February 8, 2020*

Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged:
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

– Matthew 7:1,2  2

... with what measure ...  3

I am an old fogey and pretty well at peace with myself. Sleep like a baby. Bad dreams few and far between. Blessed with a wonderful family. Peaceful homelife. Uneventful mostly. No fear of not ever waking up.  4

It hasn't been like this for most of my life. Quite the contrary. What am I telling you? What else is new?  5

Still, I am concerned about my children's future, and of their children's, and so on. And by extension about the future of my world more generally. That is the main reason for me going through this exercise which I began with my previous piece, "Starting kit." I don't like doing this, but I feel compelled. I hope that this pursuit doesn't come from barren idealism.   6

How often have I heard that disparaging word, there is nothing you or I can do. But reality is that there is an itsie-bitsie chance. Didn't David slay Goliath?  7

Whatever the byways, I came across a webpage about the financial and political influence of the Koch brothers, here. I had an uncle named Koch* who owned or managed an outstanding hotel in Groningen. Married to my mother's oldest sister, Marie. I must have been about three or four years old when taken there for a day or so. My brain still holds snapshots of a trolly bus and of the Martini tower across a park. Rambling again. He later migrated to the States. Still rambling, but getting to the point: David and Charles Koch spent huge amounts of money on furthering unbridled free enterprise and on fighting legislation aimed at ameliorating climate change.  9

What can society do about such power, held by a few. About their influence on politicians; their influence on institutions; their influence on our very minds and behavior and how we perceive one another? Their influence on just about every nook and cranny of life as we know it. What is their deepdown rationale? What is the deepdown rationale of someone who, say, collects postage stamps? Not outward rationales, not what people say.  10

Society is a product of human minds. It seems well, therefore, to look into human minds, the motors of observable human behavior. To examen the stuff within; however sordid it may show itself to be. And the only tool I can think of for opening that can of worms is introspection; introspection followed by surmizing that whatever we find is likely also in millions of brains of the species homo sapiens.  11

Existentialism unbridled. Excuses? Alright. Why not? But no exit. Here then goes for a further peek in this one cranium, mine; looking mostly into my teenage years. —  12

In summary, I began by accumulating failures, step by yearly step, until age 18.  13

My father was proud of me when I passed the entrance exams for Leiden's Gymnasium; he generously gave my religion teacher, for whom I had forgotten the entire last year of elementary school to bring the suggested nickle per weekly session, a whole guilder.  14

Gymnasium is an upper-tier secondary school with mandatory Latin and Greek in the curriculum, pathway especially for those aiming for legal and religious professions. Pupils were mostly from the upper class; the kind that didn't associate with the likes of me.

      Hi, qui sunt discipuli / Lugduni Gymnasii
      Veniant et voc'alta / Laudent U.S.A.
      Omnes sumus socii / Fideles et integri
      Eris numquam famulos / Mittit inter nos
      Sumus in concordia / Quae es firma magna et pulcherrima
      Sanctus nobis est hymnus / Cantus nostris vocibus
      Uno sumus animo Nobis verum sit perpetuo
      Semper est clarissima / Nobis cara U.S.A.!

We, who are students of Leiden's gymnasium
Let's gather and sing, let's avow: "We share one ideal"
We are friends all, loyal and upright ...

I hardly did my homework assignments; probably because I couldn't bend my mind to them. I often went out to roam the streets or play with a few kids, sometimes visited a museum, and entered a warped fantasy world of my own confabulation. A few months before the end of the first schoolyear, my parents were advised to take me out of school and seek some work for me outdoors, say in a garden, to help me overcome my nervouness. So they did and I went back the next schoolyear for a fresh start. A point was deducted on my first classroom test for want of a macron on some abblative, rosā. Nine out of ten is a good mark, but I felt nicked.  16

The Germans had recently overrun Holland. I harbor an image of a Dutch Fokker-G1, a twin-engined, double-tailed fighter, pride of the Dutch airforce and us kids. It flew over my home, machine-gunned by a German fighter right behind it. Another image of admiring a long line of German motorcycles with sidespans, manned by soldiers draped with heavy raincloth. Then came Franz, a German soldier with a skull on his cap. He worked as a tailor in my father's requisitioned workplace. Not an unkind man.  17

Streetkids argued about favoring either the newly formed (and short-lived) Netherlands Union, a non-Nazi party, or the NSB, National Socialist Movement. I didn't have the foggiest about political parties, but that didn't stop me from proclaiming my opinion, the Union probably—just wanted to belong and feel important. My father had opinions about many things and always knew everything better. Monkey see, monkey do, I guess.  18

Franz didn't stay long. The Germans had organized a workshop of their own. Although reluctantly, following the advice of some superior in the Civil Guard (an anti-Communist paramilitairy group) of which he was a member, my father began to work there for a while. Later he would boast of being a saboteur, spreading fleas or lice through German uniforms. Hard to swallow? Guess so.  19

I failed my second year; same reason as before, insufficient effort. There are a few things I do remember, such as sitis, puppis, turris, febris and securis. I don't believe that I ever realized these words were exceptions to some bit of Latin grammar. I remember a history teacher who began classes with "Vrienden en viandinnen," male friends and female enemies. A dour Nazi teacher had taken his place when I repeated the schoolyear. A teacher of Dutch literature let the whole class know that he had seen me in the Lokhorststraat which was not the kind of street frequented by my well-to-do classmates. That stung; as intended, no doubt. Uno sumus animo.*  20

I had some playmates. There was Heintje who didn't want his parents to know I was not a Catholic. I went with him to a church service and helped his sister learn the catechism. At his home we listened to the uplifting words of Pater De Greve over the radio. There was Leo, a scrawny Jewish boy whom I wrote about years ago: "Lesson from Leo". There was Martien, whose parents were NSB-ers and had a toy store. Martien had a big trainset, Märklin, with railroad switches.  21

I wasn't 14 yet and under Dutch law I was obliged to attend school. A nearby school for chemical technicians offered schooling to be paid for by cleaning work. Ten cents an hour toward tuition. Didn't like it at all and hated the nasty woman who bossed me around . I was kicked out before the end of the year for stealing glassware for a home lab where I made invisible inks and gunpowder. Made little rockets from rifle ammunition shells that I propelled across my bedroom. My parents must have been at wits' end what to do with me. By the way, I believe—and, in fact, was told— the stealing went both ways, that many of my working hours were not recorded for compensation.  22

I have lost track of what happened when. Mental snapshots come without a timestamp. Guess I was about 15 when I put some clothes and beans in a suitcase, took ten guilders from my mother's purse and quietly left the house some early morning with my younger brother to take a train to live in a wooded area far away. The adventure was short lived. By the end of the day we took a short ride to an uncle's home nearby. He phoned my parents and that was that. Neither they nor I ever talked about what had happened, but, looking back, life at home did improve.  23

In 1943 went to another school for chemical technicians. In The Hague, by tramway. Passed the written part of the final exams, but failed the practical part because my hands shook too much to allow me doing measurements accurately. Nerves taking their toll, as they have often since.  24

On June 6, 1944, allied forces began landing in Normandy and about three months later had overrun the German troops south of the river Rhine. Going back to school was out of the question. Young men were picked up from the streets and sent to work in Germany. I had to stay indoors, but German troops even raided homes. I made a hiding place by moving the planking against an outside brick wall a foot or so inward. I needed to hide there once; standing for hours trapped against a cold brick wall in the middle of a severe winter. That winter became known as the "hunger winter."  25

A year or so into the occupation, my mother began a business by turning left-over and recycled materials into small items which she sold to variety stores. My father became one of her sales people. It must have chafed him not to have the upper hand at home. I don't remember but I believe he later made a living by repairing old suits and maybe making some new ones from bolts he had stored away. Food rations became smaller and smaller and he, like many others, bought and traded things we had in the house for food on the black market. I remember cycling with my father to farmhouses to buy, trade or beg for potatoes. Our scarce meals became supplemented by sugar beets and oats for horses. Cooking was done on a tin can, about 9 inches diameter, with a grating put in to support small, 3-inch pieces of wood for fire. In the end, we broke up our living room's wooden floor for firewood.  26

By the end of January 1943, German troops began a slow retreat on the eastern front. People could follow their moves from hidden radios and underground newspapers. People would stick colored pins into wallmaps to gleefully see the German movements which German propaganda labelled something like "temporary strategic retreat." Our home became a distribution center for various underground papers—a risky business. If betrayed, torture by the Nazis was sure to follow, to extract names of underground contacts, and then execution. But that never came up in my head.  27

There was a garage near our home where mechanics fixed German vehicles. A nice benefit for us was that our block still had electricity while it was cut off everywhere else. We couldn't let on, of course, that we had light during the long winter nights of 1944–1945. Measures had to be taken. One, we stuck a steel needle through the aluminum casing of our electricity meter to prevent its measuring disk from rotating; two, we carefully closed our heavy window curtains to ensure that no light was visible from outside.  28

The mechanics were German soldiers and Russian prisoners of war, the latter also clothed in German uniforms. A few of them, German and Russian, surreptitiously contacted my father to get a civilian suit so that they might escape the wrath of the allies at the end of the war. They would sneak across after dark and curfew to get a suit made from some bolts my father still had. They paid for it with bags of coal stolen from the garage. Timing of their visits was planned so that they would not run into one another. The coal helped us through the winter months by trading it for food on the black market. For us it never came to eating tulip bulbs as many did. Those bulbs were poisonous and people eating them broke out in hives if not worse.  29

The war pretty well ended on May 5, 1945 and I got out in the open again. There I saw black char dwirling down from a blue sky; Germans in a nearby headquarters were burning records. Then I saw a Jeep with a white star on the hood parked nearby. No more char.  30

      Blue days, all of them gone
      Nothin' but blue skies from now on
      Blue skies smilin' at me
      Nothin' but blue skies do I see

My father had managed to get his family through the war; skinny, but physically unharmed. I got my chemical technician's diploma after another year in school. A girl from my class, whom I had tutored from time to time, gave me a big bouquet of roses. Success at last. 32

So it seemed. Until a piece of reality entered the conscious mind: being a laboratory technician with impaired dexterity.  33

February 8: my father's 119th birthday if he were still alive.  *   fn1

The Dutch painter Rambrandt studied at Leiden's first Latin school, located in the Lokhorststraat and the first forerunner of today's Gymnasium. Irrelevant to my story? Sure.  *   fn2

Correction: My memory failed me. That uncle's family name was Struvé.  *   fn3

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