Thursday, October 05, 2006

Freedom (die Freiheit)

Vor ein paar Tagen ging ich in den Zoo,
die Sonne schien, mir war ums Herz so froh.
Vor einem Käfig sah ich Leute stehn,
da ging ich hin, um mir das näher anzusehn.

"Nicht füttern" stand auf einem großen Schild
und "bitte auch nicht reizen, da sehr wild!"
Erwachsene und Kinder schauten dumm,
und nur ein Wärter schaute grimmig und sehr stumm.

Ich fragte ihn: "wie heißt denn dieses Tier?"
"Das ist die Freiheit!" sagte er zu mir,
"die gibt es jetzt so selten auf der Welt,
drum wird sie hier für wenig Geld zur Schau gestellt."

Ich schaute und ich sagte: "Lieber Herr!
Ich seh ja nichts, der Käfig ist doch leer!"
"Das ist ja grade", sagte er, "der Gag!
Man sperrt sie ein und augenblicklich ist sie weg!

Die Freiheit ist ein wundersames Tier
und manche Menschen haben Angst vor ihr.
Doch hinter Gitterstäben geht sie ein,
denn nur in Freiheit kann die Freiheit Freiheit sein.

Freedom is hard to define. While paddling, freedom often just comes as a feeling or a sensation. Some weeks ago, on my Birthday, I had a great sensation of feeling free at the sands of Terschelling. While the other paddlers were gone for a walk for some hours, I stayed with the kayaks on the beach reading a paper. It was in the late afternoon, I could look along the dunes for miles and there was no single soul to be seen anywhere. After a while I decided to go for a swim and I walked into the water. With the water up to my knees I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was standing there all alone, that I could do whatever I wanted without bothering about anyone. So why was I wearing swimming shorts? I usually don’t bother about nudity (even when people are around). I pulled out my shorts and jumped in the water with a delightful sensation of freedom….

A similar feeling of freedom arose this week paddling and camping with friends in Germany. Now the feeling of freedom was triggered by the relaxed way of finding beautiful camp-sites, for example on the beach of Amrum (see the picture above). While Germany is known in the Netherlands as a country of rules and law-abiding people (“Paragraphenkultur” und “Ordnung muss sein”), I was amazed by a relaxed way of handling where Dutch authorities can learn a lot from! It’s late. Is it too late? I got involved in the discussion with the authorities about the access for seakayakers to several regions in the Netherlands. I really must say these discussions are constructive, and I am confident we will find a good balance between respecting the ecological values of the vulnerable areas we are paddling in, and the recreational use we want to make of these same areas. However there still is a long way to go.
I feel we are so busy regulating our freedom of movement, that in the end little will be left of our feeling of freedom. I am afraid this dilemma is unavoidable in one of the most crowded countries of the world. Despite it: it makes me sad. Like Georg Danzer writes in his poetry: you can’t catch freedom!


René said...

May be there is another difference between Germans en Dutchman explaining the difference in approach of the Dutch end German authorities.
The Germans have quit a lot of rules and German people are propably used to that and trained to be aware of the rules.

The Dutch people however, some of them, turn into little beasts when they escape daily life; going on holidays, going kayakking, etc. Doing so, they don´t mind caring about the people and environment around them. There are happy to forget all the rules.

The Germans however are better aware of all this and don´t forget the rules, even if they walk outside the rules.
May be this gives the German authorities more flexibility because they only interfere when things are really wrong. Then the German authorities can turn nasty as well.

Hans said...

Hi René!
As a Dutchman with German roots I have some difficulties to analyse my own position in these questions...
Thanks for your help!