The Netherlands

Judy Olsen (
Sun, 29 Nov 1998 11:58:40 -0800

About ten years ago, I researched which country would be the best place
in the world for me to live.  Some of the reasons I chose the
Netherlands are:

1)  In 1969 I witnessed a frenzied demonstration of about 200 young
people outside of an Amsterdam museum.  The protesters were pissed off
because the museum had just announced that their days and hours of
operation were going to be trimmed back since the tourist season was
over.  The protesters wanted to know if the Dutch museum was there for
the Dutch citizens or for foreign tourists.  Two policemen on horseback
came riding up and talked to the demonstrators.  Then one parked his
horse and went into the museum to talk with the museum's director.
After only 10 or 15 minutes, he returned and told the crowd that they
could choose three people to go in with him and talk to the Director.
Since I didn't speak Dutch, I had to ask a protester what was going on.
This protester told me that the policeman told the Director he HAD to
speak with the demonstrators; otherwise, how else could the crowd be

2)  In an article in "Rolling Stone" magazine, the Dutch head of Drug
Enforcement was interviewed.  He said he was absolutely shocked that the
United States declared war on drugs.  He added that it was same thing as
giving the police permission to kill your children.  He thought it

3)  I also read "somewhere" about this situation:  In one inner-city
neighborhood, many immigrant families were on welfare and were sharing
the same apartment.  The neighbors complained about this to the local
government.  The NEXT MORNING, government officials came to the
neighborhood and investigated the complaints.  The NEXT MORNING, the
same government officials returned to the neighborhood and told the
immigrant families where other apartments were available for them to
move into right then.  And the government officials even APOLOGIZED to
everyone for not ensuring that these welfare families had they own
apartments to begin with!

4)  Several years ago, "Sixty Minutes" showed how the Dutch solved the
problem of street walkers and high crime.  They built a place for the
street walkers on the outskirts of town.  My memory is a little fuzzy
here, but I think I remember seeing a large oval parking lot with a long
sidewalk down the middle where the street walkers stand on display.  You
drive up to the gate, where a policeman waves you through.  Then you
drive slowly around the sidewalk, looking at the street walkers.  After
you make your choice, the street walker hops into your car.  You park
your car, do whatever, pay her, then drive out of the gate.

5)  Also in 1969, I met a black Dutchman in Amsterdam.  He told me he
was born and raised in a small town in the Netherlands.  The first time
he had ever experienced racial prejudice was when he moved to Amsterdam
to attend the University.  It was when he ran into Americans for the
first time.

I think these are enough examples to show why the Dutch have the
reputation for being the most tolerant people on earth.

Unfortunately, I also think that these solutions would never be taken
seriously in the U.S. or any other country that is intolerant of anyone
who is different.  Let's face it, most countries consist of
self-righteous bigots, religious zealots, etc.  As long as we continue
to believe we know what is best for those who are different from us, we
will continue to "should" upon each other.

I believe that a Union for homeless, underpaid and underemployed people
would do a lot to change history.  Sometimes I believe it could be
done.  But then I think of all the reasons why it would never work.
First of all, people have to be angry...and know exactly WHO to be angry
at.  This takes education.

This reminds me of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World).  One of
their many slogans was:  EDUCATE--AGITATE--ORGANIZE.  Our history books
don't tell us that the hoboes who rode the rails: 1) numbered in the
hundreds of thousands;  2) were card carrying union members of the IWW;
3) were our first migrant workforce; and 4) were mostly white immigrants
from Eastern and Northern Europe.

NOTE OF CAUTION:  When the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, the Union
encouraged the hoboes to resist the draft.  This was only one of the
reasons for the Palmer Raids, which was when the Feds broke into IWW
union halls all over the country simultaneously.  The Feds destroyed
property, beat up union members, and arrested as many as they could
find.  If you were a draft resistor and an immigrant, you were
deported.  In fact, crushing the IWW like this was how J. Edgar Hoover
made a name for himself.

On the one hand, the UFW (United Farm Workers) educated, agitated, and
organized to become what they are today.  But they are pretty small
potatoes and fairly nonthreatening to the Federal government.  On the
other hand, if hundreds of thousands of poor and homeless people were
educated, agitated, and organized, they would be very threatening to the
Federal government.  I find this uplifting, but it also scares me to

However, if we look at the mistakes made by the IWW and others, maybe we
could figure out a way to not be terrorized, beaten up, maybe even
murdered for trying to change society.

I've never heard of the National Union of the Homeless.  This tells me
it's not very effective.  How can we make it effective?  etc., etc.,