Snow on the ground! In The Netherlands by now something of a spectacle – lately, winters haven’t been good to us.

So out there and enjoying the fairy tale of a dirty world covered in a bridal gown. As if all woman are virgins, whatever their age, and as if metamorphosis is not reserved for butterflies.




Even what already in mid-summer was enchanting acquires that extra touch of the improbable and, why not, of the sublime. What is normally the dome of a bandstand in Haarlem Wood, a look-through perspex roof, has now become opaque, however not loosing its charm but adding to it.




Even big chunks of rotting wood are covered in this white powdered shroud. They become vital and vibrant again, loosing their normal tinge of death which they normally exude. Like a gathering of friends, ready to party.

When young, and thus infantile, I refused to wear my glasses, spectacles which I needed badly to survive the then already threatening traffic. After all, myopia of minus 10 is something to be, what!

I repeatedly told my mother that in this way I was allowed to enjoy the world without its dirt and its squalor. What’s more: Not having to look at the faces of all those other people whom I experienced as rather frightening.

My world without spectacles was a wintery world, kind of glaucoma in early life. My world was a world of books and vague views. I was a young man gazing, certainly not observing and watching

Now, this wintery miracle all around takes me back in time. This time it is sheer make belief, as by now I have plastic lenses implanted in the middle of my irises. The snow however is a good kind of swindle.

I’ve also grown up – more or less. So I have come to know what shock is. I know by now what it is to have your ideals bang, time and again, onto the dirt of reality. Yet, this was indeed a shock, late last night suddenly face to face with the windscreen of the car parked in front of our house.




I am quite convinced this ugly writing in de snow was done by some adolescent kids. I do not of a sudden expect real fascist thugs around the corner of my street. But Christ – what a blow this was.

It is also a shock as far as historical consciousness is concerned. These stupid kids are living in a world of the Kadhafi’s, the Trumps, the Father Le Pens and others – so what’s a Hitler more or less? At most perhaps a figure of fun to, an icon to be used as provocation.

Over time history fades. It is not surprising when your children won’t participate in the May memorial gathering, remembering the Dead of World War II. I understand that. A little history education, though, seems advisable…

Youth, generally speaking, does not want to be reminded that what they do has already been done before, that what is happening now often looks very much like what has happened earlier – that they have parents and a past. Naturally youth considers itself the beginning, youth wants to be the origin of THE NEW. The clock starts running NOW!

Chance has it that in the middle of beautiful Haarlem Wood there is a statue of Nicolaas Beets alias Hildebrand, the man who wrote a fairy tale book on the first half of the Dutch 19th century. It is called Camera Obscura.




So, good for you, Hildebrand, this magic snow on your high head and shoulders




The Camera Obscura was written in 1839, just before notions of ethnic differences really turned nasty and became transformed in outright racism. What for instance in Beet’s time was still ‘anti-Judaism’ – chiefly inspired by Roman-Catholicism and the Middle Age myth of the Jews killing Christ and murdering Christian children for ritual purpose – by 1850 had become the racism and anti-Semitism advocated by the likes of Gobineau.

That man wrote his essay on the inequality of races, published in the year 1853 as Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines. One may date the beginning of that awful and also weird wave of anti-Semitism as racism in this year.

Snow all over The Netherlands… It has covered this dirty world. I can imagine myself for a wile not wearing spectacles. For a day one may bathe in the illusion of the pursuit of happiness and the reign of equality, wiling away all nastiness. So one thinks.

Then stepping out of the house at night and saying good bye to the family who came to enjoy your anniversary, there it is: An ugly swastika celebrating that ugly man’s Christian name.

Sierksma 2.2.17


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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