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Since this week, I know the difference between a 12-year-old child and a 50-year-old man. That is, as far as I am concerned.

When I was about 12 years old, I demonstrated with my mother against the road through Amelisweerd. It was blissful to walk through town among all those people. A demonstration is a good remedy against loneliness. It is nice to walk in the same direction for a while with strangers who are all for or against something, just like you - a kind of analogous Facebook bubble avant la lettre.

I couldn't imagine all those trees just being cut down when so many people were against it. I also wanted to be chained to a tree, but fortunately I was strongly banned from serving as bat fodder for the ME.

Forty years or so and some cracked dreams further on, I know how it will go. You can already see it in that grin of Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, that battle-hardened liberal ghost of a human being internationally praised for her willingness to oblige the asphalt lobby. One day all those old trees will be down, illegitimate or not, and then none of it will matter.

That is the difference between a boy and a man. A boy still thinks democracy equals hope for all that is beautiful and true, care for what is vulnerable. A man knows that democracy mainly means being able to say what you want, before a government does what most of the electorate wants - or some vague interpretation of it. The governors are not wise men and women, but just careerists for whom it is also just a job. Even the prime minister lets slip in times of crisis: 'I don't want to be the boss here.'

No, no one is the boss. Yes, the market. And the eternal, slow flow of tin over asphalt. As Gerrit Komrij poemed: 'Our fate lies in the hand of clapping cigars.

One boy hoped the world would get better. A man fears a repeat of moves, with further mutilation of Amelisweerd as the outcome. But illusions felled in the past do not guarantee the future.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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