After two years in the Netherlands, and my city of birth, I am moving on, again, to Canada, the country my partner calls her home, and my kids will call their home very soon. The lines at customs and immigration were as long as anywhere, and the customs official a long way away from your image of the pleasant Canadian – but at the end she did wave us through pleasantly, and in Ottawa the west African taxi driver exclaimed – welcome to Ottawa (as the signs at all airports say, welcome to Canada).
I never thought my moves would be of any interest to anybody except those who are forced to put up with our unpredictable and uncoordinated moves – the friends whose houses we invade while waiting for our new house, and household goods to arrive. But this move has been an extra-ordinary one, as for the first time we felt pushed to move, by the awful anti-immigrant climate that has descended on the Netherlands and Europe more generally since the early 2000s. ‘9/11’, and the ‘two murders’ in the Netherlands, are no longer the leading themes, I feel, but have been superseded by a populism, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam to a sickening degree, of course, but is combined with a drive to re-invent a Dutch-ness that I recognise – having grown up in a village in the flower-growing polders – but never thought would become politicised.
The two years have not been wasted – though our financial investment there was – and I am starting this blog as a way to continue to engage with and share my thoughts about the fundamental global changes that are happening, at increasing speed since the financial crisis (which I witnessed, in awe, from Beijing). Europe’s position in the world is changing at phenomenal speed, and – ‘arguably’, or ‘hypothetically’, as academics would say – the populism that we witness is of course a reaction to this, understandably perhaps, but one which in itself has the potential to aggravate the downturn. Having moved across the Atlantic, I would feel even worse than I already do having left my family behind, if I didn’t at least try to make an effort to support progressive forces, of a Dutch internationalist and progressive tradition.