Our family recently moved to the Netherlands. We love it here, for many reasons. But the stories of it being a kid-friendly paradise, the supposed “#1 place to raise your kids in the world,” turned out to be a myth. More hype than substance, in the last week, my partner and I have taken our son to two environmentally-conscious, forward thinking events, only to have people give us dirty looks, report us, and have their lackeys tell us that “this is not an event for children.”
The first place we went, part of a hundred-year-old dutch society, De Groene Kring, which advertises itself as a meet-up “for sustainable thinkers and green doers,” turned out to be neither of those two things. Instead, perhaps they should rebrand themselves as De Zwarte Kring, a society “for predatory capitalists and shallow thinkers.” The place they met was in a smokey, black-walled windowless room, inside of a stuffy bar. I was told that the dutch Minister of the Environment was there–but I couldn’t comprehend how she would willingly subject herself to inhaling third-hand smoke. They apparently have a “no technology” policy (i.e., they don’t want people just chilling on their smartphones while people are presenting. Fair enough.
The only thing wrong with it though, is that the presenters were giving powerpoints, using multiple computers and a projector, so the cognitive dissonance was running high.
Our son, who is extremely well-behaved and mostly silent, was sucking back on some boob, when we got sneering glances from the two ladies in front of us, who snorted “hmpf!” and pulled their jackets tighter across their corpulent figures in protest. We were then notified that children were not welcome at their events, but not explicitly told to go. We left on our own accord, realizing that we had unwittingly landed in a toxic atmosphere, and had no desire to continue to subject our son to such poison, energetic, olfactory, or otherwise.
Which got me thinking about prefigurative politics. You see, political theorists, feminists, and decolonialists, have this notion of prefigurative politics, which means that even if things are fucked up now, we must act as if the revolution has already happened. As if the world that we want to live in (of equity, diversity, civility, etc.) already exists, through our actions and interactions with others. That means, if we wish to live in a post-racist society, we need to check people any time we hear any inkling of racism in their comments, responding, “you know that isn’t appropriate.” This denormalizing of racism is something that has to be actively engaged and maintained–not ceding the reins of responsibility to some bureaucrat who may or may not ever effectively create legislation to this effect.
Likewise, with any green, environmental, or sustainable organization–as long as you’re still flying across the planet to meet, frantically generating carbon like a coal plant with it’s carbon-capture top cut off–you’re part of the very problem you’re trying to fight against. For most environmental organizations, this means: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” (see Pogo comic made on the first Earthday, 1971, about the trash humans have created by our throwaway economy).
In the same vein, if you’re going to be a progressive environmental organization, you have *got* to not exclude future generations. You can’t close out the future. If kids are not included, then there is something terribly backwards about your environmental organization. Either you’re doing something illegal like using drugs, or there’s a tumor in your brain or stake in your heart preventing you from realizing the cognitive dissonance of excluding kids. It’s precisely those sorts of exclusionary, business-people-only policies that landed us in this environmental predicament we’re facing. If you want to make a difference, you’ve got to be prefigurative about inviting children in as well.
The next disappointment our family faced was almost even more shocking. We went to a “dance ecstatic” (not sure if it is an “official” Ecstatic Dance) last Saturday night at Odessa, an amazingly outfitted ship in Amsterdam, that has a chill room, soup and bar (maybe because they serve alcohol they’re not an official ecstatic dance?), sauna and hottub on the roof deck, and a small cramped hot dance floor with a good sound system. Again, we bring our little peanut to rock out.
And again, the host of the event comes up to us to inform us that if he cries (which he hasn’t), that we’ll have to leave. Both my partner and I are floored. I started ecstatic dance Berlin, I’ve gone to hundred of ecstatic dances in the Bay Area, and these Amsterdamer boneheads are afraid of babies? What a joke! in the Bay Area, children are welcome, and encouraged. Because, um, we want the next generation to be free in their bodies, right? To be exposed to the movement that we weren’t.
Talk about backwards policies. Making parents feel unwelcome when they bring their kids is the surest sign that you’re just a bunch of sad, delusional, desperate single 30- and 40-somethings who can’t get laid, and are afraid of kids, because their mere present will remind you of your wrinkly mortality.
So, lesson to all those “progressive” organizations. Get your prefigurative politics in order. If you want to be the change, Netherlands, don’t be a douche, and instead welcome, include, and maybe even learn from the next generation. ★