M. Vincent van Mechelen


The expats Quentin and Andrea discuss the effects of the global economic downturn on the Netherlands. This conversation forms part [Instalment 13] of the document in Deze Taal, called "Het randschrift op de Nederlandse euro" (The motto on the edge of the Dutch euro). Q is Quentin and A is Andrea*. Gerrit Zalm was the Dutch Minister of Finance who introduced the 2-euro coin with the motto GOD ZIJ MET ONS (God Be With Us) on the edge; Wouter Bos is Zalm's successor and the Dutch Minister of Finance at the moment the discussion takes place.

Q   "Why the heck does Holland suffer from the credit crisis too?"
A "Why not? It's a global economic downturn: the whole world suffers from it, North America and Europe even more than Asia."
Q "But Holland put God Be With Us on the edge of every two-euro coin, which none of the other countries did. I'm sure, God must consider the Dutch more pious and worthy of protection than any of the godless others!"
A "Then, i fear, God doesn't exist in spite of all the Minister of Finance's imploring."
Q "Nonsense, Andrea, Zalm's and Bos's imploring is the very reason why He does exist! How could you pray to God, or put Him on your money, if He doesn't exist?"
A "Quentin, that's a sophistic argument for the existence of God which has already been disproved by rational philosophers ages ago."
Q "Who cares about philosophers ages ago? We're living in this day and age with tremendous problems they didn't have then!"
A "Oh, shit! Deo be with me."
Q "What do you mean?"
A "I just stepped in Dutch dog dirt and could use some deodorant."
Q "Andrea, that's not the kind of problem i was thinking of! Do you remember that Wouter Bos first told everyone who liked to hear it that the financial turmoil in the United States would never hit this country, because this country didn't have the American sort of capitalist institutions, and this country enjoyed an adequate control system?
A "Yes, as if it was yesterday."
Q "And, then, five days later the first Dutch or Belgian-Dutch banks started to fold up, after which 'e had to cough up thousands of millions of tax-payers' money to bail them out. You think Mr Bos would be interested in your rational philosophers?"
A "Well, i guess, Mr Bos looked at the edge of the Dutch two-euro coin and was convinced that that made the Dutch financial market differ entirely from the markets of other industrialized countries. In a way the Minister was right, for no other European state spent so much money on an edge. And in Great Britain, of all places! It's precisely because that country did not participate in the introduction of the euro that it had enough capacity to finish the Dutch edge off. It might have been an asset, if the Dutch Ministry of Finance had been a little bit more rational without being hypocritical."
Q "Do you think that's why God was displeased; because of the Dutch Ministry of Finance's hypocrisy?"
A "If God exists, and takes Her position seriously, i can think of several good reasons why She would be displeased with the Dutch motto."
Q "Such as?"
A "First of all, to have Deo Be With Us printed on the dirtiest piece of human civilization one can think of."
Q "Deo Be With Us?"
A "To have God Be With Us printed on the dirtiest piece of human civilization one can think of: a coin. And half of it upside down at that!"
Q "Why the dirtiest? It's the most important piece of civilization one can think of. Where would we be without money, whether it be coins or bank notes?"
A "Money is as important as you think it is, Quentin. Of course, in our present society, where the expansion of culture keeps pace with the reduction of nature, we need some of it to stay alive, but there are enough things which are equally important, if not much more important."
Q "But you can't print God Be With Us on the edge of love, if only because not everyone relishes the idea of a threesome. You can't even print it on the edge of a breadknife, alth ... you could print it on the middle of the blade, of course."
A "I guess, God would be infinitely much more pleased with that, because of the association with bread, and thr bread any type of food human beings need to stay alive. And also because a breadknife is a private tool which people may decide to buy or not to buy. In this way it's not foisted down people's throats by a government that has no respect for its citizens' diverse wishes and ideals."
Q "So, you think God would rather be on breadknives than on coins or bank notes?"
A "I'm sure, especially since the nazi-SS never entertained the same idea. They had their Gott Mit Uns on their buckles, you know."
Q "But you think that's the main reason why God didn't help Holland, why God didn't prevent Holland from getting involved in the crisis?"
A "No, if She exists at all, and if She makes use of moral considerations, Her first reason for not helping the Netherlands in particular would be, i think, that the Netherlands has not been one jot better than the rest. Also here you had the greedy kleptocrats, with the bonus bankers in the front line, who claimed at least the same salaries and extras as in Great Britain and the United States. At the same time the Dutch government asked simple workers like you and i to compare their wages to those in India and China."
Q "Who needs the motto of such people?"
A "Yeah, Who needs the motto of such people."

 *  Andrea's name is pronounced as |AEN-dree-a|, with stress on the first syllable. The first-person singular pronoun is i, not I, as Quentin and Andrea do not consider themselves Supreme Beings or anything else of that Ilk. The third-person singular pronoun used is 'e, with 'im, objective case, and 'er, possessive pronoun.




short stories