Dutch History for the non-Dutch

(Part 9) The Postmodern age

With Germany reunited and the collapse of communism this started amongst other things a builders boom in former East Germany, especially in the city of Berlin. New markets opened up in the east, and the period of economic decline that occured in the late seventies and eighties, decisively ended in the nineties. A new era of prosperity had arrived in the Netherlands, but the collapse of communism also meant an unstable situation in the world, with many former communist and western governments, who had prior been pawns in the cold war, destabilising and sometimes collapsing under the pressure of this change. In the wake of the collapse of communism in Europe a lot of troubles, coup d'etats, fights, secessions, invasions, and even civil wars occured in 1991, in countries such as Iraq, Kuwait, Haiti, Thailand, Latvia, Estonia, Mali, Albania, Georgia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Russia, Croatia, Slovenia, Belarus, Moldova, Lebanon, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Armenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, and then I haven't even mentioned all of them.

The Affluent Nineties & the Purple Cabinet (1991-2001)

The nineties ushered in a new decade of tolerance and prosperity for the Netherlands. It seemed like everything could get done. Unemployement dropped to lowest point it had ever been and we actually saw economic growth rates that we hadn't seen since the fifties. The polarisation of the seventies was truly gone in politics, for the first time in Dutch history the Netherlands saw a coalition government of Liberal Democrats and Social Democrats, and a coalition without any religiously inspired political parties.

The Netherlands became somewhat famous, or rather notorious in some parts of the world for its progressive and tolerant atmosphere, during the nineties.

Culture flourished too during those days, especially the music scene. The Netherlands exported music across the globe of groups like the party animals, 2 brothers on the 4th floor, 2 unlimited, twenty 4 seven, DJ Paul Elstak and a lot more. The Netherlands contributed its own distinct branches of the dance genre, such as gabber and happy hardcore, of which gabber is the most unusual and the most distinctly Dutch branch. Many foreigners don't comprehend gabber and how it came about and don't understand why the typical gabber fans shaved their heads in a country that seemed to be so racially tolerant. Gabber originates from the city of Rotterdam in the late eighties. Prior to the late eighties Rotterdam had a large Nozem scene. The Dutch Nozem scene was not like any rock scene that one could find in the United States or the United Kingdom, it still had the same influences from sixties pop and rock like in the anglo-saxon world, but was also influenced by continental punk rock. Nozems had a distinct style, they rode on mopeds with large steers, wore leather jackets and jeans and listened to rock and roll and gathered at snack bars. Men also had a distinct hairstyle, consisting of a large Elvis like greazy quiff with huge sideburns. During the late eighties this scene or subculture was nearing the end of its lifespan and many members had quit its lifestyle. It was in the eighties that the dance scene originating from Chicago began to be popular in Rotterdam, and because of the large hairdo's many Nozems couldn't get entrance in these new dance venues and dance halls. Unwilling to accept boredom, a group of Nozems in desperation shaved their heads and this is how the shaved heads came about and eventually became popular as gabber began to rise to prominence. Because many of these first gabbers were unacustomed to dancing on dance music they began to develop their own style, which in Dutch is called "hakkuh en zage", which is Dutch Rotterdam slang and means "chopping and sawing", the name refers to the movements one makes with the legs and arms on gabber music. It is mostly in the Anglo-Saxon world that some people mistook these shaved gabbers with skinheads, which of course not the case. Gabbers are not skinheads. One of the most prominent groups on the gabber scene, namely the Party Animals were eventually so fed up with attracting skinheads abroad that they produced a new gabber song which became an instant hit in the Netherlands and in Israel. Many of the members of the Party Animals made that song, because they were the children and grandchildren of the survivors of the bombing of Rotterdam by Nazi Germany and so they grew up to despise neonazis and skinheads, because these groups lauded the acts of Nazi Germany, including the bombing of Rotterdam. The Party Animals copied a well known Jewish wedding song and put their distinct gabber beat beneath it, which they knew would greatly upset their skinhead fans abroad. Today the song can also be found on youtube, the song I'm referring to of course is Hava Naquila.

The Netherlands also saw the emergence of the internet in the mid nineties. People of all ages including some elderly were soon to pick up on the use of this new technology in the Netherlands largely due to the political efforts of prime-minister Kok. He was caught on camera unable to wield a mouse, instead handling it like a TV remote. He full well knew it would hurt his political reputation as a leader of the Netherlands, but people got the message nevertheless, noone was stay behind in their efforts to use new technology, whatever their age.

Things were not always that easy though, because of the collapse of communism and the subsequent fall of many governments as a result, there were a great deal of unstable nations, which saw a lot of conflict. The United Nations and NATO did have to call on the support of the Netherlands too. Dutch military had to pitch in and men and women were send to a lot of countries across the globe, nations like Bosnia, Lebanon, Cambodia, Somalia and many more saw the presence of Dutch blue helmets or NATO personnel. This transmission to a new world order after the collapse of communism in Europe didn't go smooth. Though Dutch casualties were relatively low, a large minority of Dutch personnel suffered from things like post traumatic stress disorder after these wars, so it did come to cost of the Netherlands and its people. Not all of peace missions were succesful. The largest failure is probably the fall of the muslim enclave of Sebrenica in Bosnia and it remains the largest blemish on the modern Dutch forces till this day, which is somewhat unfair, the thruth is that the failure cannot be attributed to the men and women who fought to protect the Bosnian civilians. The failure was down to a political mistake. It was president Clinton who made the ultimate decision at that time not to send french air support to target Serbian militia and Yugoslav armed forces, because he feared the bombs might hit Dutch personnel by mistake and it was the Dutch politicians in the coalition government who made the decision not to equip the Dutch armed personnel better. The local forces could not hold out against such overwhelming strength without air support, which had the very unfortunate result, that thousands of muslim men and young boys died in Serb concentration camps, while Dutch airforce personnel stood by idly. The cabinet finally resigned on the 16th of April 2002 after unrelenting conscientious pressure on then Prime Minister Wim Kok by Jan pronk, who incidentally was a member of the same political party as Kok. The Purple II coalition government fell in troubled times, the successor of Kok was not an able debator and so PvdA (Labour) lost in the elections. VVD (Liberal conservatives) lost votes to people like Fortuyn, who made good use with his right-wing rhetoric of the anxiety that existed in the Netherlands after the small economic crash that was caused by the september the 11th attack on New York.

After 9-11

9-11 changed things in the Netherlands. The mood turned sour. The atmosphere got harsher and more blunt, politics polarised like had happened in the seventies, and a lot of people grew more and more intolerant towards minorities. The right wing militants got the government they wanted, but not with Fortuyn in it. He had been shot dead on the 6th of may 2002, just before the elections. With Fortuyn dead and with no effective replacement his political party was in turmoil. What happened instead, is that the Christian Democrats would deliver the prime-minister of the Netherlands for four consecutive cabinets. All of these Balkenende cabinets fell, each for a different reason. The Netherlands also took part in the war on terror.

Just when things seemed to stabilize early 2008, the Netherlands felt the effects of the credit crisis in autumn of 2008. The subsequent financial troubles meant more political instability and an electoral victory for right extremists, who this time they were led by Wilders, a man who formerly had been a member of the liberals.

Is this how the story ends? Well, it is for now. But if history has shown us one thing, we've been through worse, and things always improve afterwards.

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