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Running in High Heels9 May 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
‘The Queen nearly moved to London again.’
‘She stays quite often in London anyway.’
‘But I am talking about the Dutch Queen and what happened during the Remembrance of the War Dead.’
I think that, at this point, I need to add a short explanation for my overseas readers. On the 4th of May, the National Remembrance of the War Dead was held in Dam square in Amsterdam. During the two minutes silence a confused man started to scream. This in turn caused a woman to shriek, a man to drop his briefcase, whilst another man called out: ‘A bomb, a bomb!’ which thus created a panic reaction.
The consequences: sixty-three injured, mostly with grazes and broken bones. Basically, people were trampled on when others tried to escape the scene. The Royal family was swiftly ushered to safety.
So it just took one confused man to almost make the Queen fly to safety in England.’
‘This was what happened at the start of World War Two.’
‘Luckily this time she was back within minutes.’
‘It may well be a good idea for her to appear in running shoes next time. The spectacle of female members of the Royal Family on the run in high heels doesn’t make for a dignified picture.’
That evening the incident was the main topic on television; security experts were called to join the discussion about how this had been allowed to happen. There was a man with a briefcase: how could it be that a man with a briefcase had been able to join the crowd? But it was one lonely disturbed man who started shouting, only one unstable individual!
My opinion is that the British Queen wouldn’t have moved by an inch, even if a nuclear device had exploded. It is not the done thing to interrupt a remembrance, but she may just have cast a very stern look at the spot where the bomb had detonated.
In the mean time, during all of last week, CNN reported on a car bomb that hadn’t exploded in Times Square in New York. It was a homemade concoction but the event was looked at from all angles. Barely a week later, an abandoned cool box again brought New York to a standstill; this time it was a false alarm.
Meanwhile in The Netherlands the cup final between arch rivals Ajax and Feyenoord was settled in two separate games, each before a home crowd. This was to avoid violence, because the two sets of supporters are out to kill each other. It wrecked the atmosphere and still required the same amount of security.
Fear reigns supreme. A few years ago I was waiting in a queue at Heathrow. At the security gate we had to remove our shoes. Just in front of me stood Edison Arantes do Nascimento, aka Pelé, the world famous Brazilian footballer in retirement. Even he had to remove his shoes; when they were checked the security officer asked for his autograph.
A society that insists that a football legend and my eighty-five year old mother, who has trouble walking, remove their shoes is not my kind of society.
That’s why I prefer travelling by train. I enjoy the feeling of being certain that my toothpaste travels with me.
Apparently on Ben Gurion airport in Israel they operate in quite a different way. They simply subject you to a few critical security questions. The people asking these questions are very well trained and thus spot a problem immediately. My elderly mother as well as Pelé could have kept their shoes on.
Maybe we should develop the habit of asking each other more security questions. For example ask people who vote for extremist parties. In the UK they vote UKIP or BNP, in The Netherlands they vote for Geert Wilders, and it is all down to fear.
For quite some time in the Western world, we just assumed that the next generation would reap the benefits. This has changed and we now feel things can only get worse, financially and with the environment. The Greek crisis threatens to burst all stock markets, the Chinese grow richer and richer and a terrorist attack is just around the corner.
Don’t give in to fear, that is always the best course of action. Therefore I have made up my mind to immediately tackle the person who proclaims: ‘I have a bomb.’ If we all had this attitude it is likely to deter would-be terrorists.
Bomb attacks are part of life now but it matters how you deal with terrorist attacks. Society is built on a time bomb and it is called fear. I feel I should take to the street with a huge banner with on it written in large letters: ‘HOPE!’
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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