Monday, 1 July 2002
The Netherlands are a densely populated country. Roads and trains are full.

To mentally escape from their fellow countrymen the Dutch live in silence, ignoring each other as much as possible. Making noise is almost a crime here. Tourists from more spacious countries stand out by their volume.

Just like in the USA cars are mobile, private islands. In a commuter train people just stare silently into nothingness. They create their own mental island, fiercely ignoring their fellow commuters. They are anonymous individuals, of different tribes, driven together by force of luck in a temporary state of piece.

The different tribes only become obvious when somebody starts to make mobile phone calls. Such a mobile phone is the modern tam-tam, a noisy means of identification that transforms the anonymous traveller into a member of a very distant tribe. In a matter of seconds the verbal tribe colours become obvious:

  • An employee of a competing company?
  • Somebody with a completely different profession?
  • A student for who a career is far beyond the horizon?
  • An enthusiastic member of some sports club?
  • A father that wishes to know what's for dinner tonight?
  • A tourist speaking some incomprehensible language?
The caller is the only one in contact with his tribe members. Whatever the colours of his tribe, a caller seizes the opportunity to distinguish himself from the other commuters. They degrade into a club anonymous, tribeless individuals.

Is this why ringing mobiles annoy the silent Dutch so much? Are those ring tones more that just a threat to silence? Are they an announcement of the sound of war? Is a rival tribe preparing an attack?

Till next week,