Thursday, January 10, 2008


This is to announce my new blog:

Reflections on the future of humanity

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


People across the world connect with each other – through the Internet – to share their interests in almost every possible field. Increasingly we create our platforms that help us foster these interests and further develop our views.

ON BEING DUTCH compiles the essays primarily written for that purpose in the period between January 2006 and August 2007 on the Blogspot weblog with the same name. They reflect the author’s view on many important societal, economic and political themes of our day affecting the future prospects of wealth, happiness and mental sanity across the globe.

The perspective of the author is twofold. First of all, he is a Dutchman. Secondly, by virtue of his background and education, his views of our contemporary world are distinctly libertarian. Although no criticism of current developments and people influencing them is spared, his outlook is essentially optimistic. The final chapters of the book are dedicated to articulating this optimism in a fresh and authentic sketch of a possible future world, or in his own words: A life to benefit all.

ON BEING DUTCH is available in paperback - and obtainable - through

How to obtain a copy:

- go to
- enter "being dutch" in search
- click "ON BEING DUTCH" by Theo E. Korthals Altes
- follow further instructions for ordering en payment

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

We should not mistake technological supremacy for civilization

The western world has proven supreme in driving human invention in modern times. As a result, the outlook of our entire planet has changed beyond recognition in just a couple of hundred years. It has enabled unprecedented masses of people to enjoy material comfort and access to our planet’s resources at such staggering scale as to fundamentally challenge the sustainability – even within the foreseeable future – of our entire existence.

Our only option, so it seems, is to fuel new invention capable of effectively bridging the gap – over the long term – between our material aspirations and existing scarcity. The hydrogen economy must be around the corner, if only the technologists work hard enough to get us there. And probably they will.

For it is my firm belief that technology is there to stay. It is there to advance more or less infinitely. Such advancement in my view will be a prerequisite for the survival of mankind and for the fulfillment of its potential as a living reality in our universe. A tremendous path still lies ahead.

But we may ask ourselves, particularly at this juncture, what civilization will successfully carry mankind beyond its current conundrums into a prosperous and humane future and towards a truly sustainable habitation of humanity on our living planet? For we should not mistake the technological achievements of our time for advanced civilization nor is it self-evident that our culture, including our political culture, and our social fabric are capable of bridging all other gaps that persist in our world, in particular between those who share and those who do not share the fruits of western advancement.

Well indeed, our social fabric is being eaten from inside, almost as if the world wide web has encapsulated us the way a caterpillar allows itself to be eaten by the butterfly that grows within its pupa. We sense that a new fabric is developing from within but we have no clue what kind of civilization will ultimately emerge once we truly master the possibilities that our technologies offer. We have yet to re-invent our world both a the level of the community or communities we live in and at the level of our markets, our politics, and our global alliances.

The great challenge we face is to allow for this transition without falling back to (escalating) archetypal conflicts most notably the conflict that exists to this day between the Western (Christian) world and the Arab (Muslim) world. It must be obvious to every one that in case of such (further) escalation, the security of the European world will be heavily undermined and as a consequence all other securities that have been maintained throughout the post-WW II era.

That era will come to a close, no doubt, but we have it in our hands to let this happen either with a bang or with a trumpet. A strategy purely aimed at victory can only lead to huge destruction as is clearly demonstrated by the disastrous policies of the present US administration in Iraq. Not only are those policies detrimental to the people of Iraq, they do not serve the integrity of our own world either. An offensive aimed at reconciliation – a joint effort of all nations including the US, Europe, Russia and Asia – is needed to substantially turn away from the present downhill slide of the Arab world.

But the key to a prosperous future for all is a reconciliation of the contradictions in our own world. We cannot wish for – almost – unlimited material wealth without re-assessing our true values and societal objectives. We cannot continue to advance our technology without a valid civilization to support – and utilize it. Our potential at present far outreaches our actual grasp of it.

There is no way we can stare into a crystal ball and visualize a pre-determined future. It doesn’t exist. We will have to conceptualize that future ourselves.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Where intelligence is needed, they better offer the highest reward

The need for human intelligence

I am a regular viewer of Discovery’s ‘FBI files’. Clearly, crime fighting requires the intelligence of the smartest criminal. Otherwise it can never claim to be effective. In fact, every threat to the foundations of our existence should be treated with equivalent intelligence, at least. But what would stop us from going for the highest intelligence - the smartest minds available - all the way? Nothing, of course. Humanity craves for the utmost intelligence. Our planet roars for it. We are facing some very fundamental challenges to our way of life, not simply in terms of our security but in all aspects of life on Earth.

As a public we are given a peek into the inner workings e.g. of the FBI, and one can take many lessons from it. But how about the inner workings of other public offices? There are countless offices across the globe, in which people are assigned to crucial tasks. For instance, all those employed by the White House, or the staff of the UN Secretary General, people in the Federal Reserve Bank, the people around Russia’s President etcetera. How much do we know of those people and their true qualities?

Scooter Libby

When intelligence is being corrupted

Questions like these may arise especially when instances of incompetence surface in the media. Such instance is the case of Mr. Libby, former Chief of Staff of US Vice-President Cheney, who was found guilty in court of four felonies for lying about his role in the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity. For many it is obvious that Mr. Libby became the scapegoat of far larger misdemeanors of people in and around the Vice-President’s office, including Mr. Cheney himself. But all have been spared, including Mr. Libby himself, who was effectively pardoned by President Bush.

Many consider the current US Administration a synonym to the abuse of power, of intelligence employed against the interest of the people. But it would be a mistake to simply rely on the judicial process to control this and prevent an Administration from gliding further down the scale of corruption.

US Vice-President Cheney

Pay high salaries

The key is that the highest rewards should be given to people who are employed in positions that require their utmost – intellectual – abilities. It is paramount that the best people are attracted to the most critical tasks, whether in the judicial or in the administrative functions. When a new Administration signs in, the people’s representatives should scrutinize its chief employees as much as the salary paid to them. Scrutinize, that is: be sure that the salaries are high enough to effectively prevent these employees from being seduced by the pressures and attractions of the power machine they are working for.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Are we going to genetically cook up a more advanced chimp?

They found chimps living like early humans, somewhere in Senegal. By the looks of it they are more similar to mankind than all other chimps, even the Bonobos, and gorillas, our closest living cousins. They use spears, and they dwell in caves. They are not the jungle type chimps, but the savanna type.

What do these chimps in Senegal constitute: the last remnant of primate evolution? Can there be such a thing, by the way? Or are they the first glimpse of the re-invention of mankind? And then, whose re-invention? Ours perhaps?

Because indeed, we could look at these chimps as an opportunity to push re-evolution. To perhaps create a versatile new type of human being which could make the life of ‘real’ humans even more pleasurable. We could create a new order of slaves.

How does this prospect strike you? Ugly? Well of course, it is the greatest outrage. Nevertheless, consider the question.

I think the answer will be that we might do one thing or the other, but in neither case we will really know what we are doing. Leaving the chimps as they are, or pushing their stock a little faster through the evolution chain.

What would our criteria be? How would we like to see this chimp evolve? Think of it. What you are really asking is which selective advantage your wish to grant to the chimp above all other advantages. In what way would you like to see a male chimp be more successful than an other? That is the basic issue..

We could first of all study the current habits of this particular group of chimps. Let’s see what characteristic in their group is a sure added chance for survival.

This is how you build up the more ideal new kind of humanity. It takes a long time. Because it is not simply a matter of one single advantage but of a multitude – mix – of advantages. And over time these can change according to circumstance: adversity and opportunity.

We should take this to account as and when we wish this chimp group to evolve in any direction whatsoever. I think it should lead us not to tinker with evolution altogether in any pre-masterminded way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What if the Africans were the chosen people?

And those who left Africa, were the expelled?

Just recently I attended a party in the heart of Africa
A cellar with very little lighting
Somewhere in the city of Rotterdam.

Only black people, real black people
They were very beautiful, all of them
Men, women, children
They laughed, and they danced
And they connected to each other
For this was a time for celebration.

The very same people,
Just over ten years ago
Lived in violent adversity,
Killing killing, killing.
The people of this celebration
All were Tutsi’s, Hutu’s and their kind.

For us westerners,
I told a white man next to me,
It is impossible to gauge the various tribal relations
And past hostility among these people
But you can imagine what it meant to all of them
Here in Rotterdam, celebrating,
What it takes to do so between murderers and their victims –
As one other white man present depicted this occasion -
A feast like no other feast, A celebration of reconciliation.
Of all these beautiful people,
So highly civilized.

Civilization most certainly is carried by the ability
To apologize and to forgive.
And this is exactly what I could see painted
On all these wonderful black faces.
And when some bumped into me,
They offered their apology, as any gentleman would do.
I saw ‘welcome’ in their eyes
And I walked around, looking at the mothers,
And their childeren.
Ah, what beautiful children I have seen!

A friend of mine, who is an African of noble birth,
That night gave me his shawl, a symbol of his respect;
And all people respected me
And they greeted me with open mind.

Yet I thought I had to earn respect
On my own account first of all
And I tried to do so,
Simply by saying to all of them:
“What beautiful children do you have!”
Perhaps otherwise they wouldn’t have known
What to think of this little white man.

I then spotted a young boy slapping
And kicking his mother
Immediately I walked upon him,
Kneeling right in front of him Saying:
“Please, young boy, never beat your own mother!”
But was it correct for me say this to the boy?
In my own world I probably would have been right to do so
But then, which world in fact is causing the greatest unrest
Among the Mothers?
Which is the world which tortures its mothers?
Everywhere – outside Africa – mothers are in pain
In our world where we hunt for almost everything except
The protection of Motherhood.

But here, in this wonderful celebration,
I could only see happy mothers
Who are proud of their children
Perhaps the boy had to slap his mom
Who am I really to deny this to him?
I walked along, with my white shawl
Wrapped around my neck.

Later that evening I saw a young black man,
He seemed a student, with glasses on and looking serious
I asked him: “Are you a professor?”
He looked up, laughed, and said: “Yes i am!”
“Good”, I said, “I can see that you have talent,
and that you have a good future”
He smiled at me, and he greeted me.

I followed the rhythm of the drums, and danced
On my own, and thought..
Really, drums must be the oldest instruments of humanity
For it is with dancing that music started
Not in the Church
Of which our Western music is a child.

I then returned to the young man and his glasses
Now there was young women next to him
She looked at me a little bemused
I said: “This is just between him and me”
And she nodded in acceptance
At which again I faced the young man
“Would you promise me one thing?”
I asked. He laughed.
“Would you promise me that you will develop all your talents
And that you will use them to the benefit of
Your own people?”
He considered this, with a friendly smile
“Yes”, he replied. “Sure, I will.”
“Great!”, I said. And then again I walked away.

This is how the celebration proceeeded,
Every time again, a laughing smile,
Joy all over!

And with the children I made my dance too
I believe they thought this was a little funny
The white man with his white shawl
But in their eyes I also saw a natural respect
They simply took me for what they saw
A strange man dancing. Ha!

There were others too who looked after the children
And one of them in particular struck me
As a special man
For he was making all kinds of jokes and funny movements
And I asked him
“Are you a teacher, or are you a lover?”
And he replied: “Yeah, a teacher!”
With a broad smile he embraced me
Yes, indeed a teacher!

This was not dissimilar from the conduct
Of my African noble friend
Who carried himself so naturally with the children
That instantly I saw in him what I had not yet seen
That he is a true Educator
He is not a teacher, he is an educator
There is a difference

Then this funny looking young man rushed past me
What an energy!
He was carrying a flag, the Burundi flag?
He sang and he danced on the rhythm of the music
“Give us the Power!” he shouted repeatedly
And all young man gathered under the flag
Holding a piece of it in their hands
And together they made a triumphant tour
Ending when a picture was taken
Of these young men and their trophy.
I walked upon the young man with the camera
And asked him to send the picture to me
At which point I wrote an SMS message
And he gave his cellphone number.
Who knows one day
I will have this wonderful picture
Of these young men of Africa
United under their national flag.

And having observed the entire event
In the way I did
Their joy and gaiety, and the intensely
Warm surge of love flowing among these people
I thought
Love conquers all distinction

But my most important reflection
Was this.

Let’s assume – let’s just assume for the sake of it
Let’s assume that the African people once were the Chosen people
And those who left it, were the Expelled.
Let’s assume that this was the case
Seventy thousand years ago
Why then, and based on what right,
Do we let our planet suffer the way we do?

Will the Chosen Man of Africa
Ever retake the possession of the Earth?
And restore Creation to its proper sense?

I cannot let go of this question just like that
Just think of it!Just think that this may be the truth.

Monday, March 05, 2007

History has no morality, nor can it have a sense of guilt

But it must have a future

During WWII the Japanese, among others, committed various grave atrocities such as the use of female prisoners for the sexual service of men. But why would the present generation of Japanese be asked to apologize for the misconduct, even the crimes, of generations long dead and buried? It is like the Pope apologizing for the Inquisition, or the Spanish King for ravaging the civilizations of the Middle and South Americas. And so on. Why, perhaps even God will be asked to aplogize for enforcing thousand years of mental and spiritual darkness throughout Europe.

Who are we, in the end, to call for such apologies? History has no personality, it cannot defend itself. History can only be. In apologizing for the past, we are doing something that simply cannot exist.

We do however have a responsibility of our own. And this most certainly includes the way we treat the memories of the past (which is what history ‘is’). This responsibility can never change whatever happened in the past nor can it truly provide for any amends on behalf of those whose lives were devastated in the course of it. But it can, and should, influence our actions in the future. It is why we have this responsibility in the first place.

I have tabled some obligations to the future with regard to our past.

1. Never forget
It is paramount that history be recorded and that it remains accessible to future generations. This seems such a simple excersize but it is not. For what is recorded history for anyone who doesn’t even know who Napoleon was, when he lived and what he did, or for all those who lack the basic information about historic processes, chronology etc.? So many young people, including ‘educated’ people cannot access recorded history because they have no clue what to look for.

2. Truly understand
History is not just another story. It is about the Ascent of Man (Bronowski). History is what all of us carry with us, whether we realize this or not. It is what made us who we are. If we do not understand history, how the hell can we understand ourselves, our own Ascent in life? How can we effectively pass on our technologies, our experience in running our societies, our languages even, if we do not grasp their fundamental roots or their proper historic context?

3. Revisit, revisit, revisit
History is all but a ‘fixed thing’. It is as dynamic as the endless potential of scenarios for our future. You can revisit history time and again and never will it seem the same. There are different perspectives, there are different interests involved when we ‘counsel’ history, and there are so many possible ‘truths’ we can find, that a perpetuated visit of history is paramount to all future generations.

4. Educate
It follows from above that the introduction to history and to the wealth of insights it can provide, must be a crucial part of any education curriculum. This is not a one-way traffic, if it is done properly. And this too is obvious, yet so easily overlooked. It is not what we ‘know’ of history but how we relate to history (including the ‘facts’, of course) that in the end determines the effectiveness of history education.

Never should we be ashamed of our history, or of anything that happened that we do not wish to happen in our future. Such shame would only come in the way of understanding and properly utilizing our knowledge of history. This is what we should bring to future generations: neither shame, nor pride – but a clear framework for them to visit, revisit and understand history as it has to be understood in ther own time.