Wednesday 9 June 2010

One of the lads

Judging by the unsightly orange flags and bunting that keep appearing round these parts, it's obvious a lot of people are busy gearing up to the Booze-athon that is the World Cup. In the Netherlands there is the small matter of the general election to get out of the way first. Nevertheless, it's quite touching to see the Dutch Prime Minister getting into the spirit of things, taking time out with the lads and enjoying a can of beer.
But of course, it's the T-shirt that catches the eye. If anyone else had been wearing it, nobody in the Netherlands would have given it a second thought, but this is none other than clean-living leader of the Christian Democrats, defender of "normen en waarden", Jan-Peter Balkenende.
Now let's not cast stones, I'm not one to shirk from using industrial language when it's called for. If the situation arises, the odd expletive might be necessary, but it's this gratitious, misplaced use of the F-word that I just can't understand. At the best of times, the Dutch are not averse to the use of foul language. I once tried disciplining secondary school pupils for using abusive language in the classroom and got laughed at - by my fellow teachers. Kids at my son's primary school would never be admonished for using the K-word: their parents would simply shrug it off as if it were some rite of passage. Yes, people grow up with it - it's not confined to adulthood - swearing is part and parcel of mainstream Dutch culture. And if their own swear words won't suffice - and believe me there's enough of them to warrant a dictionary of their own - they have this strange fascination with Anglo-Saxon profanities too. Using English is the mode in the Netherlands and using English swear words is the height of fashion, as Balkenende is clearly demonstrating. It seems a pity that no one quite realises different cultures go about their swearing in different ways. Balkenende might look quite jolly and fashionable here, but if he'd been caught walking down the average high street in England donning such a T-shirt he'd probably be given short shrift and issued with an ASBO.

Update: the video clip is even MORE bizarre.