Other people’s suffering for education and entertainment

Ominous title though, Netherlands under water from Avrotros. Was this a future vision of how we will be when the sea swallows us? By no means. It was a “dive into our unprecedented nature”. A nature documentary about what is happening below the current sea level and fresh waters of the Netherlands. Directed by Arthur de Bruin and glowingly voiced by actor Gijs Scholten van Aschat. With his voice, the two-year journey of one transparent young eel across the pitch-black ocean on its way to the Dutch coast becomes… well, lively.

There are people who play a crackling fire on their TV screen, or an aquarium. Slower than slow TV, probably very soothing, but it won’t make you much wiser. Netherlands under water is an audio and picture book in one. So rare close when you get to the mayfly larvae, the tickle midge, the spotted American crayfish. You’ll learn how a river lamprey queue forms, and see how these “rare and ancient” fish become entangled in a slippery vortex below the water’s surface. The cormorants know that unfortunate swimming route and lick their lips awaiting the pile-up.


From the underwater world to the underworld above water where 112 Today informs us every working day about calamities and emergencies that have occurred in the past 24 hours. And oh, how many questions I have about that. What determines the editor’s choice? The seriousness of the accident, the oddity, the seriousness expressed in terms of injuries or deaths? Or does it just depend on whether images are available? And how do they get those images? From bystanders? Disaster reporters?

Last week I saw passing by: a car that ended up in a backyard. A dentist stabbed by a patient with a knife. A Marktplaats sale that got out of hand with a stab in the neck, a thud at a supermarket. And of course various fatal or non-fatal traffic incidents. Sometimes a reporter is on site afterwards to find that the garden gate is indeed halfway up the car and the door of the supermarket is shattered. From the stab wound to the neck, some drops of blood could still be seen on the garden tiles of the house where the injured man had called for help.

Local residents are always willing to comment. In all cases, they say: that they were very shocked, that the bang/explosion was deafening and often followed by a sentence of cultural pessimism about the changed times in which we live and no, they have no idea what exactly happened and why.

A 112 expert is present in the studio to recount the police press release. If you’re lucky, Ellie Lust will be the interpreter. The former police spokesman has taken off her uniform, but kept the jargon. With her it is never about cars but about vehicles, the emergency services are always on site and suspects are transferred to cell complexes and with undisguised glee she can say that the police dog “had to lend a hand” in catching the suspect.


All well and good, but what purpose does this serve? Other people’s suffering for education and entertainment? The disadvantage of calamities, incidents and emergencies is that there is usually a victim. Well, I was hit by a police bus once in my life, when I was ten. I don’t know much about that, but one thing I do know. That, lying on the tram rails, I heard bystanders speculating whether I was still alive or not. What I’m saying is that this program is definitely not made for the victims. For whom? That will be the bystanders, safe at home for the tube.

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