Friday, November 05, 2004

The Great Insulter

The Brazilian feel-good coffee I've been drinking for the last two weeks instantly turned cold and bitter the day I hit Dutch soil. Filmmaker and writer Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered in Amsterdam on Tuesday. Slaughtered by a radical Muslim for speaking his mind, through words and images. Gunned down, and a five-page death threat pinned to his body with a knife, after his throat was cut. The threat was for politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who has experienced the brutality of Islamic male suppression first-hand. The short film Submission Van Gogh made about her experiences, cost him his life and leaves Hirsi Ali in terror for her own. As many in Holland it left me speechless...for about two seconds.

I don't feel like saying much on the murder and the feelings it has aroused. I don't think this is the proper place. I got out for a drink with some friends this night, and of course we came to talk about our own little Dutch Jihad. About the impossibility of a dialogue with fundamentalists. About a distaste for a dialogue with right-wing parties that feast on the murder. About how people may start to choose for Christian fundamentalism as the lesser, and more well-known evil. About your own heart moving a bit more to the right in your body. And especially about the total lack of humor of extremists, fundamentalists and other (religious) fanatics.

The only time I met Van Gogh was when I was an editor of the satirical student weekly Propria Cures (PC) (Dutch site). This little paper has a considerable reputation as a free haven for every insult to and ridiculisation of any person, group, religion or world-view. No rules, nobody is spared, riding the free word like hell in all its facets. This often resulted in mediocre articles, sick jokes at times, but also some literally sparks, and razor-sharp satire. In attitude and writing PC often very much resembled Van Gogh's own style of provocation for the provocation. Though it has done so since his famous grand-uncle cut of his own ear.
Van Gogh actually was a guest-editor of Propria Cures, supported it financially and over the years published articles in it that he could not get published elsewhere due to his status as an enfant terrible and persona non grata. I had one highly entertaining evening with him, which ended in a small brawl, to not much surprise.

This is all not to claim Van Gogh, as many do now and will do over the next months, and years. Nor to make some claim about freedom of speech, and how its throat was cut in Amsterdam this week. It is about how this religious fascism has slaughtered a mindset of my own past. How close it has actually come, and penetrated my present mindset and the mindset I want to be able to express in the future. And how pathetically safe I was laying in bed, when Van Gogh blew out his last smoke. Not expressing anything, that is what this is about, above all.


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