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Statement # 10

American Ruble … Do We Want Them?

 In short

 “American ruble” is a Dutch expression for situations which should be avoided. We used this expression in Statement # 3 about the shooting teenagers in Littleton. Surely situations to avoid. 

Such situations do not appear out of the blue. In the background is a culture that more and more also appears in The Netherlands. Do we want this? 

We might learn from the North-Americans in some respects, we might avoid other aspects. Concerning things like winning battles and technical performance, they are good. In the area of meaning and human relationships, Europeans are better.

Three subjects are a great problem for North-Americans: sexuality, children, and the combination of both. 


 Main Lines 
Kids in US: King or only Client? 
One is at loss with sex 

Main Lines

If we speak about “American rumble”, we refer to things we do not wish: ghettos, violence, a lot of firearms and discrimination of minorities. What we can learn is to make other choices. The discussion about ‘American rumble’  in Europe is popular as well as careless. The USA may be more mighty and economically more successful, for us it is without discussion that West Europe, especially the Netherlands, are more humane and culturally more high-minded.  

Maarten Huygen wrote a book, American Ruble, in which he makes it clear that “this kind of anti-Americanism is at least too one-sided. A lot of social problems are in the USA resolved in a more practical and efficient way.” 

Hans van den Berg gives in his essay McEuropa a sharper analysis. The core problem he sees is the emphasis on a glamour-like outside at the expense of real inner quality. He mentions four main problems:

 The growing coarseness of society,

The hegemony of the management,

The upcoming of empty glamour,

The contempt of history and tradition, and, additionally,

The great difference between private riches and public poverty.

Safety is a main theme for all North-Americans, but safety is only for the riches who can buy it. They entrench themselves in hermetically closed, privately protected areas – the poor can only rob each other.  But who controls those private guards and their bosses who prefer to manage things out of reach of justice? Quis costodiet ipsos custodos? (Who will control the guards?) 

Performance, possession and winning are the most important motives. More spiritual motives are absent. There is a lot of religion, but on a quite simple level. There is a spiritual emptiness, writes John Wanders, “The US lack a spiritual debate among writers, thinkers and spiritual and secular leaders.”  

“This is [North-]America, there are just three things that count: to win, to win and to win”, writes Pauline de Bok (in Metro, 17 July 2001).  

“American sports fields are more and more like battle fields. I’m not speaking about the professional sports or the adult amateurs sports, but about youths sports. Recently, I heard a blood-curdling broadcast report. Parents attack arbiters if they dare to correct their child, to approve a goal of the counter party, or whichever decision they do not like. Sometimes parents lose all control and use weapons. There are already arbiters murdered by anxious parents. It is quite normal to beat, knock and mistreat arbiters. Continually scolding, swearing, ranting and raving along the field, for whatever reason, is daily routine. Parents cannot accept that their child might lose.  


Education at school is one of the most undeveloped aspects of the North-American society. Teenagers with their power of youth and their body full with hormones are obligated to spend their days in massive schools that are like military barracks (see article in # 3). Like robots, they have to sit in rows and to learn things that are meaningless for them. Expensive private schools for the riches are slightly better than the public schools for the great majority of students. These schools seem to prepare the students only for a future job at an office. Arts and crafts are quite seldom. For lively and dynamic hands, there is nothing to do. It is not surprising that the students mostly are busy with drugs, weapons, making love in the bike shed, depressions, suicide plans and leaving school (Comment, March 2001).  

Schoemann describes the results of the zero tolerance policy, the sharpened way of controlling since the Littleton murders. Joseph K, 14 year, a model student  in every respect, was arrested at school and removed with handcuffs, after he had made a remark by phone, saying to two girls who wanted a date with him, which he wanted to refuse:  

"I said, 'It's people like you who get on the Columbine lists,'" he recalls. His reference was to the now infamous April 1999 killing of 13 at Columbine High School in Colorado by students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.
He had no idea that the school-shooting reference would stir police to action."

Due to those massive schools, the large scale in many respects, large areas with commuters who don’t know each other and who live individualistic, there is a lack of social contacts – thus a lack of social control.  

The Dutch professor Micha de Winter warns against this North-American trend to far reaching individualization.  

“The [North-]American child feels to be completely alone and, consequently, only goes for his own success. This has lead to a strongly growing violence among [North-]American youths. I want to prevent that situation in the Netherlands. Thus, I combat massive schools. This kind of clustered schools hinder the social development of youth.”

He pleas for a new kind of schools, named broad schools or schools with windows. This schools combine education and cultural activities in their neighborhood. There are such schools in Dutch cities like Groningen and Utrecht. “Away with the mega-schools!”, he says.  

Kids in US: King or only Client? 

Juurd Eijsvogel wrote an article which he named “The Kid is the King”, but what he describes is quite a different story: spoiling and over-concern. There is a contact gape between the generations in the USA, also and especially within the families. Additionally bad education and a zero tolerance for young criminals, and one may foresee the consequences: 

“The USA doesn’t know which way to turn with its youth.” […] US’ children struggle with loneliness, depression, appetite problems, alienation from their parents, use of drugs and alcohol, pregnancy at the age of 13 or 14, and getting bogged down in a criminal circuit. According an estimate of Time,  a half to one million children in the US use medicines against depression. The number of suicides has tripled in the last decades.”

One is at loss with sex  

The US culture is at loss with youth, also with sex – and especially with the combination of both. 

At the 15th World Congress of Sexology of the World Association of Sexology in Paris, June 2001, Michael Young, from the US, presented a lecture about a project, named Postpone Sexuality. It concerned the prevention of unwanted teenage pregnancy and school drop-out. Students are stimulated to sign a contract to promise virginity until education will be finished. However, the project was not successful, so the research tried to find the factors responsible for that.  

After his lecture, I told that the Netherlands has nearly the lowest number of unwanted teenage pregnancy in the world, and also one of the lowest abortion rate. This is not reached by postponing sexuality, but by openness, sex education from early childhood on, and the availability of means for birth control. Do we need any research to conclude that this is a better way?  

The speaker agreed, but he told that the parents and the school boards did not accept such strange Dutch methods and also reject research evaluating such methods. It’s our culture, he said.  

The public agreed strongly with me and advised to follow our own Dutch way, and not to take over the Us style of prevention.  

Just thereafter, Sanderijn van der Doef presented her lecture Sex Education from Cradle to Adulthood in the Netherlands.  

The promise of virginity has been investigated in another project. The report mentions:

That postponing sex concerned only some months, and

If there was sex, it tended to be unsafe sex.

This concerned High school students, but another report, The secret lifes of kids [> link naar > secret.htm], mentions quite lower ages:

8.5% of the 13-year-olds is no virgin;

21% of the Ninth-graders has had sex;

55% of all teenagers had had oral sex.

The magazine, Ladies Journal, calls this horrible – but does not suggest the ladies to promote more openness, more sex education, and more contraceptives for their children. The only ‘solution’ one is able to find out is: more control.  

Counter Balance has gathered some examples of news items which tell us how authorities in the US act in this field. Click on the link here before, and you will read about a two-year-old exhibitionist – and a mother, convicted because she had given her son condoms instead of having stopped his ‘offence: sexual abuse’.  

James R. Kincaid tells us about parents who are accused after photographing their children in bath or at beach.  

Countries like Great-Britain, Canada, Australia or new Zealand have the same culture and the same problems: it is the Anglo-Saxon culture that is at loss with the topics mentioned above. We, here in the Netherlands, want to follow our own way.  

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