They’re at it again – examining and arguing and generally fretting about their national identity. As a national obsession this pastime is never very far from the news pages and this weekend was no exception, with Ruud Lubbers wading in with his own bit of navel-gazing.

‘There is no-one in the world who doesn’t recognise a Dutchman,’ he declared during a debate. And in case you’re wondering, you can spot a Dutchman by his initiative, individualism, energy and miserliness, according to the former prime minister.
But, adds Lubbers, if he was still prime minister he too would have allowed princess Máxima to make the recent speech in which she claims there is no such thing as a typical Dutchman.
The comment has enraged a lot of people. Not least Michiel Zonnevylle of the Oranje Association, who regrets the fact that the Argentine princess hasn’t learnt to recognise Dutchness when she sees it.
Leading in turn to the integration minister claiming that the princess’ remarks are polarising society. Polarisation. That’s the latest Dutch obsession.
And the concept has crossed borders – Dutch society has, says a columnist in the Washington Post become ‘bitterly divided’. This time over the issue of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s security. Something else for the Dutch to agonise over.

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