Not so long ago Not Just Words Records announced it was done, such a shame. The first vinyl I ever picked up was a release by them. I had a talk with the man behind Not Just Words Records, Ronald Boorsma, in June 2008. We talked about politics, education, fireworks, hardcore. Life. It got printed in Some Will Never Know I. I went through the text again and fixed some minor mistakes (apparently a part of an answer got left out the printed version by accident). Sit down and start reading, you’re in for a lengthy ride…
Let’s drop in right away. Amongst other things I wanted to become a professional soccerplayer when I was young. Needless to say somewhere along the lines I drifted away from that dream. What did you want to become when you were a young child?
I wanted to work on a crane, digging in the ground every day. I think I was about 6 years old, when a bunch of guys were busy getting the entire street new sewers. They let me eat with them, my mother gave me chocolatemilk in a Grolsch beer bottle (beugelflesjes! for the Dutch readers) and bread and I hung out with them every day. One guy was called Durk and he was on a crane the whole day. I was psyched about that man and from that time on, I wanted to become a ‘Durk’ as well.
When I was about 15 years old, I wanted to become a salesman, selling new products to stores. My dad was a milkman and we got people like that in our house every now and then. One of them actually did nothing but drinking coffee and talking with my mother, offering lots of tax free cookies. I liked that guy and his job seemed relaxed. Besides that, I had already decided to study economics two years later. However, I never even started that at all.
“Doing the label gained me a lot of knowledge about people and their behaviour.”
Hahah that’s a great story Ronald. In a way you’ve became a (part-time) salesman, I mean you’re selling hardcore records… But more importantly did you ever manage to control a crane?
Haha no of course not. Actually, when I went to secondary school, I immediately started the highest level of education. I was 12/13 years old. In other words: chances to ever handle a crane quickly faded like snow in the sun. Most important: there’s not much I can do with my hands, to be honest. You know, in the end it happened to be only a nice young boy’s dream haha.
So how did you get involved with hardcore?
When I was around 11 years old, I was at school with a guy called Jurjen van den Berg. We used to make jokes about his name because of a rock band called Vandenberg played their hits back then, and just for the fun we even used one of their songs for a playback show. My older brother recorded the entire album for me on a BASF cassette tape, with some other hard rock band on the other side. I kinda liked it and he gave me other bands like Scorpions and Iron Maiden. When I told him that I liked Maiden’s “Live after death” the most, he and his friends got me into the first Metallica records. One day, he said: “I think you’re ready to listen to Slayer now”, like he kept the very best for last for me. I remember shitting my pants when the intro for ‘Hell Awaits started haha.
When I was 12/13 years old I went to another school and met more metal-maniacs so I got a second source for lots of metal, hardcore and punkbands. So shortly after came all the ’80 speed and thrash-classics. S.O.D., Cryptic Slaughter and D.R.I and such soon followed but also punk-bands like G.B.H., Crucifix, DK and Discharge. When I was 15/16 years old, I used to hang out with a guy that was into hardcore more and more and got me into bands like Minor Threat, No For an Answer, YOT and all other NY- and OC-classics. That was basically how it all started.
What band(s) from those days do you still listen to (a lot)?
As far as hardrock bands go, besides Iron Maiden? None of them, but as it comes to the old metal/hardcore/punk records I mentioned, all of them! Unfortunately I don’t have that much time to sit on the couch and listen to vinyl for hours and hours (with lyric sheet and covers and sleeves and so on in my hands), but I have all those records on vinyl and thanks to the digital era, I actually listen to these bands on a quite regular basis.
“Politicians should talk about quality more than only talk about quantity.”
Let’s talk about Not Just Words Records. You started it to put out a Spirit 84 release, right? What were your expectations of the label aside from putting out that record?
Yeah, that was in 2000. I never planned doing a label, I just tried to help out a great band from my area that I became close with during the late ‘90s. Until that time, I was involved in the scene for a quite a long time already, doing my share by doing shows. That was all, so I had no expectations at all either. No idea how the record would sell, although Spirit 84 was big back then thanks to their record deal with Goodlife. Robert Commitment helped out a lot with lots of contact addresses, which was just so damn great. Starting the label also had to do with the fact that I wanted to do ‘something different’ than only doing shows and hanging out. I like to try new things, new challenges every now and then. I remember I went to the postal office to pick up test pressings of the first EP on my very own record label. Man, it filled me with pride. By carrying the name ‘Not Just Words’ I wanted to express my view on hardcore and basically on how I see life. Since organizing things is something I’m not bad at, it all went quite well. Our first three releases sold out quickly and from our fourth release on, I started doing pressings of at least 1000 copies. Also from that moment on, I tried to get the best out of the label, release after release.
Okay now you already answered my next question about the name of the label, but then again, that was a pretty obvious one. Anyway, looking back now, what’s the best experience you had while running the label?
I have to mention various ones, because mentioning only one would do harm to others. First of all it’s every time we give quite an unknown band a chance, with only a demo in their pocket. Since our foundation, we did several bands that came from almost nowhere, and we helped them to give them a place in the international hardcore scene. Dead Scenestars, A Step Apart, Icepick, Remain, Turn The Screw, Nothing Done, True Colors, Damaged Goods, Losing Streak and soon to be released Keep it Clear all only had their demo. We picked them up and tried to do our very best to help them out. Every time I see good reviews or lots of shows and tours by those bands, it actually fills me with joy and pride and I feel honoured to have a small share in that too. The idea that we achieve something with each other is really satisfying. Sure we have some ‘bigger’ or US bands on our label as well, and we are just so thankful that we got the chance to work with those, like No Turning Back, The First Step and Internal Affairs. Those bands are a great experience as well, but on a different level. These bands definitely help us putting ourselves on the (international) hardcore map for sure, next to the fact that they all delivered great records. I never ever thought it would all come to this.
Then there’s a totally different experience that I want to mention, and that’s the cooperation I started with Franke Visser from Crucial Attack distro/records back in like 2003. Without his efforts, Not Just Words records would probably not be what it became.
Last but not least is more personal. Doing the label gained me a lot of knowledge about people, their behaviour, but most important: about computers. I get in touch with kids sometimes like 10-15 years younger, that way I keep in touch with what’s on that generation’s mind. I also try to keep up with today’s digital developments, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that way if I did not have NJW records, although I still need a guy called Pim Harde Gast a lot!
Haha you’re a computer illiterate Ronald haha, but don’t worry you’re not the only label boss like that haha. Anyway, why did Crucial Attack Records start? I totally see the point of the distro (which is a great thing by the way), but why put out releases like Civil Terror and Citizens Patrol on a separate label and not on NJW? In my opinion they fit right in? I’m not trying to talk down on Crucial Attack or something, cause I love the releases, it’s just something I don’t get. Enlighten me.
When I started Not Just Words records, I wanted to have a label profile that would be recognizable. Keywords had to be something like solid and reliable, ‘what you got is what you get’. I wanted to create a label that would make kids buy the records, maybe without even hearing a song. You know, of course every record has it’s own specific flavour, but in all it’s all under the flag of old school/youthcrew hardcore but never something completely different. I definitely like a varied style of hardcore/metal/punk, but I wanted to gain a public that would show interest in our records, just because it’s released on Not Just Words records, in order to get a more or less constant group of kids that would support us and spread the word. It’s the same like the early Revelation releases and also Crucial Response in the Sportswear/Eyeball/Mainstrike era. I just bought the records, just by it’s description.
When A Step Apart quit and Gijs and Jasper went further in Tenement Kids and Civil Terror, they asked us if we would be interested. Both great bands and having in mind what ASA meant for our label, Franke and I talked about it and decided to just start a second label that would give room to really all kind of bands in the hardcore/punk genre. I mean, in my opinion, they don’t really fit in the profile that we have in mind for Not Just Words records. Same with bands like Rush ‘n Attack, Brat Pack and Citizens Patrol. All great bands, all with a certain ‘punky’ edge to the hardcore or call it ‘hardcory’ edge to their punk.
Originally, Not Just Words records was my initiative back in 2000 and I was happy to have Franke with this project as well. But with the birth of Crucial Attack records, after the distro, we also got a label with which Franke could identify more although we’re both 200% loyal towards ALL records we put out with both our labels, I mean it’s all financed from the same sources and we work with the same VAT and so on. But Crucial Attack records also did more justice to the fact that Franke is doing most of the work, and for me personally, that was one of the reasons why that decision was easy to make. From that moment on, we could start working with the melody of Tenement Kids and the more ‘grindy’/Infest sort of hardcore of Civil Terror, and so on. And as for now, the amount of records on CA is going faster than NJW …
I get what you mean. What are your future plans for Not Just Words? Full speed ahead? Taking it a bit more slowly? I can see it going either way, I’m pretty curious what you’re thinking yourself?
Hard question Pim. I’d really like it to go full speed ahead, but it’s quite hard to make it full speed ahead since time is running low every month, week and day. I can handle things with my wife and children, but there’s more I spend my time on when I’m not at work. The combination of all other things I do sometimes makes it hard to be active with the label when I really want to, so doing 6 records a year probably won’t work out for me haha. Depending on these other obligations and the way it turns out at my work after summer holidays (I might be doing new things) I’ll see what happens. Whatever way, next up is the KEEP IT CLEAR 7″!
“We made bombs with powder of about 125 pieces of fireworks in tennis-balls.”
I can only wish you good luck with the label. Hope you find enough time to get some great releases out again. Let’s see, somewhere along the lines you became a teacher? How did that happen?
Yeah, really just a coincidence, I never ever thought I would become a teacher man. This is the story: when I was 18, I decided to study history at the university of Groningen. Not that I was so very good in studying history, but it was actually the only thing I liked as it came to studying. But moving to Groningen brought me a damn lot, but no results at university. I was into hardcore, hanging out with friends and going to football. So when I fucked up a complete year at university, I switched studies but still focussed on history. At that time, I knew it was primarily meant to learn students how to become a teacher, but I figured I would just go work for a newspaper or something like that. However, in the second year we had to get our asses in front of the class for try-outs and my teachers told me I had talent. Moreover, I actually really liked doing it. So during the last two years of my study, I was sure I wanted to become history teacher.
So what are you doing these days as a teacher?
As of today, I got myself a bunch of other tasks that I’m working on, being not that much in front of the classroom anymore. One of the most important things I’m responsible for right now, is co-ordinating parts of our education, getting kids on the right place, having kids with problems getting the right sort of professional care, initiating new types of education and guiding and coaching new teachers. I’m kinda ‘managing’ things, but I’m not a manager and fortunately the tasks or not in the administrative kind of way. Last couple of months I’ve been asked if I’d be interested to become director of a primary school and also on the location of the school I work right now, my boss asked me if I’d be interested in replacing him, since he has some plans of his own. I would like to do that, but nothing’s sure so I really don’t know how it will turn out the next couple of months.
Do you miss being in the classroom already?
Well not really. First of all I’m still in the classroom for like 6 hours or something, so I can still laugh a lot with the kids in a classroom, I can still make my jokes and talk about what goes on in the minds of 12-16 year old pupils, usually also share their feelings of happiness, joy and also sadness. Second, besides the few regular lessons I do, for the biggest part of the rest of my work is still for and with kids. I have a lot of meetings with the ‘big boys’ from our school and things like that as well, but I still know most of the kids personally since I have to decide whether they could come to our school in the first place. I’m in contact with parents a lot and for lots of things, kids have to come to me. So in all, and third, most important of all: as a teacher, my deeper motivation, my drive to do all this is to try to contribute to the development of kids at school, trying to achieve something, trying to have them to learn from without my own set of moral values. Help them gaining not only knowledge about history and – in a broader perspective – social issues in general, but also helping them to learn skills how to get knowledge, how to work with it, how to use it as a mirror for nowadays social-political state of affairs. But also: how to act and how to behave, learning them the do’s and don’ts of our society, giving them a helping hand on the road to become an adult. Having that said, the question is if that’s only possible to do in a classroom.
Looking at all different kind of things I do at my work nowadays, the answer is no. Everything I want to achieve, everything that appeals to my inner motivation to do this work, my values and my attitude towards 12-16 year old kids … I can still continue doing this. In other words: no classroom necessary for that, although I definitely want to keep giving lessons to groups of kids in a classroom, because that’s a process that usually is a special dimension on its own. Man, it’s awesome, really.
Something else, there has been some criticism (we like to criticize in this country) about the education system in the Netherlands lately. A lot of teachers in education can’t seem to finish their education, students want less hours of education etc. The downfall of knowledge?
Looking at the statistics, your suggestion is not correct. The number of kids leaving secondary and highschool and university with the highest forms of education is still growing. Like you mention correctly, it’s mainly the system that gets criticised. To question the way we organise our education, based on new ideals and ideas, is something different than questioning the actual results, the quality of our education. Also in my school there are uncertified teachers, but some of them are doing great, while there’s lots of certified teachers totally fucking things up without any inspiration for anything, especially for the ones that offer them their job: the kids. On the other hand, schools are asking for certificates more and more and in all, I do think it’s a good thing. Another thing is the amount of hours student have to get educated. In the Netherlands, we’re on the eve of a major lack of certified teacher, and lots of schools have problems finding teachers already. Legislation obliges school to take care of a minimum amount of lessons though, but it’s almost impossible if there’s not enough teachers. Quantity seems to be more important than quality. In the lower classes it shouldn’t be that big of a problem, but for classes that have to do exams in a year or 2, 3 it’s important to be able to offer quality. I mean, isn’t that what every parent and student wants? Politicians should talk about quality more, rather than only talk about quantity.
“Shouting slogans at shows and on stage was a common thing to do, but the question was (and still is): What in fact do you really change when being safely home at your parents house?”
I totally agree that quality should be above quantity and I put it a bit harsh, but I wasn’t talking about students in general, more about student that are learning to become a teacher. There’s a decline in qualified people. Why do you think that is? Simply because they ask a bit more of teachers nowadays?
Yes it’s true that the next coming years, I think from about 2010/2012 on (depending on the region), there will really be a huge problem with getting enough qualified teachers. I think there’s a variety of reasons, but I’m not a scientist so this is simply my idea of what’s going on. The status of the profession is not as it was in the past, and it attracts less students. Especially the ‘90s but also the early ‘00s have made it fashionable to go for the big bucks in a short amount of time and the profession of teachers simply couldn’t live up to that mentality and in my opinion it became kinda ‘soft’. Of course I also put this a bit harsh, surely there were really good teachers with inspiration during those days, but I try to put it in a bigger perspective. In the late ‘80s, the government started to pay less to teachers and nothing changed until now (although some plans to work on slightly improving the salary were recently developed), while the salary on ‘the free market’ became higher and higher. But money is definitely not the only issue, maybe even the least important, because getting like 200 euros more each month is something that people are getting used to within like 2 months. Another aspect that makes the profession less attractive is the fact that kids and parents nowadays don’t take things for granted and question a lot of things as it comes to the education of children, usually too many. The amount of kids with a combination of psychological problems and problematic behaviour in the regular secondary school is rising. In the past, these kids were just put away in ‘special education’. This kind of education still exists, but parents usually don’t want their kid to go there, and to transfer them from regular education to special education is really very very hard, not to talk about all administrative matters that come along.
Another aspect I’d like to mention is the scale on which are education is given form. I mean, in the past there were small schools with only a few hundred pupils. Also in the ‘90s, schools got subsidized to join with other small schools, so most of them grew to what we call ‘learning factories’ with easily 2000 or more kids and hundreds of teachers.
If you take all this in mind, I mean what’s the perspective: working with classes that are usually too big (about thirty 15-year old kids is no exception), salary is too low, colleagues that change by the day and in a lot of cases you don’t even know, the highest principals that are never actually in the school, pupils with complex problems, parents and kids that can be really offensive and even aggressive, minor possibilities to change tasks in order to work on a career … who wants to become a teacher then?
I’ve been working with new, upcoming teachers from universities a lot the last 10 years. I’ve seen a lot of uninspired students that should never chose to work with kids and I really wonder why they wanted to do it in the first place. I confront them with this question, just to think about it before they start a future, they shouldn’t even start with at all. But even the worst students continue with what they’re doing, because university gets paid for the amount of students that finish their studies. Although I got to say that starting teachers usually definitely develop in the first years of their profession, so lots of them can still improve, but I also question the way the students get prepared for the ‘real thing’, in my opinion having to work way too much along the lines of the latest educational systems as being the new hype-of-the-year, initiated by scientists and professors that have never ever worked with pupils themselves, and not knowing the actual effects on learning, although it sometimes also has some really good aspects. But to put it sharp (so I do damage to the actual outcome): like 10-15 years ago, professors simply told us what we had to do, and on what date. They offered us their lessons, their subjects, their curriculum. We all did so, and ‘proved’ we were capable, passed our exams and so on. Nowadays, students have to plan and make schedules on their own way more, learning from what they want to know, not what the professors want them to learn. This appeals a lot on the discipline of students while especially guys from like 17-20 year mostly are not capable to do so. This might also be a reason why the amount of boys as upcoming teacher is getting less every year by the way. I’m totally not the it-was-so-much-better-in-the-past kind of guy, definitely not. But the fact is: when I was at college, we were busy with history way more than students do nowadays. Right now, they get ‘credits’ (studypoints is how we called them back then) for way more superficial things, on which they have to work in groups of like 4 persons and so on.
Students who want to become teachers have to develop a solid, hopefully value driven attitude towards the profession. Of course they should reflect with several persons, but in essence this is what they have to work on on their own. I think the educational institutes for upcoming teachers should redefine the balance. But the good news is, there are also some new teachers that are soooo damn good. I have their phone numbers and as soon as we need them, I’ll call them right away. And one of the most important factors that makes them good, has nothing to do with money, with parents or anything. In most cases, it’s all about the right personality. Motivation, dedication, balance, compassion, the right values towards children, characteristics like that are necessary.
“I’m not your average cheering flower-power-multiculti-djembélover at all.”
Glad to hear there are still some good ones. I think there always were and always will be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones, if you may call em that. In every profession, that is. We had teachers we liked and learned a lot from and we had teachers that could tell whatever they wanted but we wouldn’t pick up anything from them. The same with designers by the way, there are people that follow the rules, they don’t do anything wrong. But they just don’t have it in them….
Anyway, some time ago I’ve read some cool stories about you that involved fireworks. Care to share some with people reading this? I know they’ll love it.
Well haha, it’s just something one does being young and not caring about risks at all, but simply making easy money. When I was about 14 years old, one of my brothers started to sell illegal fireworks, which he got via some arguable canals (soccer hooligans) in Leeuwarden. Since I was going to another school as he was, I shortly started selling it as well, getting a part of the profit. So when he finished his school, I was the only one selling the fireworks so I just took over his merchandise. My classmates often asked me (just for the fun but I shit my pants in fear of being discovered) how it was possible that I had so many schooldays filled with sports all the time during November and December, since I was carrying my books to cover the fireworks that I took with me in a sports bag every day.
It was the time that I and my little brother actually made bombs with the powder of about 125 pieces of fireworks in tennis-balls. The explosions actually sometimes literally blew us away. We knew it was dangerous, but we were 15, 16 years old and we thought we all did it safely enough. Although my parents knew what to say when the cops would visit our house, they kinda let it all go. Even when almost everyone in our village knew that I sold the stuff and we had no less than 3 policemen living in the street in front of ours. Still no idea why my parents let it all go, probably because they liked the fact that we developed ourselves as individual salesmen or something haha, making quite some money. They probably didn’t even know about the risks themselves.
At a certain day in December, my father even proposed to take all the fireworks with him to sell on the road, since –like I said before– he was a milkman. True story, but I told him it wasn’t a very good idea. I was already thankful to let me hide the fireworks between the boxes of candy, washing-powder and cookies in the barn, because keeping 300 boxes of fireworks (30.000 pieces) under my bed just fitted, but there really was no space for another 300 boxes. Just like so many things that are aligned to a certain age, I stopped doing this when I was around 18 years old, having a brand new and very expensive JVC stereo-set at my bedroom, of what I still use the speakers even today.
Hahaha, I knew that would be a great story. Let’s skip forward to these days, how does it feel to tell children at school they can’t toy around with fireworks when you clearly had a lot of fun when you were their age?
Good one, but also an easy one. One the one hand, it feels kinda strange, cause I can easily identify with those guys. However, it’s a totally different context you’re talking about. In any job, you have to act like a professional. This means, in my opinion, in cases like this, that you have to separate your own private ideas, attitude and behaviour from the past (maybe also the present) from the ideas, attitude and behaviour that your work or boss desires from you. We help to kids to grow up, make the right choices, do the right things. Toying around with fireworks when you are like 15 year old is a lot of excitement and fun of course, but simply is not good. No question about that man. In addition: as a school, as teachers it is our responsibility to talk about this and to act towards kids to prevent them from doing so. Besides that I really seriously hate fireworks nowadays, I mean damn how I hate that stuff.
Are you serious ? I really don’t know if your being sarcastic right now or not haha.
Yes Pim, I sweeaaaaaheeaaar!
Hahah okay, go on!
Well, my profession is working with children, in the age of 12 to 15. As a school, we help them not only on an educational level with knowledge and skills, but we also help them to raise to responsible individuals that sometimes need reflection on their own behaviour, since they are at school for a great part of the day. Simple as that. This is a very important age, at which lots of kids try to walk the line. Not necessarily something they must do or want to, but because of their age. Having that discerned, the first thing I do is mentioning that I can imagine that they enjoy it. I mean, almost all boys like it, but only a few take it over the line. But at this point, if it comes to fireworks, mobile phones, drugs or violence or whatever, it’s out of my professional attitude that I immediately also want them to stop with it, because we as a school don’t tolerate fireworks and all other sorts of behaviour that are contrary to our ‘house-rules’. There’s just no room for fireworks in or around are school, period. ALL kids that I talked with about this know it, and they fully understand. So there’s no need at all to get angry about this, I simply ask them about the risks, I don’t even have to act like a police officer or oh-so-concerned-teacher. Because just like I did back then, they know that what they do is dangerous and wrong. So last November, when asking a guy to find out what movies were on his mobile phone we could use as evidence, I skipped his porn trailers (“my daddy doesn’t need to know this, mister Boorsma, right?”) and found some movies with kids playing with self-made copper bombs. We opened their lockers and got our hands on 7 of these really dangerous explosives, for which they guys found the right ingredients on youtube. About 5 guys were involved, they all admitted their guilt, and we phoned their parents. I decided to turn the punishment into something positive, without letting the guys getting away with their behaviour too easy, so I let them deliver a lecture in another class than their own about the dangers of illegal fireworks, including some quite shocking pictures. They worked their asses off, shitting their pants for the lecture of course, but they were so glad we didn’t take them to the police. I think this action was something they will remember the rest of their lives.
That’s a great way to deal with this kinda thing if you ask me, it would certainly made me realize I did something wrong. Do you have any more interesting stories to share from school?
Yeah really a lot of everyday humor. A couple of years ago, a few colleagues and I went to the province of Drente to visit some archaeological sites. The pupils we had with us were not the most clever, but really enthusiastic and very interested since we as history teachers still know how to tell exiting historical stories. So we took a skull from the biology class and one of us put it somewhere along the road, from chin to the eyes buried in the sand at the side of a sandy road, leaving only the top of the skull visible. So when we got there, we advised the kids to keep their eyes open, maybe they could turn out to be real archaeologists and maybe find some really important objects in the field. So some of them really did their job and searched for everything, showing us all sorts of things that – of course – wasn’t of any use at all. So we went to the direction where the skull was buried and told the kids to look carefully again. A couple of them ran like 100 metres in front of us and suddenly they started screaming and yelling, some of them almost crying. “Mister, mister, we found a skull, we found a dead one!” We played our role as well of course, being worried and exited the same time, arguing what to do next, how we could get the police here and so on. Kids started to work on the murder case, where the rest of the body would be, looking in the sand and grass and everywhere. Hilarious. I mean, the work ‘fuck’ was even written somewhere on the skull, probably by some bored kid during biology class with a marker. And the kids we had with us totally went with the situation, not even noticing the word ‘fuck’ or simply ignoring it.
So when we went back home in the bus, we told everyone about the joke. And still some of them simply didn’t believe us. When we got back home, even a parent called what the fuck happened, since their child was totally upset haha…
“Hardcore is not just words, try to make a change, a personal one to start with.”
Hahaha, great! You would have totally pulled me in as well. That’s what you get when you watch too much CSI haha. Okay, let’s move the subject to politics. I know you’re interested in that. I’m a SP voter myself, but you took it a couple of steps further. Tell me some more about your involvement with the SP. Maybe you can explain to the people from outside the Netherlands reading this what SP stands for, to give them an idea.
During the early ‘90s, I got in touch with quite some, more or less radical, left wing thoughts and ideas. It was the time that communism got its feet in European hardcore, sometimes (ironically enough) next to anarchist types of ‘ideals’. Although I was raised in the protestant lower middle class, where being ‘red’ was almost impossible to even think about, some ideas attracted me. Not in the least because of the fact that moving to Groningen to live on myself for studies, I simply got in touch with other people than I was used to. It kinda opened my eyes. The thing that annoyed me about anarchism and communism in hardcore, was/is that it was so inner circle.
That is, shouting slogans at shows and on stage was a common thing to do, but the question was (and still is): what in fact do you really change when being safely home at your parents house? Nothing, if it’s only at shows. One thing that my parents told me, and on which I’m proud of and thankful for, is that words are nothing. If you really want to achieve anything, stop wining and crying and being stuck in your own misery, but start being active in order to really make a change. There’s no other way. Whether it’s in your daily routine life, at school, work, or in a larger context: the community as a whole. A lot of things you can do by yourself, but changing the community needs an organization. So around 1993, I was looking for a political party that was not that theoretical and radical as communists were (although the Socialist Party has been mentioned ‘radical’ in a negative way lots of times) to actually make a change in our local and national community.
The SP grabbed my attention with some provocing posters, although they weren’t even in the Dutch Parlement back then with only a few thousand members (nowadays it’s over 50.000). After I moved to Leeuwarden, it was not long before I got in touch with some SP activists, who actually did nothing. In 1997 I was one of the founding members of a branch of the SP in Leeuwarden.
A year later I became chairman of the SP-representatives in the city council, was active for the party on a national level as well. When I moved to village I live now back in 2002, I was one of the founding members of a branch of the SP in a city called Sneek. When we got kids, I slowed things down a bit. Right now, I’m a representative of our province Friesland in the national party of the SP. I’m giving advice to chairmen of SP-branches in Friesland, actually being the binding person of all activists and activities in our province, and also being one of the persons running the national SP-party. It’s quite an honour, cause right now I’m in the inner circle of a party that’s growing more and more, probably being on the eve of bringing change in our country along the lines that we as a party stand for.
Talking about that, in our thoughts and deeds we are guided by three concepts: human dignity, equality and solidarity. It is these values that we see, in the course of many centuries that have emerged, as essential and indispensable aspects of human civilisation and progress. Together with our rational analysis of the world, we see them as the yardstick against which we measure developments and judge alternatives. Whatever we judge to be positive we attempt to promote, while those things we see as negative we try to prevent or combat. Human dignity is the respect of one person for another, the right to decide freely the direction society should take, a secure existence for everyone, and a fair chance for every person to live in freedom and strive for his or her own happiness. Equality means that one person is never worth more than another. On this basis we are for the broadest tolerance in the whole society and against every form of discrimination. Solidarity between people is necessary because the opportunities afforded to one are fewer than those enjoyed by another. By helping and caring for each other we can give a fair chance to everyone to lead a fulfilling life.
One of the aspects of the Socialist Party that attracted me from the very beginning of my membership, is that the SP is not merely an electoral union. If you want to change society for the better there is a great deal of work to be done outside as well as inside the parliament and council chamber, on both the national and local level. To give an idea: the SP is active in campaigns against unaffordably high rents and unacceptably bad working conditions, and for the protection of the environment and better health care for all; against further erosion of social security and for a reasonable income for everyone; for equality of opportunity and against the growing worldwide gulf between rich and poor; against the widening social division and for a more caring society.
The SP did get it’s share of criticism lately. What’s your take on that?
I think the main question about half a year ago was: when making agreements within the party, can an individual representative still make his own choices at the cost of those agreements, while he never ever opposed during the decision-making of which he himself was a part of? Sure that person was free to do so, but in my opinion his ambitions to become an ‘important’ national representative in the Dutch First Chamber took him beyond the loyalty towards his own party. Being ambitious is, as I see it, no problem at all, but the moderation and balance was gone. The SP simply is no party for job-seekers. That given fact was the kick-off for the media to (during summer, what else could they report about?) turn the SP upside down, asking all former-members about ‘problems’ they were supposed to have with the party and so on. And just as intense as the storm, it disappeared.
In all, I think it was a good thing, because this kind of problems separates the loyal members, being active really only FOR other people from people that want to fulfil their own ambitions at the cost of the party discipline. Besides that, it proves the urgency to always be critical on what we as a party say, do and think, kind of a mirror to look in to, everyday. So one of the questions should be: is there a lesson to be learned, in order to improve our party?
Last but not least: getting criticism on a national level is a normal thing that every party has to go through when getting as big and important as the SP is now. Let’s not forget that the SP really is a threat to the current political balance on both the national as well as lots of local levels. So lots of politicians, especially from the PvdA (kind of the Labour party in the UK), have jobs to lose. Since it’s foundation in 1972, the SP never had that much of forces joining against us, but now is the time. For papers, magazines, TV stations and so on it’s big news if people from our party prove not to be that loyal, or simply made different choices, simply because of the fact that right now the SP is a significant political force that has to be taken serious, with only two national political parties still being bigger than the SP.
How about Wilders (a right-winged politician from the Netherlands)?
Wilders stands for many things that I strongly despise. I stand for equality between people, Wilders for inequality cause in his opinion are worth less than others. I stand for integration, Wilders stands for separation. I stand for solidarity, Wilders stands for ‘you get what you deserve’. Many people say he’s a one-issue party: anti-islam and anti-immigrants. Ofcourse every there’s assholes in every (ethnical) group of civilians, but Wilders judges people on who they are, rather than judging them on what they say or do. This is my fundamental problem with Wilders and his party, because for this kind of politics there is only one word that I can think of: discrimination.
And while his party would probably classify my thoughts as ‘not of this world’, I know what I’m talking about. For almost 10 years now, I’m in touch with other cultures than the ‘leading’ Dutch, especially when visiting the parents of kids that are at our school. And no, I’m not an average cheering flower-power-multiculti-djembé-lover at all, but putting people away only because of a culture as a whole and seeing and mentioning them as a thread really is the other side and so principally wrong.
Besides discrimination groups of people and contrary to what lot of people think about Wilders as being a one-issue party, there’s more that I stand against. During the time that he and his party are active in the Dutch Second Chamber, they voted for the rich instead of the poor, doing proposals in favour of the rich (lower taxes), the free market and multinational corporations. Although he attracts lots of lower educated and hardworking voters, his party makes their situation worse instead of better. It’s not possible to become member of his party, nor is he a ‘movement’ so there’s no way for Dutch people to participate in his party, in whatever way. So although I don’t see Wilders as a one-issue party, it’s a one-person party.
“We even used lyrics by Youth of Today and Insted on their birth cards.”
Let’s skip questions about his so called ‘movie’. What a waste of time. Let’s close this off in a more personal way, you have kids now. Bands always get asked, what’s the message you want to bring accross. With your own flesh and blood it’s way more important to you personally, so what’s your message? What do you want to learn your kids?
Today I visited my father’s grave with our three children, he died age 66 back in 2000. Our oldest daughter is almost 6 now, so she never knew him. Ofcourse I told her about him. When running from the graveyard to our car, she was told me she was so sad. Then our second daughter, almost 4 years old, said to her: “yes it’s sad, but there’s nothing you can do about it, everyone’s going to die sometime”. I didn’t really need to say more, but I did tell her death is a normal thing in life, and it’s nothing to be sad about and the best thing to do is to enjoy life as much as possible. We even used lyrics like this by Youth of Today and Insted on their birth cards. It was a special moment for me, because life (also had the youngest with me, 2 years old) and death came to each other and it –again– made clear that everyone should encourage their children to live life and enjoy it the way they see fit, because that’s the most important.
This might be the best question I ever had in interviews, thanks a lot for that Pim.
The question appeals to the very foundation of having a family, and this is something I have been thinking about quite a lot lately. It also appeals to the essence of the difference between having kids, and having/running a family. Having kids, in my opinion, refers to something passive, like there’s no need to do that much, just hope it all works out with me, as a parent, standing on the side. Having a family refers to a more active approach, in a way that a family is a solid bond that has a journey to travel, maybe even a mission. This sounds all theoretical and maybe far-fetched, but I mean I don’t want to raise our children as only a result of its parent’s efforts. Anyhow, to answer the question, what we want to learn them is a lot, but first of all exactly all those things they learn me. For instance, having these 3 wonderful kids taught me to modify. A cliché, I know, but a hard truth for me. I’m thankful for getting that lesson from them, so I want to teach them moderation as an important.
Another one is reflection, our children urge me to reflect on my behaviour and my responsibilities, almost every time I go to bed. A good thing and I try to learn them to reflect as soon as they can in order to improve their character helping them to handle their responsibilities (like ask them to help to clean the floor when they spill a bowl of milk by accident, instead of shouting and getting mad at them). And then there are a lot of things that we a parents stand for and see as important (moral) values. The list is long, but think of honesty, love, decency, affection, kindness. We’re also the type of parents that just say ‘no’, every now and then, making clear that not everything one wants is actually possible. Children need to handle frustration by talking about this; of course this is something we only start with at the age of like a 4 or 5 year old.
We don’t have high expectations and we learn our children that making mistakes is a natural thing, definitely no problem at all, and something they can learn of. We strongly encourage them to just do their very best and not only hope on their talents, because we want to teach them perseverance as well. That’s also the reason why we also hardly ever say “oh, you’re so smart”, but “wow, that’s very inventive” or something like that, in order to ensure that they keep trying to solve problems themselves. On a more social level, we try to make clear that there is an alternative in life, next to the fast-MTV-McDonalds-society we sometimes seem to live in. We want to teach our children to become independent individuals who are able to make their own choices. We actually already started this by not eating meat and fish in our house. If they themselves choose to do so outside our house, it’s up to them. Let me make clear, to finish this, that we teach our kids that we will always be there for them ofcourse, whenever and for whatever they need us.
Thanks for being so open with me Ronald, I really enjoyed talking about these things with you. I’ll wish you all the luck in the future, with the label, the SP and more importantly your family. Take care man. If you want to add anything, now is the time to do so.
Hardcore = not just words, try to make a change, a personal one to start with. I feel honoured you let have so many space in your zine man, thanks a lot for showing interest in what I do and who I am. I wish you all the very best with your zine, work, Said and Done and all other things you’re into.
UPDATE 2012-05-26: Photos removed upon request.