walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Being An A*hole Doesn't Mean You Aren't Being Helpful

About 10 years ago -- so long! -- the Dutch government started making people watch movies if they wanted to immigrate to the Netherlands. They only made people do this if they were coming from Certain Countries. You had to _pay_ to apply and watch the movie. And you had to do this even if you were coming to the Netherlands to marry somebody/for purposes of family immigration.

CLUTCH YOUR PEARLS NOW! Oh, wait. That was 10 years ago. Here is some sample coverage, because while bit rot is real, many, many things survive for 10 years online.


Here's the first paragraph:

"The camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park. Later, a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks onto a crowded beach. For would-be immigrants to the Netherlands, this film is a test of their readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture."

And here is a theologian later in the piece, criticizing this policy.

"Dutch theologian Karel Steenbrink criticized the 105-minute movie, saying it would be offensive to some Muslims." (If you are thinking, isn't that the point? You are correct! I've poked around a bit to try to better understand Steenbrink's position, and he has a blog and he is very nerdy so you would think I'd be able to relate on some level, but all the Catholic stuff just makes it hard for me to slog through.)

And here is an Islamic counterpart of Steenbrink, responding:

"But Mohammed Sini, the chairman of Islam and Citizenship, a national Muslim organization, defended the film, saying that homosexuality is “a reality.”

Sini urged all immigrants “to embrace modernity.”"

Why did the Dutch do this? Because they were basically tired of people arriving in the Netherlands and being Shocked, Shocked at what they saw AND WHAT THEIR CHILDREN SAW OMG MEN KISSING. It just didn't go well for anyone.

Now, you can make a _solid_ case that this is an example of the Dutch government being a bunch of A*holes. But I would argue the case that they were being helpful (independent of the A*hole case) is much, much stronger. Because watching that movie, making a face, and staying the fuck home is way cheaper and less disruptive for a committed homophobe or someone who honest to goddess believes that "all woman is pudenda", but some parts even more so than others.

I do not bring this up as some sort of tenth year anniversary thing. I bring this up, because I've been saying for a while now that it was just a matter of time before everyone came around to the realization that while this might be offensive, it is effective and helpful. I now offer up today's bit of data in support of my offensive -- but helpful! -- position.


"Abdullah Alsoaan, a 51-year-old dentist from Deir Ezzour in eastern Syria, said he came to Germany 10 months ago with the help of the United Nations to receive treatment for complications of diabetes. Now he is waiting for a new passport to return to the 10 children he left behind in Syria. The reason: After seeing teenagers kissing in public, he said he couldn’t raise his daughters here. “The problem isn’t with the Germans or Germany, people are very nice,” said Mr. Alsoaan. “But they have their way of living their lives and we have ours.”

Others have reached similar conclusions. When Amer found his 5-year-old son stumbling upon an erotic program on television recently, he saw it as confirmation that he would never be able to adapt to a new life here.

Before leaving Syria, Amer said he had heard refugees in Germany got around €500 ($546) a month in benefits—a relatively accurate estimate. But he hadn’t realized everything in Germany costs far more than in Syria, he said, dressed in a black hoodie and sweatpants."

(I would like to point out here that Americans have gone home disgusted with erotic programs on European TV as well. Going Home is a Pretty Reasonable Solution.)

Basically, there are people in this world who are less worried about "treatment for complications of diabetes" than raising their daughters around "teenagers kissing in public". And they should _know this_ before they get in an overcrowded rubber dinghy and cross the Mediterranean, risking their lives and the lives of everyone they bring with them. It's okay if you disagree with their values. AFTER ALL, THEY DISAGREE WITH YOURS. Turnabout is fair play. I'm arguing that important life changing decisions should be made with lots of high quality, relevant information. If you get to Europe and are surprised by teenagers kissing, erotic programs on the telly, topless women on the beach or gay guys cuddling in public, then you did NOT have lots of high quality, relevant information prior to making your immigration decision.

A friend of mine who did Peace Corps work (not in the Middle East, and this was fairly recently, not decades ago) says she also ran into money misconceptions about life in Europe/the West. She was unable to convince anyone there (I think it was Ivory Coast, but my brain's a sieve these days; if I can't google it, I'm screwed) how expensive something as tangible as a chicken was, never mind paying the rent, or utility bills they didn't even have where they currently lived.

Seems like a movie with pictures of topless women, gay people kissing, teenagers kissing, and a LOT of footage of price labels at the hypermarket would go a long way to saving immigrants from the Middle East time, trouble and dead bodies washing ashore from overcrowded rubber boats. This probably means I'm an A*hole. But I really am trying to be helpful.
Tags: politics
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