dutch tolerance in america
March 27, 2009, 10:19 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here is a quotation from Janera’s blog entry Triangle of Tolerance.  Back at the founding, New Amsterdam was a free trade zone – and general liberalism flowed from economic policy into social spheres and back again –  while Boston and other eastern cities, dominated by the puritan British, became defined by religious intolerance.

The thought is that generations and generations later we are still suffering by these attitudes and ideas.  I find the mention of land rights particularly revealing – an industry and ideology has grown like barnacles, encrusted, around what originally may have been a simple and useful idea.

From the article –

According to Shorto, the free trading, tolerance, and keen business sense of the Dutch is still felt in America. The Dutch were the first to issue public shares in a company, and in New Amsterdam, an ethnically mixed group co-existed, trading with the Indians and making a profit, while pubs abounded and prostitution was pervasive. This was starkly different from the puritan English settlements of Boston and Hartford, which were much more religious, operating from the assumption that they had a God-given right to the land.

This small story has had a big impact on the American identity and culture, according to Shorto. Whilst some Americans need to identify with English purity, others accept the impact of other groups—Blacks, Latinos and the Dutch, among others—on the origins of America. While Russell was talking, I couldn’t help but think that this dichotomy has trickled down to modern-day American politics with the Republicans adhering to the puritan explanation of American history whilst the Democrats may be more inclined to acknowledge America as a true mix of ideas from its inception.


ripping off skin
March 24, 2009, 8:05 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , ,

[-, diane arbus, rachelle mozman]

Here is an excerpt from Jane Alison‘s beautiful, painful book The Sisters Antipodes.  The book is a memoir of what it takes to survive a betrayal – when she and her sister were little, her parents met another couple, also with two daughters, and swapped partners.

The book is also about transcience – her step father was a diplomat and they moved between Australia and the United States.  In this excerpt, she describes how personal achievement becomes critical when all you have in your life that is stable is yourself.

Moving a lot as a child means you keep starting over from nothing, proving yourself again and again.  It’s like being a thin sandy solution and, by fierce will, making that solution congeal around you.  And the more you move to alien places the more often you have to do this, like being dropped into acids that dissolve you each time.  Personal traits need to be asserted in each new place, which means contests must be waged and won.  If you’ve worked hard to become anything – fastest runner, best skater, funniest girl, anything – these terms have melted into your skin, become your skin, and must be preserved.  If you stay in one place, your standing and self are only threatened when a new, outside girl appears.  But if you keep being new; and your name is new and must be practiced, embarassing, on dotted lines; and your father is new, although it’s never clear whether you should write down both fathers or add the word step or just pretend he’s really yours; and your nationality is new, to be checked in the right box, not the wrong one, as if you had no clue what you were:  Then the attributes that are truly yours – fastest, best, smartest – are crucial.  To take them away is like ripping off skin.  So on top of the split and the jealousy it engendered, all the moving and remaking made us bitterly competitive as a matter of course.

Jane Alison, The Sisters Antipodes