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Veerstichting conference

I’m at the Veerstichting conference in charming, delightful, beautiful Leiden..

I had to surrender my laptop to the AV squad — I would have been the only one taking notes on one anyway — so I could only scribble a few notes on a piece of paper, and even then I only heard the first two speakers all the way through.

Jan Willem Duyvendak is the author of the book on human herds and identity. Since the theme of the conference is the power of the herd, he was a natural beginning. He talked about the Dutch believe that they are a diverse society when in fact there is much commonality among them. “We are a herd of individualists,” he said. He spoke in the context of the current Dutch debate over immigration and national identity.

Next, Shashi Tharoor, an author and once high enough at the UN to be consider for the secretary general post, gave a beautiful and delightful talk about the Indian national identity. After listing some of that country’s amazing diversity (23 official languages, for example), he said “The singular thing about India is you can only talk about it in the plural.” Indian national identity, he says, works in practice but could not work in theory. It is a nationalism of the idea that people can disagree, so long as they agree on the ground rules.

Domitila Mukantaganzwa, the Executive Secretary of National Service of Gacaca Courts in Rwanda, went through in some detail the process of trying almost 900,000 people for crimes of genocide. The magnitude of the legal process implicitly showed the extent of the suffering. She was asked why the South African peace and reconciliation process forgave those who acknowledged their crimes, while the Rwandans are punishing those convicted. She said the severity of the crimes were different. And the Rwandans, she said, need to develop a culture of accountability. The survivors need to see the guilty punished. They also need, she says, to have the guilty tell them where they committed their crimes so parents can find and bury their children with dignity. This is a story beyond comment.

Finally, after rewriting and rewriting the talk I’d prepared on the challenge of the implicit in forming groups (summarized here), I at the last moment decided not to switch. So I gave the one on the implicit. I have no idea how it went over. [Tags: veerstichting crowds india rwanda leiden ]

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