Ik sta achter de boeren

Recently, Dutch farmers have – rightly – started protesting against demands of “their” government that they cull their herds of cattle and pigs in order to comply with some idiot EU/UN rule about limiting emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides.

Now, isn’t government supposed to be for the benefit of the governed? All the governed? So, what benefit is there to ordinary Dutch people from these limits? None at all, I’d say. Where is the science which, objectively and without political bias, quantifies the bad (or good) effects of these emissions? And what is the loss to ordinary Dutch people (and the rest of us) if their supposedly “liberal” government is allowed to pursue these policies? Biefstuk, ossehaas, spek… I don’t need to go on.

Let’s fast backward to 1984, and Margaret Thatcher’s campaign against the UK coal miners. At the time, I confess, I was so naïve that I supported Thatcher. I did so because the miners’ union had gone beyond reasonable bounds of behaviour; and because the trade unions had run the country for most of the previous 20 years, and I was sick of it.

Just two week-ends ago, I played the tuba in my brass band in four performances of “Brassed Off.” (The stage version of a UK film set in a mining community in 1994, in the aftermath of Thatcher’s purges.) Our performances were a great success, and we, cast and band, enjoyed a standing ovation from 300+ people on the Saturday evening – only the third time I have ever experienced that.

And there’s a speech, given by the main character (Danny Ormondroyd) at the end of the play. I’ll quote two excerpts:

“Over last ten years, this government has systematically destroyed an entire industry, our industry. Communities. Homes. Lives. All in the name of progress and a few lousy bob…

“Point is, if this lot were bloody seals, or bloody whales or summat, you’d be up in bloody arms – but they’re not. They’re just men. Honest, decent, fallible men and women. And not one on ‘em with an ounce of hope left. Oh ay, they can knock out a good tune, but what the fuck does that matter? Unless they matter. Unless we matter.”

I’ll adapt Danny’s speech to where we are today. Actually, apart from replacing “progress” by “sustainability,” I don’t need to change anything but the first sentence. The second excerpt is spot on, even today. Whoever wrote it deserves a Knobble Prize for Witterature. So, here’s my opener:

“Over last thirty years and more, political governments, and the EU and the UN, have actively sought to destroy our industries and our civilization.”

Back to my Dutch farmer friends. Like the French gilets jaunes, they are under assault by the corrupt criminal gangs endemic in politics today, and they don’t like it. As yet, unfortunately, like the gilets jaunes they don’t seem to have any real idea of what they want. I have a hint for them: what they should want is for people to matter. You matter; I matter; we matter. Op mij; op ons; op jullie.

I lived in Holland for three years, 40 years ago. While my Dutch may be remedial these days, I have enjoyed the company of many fine Dutch people. And I stand with the Dutch farmers in their struggle against those that would destroy our civilization. Ik sta achter de boeren.


  1. Animal life could not evolve on Earth till plants evolved and started pumping out oxygen for them to breathe. Maybe that’s the solution – kill off all animal life and leave the planet to the plants?

  2. Toevallig ben ik momenteel Nederlands aan het leren. Ik spreek al Duits en merk de overeenkomsten (ook met Engels). Mijn excuses voor eventuele fouten hier.

    Ik sta ook achter de boeren. Milieuargumenten hebben soms een brede verdienste, maar dit is weer een schandelijke interventie van de EU.

    Thatcher had ook ongelijk over de mijnindustrie, maar ik vraag me af of haar motieven volledig te maken hadden met economie?

    • Yes Tom, I also wonder – with the benefit of 35 years of hindsight – about Thatcher’s motivations for what she did to the miners. At the time, as I said, I didn’t like the miners, or the trade unions in general; and I suspect that went for pretty much all her supporters. I am coming to suspect she may have done all those things for not much more reason than a fit of pique, that she thought she could (and, at the time, did) get away with.

      And your Dutch is better than mine – at least, given that the Dutch I used to know is now 40 years out of date.

      • Her motives in regard to the Miners’ Strike, the NUM and British industry were obviously political primarily, though there was also an economic case in that mining in Britain was less efficient than in other places. Ian McGregor made the comparison with the US coal industry, where it was not uncommon to find women miners as it was, and is, a highly mechanised and efficient industry compared to Britain. But was it necessary to break the industry? Pit closures in the 1980s and 1990s under the Tories followed a continuum dating back to Labour in the 1960s, and before that previous governments. But was this necessary? We’re told it was part of a wiggish progression, starting as early as the 1850s, in which the country moved away from heavy industry and became ‘post-modern’. But do we want a country without craft and industry, a society full of billboards and blandness?

        Originally I was strongly for Labour and my view of Thatcher was not favourable. Over the last three years, my view about her has changed fundamentally as the true extent of the Left’s infiltration of the Establishment and different areas of power and influence has become apparent. I share Dr. Gabb’s views about the Thatcher ministries, and to a large extent all that went after is down to what happened then, but at the same time I must acknowledge that her crusade to deinstitutionalise the Left – part of which was to make war on militant trade unionism – has been vindicated. It is only a shame she failed. It is also a shame that she could not separate apples from oranges. Bullying trade unionism is not a good thing, but trade unionism per se is not a bad thing. On some issues, there is room for moderacy and nuances.

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