Reality

Dark Thoughts

Black and White. Part 5

The US banks were very kind to me. To protect themselves, they told several Dutch banks to accept that the sparkling investments that they’d bought at great expense were worth…

… nothing.

That is to say, the US banks were kind enough to tell the Dutch banks that whilst these investments were properly backed by US banking law, the US banks were going to have none of it.

To the US banks it’s called saving your bacon, to you and me it’s called fraud.

That was 2008. By 2011 things had filtered through to my business as an interior decorator and furniture maker. That is to say, things were black. Really tough. Don’t be too cynical here – I saw what was happening and it was not pleasant. Jasper suggested asking for help from the local council. So I did. They duly sent someone around to look at my business records.

Having scrubbed my flat, my face and my references from my customers, I was ready for all comers.

Believe me, I wasn’t the least ready for what was about to hit me!

I invited my visitor to my home and offered her – for it was a she – some tea or coffee. Tea it was, and she opened her folder and asked me for a brief rundown of my business. In Dutch. Five years in the country and I was still getting the hang of the language. Never mind, she said Dutch, so Dutch it was. There were times I fumbled for the right words, and as with clients, tried an English one to see if they knew the Dutch word. I got a stare for my trouble. There are no liferings thrown to those drowning in the language.

I have to admit that the conversation was proving extremely difficult, if only that there was nothing to converse with. I had no idea where she was headed or what she truly wanted. Usually with a client I could determine their needs in minutes, spend the next five running a few others past them and so do a little exploration. The only exploration I was doing here was hunting in a black void for words I didn’t know. Somehow I made myself understood, but quite how much I never knew for her expression never changed.

Now this was my first real experience of dealing face to face with a real bureaucrat. Someone for whom racing office chairs is as exciting as life needs get. I had never before met someone who simply didn’t respond. Everything I had done, was doing and was proposing to do met with a blank stare or outright negativity. This floored me. I never experienced this from clients – pressure on price, details, you name it. Never this blank cow-like gaze. Not at least at close quarters and with enough time for me to realize that something was missing. For here I had nothing to reflect on or to consider. It was like playing tennis in a swimming pool. Given something to work with, I can get most people to grasp my meaning in fairly short order. I’ve done it and it’s one of my specialties.

The interview ended with her taking my papers. She left an atmosphere in my room that I can only describe as empty.

A few weeks later my report arrived in an expensive envelope. In effect it said that I was a complete twat and hadn’t the faintest idea how to run a business. Furthermore, I couldn’t speak a single word of Dutch.

I was shocked. I’d built a business from nothing more than naked passion. Kept it running for five years whilst learning the ropes of self employment, the ins and outs of Dutch tax law and its requirements – and most importantly of all, the needs of my Dutch customers. The latter I managed to fulfill well beyond their expectations given the rave reviews I got. In their estimation I was the top girl.

So how was it that my business acumen was rated slightly lower than that of grass mowings? The answer is simple: I didn’t have any certificates. I had no certificate to prove I could pick up a saw and cut a piece of wood. I had no certificate to prove I could lick a spoon. More worrying, my esteemed clients had no certificates to be clients and so their verdict was worthless: in short they were not an authority. Yet I could speak English – but then she’d seen my English passport!

Ah, I could speak English.

Now tell me: just how hard is it to tell if I speak English? It’s not that difficult, is it?

Nope.

So why make a deal out of it? Because this is the other side of certification. It means the person using certificates as a prop for their decision making does not need to take any responsibility. That is taken out of their hands by – in this case – the issuing authority of my passport.

This was my first experience of someone who had unknowingly become – and there is no better word for it – inhuman. Everything she did was done because she was forced to, and in the intervening years I have come to realize that little would get done in the Netherlands if people were not treated in this fashion! Believe me, it is not the kind of realization one wants to make, for it implies that people have very little by way of self-expression.

It was this experience too that I transformed to my own benefit. For I could ask one question to determine if someone was totally swamped by this miasma of evil, or if they could still look out of it. I needed ask them “how good is my Dutch?” If they answered that it was okay but had a few mistakes here and there, that was their own judgment based on what they perceived. If they couldn’t answer, that meant they needed someone to tell them what to think, and so are immersed.

This is what Steiner called the “moral” judgment. Little to do with the kind of intellectual morality that many Anthroposophists would believe it to be. It is the ability to form a judgment on what one perceives, and need no help.

Those who make decisions based on what others tell them, what they read on paper without questioning it, doing what the boss tells them without a second thought are making an immoral decision. That goes for the camp guard at Auschwitz as it does the US pilot snapping to attention and flying off to drop bombs on innocent civilians.

Which brings us to insurance companies. For their systems immerse people in this miasma. I could go on to describe the effects of this, and how it comes to limit their consciousness, but that would be to drift off topic. Perhaps another series of fivers?

The issue is that inherent in such systems is a fear that they will break down. Since they are based on money and financial dealings, the more money they have, the safer they feel. The inverse is also true: giving money is something they detest for it makes them feel unsafe. I know this is a generalization, but look carefully and this describes more than just insurance companies.

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