06 May 2010

Power in a shifting world

The world is small and time goes slow. At least, when you’re very young. Your world is not much bigger than home and kindergarten, and a week is an eternity.

Then you grow up. The world expands. And at some point you become aware of the country. It was a confusing one; I could ask my dad if we were living in Holland and he would say yes. If I asked if we were living in Gelderland he said yes. If I asked if we were living in the Netherlands he said yes. What was that supposed to mean? Anyway, whatever country it was, by the time the fog lifted a bit it seemed to be ruled by one Ruud Lubbers*.

Then you grow up some more, and, even if you never venture there, you become aware of Foreign Countries. And Foreign Countries fall into three categories: nearby ones, very large ones, and not very interesting ones. So there was Belgium, ruled by Martens; Germany, ruled by Kohl; England (we’re talking the world through children’s eyes here, so don’t come correcting this to “the UK”), ruled by Thatcher; and France, ruled by Mitterrand. The nearby ones, evidently. And then there were America (sic) and China; ruled by Reagan and Deng Xiaoping, respectively. And the rest was too complicated to keep track of. And that was how the world worked.

And then came ’89. The fall of the Berlin Wall? No, the year it became clear that Very Large Countries are not ruled by the same people forever! Both Reagan and Deng Xiaoping stepped back. That was a bit of a paradigm shift. How are you supposed to keep track of who is head of state where, if they keep changing?

And then Thatcher lost it. Two years later, Martens yielded his post. So nearby countries did it too! But by then I was a proper teenager, and things were becoming clearer. When, two years after that, our very own prime minister lost the elections and was succeeded, I was already at university. It felt like a bit of the end of an era. Kohl kept the world as it was the longest; by the time he gave up his post to the next man, I think I was already living on my own in the Pijp, being all responsible and independent and such. As you are, as a student, evidently.

Anyway. Somewhere in the nineties, evidently, the idea that there is this thing called elections, and they may well lead to a shift in the faces you see on the 8 o’clock news, was properly illustrated. So let’s forget China, as there this idea has not properly settled yet; but in the remaining countries, this lead to interesting spectacles every so many years. Or every so many months, when Balkenende came to power, or what was supposed to pass for it.

So looking west, we saw John Major come. And then Tony Blair. And Gordon Brown. And now I suddenly live in the world in which that is orchestrated! It’s funny to have been watching a world for nearly 30 years and then suddenly find yourself right in it. It’s a bit like biking past the Amsterdam Arena, and hearing concerts going on by R. Kelly or the Backstreet Boys. These people are supposed to only live on TV! Not in real life. Just like UK elections. But there we are.

It’s special to vote in a foreign country for the first time! Norway didn’t have local elections while I was living there. So this is a debut. And it’s only local, as I already elaborated on in the “stem kwijt” blogpost, but it’s a vote! I've got the power! And I’m very excited to see what the results will be...

Me proudly on my way to the polling station with my polling card

I got to go to church in the process!

One is greeted with a plethora of infomation...

Behold the crowds! The Brits are unimaginably eager to make a political change, in the most exciting elections in many, many years

*: I do vaguely remember van Agt, but that did not damage the idée-fixe, for some reason.

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