Amsterdam and its Legacy Of Freedom
From being a harbour to religious dissidents in the 18th century to present day’s pragmatic policies on euthanasia, recreational drugs and prostitution, Amsterdam certainly epitomises the essence of ‘liberty’.
While other countries continue to find legalising these issues a controversial subject, I can’t help but wonder, “What makes Amsterdam so progressive?”
It finds its roots in the Dutch principle of ‘gedoogcultuur’ or ‘a culture of permissiveness.’ The chain of logic behind this principle is rather simple. Permissiveness would lead to legalising these issues, which in turn would help to control illicit activities in these areas. However, government policies aren’t the only arena where ‘gedoogcultuur’ finds its voice. Its ingrained in the DNA of the city and is celebrated through its arts and culture.
The free artistic expression which has evolved in Amsterdam since the 17th century is another legacy of this Dutch principle of permissiveness. From the age of Rembrandt, Dutch paintings have captured more realistic themes than its counterparts in the rest of Europe. While the British captured the temporal beauty and decoration of their world through their quintessential style of Baroque Painting, the Dutch used visual arts, in the form of painting, as a mirror to the socio-economic and geo-political condition of the Netherlands in that era.
The themes of these paintings spread across a vast spectrum; from trade and religion to the more controversial topic of public dissections. (The Dutch government in the 18th century had legalised the dissection of human corpses in the light of scientific discovery.) Something which was not only illegal but also blasphemous in the rest of the Europe. It is certainly undeniable that the Dutch Golden Age is a product of this ‘gedoogcultuur’ in the field of not only arts but also science.
While in the 17th century Dutch paintings represented realism, today it’s the walls of Amsterdam which encompass the politics, the ecology and the economics that influence the Dutch and the world around them. Therefore, the purpose of these walls is way beyond its aesthetic value. These walls express Amsterdam, question Amsterdam and educate Amsterdam all at the same time. However more importantly they represent the will and the vision of the Dutch forefathers who bequeathed ‘freedom’ to their children.
Preserving this treasure, Amsterdam continues to be the haven of liberty, and it came as no surprise when, in a recent interview, Snigdha (a Culture Fox traveler) defined Amsterdam, in one simple yet inspiring word, as ‘Freedom’. Snigdha, an avid photographer in her late teens, describes the air of the city as infectiously liberating. “As I walked down the streets of Amsterdam, I think it was something about the air. Its lighter than usual for it is filled with the legacy of permissiveness.”
So, what are you waiting for? Uncage your dreams, liberate your passions; For the city of freedom calls you.