There is difference between Holland’s history and the history of virtually every of the country in the world – except, perhaps, ancient Egypt.
When you look at the geology of the U.S., Romania, Kenya, Japan or almost any other country and see the splendors and vistas that the land offers, you may be tempted to exclaim what beauty nature created. When you look at the land in Holland, you see land that was reclaimed from the North Sea and from cold-water marshes. You would be looking at land that humans have created.
This history gave the Dutch a head start in their journey to a secular culture. Instead of churches encouraging people to pray for God to stop the flooding, local governments designed and created the dams used to drain the land and the windmills used to pump water from flooding it although it was below sea level.
In the early 17th century, the Dutch freed themselves from the yoke of superstitious, myth-driven Spanish rule and soon embraced the enlightenment. It had a profound effect upon the Dutch psyche and they created a nation that used rationalism and available science to guide them.
As the centuries passed, the Dutch contributed to world science and philosophy and have been guided by rationalism and real politics. Then, in the 1960’s, the Dutch looked at the marijuana laws and created a marijuana tolerance policy. By all measures it has been a successful policy and accomplished the goal of separating “soft drugs” from narcotics.
Now the enlightenment is on trial in Holland. The legislature outlawed the sale of marijuana to foreigners because towns along the borders didn’t like people crossing over to spend money in their towns. That sounds a little crazy to me too. I would pass a local law that coffee shops had to be at the furthest point inside a shopping center, sort of like milk at the back of the grocery store, so people would have to pass other shops to get to the buds.
The “morality fascists” probably didn’t consider the fact that Holland has lower marijuana and narcotic use than any of its prohibitionist neighbors. Nor was the fact that the tourist boards surveys show that 26 percent of visitors to Amsterdam make use of coffee shops. That’s why the tourist industry fears the imposition of the new law.
When I was a child, the inference around my world outlook was that science and technology, rather than faith and belief, were being used to make decisions regarding our lives. Now I see that the post-apocalyptic scenarios of science-fiction novels have come to reality. Cults, called religions, are brainwashing populations with lowered expectations into massive movements of irrationality. We can look at what is happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in African countries such as Sudan, Somalia and Mali, torn asunder by religious and ethnic conflicts.
We look at those countries and say ‘but it can’t happen here’ – but it is happening here. The anti-abortion movement, climate change deniers, evolution deniers and marijuana prohibitionists are just as much part of the anti-enlightenment movement as the mobs who riot over insults to their prophet, now dead more than a 1000 years. Most of these reality deniers follow the supposed beliefs of a hermit who they claim lived in the desert 2000 years ago although there are no factual proofs of his existence or that he wasn’t really a mushroom.
The enlightenment didn’t fill in the knowledge gaps. It gave us a map to get to where we are today. Then, in the last 200 years, our world-view was reshaped again. When the U.S. Constitution was written, its creators didn’t have an inkling about atoms, electricity and electro-magnetism, evolution, biological causes of infections, the universe much beyond the solar system, which was discovered to rotate around the sun just 200 years earlier, genetics or much of the information that we absorb as background knowledge and which gives us a rational basis for understanding how the world works.
Now the Dutch government wants to reject the information it has developed for creating a better society in favor of a moralistic, belief centered policy that will wind up wounding society.