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“Background Noise” in the South of the Netherlands

I grew up in the Catholic South of the predominantly Protestant Netherlands. My province was added to the Netherlands in 1813 and considered an occupied territory until 1957. When I was born, in 1962, the “background noise” in the culture was still “don’t trust the government and officials.” Doctors, police were all imported from the rest of the Netherlands, and that continued until at least 1977. We did our own thing* amongst ourselves, ignoring officials as much as possible. 

Because I was born in the sixties, the social changes in that era contributed to my turning away from the Catholic Church. I was disappointed that a church preaching love would at the same time make such a mess of human relationships and abuse the power of the religion to manipulate people. I remember the day that I rejected the Catholic answer to the question about the point of life. I think that my current opinion, “The point of life is what I choose to be the point of my life,” is very much a reflection of the “background noise” in the sixties. 

When I went to a polytechnic school, I discovered that we were mainly being trained to give known answers to known questions, while real life is often about discovering what the question is. Now, after thirty years, I still see us running after answers to questions that we don’t understand. There is still little room to question the questions. The world would look very different if we were able to hold up a question in the air for a longer time, and look at it and discharge and look at it again, before even thinking about answers. 

Frank van den Heuvel
Nieuwegein, the Netherlands

* “Did our own thing” means did what we wanted, without worrying what anyone else thought of us.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00