jo on 4 Dec 2000 13:04:31 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] What a Waste! (part 2)


The caravan or ďsleurhutĒ, preferably filled with peanut butter and
time-tested potatoes in the trunk has long been the emblem of Dutch mass
tourism. It is no coincidence that the ANWB, the Dutch General Union of
Motorists and Tourists is by far the biggest union of the Netherlands. I
would say therefore that todayís emblem of Dutch tourism is the
Internationale Reis- en Kredietbrief, which promises to solve any
problem you may encounter while on the road. Dutch love insurances.
Just as the Dutch grow up controlling water, they are raised to control
money. The world record savings in banks and especially the pension
funds are the financial parallel of the polders and the dykes. The
fortresses of course being the banks, the locks the pension funds.
Thatís what made this country rich. That is the dynamic of hard core
main stream Dutchness.
So what would our collective identity, what would national pride gain by
tourism to e.g. the Dutch Waterline? Here we have to try and distinguish
between native tourism, the voyage or the pilgrimage into this heart of
Dutchness on the one hand, and exotic tourism: luring strangers into
visiting  our shrines of engineering genius, taking in the message of
Dutch greatness and making sure that they pay in solid Euroís to finance
the trip. Because thatís the only reason and purpose of the above
mentioned policy paper: to create a win-win situation. Include all,
fight no one and keep the dykes tight.

So what am I to win, when I jump on my bicycle or my skates and ride
along sightseeing the Dutch water line? Now like I said tourism is a
tricky business in itself. I was told that tourism is the 4th major
business sector world wide by now. Thatís right after drugs, guns and
tomatoes. Talking about Dutch greatness. Anyway the trick of tourism,
and especially of seeing sites of Cultural heritage is the game it plays
with real and counterfeit, authentic and fake. Every tourists who visits
the grave of a great man knows that the man was not REALLY great, that
he was never actually BURIED here, and that probably as a tourist he or
she doesnít actually SEE anything, but rather takes snapshot,
video-footage or a web cam, added by replicaís, souvenirs and fraudulent
frames called histories consisting of legends, lies and odder liberties.

I visited once the quite new and extremely modern museum In Flandersí
Fields in Ypers, West-Flanders. Here you are confronted with a radical
representation of the First World War, with its endless trenches,
chemical warfare and the human interest aspects of poetry, letters to
lovers and mutual Christmas greetings from the opposing sides. If youíre
into that kind of thing you can choose to weep with the widows or die in
a trench. Itís an experience, a re-enactment and you know it, and
youíll  like it. If only because you know you have to leave the battle
field at closing time. Itís a tribute to human misery and senseless war
waging, but also a politically correct attempt at reconciliation between
the former enemies geared now to constitute the new greater Europe.
But for the people living in this town of Ypers it is hard to visit this
museum. The sheer power of representation steals their private memories,
and their indignation of what happened and what followed, what they were
left it. It threatens their identity. Aggravating the very post modern
syndrome of loss of self, loss of identity. Thatís what I like about
this museum, it forces you to realize that identity is identical with
loss. If history and itís representation are shifting constructs, so is
identity, and collective or national identity is fake to the extreme.

And that is exactly the tricky thing about native tourism, of making a
trip into your own collective soul, there where it can hurt most. It has
to be a success, this trip, because once youíve been there you cannot
just walk out and never come back. Because itís your own, your own
history, your own land, to which you are attached. Seeing your own
cultural heritage as designed by  architects, artists, historians and
environmentalist can seriously damage your mental health! I therefore
donít propose exactly, but rather recommend assigning teams of
psychologists specialized in early intervention to the various sights.
They should be there for the native tourists with a latent identity
complex who expose themselves to this risk. Because cultural heritage is
of course today a playground, or a battlefield for a variety of  mass
mediators and cultural entrepreneurs. And so be it!

Now the difference between the battlefields of the First World war and
the Dutch waterline, is that the Dutch water line was fake from the
start. It was a non-battle field, it was lying their waiting to fulfill
itís destiny of heroic victory or defeat (thatís irrelevant at this
point). But nothing ever really happened around there, but for a lot of
digging an dragging on. So I would say that itís the perfect environment
for finally and of course virtually realizing itís destiny: a
battleground where every one can compete and fight with all means
necessary to impose his or her own interpretation and representation of
history, identity, or whatever comes to mind. Landscape surgery? Cool!
Attraction Parc? By all means ! The final inundation experience?
Whenever you want it! We can even stage another civil war between
defenders of the holy shrines and the free fields of fire, supported by
local conservationists entrenched in petty nostalgia proclaiming the
site untouchable, pitched against a coalition of visionary artists and
entertainment industrialist like Steven Spielberg and Joop van den Ende
who would like to re-edit the complete environment into a DVD offering
you the ultimate experience of Total Recall and Jurassic Park in a
typical Dutch dressing. But then again that would be another fake war,
because they donít exclude each other.

But what has a stranger to win from experiencing the Dutch water line?
Nothing much Iím afraid. As a Dutchman I canít imagine that a stranger
would get turned on by  visiting these sites, unless of course we
re-develop it in such a way that it becomes completely and absolutely
unrecognizable for the natives. Which might not be a bad idea at all,
now that I come to think of it.

Also tourists, travelers and other strangers passing through can derive
some identity from the host territory they visit. And yes, that can lead
to cultural collision. And yes, we are curious to hear from others how
they see us.
So  let us ask about the feelings of  the pilots from the Luftwaffe,
when they crossed the water lines.
And do letís ask the two young men from Ba Hu a village in the Chinese
province Fujian. They are the two who survived the container transport
to Dover on the 18th of June this year. A transport of illegal
immigrants organized in Holland. Letís ask how their identity was
reshaped after passing through the Netherlands. How do they interpret a
Dutch hand, when we know that it was a Dutch hand who closed the shutter
of the container, which then led to the other 58 travellers dying of
Are we capable of putting ourselves in their position, the position of
the enemy, of the invader, the intruder. Maybe not, because the Dutch
are good in evading conflict, in looking away when things get
high-explosive. They would rather drown their land and give up half of
their territory than fight for it. They prefer to go in hiding, hiding
their identity, disappearing into anonymity, accommodating to evil. And
thatís cool. Itís the art of disappearance. Of not showing who you
really are. Itís a way of being left alone, not having to bother, keep
trouble at a distance. And thatís exactly what this Dutch waterline is
al about: making the profile of the land invisible.

So we can do two things to reveal this essence of Dutchness:
- we force or seduce strangers to go through the experience of ultimate
Dutchness offering them an intensive course of grondverzet (earth
dragging), pneumonia and saving cattle from drowning, to kill the
boredom of waiting for an enemy that will never show up
- or we declare the whole environment of the Dutch waterline holy and
untouchable, no access for strangers, no trespassing of any kind. A
no-go-area. To keep it a secret.
Iím afraid though  that this second option would be the hit of the
century.  Because any tourist agent will jump on this golden opportunity
to organize clandestine tours of the forbidden line. Dutch first of
course. So this leaves us with only one option, the ultimate win-win: we
close this wonderful environment for all Dutch citizens and reserve it
for the peace keepers from out there. Because it will be mine field

ďHet einde is het beginĒ, the end is the beginning, that is the
mysterious title of one of the chapters of this Belvedere Nota. This
revealing lapsus into mythical discourse, the discourse of the eternal
circle of life, the never ending story of re-inventing something that
you never had, nor missed nor lost was only three days ago exemplified
by Research International, in an international image-research report
commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  They tried but
couldnít find a site with sufficient sex-appeal to attract enough
foreign visitors. They express the need for an architectural symbol of
modern, liberal Dutchness. But all they found was windmills and all that
jazz. So they decided that the real appeal of the Netherlands is its
people, for being multi-cultural, reliable and helpful.
What a tremendous disillusion! Really find this almost humiliating. The
Dutch people, the most boring nation in the world! When we have our
Water line!

What a waste!

© Jo van der Spek

Jo van der Spek, journalist, program maker & tactical media consultant
H. Seghersstraat 46
1072 LZ Amsterdam
tel. +31.20.6718027
mob. +6.51069318

better a complex identity than an identity complex

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