Sunday, June 7, 2015


It took me years but I finally worked it out. There are the Hoch Lands, the Highlands, which became the province of Holland; the Flat Lands, which became Flanders; the lands of the Deutsches, which became Deutschland, the proper name for Germany; and then there are the other lands inhabited by Deutsches, who became the Dutch, most of whom live in the lands between the Hoch and the Flat and the Deutsch, which is to say the Nether Lands, or Nederlands, which is also called Holland. Is that now clear? And do you now understand why, when you got to H in this book, Holland was missing? It isn’t; it’s right here.

There was a time when Holland was one of the world’s great trading empires; today it sells Rembrandt paintings and marijuana, but very little else. It is also one of the last surviving monarchies in democratic Europe (wait a minute – Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK – that makes 12; 13 if you count the Pope in the Vatican city). Start again.

Like most of Europe, Holland has begun to dig out the place where a path might one day be, along which it might later on chart a route towards becoming a democracy, and in the interim it has joined Europe's finest democratic institution, the European Community, though it still retains its monarchy and was one of the leaders, with France, in opposing the creation of a European constitution in a referendum in 2005. 

Like most of Europe, the Netherlands has a diminishing agricultural community (tulips apart), almost no manufacturing (the marijuana is imported), very little residual industry (Rotterdam is still the largest port in Europe, and was the largest in the world until 2004), and significant automation and use of technology wherever it is possible to avoid employing humans, who expect to be paid. What is left, besides the Van Goghs and the prostitutes of Amsterdam, is service-industry (no, I guess the prostitutes of Amsterdam are service-industry as well, just of the black market variety, like the marijuana), though the mega-corporations are well on the way to making humans redundant in that sphere as well. Much fear of Islam (Islam itself, not just the terrorism of Islamic State) seems to be the biggest issue in the country.

Marks For: 82.5 million (the price, in US dollars, of Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet". the most expensive painting in the world at the time of its sale, in 1990, though that figure has now been beaten).

Marks Against: 252.55 (the average price, again in US dollars, per ounce, of high grade marijuana in Amsterdam - and yes, there is actually a website which functions as the official stock exchange for substances - click here if you don't believe me, or even if you do).

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

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