When I was young teenager, my mother asked me to come home before the streetlights went on. This wasn’t a permanent rule, it only came into play if I ended up home late at night and in a state from a little too much fun (often including drinking and smoking) with my friends.
These days, it’s the Dutch government that is asking me to stay in at night, but they don’t really mind how much I drink or smoke.
Back in Ireland you would often hear it said that a burden shared is a burden halved. The lockdown curfew seems to work in spite of that piece of conventional wisdom. This has been imposed on all of us here in Groningen and in the Netherlands overall, but things still just seem to be getting steadily worse.
In some ways, it’s easy to understand how actions and symbols of collective frustration are beginning to pop up around the country. The riots across the Netherlands, and particularly those in Eindhoven, have attracted international media attention to the curfew measures as people’s frustrations with increasingly restrictive lockdown measures continue to grow.
With that said, I’m not sure what rioting is supposed to achieve. The frustration we all feel in the face of such restrictive measures is shared deeply. Call me crazy if you want, but I fail to see what a smashed shop window or a firework thrown at a policeman will do to halt the spread of a deadly virus across the country or the wider continent.
I fail to see what a smashed shop window will do to halt the spread of a deadly virus
A few days ago, my next-door neighbour began flying the Dutch tricolour at half-mast when the curfew was announced. A symbol of a nation and its people in crisis that anyone can understand. At the start of the week, I leaned out of my bedroom window to compliment him on displaying such a poignant symbol of our collective sorrow.
Then, last night in the snow, our neighbourhood had its own quiet little riots. We all stood outside throwing snowballs at each other close to midnight. We all stood together committing this soft act of rebellion against the sorrows and frustrations of our current predicament. It seemed like the most fun a lot of us had in a long time.
When we’d finished, I went inside with cold hands, a smile and a head full of thoughts about what happened. Were we really criminals? Did it matter?
They can’t arrest the neighbourhood.