I want to talk about two stories in this post. The relation between them is not so obvious, but for some reason my brain linked them as soon as i heard the second story. One happened in the US, in relationship to Holland, and the other in Holland, in counterpoint to India. The common point is not really Holland, but lets talk about that later.
I spent a year studying in Amsterdam, and on the day I was supposed to fly back to NY, to finally graduate, my flight was cancelled. With an extra day Haiko and I decided to do something different. We decided to go to a swimming park. We took the whole day to get there, and when we finally did, the place was full of kids. Small children were running on the wet floor, climbing small concrete ‘mushrooms’, jumping from one to the other. Some kids fell down, cried, but soon enough stood up and started playing again. There were a few lifeguards, but I did not see any of them interfering. I told Haiko that this would have been impossible in the US. There would have been numerous signs forbidding this kind of behaviour.
The following day I flew to NY, and as soon as I got there I went for a swim in the university pool. I noticed a new sign, spread all over the wall. In gigantic letters it said: “IT IS FORBIDDEN TO PLAY BREATHING GAMES”. A bit shocked and very curious, I decided to ask what this sign was sypposed to mean. The young lifeguard told me, with a serious face, that it was very dangerous to cross the pool underwater without breathing. And that it was forbidden to do it in that pool. Wow, i really was back in the US! At first i found it quite funny, but thinking about it later, i realised it was in fact quite sad.
My second story is about a Dutch couple in their fifties, who spent six months traveling in India. They visited many regions, participated in rituals, and took uncountable pictures. Once back in Holland, they showed those pictures in a night of slides and stories. The man said that since his return he had been quite depressed. Naturally, the differences in reality between the two countries were enough for a cultural shock, but his shock was strengthened by a particular event. The man, a university professor, told that once he went back to work, he found an absurd sign on one of the university toilet doors. The sign read: “Because of possible bad smell and annoying sounds, it is forbidden to poo on this toilet”.
When i heard this story, the sign in the pool immediately entered my mind. These signs are not the problem per se. Isolated they are even quite funny. The real problem lies in this trend! How is it that we allow a whole generation of kids to grow up without the right to fall?? How do we allow a whole new generation to grow without being able to learn to stand up, without being able to take any decision without calling their parents’ mobile, without scratching themselves, without calculating risks, without planning? What happens in a society when we displace our responsibilities to others, to the government? Suing everything and all? How is it that we got to the point that a toilet is no longer a place to poo? As if we had to “perfect” ourselves so much, that we would have to set ourselves apart from our vital functions. As if we have to set ourselves apart from our humanity…