Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Workers’ rights and dignity in The Netherlands assaulted on the news

News from The Netherlands, one of the smaller but richer countries in the EU and the world, and my commentary may still speak to people who don’t live there or even wouldn’t know where in Europe it is situated — though they may have heard of its capital, Amsterdam.

The Low Countries, as the land reclaimed from the sea is also called, that in past centuries sailed the oceans and colonized big swats of the world, has by now ‘lost’ most oversea territories, but has safeguarded its international financial interests there and everywhere – don’t worry.

An elderly nurse from Indonesia, who settled in The Netherlands after WW II, once told me at the old-age home that we both worked: “When we lived there, we imagined that at least the people in Holland would have a good life from all that was taken from there. My heart broke when I learned from ordinary people, like the ones who are housed here, that their lives too were full of financial hardship all along.”

The Netherlands knows poverty and unemployment, but it typically tries to hide them and give people who got to know Capitalism as no-one else “social benefits” so that the economy can continue to profit from their contributions, and so that marginalized groups feel too grateful to revolt. People without any money do not help the economy and make for ‘social unrest.’ Unrest is the idea most hated by the Dutch. They love ‘calm.’

A few weeks ago, I heard on the news that the average blue-color worker in The Netherlands on average stays healthy until the age of 58 (or something) and the richer workers until 70+. That means that manual laborers generally do not enjoy their pension years as much as the white-color workers who enjoyed fancier training.

The suggestion was to maybe lower their retiring age. This was rejected – as too expensive. Another idea was suggested that did find support between the parties that advise on societal developments. To give workers the option to cut out the Wednesday. Then they would work Monday and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, thus having a chance to recover physically after two days of beautiful but damaging labor, without losing too much income.

A few days ago the workers in the construction industry sector went collectively on vacation for three weeks. It’s called the bouwvak, a unique Dutch word that combines build [bouw] with vac(ation). Building stops all over the country, while workers with their families take a yearly break. Many travel to vacation destinies, the roads are packed and the airport stuffed silly. However, the national news readers reported a problem. What was it?

How unfortunate, they suggested, that the economy is improving drastically, construction is up a lot, there is plenty of work, the weather is fantastic but the workers go on vacation. And, worse even, in a few months time, building will need to stop again, then because of the weather. (Concrete can’t settle below a certain temperature. Heavy rain, hail, snow, frost may each cause problems, in transportation, for instance.) Can’t we move the bouwvak to winter, whenever construction must be interrupted anyway?

I don’t know if these news editors are so unknowledgeable or shortsighted, or really so shamelessly insensitive and curt.

Laborers not only hurt their health when doing their work properly, have lower incomes to enjoy less of life’s possibilities, are more often sick and die earlier, but they now also need to go on vacation when terrible weather blocks roads and when their kids are in school? And when the weather is its nicest and the kids are home from school, they should work and forget about taking a few weeks off? Really?

This suggestion will never be implemented, but the nerve of even suggesting this on prime-time TV is scandalous. For the record.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.