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Participation society

Sunday 22 September 2013

photo Youp van 't Hek

Everybody participates in the participation society but some participate more than others. Youp on greedy interim managers and immigrants who are far too poor buy their way into the Netherlands.  

Our neighbour called round the other day. Could we, via the baby intercom, keep an ear out for his mother who has Alzheimer? As a participation society thing? He promised to wash our car and mow our lawn in exchange. He didn’t have much time to chat. He had been hired as an interim manager at a care organisation for the disabled. ‘€250 an hour,’ he laughed. ‘I’ve been clocking up nearly €100,000 this month alone! And my secretary €30,000!’ I congratulated him on his success and asked how he got the job.

‘A hockey friend of mine is a member of the supervisory board,’ he sniggered. ‘He got in via a pal he knew in the university debating society. He thought it would look good on his cv. The last board left a big mess, under the supervision of my friend, by the way. So I have been asked to clear it up. I’ve cut back a million’s worth of  care already. I’m worth every penny.’ He gave me a wink.

I asked him the name of the organisation. ‘Humanitas,’ he said, ‘with the emphasis on ‘human!.’ I don’t know my neighbour very well. I did have a look at his website the other day though. It says he aims for ‘transparency and a steady course. And that he will change the organisation from the inside. He’s passionate about it, it says. It’s all there, on his website.

I asked him if his wife couldn’t look after his mother but he said she is working for the disabled as well. She organises a thing called the Tour de Eiffel. People run up the Eiffel tower in Paris and then run down again, sponsored by friends and businesses. The money goes to research. ‘What sort of research?’ I asked. ‘They’re still looking for a suitable disease. The Rotary wanted to do something charity-wise and the hundreds of millions raised by the Alpe d’Huez inspired them so much they came up with the Tour de Eiffel idea in no time at all. They had six thousand participants in two weeks. They haven’t found a good cause yet, but a golf pal of mine who eats for Aids each year on Dam square said he felt sure some debilitating disease or other could be found. They’re deciding next week.’

I congratulated him again and then he started on the seven million already in the kitty thanks to some real estate boys who had to offload some money before being declared bankrupt. Unfortunately, the treasurer of the Tour de Eiffel had been too enthusiastic about derivatives and the money is sort of not there anymore. A cricket pal who was kicked out of the bank by Zalm will be sorting that one out, not for nothing of course. ‘He’ll get 400 an hour. It’s nothing compared to what he normally gets but that’s how sorry he feels for those chronically ill people.’ My neighbour pulled a caring face.

I  told him I would look out for his mother. ‘If she starts shouting, it’s probably time to changer her diaper. The law says you don’t have to, so ignore her if you don’t feel like it.’

‘We’ll see,’ I said. I then asked him when he was going to wash the car and mow the lawn.

Apparently Vacslav would see to that. Vaclav is a Czech. He is our neighbour’s resident household Czech. And I had better be around when Vacslav comes over. My neighbour looked pained. He didn’t want to discriminate, he said, but the problem with this sort of immigrant is that they don’t really understand the difference between what is ours and what is theirs. Did I see what he meant? It wasn’t even so much Vacslav himself but the Polish friends he brings into the house sometimes.

His Bulgarian driver hit the car horn. My neighbour was running late. The disabled were waiting.


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