We are all members of clubs or groups. Most of us are Limburgians, or members of a group called Dutch, European and World Citizens.
Groucho Markx once said ‘I don‘t want to be a member of a club that accepts me as a member.’
When you become a member of a group you ‘other’. ‘Othering’ is distancing yourself from other groups. Focussing only on the differences and not on similarities.
Johan gives the example of mr. Frans Timmermans, who gave a moving speech about MH17, last june. People asked if Timmermans would make a great minister and the answer was ‘No, because he is from Limburg and because he is Catholic’… Another example is Geert Wilders. When Wilders’ party grew in 2011 in the Netherlands, a friend from Amsterdam came up to Johan, asking him ‘What is wrong with you people in Limburg?’ And there is even ‘outhering’ within the tribe, like focussing on the differences between people from the North or from the South of Limburg.
Johan did a year long investigation of what was happening in Limburg, with the growing of Wilders’ party in Limburg. He learned that the people were afraid of globalization, of being left behind. Fear that led to distrust in local government and in the Dutch government. And when people are afraid the cling to each other. ‘I am a Limburger first, and then a Dutchmen’.
Johan gives the example of the town of Maasniel, were there was a townhall meeting with the question why the people who came not originally from Maasniel were not participating in the towns social life, clubs etc, causing this social life to decay. Johan suggested that it could start out with speaking the National Dutch language instead of talking the local dialect to each other…
Johan concludes his talk with some examples from the oldest cookbook in the world. What is the fact? In this Arabian cookbook is a recipe, cooking with acid. Exactly like our Limburgs ‘zuurvlees’, a dish the people from Limburg are particularly proud of and consider really theirs. Isn’t it ironic that our Limburgs zuurvlees originates from ancient Arabia…
The lesson to be learned: postpone judgement and do not accept everything that people are telling you!