The fear of the unknown

Dear next generation,

Last week I was thinking about censorship in The Netherlands. Our liberal vision on the world and our desire to let democracy decide our faith is a well-known Dutch vision around the world. Since 1,5 years I have been a citizen of the Southern Hemisphere, first for 6 months in New Zealand and now since one year in Australia. Actively following the news in both New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands makes news issues come across differently.

While Australia is trying to find the best way of dealing with Internet filtering, the Dutch government tries to encourage Dutch citizens to see the Internet as a fundamental right. This makes me wonder, should the Internet be an open medium controlled by its consumers? No Internet filtering by governmental institutions, but education should prevent internet users from the dark side of the worldwide web. For me this sounds like my Dutch vision on almost all public debates. Laws like gay marriage, marijuana legalisation and legal prostitution are still banned in almost every country in the world except in The Netherlands. Education plays a big role in making these laws work within the Dutch society. From a young age children learn the facts about soft drugs, hard drugs and all their effects on human lives. They learn why gay marriage is possible, what sexual orientation is and why it is important to understand and talk about it. That prostitution is a profession just like any other and as long as it is a clean business where employees pay their taxes they have the right to perform this occupation.

But then there is the fear of the unknown. As long as society is educated correctly about public debates and democratic choices it seems to work out well. But then there are the particular cases when rumours spread, politicians say things they should not have said and the public gets scared. Scared of making a democratic choice that will affect their personal lives, a decision that will affect their cash flow or loved ones. In these cases they react emotionally and protest for their own benefits.

A well-known Dutch censorship case is Fitna. The anti-Muslim documentary made by Geert Wilders, a Dutch extreme right winged politician. In The Netherlands one of our constitutional rights is freedom of speech. Geert Wilders took this right very seriously when he created an anti-Koran documentary. He wanted to show the Dutch population what Muslims believe in through a literal translation of the Koran. Every Dutch public- and commercial television channel refused to show his movie ‘Fitna’. Wilders eventually hosted his movie on a website. His documentary was a matter discussed in parliament because its meaning effects the Dutch public, especially their overseas image and reputation. It even had an impact on some trade agreements with Muslim countries. These countries were upset and angry and did not want to trade with a country that allows people to tell ‘lies’. Everyone in the Netherlands was worried what the documentary would do to public debates about Muslims. The fear amongst the public was all caused by speculation. Nobody knew what the outcome of the documentary would intended. In the end the speculation about the documentary opened discussion and provided an opportunity for both sides to share their opinion and side of the story. ‘Fitna’ created a wave of media attention that opened the public debate on the Muslim culture and religion.

Dear next generation, sometimes fear takes over and it causes human beings to do all kinds of things that could have been prevented in the first place. For me there is only one solution to it all, education. If we educate and raise our children with an open view of life, they can base their decisions upon their own knowledge. If we let them participate in different cultures and countries around the world I think globalisation could do us all a lot of good.

From one generation to another,

Louise

– Elsevier (2008), Revised May 8, 2010 from: http://www.elsevier.nl/web/Dossiers/Censuur-in-Nederland/Fitna.htm

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