When I came to the Netherlands over 20 years ago I would have described it as a tolerant society. Amsterdam claimed to be the world’s gay capital. The sale of cannabis in coffee shops was tolerated and the authorities just ignored the fact that the rest of the trade was illegal. Squatters enjoyed rights not seen anywhere else. More recently, brothels became legalised and euthanasia regulated. There seemed to be so many reasons to like Holland – not that I agree with everything that goes on here.
But things are changing. The political climate is hardening and so is public opinion. It is no longer politically correct to be politically correct. In fact, the rise of populism has led to a sense that freedom of speech is the greatest good and everything should be sacrificed in its pursuit. Since 9/11, foreigners have felt distinctly less welcome and since last year’s elections in which a minority liberal VVD- Christian Democrat government traded a few of their manifesto goals in return for the support of the anti-Islam Freedom Party, people with a different cultural background could be forgiven for thinking they had found themselves in the wrong film.
Meanwhile the authorities have outlawed squatting, are clamping down on prostitution, coffee shops are subject to more and more regulations. The tolerance with used to typify the Netherlands is disappearing fast as the calls to toughen law and 0rder measures get louder.
So this brings me to the point of my blog. My reason for blogging is to comment on All Things Dutch (and beautiful or not so beautiful). I’d like to share some of my observations on the Netherlands in a changing world.