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Long ago, when I was in primary school, every year the same missionary honoured us with a visit. His remarkable appearance – bare feet in sandals, long beard, wearing a white habit with a coarse rope around his waist – never failed to impress his young audience. And so did his stories. He told us about black people in foreign countries who suffered from terrible diseases, were hungry and naked and above all deeply grateful for his merciful work. We children diligently saved up bottle caps that contained aluminium and could be sold to buy food and clothing for the poor. In my childish imagination it was a good cause to feed the hungry, so they wouldn’t have to eat each other anymore. Apparently I had heard about cannibals. To clothe the naked was a different story; I felt deeply sorry for the poor bastards who, due to my bottle caps, had to wear pants and skirts. My school was Roman- Catholic and the dress code was strict. Girls were not allowed to wear just pants. Over it, you had to wear a skirt too. I hated the two waistbands and envied primitive peoples for their nakedness.
In my adolescent years I no longer believed in faith. My rebellion against church rules was caused by their fussy interference with my way of life and in particular to their smug pedantry. I embraced the assumptions of humanism, as I still do. Self-determination, personal freedom, empowerment of people to live their lives the way they like. When I reached adulthood, D66 was founded just in time to fulfil my desire for community involvement. We demolished the compartmentalization of our Dutch society, reinforced the control of power and refused to take the morals of our time for granted. But above all we wanted to live in a country where both human rights and concern for the environment were self-evident. Nothing could jeopardize our individuality; the key-word was democracy. We believed in our ability to change the world. Today, sadder and wiser, I realise that real change has to take a thorny path. I vividly remember my struggle to free myself from the religion of my upbringing. I had nightmares about having become a leper. The nuns had effectively planted the conviction in my subconscious that misbelievers were not only hungry and naked, but so terribly ill as well that only God could save them. Even during pregnancy I hesitated, for a brief moment, about baptizing our child-to-be.
The European Prime Ministers hesitate too. Unfortunately not only for a brief moment. Forty-five years of concurrency are not enough to internalize the awareness of mutual dependency. When things get tough, the Pavlovian response in all national parliaments is the same: let’s do it without them or get rid of them. But we all agree that candidate states have to change and they have to do it at the earliest. My own liberal democrats are adding the extra mile for them with their demands for the quality of their democracy. I hesitate. Why not rely on the strengths of people?
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Dit artikel verscheen in idee nr. 6 2011: The rule of law
en is te vinden bij het onderwerp religie.