Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Ancient History Note: The Provos

You remember the Provos?  I always liked the Provos.  They were the Dutch anarchists who anticipated the Yippies: they made protest fun.  The Provos were the guys--this would have been '64-'65--who manipulated the cops into busting them for marijuana, only to find dog food. Or to get themselves arrested for leafleting with blank paper (the ultimate anarchist protest!) .  Formally, they lasted just two or three years, and people will say they accomplished zip but I don't agree: I suspect they had a lot to do with reshuffling the deck of Netherlandish politics in ways that resonate still today.

But here's the thng: apparently some of them are still around.  Well: Robert Jasper Grootveld, who painted "K" (for cancer) on cigarette billboards?     He  died a couple of years back (of lung disease).  But his partner-in-theatre Roel van Duijn is still active: he's held public office as a green; he offers advice on macrobiotics and heartbreak; he's coming out with an autobiography.  Perhaps the most interesting is Luud Schemmelpenninck, who gets credit as the father of the "white bycicle."    You remember the white bicycle?  Evidently the provos declared they would paint their bicycles white and dedicate them to public use.  The City Council slapped on an ordinance  saying it was illegal to have a bicycle without a lock. So the provos put on locks--all of which took the same key (or maybe they put on combination looks, and painted the combintion on the side--same diff).,  Schemmelpennick evidently went on to a distinguished career as a sort of an urban designer.  He is in some sense the grandfather of the variety of car-sharing schemes that have grown up over the past few years.

There are others.  It's nice to know they are still alive, but in an odd way, the very fact that they're still around is a jarring reminder of how much Dutch politics and social life have changed over the last 45  years.  After Pym Fortuin. after Theo van Gogh, after Geert Wilders, it is hard to imagine anything as beguiling and unaffected as a white bicycle.

Followup:  Considering this and related issues, Mrs. B offers an acerb insight into why the  Dutch, whatever their second thoughts, will not give up on such 60s legacies ad dope and prostitution: there's too much money in it.  Now you've got the who complex of tourism-related business-hotels, restaurants and suchlike--so heavily invested in the vice game, you just can't expect it to just go away. Like Frank Zappa said about why there would never be atomic war: too much real estate.

There's a helpful catalog of weblinks on the Provos at the bottom of the Wiki page.  Oddly enough, the English-language version is more extensive than the Dutch.

No comments: