Leaving the Chaos Behind

Utrecht
 

March 2019 has turned out to be a month filled with chaos, unrest and general social tension in the Netherlands. This upheaval started on the 15th of May with news coming from Christchurch, New Zealand that 50 people were killed in a gruesome attack on two mosques by a right-wing extremist.

With barely any moment to recover from this dreadful news, the city of Utrecht - Dare to be Grey’s hometown - became uprooted by its own shooting incident. Here, a shooter killed four people on a tram, escaped the scene, and put the entire city into a lock-down to be caught only hours later. From the very moment his identity was revealed to be from Turkish descent, the typical polarised debates started running high: was it terrorism that motived him or was he simply a confused individual? And should this have an impact on Dutch integration policies?

As the week started to unfold, the city and the rest of the country seemed to enter a serious state of anxiety. This state was firmly enhanced on Wednesday, a mere two days later, when the provincial elections caused another serious shake-up in the national media and on our personal timelines.

Forum for Democracy, the new political kid on the block, was hailed as the big winner and garnered responses that were either loudly enthusiastic, or deeply concerned. Opinions were and still are incredibly divided, and even if you do not wish to dedicate your time to this topic, the media will ensure that you spend at least a couple of minutes contemplating and debating the nature of this new political party.

Lessons to be Learned

From my Dutch perspective, there seems to be a fundamental difference between New Zealand and the Netherlands and the way both nations dealt with the chaos they were faced with. Of course, the attack in New Zealand was of a much more catastrophic and fundamental level, yet in their response, New Zealanders seem to have found a form of unity that other parts of the world can only dream of.

In the Netherlands, however, a narrative of division and differences seems to have the upper hand. The initiatives in New Zealand were barely mentioned in the media, and, generally, news outlets seem to be more concerned with the divisive narrative of the provincial elections than anything else.

 
Jan+van+Zanen
 

The Silent March

During this chaotic month, one rare moment of calmness and reflection in the Netherlands was to be found in Utrecht’s commemorative silent march, four days after the shooting incident. More than fifteen thousand people gathered around as they waved the city’s flag high and listened compassionately to the Mayor who proudly proclaimed that the city won’t be threatened by violence and hate, and that we, as a society, need to stand up fiercely for freedom and mutual acceptance.

His speech was a testament to the strength of the city. A city that lies at the heart of our country. And a city that we, from Dare to be Grey, proudly call our home. 

Dare to be Grey

Only a week after the assault in Utrecht, Dare to be Grey celebrated the relaunch of its campaign which, by then, was already in the work for months. This relaunch occurred on the 25th of March - exactly 3 years after our initial launch - and was meant as a new push, a new incentive, in our ongoing fight against polarisation: an issue that in the past three years has only increased in severity. With the incident in our own city and New Zealand still fresh on our mind, our personal motivation has been higher than ever.

As much as Dare to be Grey promotes a message that is meant to resonate everywhere we go, it will always remain a message that started here in Utrecht. And as we have left this month of chaos and division behind us, it is time to move forward. It is time for our debate to change. It is time to form a new, united front. One that can stand up to terror, political shake-ups, media hypes, and efforts to further divide our society in black-and-white thinking.

It is time to Dare to be Grey.