Dewanand (1966) is best seen as a writer who had a complex struggle to find his way in life, and whose writing actually benefits from that struggle and thus earns respect. He was born in Dutch Suriname, of Hindu descent, and went to study in TU Delft. He met with racism and developed a mental disorder, didn’t complete his studies and was down and out. After 9/11 he flipped and sent out envelopes with white powder. He was put in confinement and then forced to treatment. Now, with medication, he writes his books. People who understand Dutch will benefit from this fine ohmnet radio interview in 2008 in which he is allowed to tell his life story and explain how he became a writer.
The book by Dewanand (2010) “Holland: Paradise or Hell?“ deserves praise, and is an advised read.
The book is fun to read, though not all in one go but rather at moments of leisure, with some parts per day. His style is unadorned. The quality comes from the associations that only he with his background can develop and that thus are refreshing compared to standard views. In the introduction the author explains that he wrote in a “humoristic and sarcastic way”, but my fear is that he might be dead serious on various points while I tend to read it with irony rather than sarcasm. Especially women may be interested in what Dewanand has to say about finding the perfect man.
The book’s structure encourages reading in parts. Chapter 1 deals with the Paradise, chapter 2 with the Hell, chapter 3 provides official statistics, and chapter 4 deals with questions and answers for friends from India who wondered what to think about Holland. Each chapter is divided in short thematic sections with titles like “The subsidize Paradise” and “The mess in psychiatry”. Dewanand in effect shows that good and bad are closely linked according to his “law of conservation of misery”. Lots of subsidies create dependence and incapacity to deal with the world. At first I wondered why the chapter on statistics was included which really isn’t “humoristic and sarcastic”. On balance I agree that it is useful to put the discussion on firmer ground in time and place, for example also on singles and divorces and finding the perfect partner.
Chapter 5 has the title “(Hindu SF) The last Dutchman!”. As a SF writer myself I was quite pleased to recognise Dewanand as a kindred soul. I agree that the destruction of Holland is a more interesting subgenre than disaster-movies for the world as a whole. Al Gore’s An inconvenient truth for example is somewhat boring except for the peak moment of the flooding of Holland.
Dewanand testifies of a life-changing insight, that dramatically turned his world-view upside down:
“In the past, about twenty years ago, when I was just an active and fanatical Hindu teenager of twenty years, I really thought and was convinced that whites are gods. I even thought that all gravity laws of Newton were made by whites, which I learned when I was on high school in Surinam as a teenager. Are you amazed? As a colony of Holland it was very normal for a coloured Surinamese to belief that the white Dutchman are the Gods of our planet, which is proof of the low development of the coloured people in Surinam. Now, after twenty years of living in Holland, I developed a different view upon the white Dutchman (…) Nowadays I even consider the white Dutch to be lower, underdeveloped, primitive and unpigmented humanoids, without any culture, faith and higher way of thinking and living. I find the white Dutchman a very primitive life form on our planet and I think they have no future at all to exist on our planet. The whole Dutch society is based upon money, greed and materialism and that’s not a good foundation for an advanced civilization. So they will become extinct in the nearby future, just as being described in chapter 5, “(Hindu SF) The last Dutchman!”” (p270)
“I must admit that I discovered after twenty years that the racism of many white Dutch people is absolute. Sometimes I realize myself that there is indeed psychopathic racism in the Netherlands, and it is very sophisticated. This makes lives of coloured and black people in the Netherlands cold, miserable and sad. Many of these people are going through a continuous Cold holocaust because they live in a white dominated country. This must be painful and humiliating.” (p202)
“About thirty years ago the individualization and atomization of the Dutch society started and because of this, many Dutch people do not have a social life anymore. In fact they live alone and only for them self. They eat, drink, work a little and have sex, but they do not care about others and even family ties are unknown to the majority of the white Dutch. Dutch people are very materialistic and that’s why they do not care much about a social life. Sometimes I see them just like long, white animals, which only care about their selfish, primitive needs.” (p252)
“A totally modernized society loaded with psychopaths, who only believe in simplistic materialism, sex and their own egoistic needs should not be considered to be modern or Western according to development trajectories to modernity from a Hindu fundamentalist viewpoint. Modernism must lead to higher and superior life values and not to barbarism and psychopathically behaviour. Continuous progress is a good thing, but it must not go in the wrong direction. In India, China, and all the other Asian countries people must learn from the mistakes made in the modernized white Western world and choose for more humane approaches for finding solutions of problems in society. This is the big challenge for about three billion coloured humans in the upcoming Asian millennium.” (p205)
The book contains many more topics but I have selected quotes on racism since because of their apparent core impact. Some critique is required. It is said that Hindu culture is sensitive to caste and racism. Dewanand’s original view on whites being gods might be explained so too. Thus his criticism on racism in Dutch society might rather derive from his own original cultural outlook. Fortunately, if that is the proper term here, there is also independent evidence of racism in Dutch society, see the earlier weblog entry on Kidda Claus and the Dutch debate on Black Pete. But feel reassured that Dewanand discusses much more than only racism.
Dewanand’s website may suggest that he didn’t take his medicine but once you read his book on Holland you better understand his perspective. Apprehension of his own designation as Hindu fundamentalist requires reading of his work. Dewanand’s new Hindu god is Altecrea, acronym of Almighty Technical Creator, or the “technical expansion of Krishna on earth”. His books are offerings to Altecrea, like other people burn incense or drop money in the collection box. Perhaps Altecrea might be the name of the artificial intelligence that is being created by Google ? Perhaps we see the kernel for a new cult here, like with Scientology or as the Hindu world abounds with wise men ? However, his discussion on Altecrea (not in this book but on the website) contains extensive sections also on mind and consciousness, that remind us that he really did some study in technique and in the textbook by Hillier & Lieberman on operations research (also one of my favourite textbooks). Thus there might be more to this than a quick look might suggest.
My hope is that Dewanand would consider a visit of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles and write a report on those too. The Dutch writer Willem Frederik Hermans (1921-1995) wrote a wonderful report of such a trip in 1969, see the WFH book. The library in Willemstad, Curaçao, contains a copy in which people hilariously wrote their comments in the margin. I would be greatly interested in what Dewanand with his background and philosophy would nowadays write about his country of birth.
Overall conclusion: A reader who wants to arrive at a balanced view on Holland should at least consider the aspects of Paradise and Hell as indicated by Dewanand, Hindu fundamentalist living in Holland (who clearly states that he himself is a product of Dutch society too (p xiv)).
PM 1. We observe occasional errors against English. Professional translators tend to focus on the easy translation from English to Dutch. An international bestseller will tend to sell in Holland too. Translating a well-formed English sentence into your native Dutch is straightforward. Translators are hesitant to help out in the other direction. Translating a Dutch text into good English is more difficult. The likelihood that the cost of translation can be covered is much smaller. The Paradise of Holland can read the rest of the world, and the Hell is that it cannot be read by the rest of the world.