Narrator – Amsterdam: the inverted world


In Amsterdam I entered the inverted world of Holland and this inverted world took me on. A world with many centuries of embarrassing wealth and a deep discomfort [1], but that I learned later. For me the feast started. As an exotic outsider, I was not bothered by the discomfort and my lovers let me sharing in their wealth.

From the Harbour, I walked via the Damrak [2] to the Dam.

[3]

Earlier in the 17th century the Dam and its surroundings were the place where shiploads were traded against securities that were redeemable across the North Sea and Baltic Sea area. The traders in Amsterdam did everything to retain confidence in these securities. Still the Dutch relate the value of goods and the value of trust in human relationships to money. Money is for them still a metaphor for confidence.

When I arrived on that beautiful autumn day for the first time on the Dam, the last “Sleepers on the Dam” of that year were still present. A few years ago the police and Marines had skirmishes with the “Sleepers on the Dam”. In the opinion of the former Regents these lazy idlers were not in the position to sleep at the National Monument [4]. The text on the front of the Memorial seemed to leave the Regents in their right:

“Hic ubi cor patriae monumentum cordibus intus
quod gestant cives spectet ad astra dei.”[5]

(‘Let here where the heart of the motherland is, the monument – that citizens bear within their hearts – look at the stars of God.’)

According to the Regents the solitary monument should look at the stars of God commemorating the Second World War. Intuitively the “Sleepers on the Dam” felt that the Monument is a memorial to the inner entity of the citizens to look at the stars of God. In my native region the Maasai God Engaï [6] aroused in a distant past under the night starry sky the deceased back to life. In this inverted country the “Sleepers on the Dam” temporarily won the skirmishes until the winter chased them away. In those cold days the vapour of my breath gave a home to the breath of the villager killed in the overnight fire in the forest; almost all the nights I slept under the stars when the coldness allowed.

[7]

After a few months it was freezing period; the inhabitants of this inverted world were beset by ice-fever. For the first time in my life I saw frozen water – for me a strange environment. All the other people started ice skating; for them, it was a free world with a traditional free trade [8]. Many made long skating tours through the polders, a few of them came back home wounded – in Holland very usual.

[9]

Luckily I found accommodation at the home of my lovers during this cold period.


[1] See for the richness of Holland in the 17th century: Schama, Simon, The Embarrassment of the Riches. Fontana Press, 1987

[2] The Damrak was the former outer harbour to the South Sea for small vessels. See also: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damrak

[3] Painting by Cornelis Anthonisz. Sourrce image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelis_Anthonisz.

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationaal_Monument

[5] The Latin tekst on the front of the Memorial is written by dr. J.D. Meerwaldt

[6] According to a Maasai myth the God Engaï gives cattle to the people and he brings people to life after their death and each day he lets the Moon die. After a sin wherein an opponent was desired death, Engaï lets people die and each night he brought the Moon to life. Source:  http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa%C3%AF_(volk)

[7] Source image:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:National_monument_-_amsterdam_nl.jpg

[8] Until the modern era, liquor and prostitution were legally regulated for land and water. Ice was not mentioned in the legislation and therefore a free trade for liquor and prostitution was allowed on ice.

[9] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam

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