn’t picked up often enough or on time. The other problem is that people tend to put out their trash every day, which goes against the rules of that area.
Trash is a complicated business in Dutch cities. In Nijmegen for example, unless it has changed recently, residents pay extra money to use city-approved trash bags, which you buy at the regular store, so basically you pay for what you throw out. In places like Amsterdam, you pay a flat fee per year depending on the make-up of your household. In my co-blogger ultraposh neighbourhood it’s a Wednesday-Saturday affair, while in my lesser yet decent part of town, I can go across the street anytime and put it in one of the three underground bins.
Even though gun possession is strictly controlled in the Netherlands, it seems criminals may still get their ammunition via largely legal channels.
In 2012 Marsha de Vries of the University of Twente looked at how criminals procured ammunition in the Netherlands. She found that the police had no evidence that ammunition was smuggled into the country in recent years or that many bullets were stolen from gun dealers, the army and the police: “When a burglary does occur, as in 2009 at a gun shop and shooting club in Amsterdam, firearms are generally the intended target, with ammunition only a secondary consideration. The average arms dealer does not hold large stocks of ammunition.”
Sports shooters in the Netherlands need to be able to show a certificate of good conduct, amongst others, before they can get a gun permit, but beyond that point it is difficult to control what they do with their ammunition once purchased. Unlike the United Kingdom and Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands allow permit holders to buy any amount of ammunition they want. Dutch traders do not register who buys what and sports shooters can spread out their purchases across traders.
De Vries writes:
The storage of firearms and ammunition by individuals is checked by a special department of the Dutch regional police forces. [The] police may, only with the permission of the licensee, check certain specifically defined places in the home of the licensee, i.e. the place where the weapons safe is located. If a sports shooter, hunter or collector states that a verification is inconvenient, a new appointment has to be made, giving him the opportunity to conceal any criminal activity. [...]
Experts within and outside the police presume that the illegal trade in ammunition is a highly lucrative criminal activity with high yields and low risks, especially for sports shooters. A sport shooter commented: “It is not difficult to pilfer 2000 cartridges a year”. Another respondent, a former police officer and sports shooter, estimated his potential success on the criminal path even higher, noting: “I could purchase 150,000 to 200,000 cartridges in a week”.
According to De Vries, a short-term solution for making access to ammunition harder would be to introduce an automated registration system for arms dealers.
Dutch police in Amsterdam Zuidoost have been accused of acting as ‘matchmakers’ for two underaged Dutch Muslims of Pakistani and Hindustani background. Together with Fier Fryslan, a Friesland-based organisation specialising in ‘relationship violence’, the ones who were involved in redesigning women’s shelters to put them out in the open, had their hand in a religious wedding performed to save the girl’s family’s honour.
Dutch law apparently forbids religious weddings, and the couple have agreed to attend a civil ceremony when they turn 18 to make it nice and legal, but the critics aren’t happy with that at all. They argue that traditional Islamic marriages put women in a subordinate role by denying them equal rights such as divorce.
Both the police and Fier Fryslan say that the media attention is being taken out of context, as they would not actually have agreed to a forced marriage. However, a social worker in Amsterdam Zuidoost has accused both parties of acting as if they have ‘saved the day’.