Address to the Dutch people: I am
Amsterdam | Mon, November 21 2016 | 09:11 am
Who are you? (Indignant)
You’re asking me? Who do you want me to be?
Well, you had better tell me who I am! Did I ever have a voice in this matter? Did I ever have the opportunity to define myself?
Me and my fellowmen have experienced pre-eminently that the autonomy concerning our identity — as if it was a matter of course — was taken away from us. Even by law. And from birth. Even worse: Before we were born!
I will explain that right away. But first, I will help you by describing the person in front of you.
You are looking at a man, tanned, not due to the sun but because of the genes given to him by birth. Smaller and slimmer than most of you, and with a more refined way of acting.
Let me make it easier for you: I am not a Dutchman; and most certainly not a real one.
But tell me in all honesty: Who of you is a real Dutchman? Who of you is completely undefiled? Would you dare to swear upon your mother’s grave that there were never Flemish lace-makers sharing their lust with one of your ancestors? Or French Huguenots, Portuguese Jews, Spanish conquerers, Anglo-saxon religious refugees and so on who mingled with the sons and daughters of your ancestry?
And what in heaven’s name is a “real Dutchman”? Is that someone who fits the recent Dutch national identity in which moral qualities dominate, such as tolerance, modesty, virtuousness and thrift?
No, it is probably much more difficult. Besides the fact that the oft cited moral qualities of the Dutch identity could easily be replenished or replaced by less positive ones, like pedantry, hypocrisy and stinginess. There is also such a thing as cultural and ethnic identity.
Ah, I notice it frightens you, dear Dutch spectators. You are probably afraid this brings us into an ethnicity dispute! (Scornful)
And here we have another quality of the national Dutch identity: Equality!
We are all equal to each other! You Dutch always claim to be whole-hearted. This, by the way, seems magnanimous, at least it is supposed to give that impression. But it is actually pure cowardice: The Dutchman is mortally afraid of being accused of discriminating the other.
And not without a reason. He has all the reasons in the world to do so. Hence the Dutchman has a long tradition of bare discrimination.
My history will unveil this and will show you the tragedy concerning the identity of my people in full splendor. I will tell you — in short — our story that at the same time includes the mournful history of my beloved Indonesian primal mother.
When at the end of the 16th century the proverbial Dutch commercial spirit brought the sons of Holland to the Southeast Asian archipelago, they not only submitted and exploited a whole nation, but they also planted the seed for the hybrid people who were not acknowledged for centuries and therefore could never be themselves.
A group of people now living in its terminal phase, like a slight ripple in time. As if its existence was just an unfortunate and incidental mistake.
Anyway, the three primary motives for essential changes in human existence, as this history shows us, are money, power and lust. All three are never in shortage in this scornful and despicable story.
The Dutch merchants, I mentioned, were driven by insatiable greed and unbridled expansionism. These two “qualities” were given concrete shape par excellence in the rich and powerful Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), the world’s first multi-national company.
And what about the lust, you wonder? Well, don’t worry. This we come across especially and abundantly among its hundreds and later on thousands of European man-servants: The drudges, the broddlers, the pitiful servants of the excessive VOC-fortunes.
So there was nothing that could stop the Calvinistic sons of the Dutch nation from taking possession of the land and treasures of the archipelago.
And that was not all, for the Asian daughters too were not safe for the eager claws of those white men with their yellow hair, red faces and fat noses. They not only had to be his devoted housekeeper, but they also — predictably — were forced to share his musty bed! Thus the Asian daughter became the mother of his children.
And, dear spectators, the European man was not happy with these children being born. Even worse: He did not appreciate them at all! He thought these children were bastards; and treated them that way. “Colonial bastards”, ”liplaps”, “blue’s”, “Indo’s” that’s what they were called, predestined, just like their mothers, to become the new servants of their own fathers!
Thus a nation of people came into existence: Born without the mothers’ will and consent and extremely unwelcome as far as the fathers were concerned. A nation born due to the forced confrontation from East and West.
We, the so-called “Indo’s”, being completely subjected to the vagaries of our colonial fathers, were never able to define our identity ourselves. Not when we came into existence and not even now, here, today.
So it is time I, the descendent of the “colonial bastard”, finally define who I am myself! Does not everyone have the rigtht to do so? Does not everyone have the right of self-determination concerning who he is and the person he wants to be?
So listen carefully. For once and forever: I am — as opposed to what the Dutch forefathers claimed for centuries — the best of both worlds!
Not just the result of adding up two different parts, but the optimized synthesis.
In other words: the personification of whom God wanted man to be.
That’s us: The former “bastards” of Dutch colonialism.
Therefore I tell you — and especially my fellowmen, living in this country with a number of almost a million people: We are who we want ourselves to be! By no means undefiled!
And that, my dear audience, I look upon as a privilege and a blessing!
In short: I am the Eurasian; the Indo; but most of all: I am the veritable one!
The author is a writer of novels, non-fictions and theatre plays. He is a historian focusing on subjects concerning the impacts of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. His non-fiction book, Daar werd wat gruwelijks verricht (Something Awful Took Place over There), published in 2015. He read this paper at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016 in October. This article is reprinted due to technical mistakes in the previous publication.