The elections are coming up, but nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Of course we have polls for a general idea of what may happen, but because of the massive amount of so-called floating voters, a lot can still change. All we know is that at least four political parties will have to work together to account for a majority of the votes; the parties simply aren’t getting enough on their own. The Dutch people are divided on all kinds of things, except that they all want change – even though our economic prosperity is on the rise and we are among the happiest people in the world. But of course, good is never good enough. Perhaps we’re doing fine economically, but a lot of people don’t feel it in their own wallets yet. We may be happy now, but a lot of people are afraid of what the future may bring. A lot of discussions on that part centre around our culture and that we’re losing it. But are we, really?
The funny thing about this discussion is that people agree and disagree at the same time. They agree on that our culture is under pressure or slipping away, but they don’t agree on what our culture actually is. Some people see things such as Zwarte Piet (which I wrote about before) as central to our culture. They are afraid of losing our traditions and habits over time, especially when more immigrants come in. On the opposite end are people who see our culture as for example being accepting towards anyone regardless of their background. They are afraid people will forget about our core values surrounding equality and solidarity, especially because of the negativity surrounding those same immigrants. To summarise: one side blames the immigrants (the new bunch) for pushing the culture away, the other blames the Dutch people (the existing bunch) for forgetting who they are, but all conclude that we’re losing what makes us ‘us’.
Whenever I hear people talking about the issue, I feel like they aren’t aware of these differences. They’ll never agree completely, since they aren’t talking about the same thing. That’s kind of hard anyway; there is no straight up definition of Dutch culture. Heck, the word ‘culture’ itself probably doesn’t even mean the same thing to everyone. Trying to figure out what makes us ‘us’ (and therefore sets us apart from the rest) may be just as hard as trying to define who you are as an individual. A better question might be: which parts are most important? Which parts are necessary for our culture to exist? Are we still ‘us’ without our traditions? Are we still ‘us’ without our ideas of equality? Can the two even co-exist in this day and age?
That last question may be the most important one. Cultures are bound to change over time, so instead of focussing on losing certain aspects of our culture, we may have to think about what parts we want to preserve. If the two cannot continue together, which one should we give up to keep the other? I don’t expect everyone’s answer to be the same, but perhaps we’ll agree a bit more at least. We’re not losing our entire culture, but we may have to give up less important parts of it to keep the rest.