You Think You Got Problems?

Talk about a media “Iraq Withdrawal Syndrome”: The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad yesterday topped its front page with an article about how the Dutch Parliament (the Tweede Kamer) now finds the establishment of a central registration office of vital importance for the tracking of the various underground cables, waterpipes, and other conduits winding, snaking, and tangling their way underneath Dutch cities.

An as-yet-unpublished report which the NRC had unearthed from the COB – the “Center for Underground Building” – warned of “great threats to safety if no order was brought to the underground ‘chaos.'”

Why are we seeing an article such as this, of the type one would rather expect to find published in a local community paper, at the top of the front page of the Netherlands’ leading national daily? You could say “Holland is so small that ‘national’ doesn’t mean very much – all news dealing with happenings within the borders is inevitably ‘local.'”

I think that it’s something else. Reading about the hidden threat of tangled underground tables recalls to my mind several advertising billboards I have seen in my travels around Amsterdam, and elsewhere in the country: the ones urging people to refrain from swearing (i.e. from uttering nasty words; “you don’t get anywhere with that” is the general message here); the ones soliciting monetary donations to the national fund for fighting rheumatism.

What a blessed land this must be if swear words and rheumatism count as leading threats to public order and the common weal, if tangled cables underground constitute front page news! Speaking of curses, a famous one from China supposedly runs “May you live in interesting times!” For the ultimate in boredom, in the good and bad senses of that concept, come and live here in the Netherlands.

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