The Netherlands is struggling with loutish behaviour
Loutish behaviour and degeneration are commonplace in the Netherlands today, according to sociologist and philosopher Bas van Stokkom, who has written a book on the topic.I had hardly taken out my microphone and recorder, before we saw a man urinating against a hedge on the square, next to his car. When he sees the radio equipment he quickly zips up his trousers. Dr Van Stokkom just laughs, especially as a policeman on motorbike comes around the corner just too late.
But isn’t urinating in public a form of loutish behaviour? Dr Van Stokkom:
“It is certainly a form of thoughtlessness, why should I care, what does it matter. It is definitely egoistic.”
The philosopher from Nijmegen’s Radboud University, is the author of the book What a lout! Irritation, quick-temperedness and social degeneration. In it he argues that the 1960s ‘freedom’ mentality has gone too far. Of course, it was necessary to break away from the oppressive social codes which dominated the 1950s.
But now this laissez-faire attitude has become outright permissiveness. “People no longer take the needs of others into account. They refuse to take responsibility for their behaviour. If you confront people, they just say: mind your own business.”
We go a little further and meet a born and bred Amsterdammer at a tram stop. He says he doesn’t see much loutishness, except when he is in certain neighbourhoods, where large groups of youths hang around in the street. He already has a solution to the problem: “There should be more police and we need more repressive measures.”
According to Dr Van Stokkom, police presence in certain areas could help combat degeneration and loutishness. But people could resolve many forms of loutishness themselves:
“Conflicts and nuisance are a part of everyday life, certainly in large cities. People should communicate more to prevent it. That is something we have to rediscover.”
Further along on the edge of Vondelpark is another example of degeneration. A cargo bike is locked to a lamppost. The bike, designed to carry small children, is full of rubbish, the wheels have been stolen.
It looks a mess, but is this really an example of loutishness? “Not in the sense of: I’ll get you,” says Mr Van Stokkom. It is a strange sight in this otherwise upmarket area. But it fits in with Van Stokkom’s theory that social degeneration has penetrated into all layers of society: “Apparently people in this neighbourhood don’t think the street belongs to anyone.”
In Vondelpark, we come across a homeless man. He tells us he is often confronted by loutishness. People tell him to go find a job. Dr Van Stokkom: “The homeless often have comments thrown at them. They are easy prey, but sometimes there is a lout among the homeless themselves.”
Take others into account
Bas van Stokkom doesn’t want to be classified as a pessimist who thinks the Netherlands is going down the plughole:
“There are things that are good. There is very little loutishness at schools and in businesses. But in the public domain, in politics, in public opinion, on the internet, anywhere people can hide behind their anonymity, you see loutishness. Politicians and entertainment programmes on television often set a bad example.”
The philosopher does not have a ready solution to the problem: “That is very difficult. Take others into account. That is the starting point of being civilised. In some senses, we seem to have forgotten that.”
Photo credits: sofamonkez; PMOS; branox ; johnnyberg