notes, finds & fragments of research
Nowadays we take it almost for granted to step into a car or an aeroplane to set our journey to another country. In school I was taught that people gained this freedom of easy relocation and quick transportation only since 100 years; of course with the connotation that the wealthy had been travelling for centuries. But they always made it look like touristic ventures because, after all, they had the money due to their lands which they always inherited and didn’t have to work for – the bastards! – and so they could spend their idle lives looking around, nicking artefacts and calmly wake up every morning after yet another bacchanal at the Rivièra or in Venezia. So far for the general view which has become common knowledge since, let me generalize for once: the French revolution as the first large outbreak of socialism. To which is, was, and could be added: Because all of them should hang their heads in shame for the many generations to come.
From a very young age I knew that my heritage was European to the maximum and I was taught to be proud of it. The how’s and why’s, however, were never explained to me as a child. It was brought to me as a fact and left as such. There were the odd stories of wars, of having to escape furious mobs with sticks and torches (and later on: sharp fast falling iron blades) but the intriguing and more complex stories behind this familiar way of globalizing were not told. As I grew up I learned details and through reading I myself laid the first pieces of this massive puzzle that pictures my blood-inheritance. Indonesia, as the former colony of the Dutch Indies, was the first in this as it had a clear status in daily life. The scents and food, the culture of storytelling of mysticism and the great part it takes in the literature of my country. Despite its abundant and exotic presence, however, it is only a minor part of me as it did not explain the rest. And to be quite straight about it; apart from a suggested single drop of Japanese blood they were all very European
‘We have a bloody excuse for everything’ – I wrote that once in an effort to explain why I often refer to my background in explaining my (many, many) flaws. I’m headstrong because of my Dutch heritage. Organized because of the gallons of German blood and exaggerating in that due to the additional Austrian litre. I can, however, also be careless and vain, this could just be the result of those Italian drops. Ironic and understating because I’m part English. My fiery temper could be either Hungarian or Russian; but Russian in any case, is my deep dark mood. Cheap I can’t say I am, but I am able to economize when it’s (absolutely) needed – Scottish. Pragmatic and solemn must have some root in Scandinavia. And oh, arrogance – yes I can and must be French in that. My guilty pleasures in eating and drinking could be a wide spread thing. When I look at the portraits of my ancestors it often shows very clearly they enjoyed themselves in that department and in all possible lines of my lineage. Yes, yes, also because they were mostly on the ‘milk and honey side of society’.
It was no surprise that my interest in history would mount to the level of research and writing myself. After years of doing historical research in fixed regions of Holland and carefully touching the neighbouring countries, I have now taken it upon myself to find out what is true of the myths and sagas. During these last months of my basic research in gathering data I have found a lot of information. And slowly I’m getting a closer look into what caused all this. The general gist being careers – yes, some of them actually worked – in diplomacy, politics and the army. Okay it might not be as virtuous and God fearing as working the lands with ones bare hands, but in their days bowing deeply, licking heels and flattering foreign monarchs and officials whilst trying to prevent wars or improving the understanding between countries, was considered a job. As was beating the living daylights out of someone when it all went wrong and nations took up arms. Colonial domination could be ranked amongst them also, but is also connected to the former – along with trade. And last but not least: The times they just had to run to save their sorry rears.
This research doesn’t bring solutions to the hunger and injustice in the world. So, what is the point of it all? could be considered the most honest and poignant question. This already has brought me vast amounts of interesting ancestors I can boast about at parties, but I won’t unless someone challenges me to it, in which case I will most happily dish up the various serial killers, patrons of the arts, popes, writers and warlords – just for sport.
But in all seriousness I have found such interesting ancestors and friends and relations of them; I could research and write forever (which I hope I will be able to do). I am a firm believer in the necessity of knowing history as I pointed out in a previous posting. If you want to understand the world, common facts and generalizations and even modern day politics, you should at least know something about what happened before. To know all and to claim you know all is absurd. of course, but education and self-improvement should be considered one of the primary tasks in life; for only then, you are most likely to leave something truly valuable to the world. (And then you realize: I sound like my grandmother…)
Some of the characterizations and quotes I have found are just too precious to leave on the shelf collecting dust. Portraits which are never seen but who portray such interesting people, if I can help them out of obscurity by putting a little light on them, I will, even if it is only for the pleasure of few.
This is why I write.