dinsdag 10 september 2013

Poarteboer - Farmer in the Gate

[From Dutch/Nederlands]

Ytzen K. Tamminga was born a hundred years ago
'Poarteboer' still topical
by Ytzen Lont, in: Friesch Dagblad, July 18, 1986

"Always having to walk with an identity card is inconvenient. It also has great value for tracing criminals. It is not compulsory for us, but for example in an accident on the road it could be of service. Through a filled out memorandum in my diary I always have it with me. I admit: not having it does not lead to a fine."

It appears to be a commentary on the recently concluded coalition agreement (with plans for a mandatory ID card). But it was written down twenty years ago (in 1966). As well as the following response to the state of emergency in South Africa: “Much, if not all, would be gained if the whites would let go of their control and their apartheid policies as a principle and accepted them as a temporary state of emergency.”

The article from which these two quotations are taken was signed 'Poarteboer'. Between 1934 and 1968, this pseudonym appeared almost weekly, more than a thousand times, under the Frisian heading ‘Fan Tichteby en om Utens’ (From Nearby and Out there) in the magazine of the Christian Farmers and Fruiters Federation, Christelijke Boeren- en Tuindersbond (CBTB). The writer, the late Ytzen K. Tamminga, was born one hundred years ago, on July 18, 1886.

How I would love to talk again with the man who wrote about such current affairs so many years ago, my grandfather. I was thirteen when he passed away in January 1969. Pake wrote ‘pieces’, I knew that, but about what? A few years ago I went to the Willemskade in Leeuwarden, to the office of the CBTB, and read hundreds of issues of Ons Friese Platteland (Our Frisian Countryside). Then I understood from whom I inherited the sense that we are all part of the same history, part of a greater whole.

As early as 1935, Poarteboer writes: "The situation is now considered more serious in Europe by the responsible statesmen than in the days before August 1, 1914. Under this dark sky our provincial capital is celebrating. The feast of annexation. As is still the case today, nations have a need for expansion, and so had the city of Leeuwarden. And the small powers around her did not like it. A very scientific man posited the thesis that the city would have less need of the countryside. We then objected by the scriptural thought that eventually even the King must be fed from the field. About Leeuwarden the countryside can safely say: 'I have made her great'."

In this way, Poarteboer always puts everything in a larger perspective.

‘Fan Tichteby en om Utens’, nearby and further away: born on the Leeuwarden Nijlân, where the airbase is now located. Farmer on the outskirts of the city, gatekeeper, Poarteboer. With a view of the countryside, the agricultural world, but also of the city, the social and church life. He was born in the year of the ‘Doleantie’ (a split in the national church), and from it’s leader Abraham Kuyper he learned, through the Reformed Youth Association, to place himself in society and to participate.

In 1934 he started his weekly section or column as a propagandist for the farmers' organization. He writes about himself: "In short, Poarteboer has set himself two goals: 1. All political-right (= Christian) farmers be members of the CBTB; 2. All farmers be members of various, particularly the dairy organizations. This section may also deal with other subjects, but they can be regarded as decoration or framework.” (1) 

Over the years, this scaffolding continues to expand. Even as far as South Africa! Poarteboer developed himself from a propagandist to what we would call a columnist today. He looks for nuance, but is often also firm in his statements. That provokes reactions. A loyal reader sends the magazine back to the editor: if Poarteboer gets involved in politics, he no longer needs the magazine.

Too red
Today people would call many of Poarteboer's views 'conservative'. But at that time, many thought otherwise. In 1934 Poarteboer gives a radio lecture about the 'Landbouwcoöperatie' (farmers cooperation) for the Agricultural Half Hour of the Christian radio NCRV. Well in advance he must send a duplicate of the lecture for the Radio-broadcast Control Commission and a good-looking photo of himself for the NCRV radio guide. November 28th is the day. A seven-year-old nephew listens attentively and admiringly when the voice of his Omke (Uncle) Ytzen is heard from the radio. However, not all listeners have that much admiration. Quite a few members of the NCRV cancel their membership. They find the lecture of Tamminga far ‘too red’: after all, does the cooperative not affect free enterprise? On another occasion, Poarteboer received a letter in which the writer stated: "Our youth defended private property. Now you are standing next to Karl Marx on possession, property is theft." Poarteboer gets his fee of 10 guilders, but the second lecture, which was originally planned, is canceled.

One of these days, I read in a recently published book about the Christian Antirevolutionary Party ARP (2) that this nephew, too, many years later, was found to be too red. In the late sixties, as chairman of the Amsterdam ARP, he sought cooperation with the Political Party of Radicals PPR, which resulted in a scolding by the ARP-top. Yet, this nephew, Jenze Tamminga, became editor-in-chief of the (Christian, ARP-related) daily newspaper Trouw.

Poarteboer writes in 1968 in response to the radicals: "Radical is the land reclamation of the Wadden Sea. It is a bit understandable that Wadlopers (walkers to the Wadden Islands by low tide) cannot keep up with this radicalism, but gaining a piece of land cannot be sacrificed to this very limited sport." In Poarteboer's time, the environment was still something for a Saturday afternoon off. Fertile soil, that's what it's all about. In 1951 he was concerned about industrialization in the Randstad, the populated but fertile western provinces. It is better to move the large cities to the barren soil of the Veluwe, he states.

The reactions that Poarteboer evokes, sometimes lead to wonderful polemics. "I always take a broad stance with regard to submitted letters,” he writes in response to a letter from 'Countryman', "but unsigned letters will not be posted with my cooperation. Countryman, what does that say, it could be a city mayor or a director of Unilever." It is clear where Poarteboer sees his 'enemies'. Likewise, he slams the not organized farmer: "A small free farmer, he can manage on his own. He is as free as a fish in the Sahara."

A beloved enemy is the later chairman of parliament, the socialist Anne Vondeling. "Dr. Vondeling is a frank and honest man. Someone with whom you know what you’ve got.”, writes Poarteboer. He likes to battle with such people. “Anne Vondeling wrote that he is not responsible for the deplorable situation of agriculture in the years between the two world wars. Indeed, at that time I have treated the young Anne to an icecream one day in the Dunes of Appelscha. It was still his carefree time. But is it correct to break free from any such responsibility in his current political position, I wonder. Socialist politics didn’t start with Dr. Vondeling, and socialist politics weren’t at all that agriculture-friendly in the years between the wars.”

In that same inter-war period, in 1935, Poarteboer wrote words that a socialist propagandist could have easily adopted: “For the crisis legislation politicians rather tore the building of our social security than to consider its expansion. Such unsocial old-liberal hazzle we always fought against.”

However, Poarteboer is not defending state intervention here, but pleads for a cooperative farmers' insurance fund. "Let's remember, that a burden that weighs on all is really no longer a burden."

Unity
Whoever met Ytzen Tamminga (and certainly who, like me, sat on his lap!) remembers his mild smile. Despite his polemics, Poarteboer is looking for unity. Splitting and divorcing is foreign to righteous Protestants, he writes. As an elder in the church it is difficult for him to explain the division that takes place in the reformed churches during wartime. As early as 1939 he writes: "We agree on the main issues and the fundamental questions, it are the incidental factors that drive us apart. For almost a century now we have been arguing about the Church question in the Netherlands (what is the True Church and who belongs to it) and we are not getting any further. In politics the matter is even more simple. There we agree so well that we have to search for points of dispute. On the agendas of many local electoral society meetings, for example, the subject appears: ‘what makes (the two protestant political parties) ARP and CHU differ from each other?’ Every board of every local electoral society should be ashamed of such a subject. If one wants to talk about each other’s points of view, let it be about what binds and not about what divides."

South Africa
A special experience for my grandfather was his trip, together with his wife, to South Africa in 1966. "Our trip to South Africa is a family visit. It is not first of all about the journey and the country, but about the children. It seems attractive to me to write about this country. South Africa has something special. South Africa is discredited like no other country. The country in which whites and non-whites have to live together. Through the ages the righteous and satisfactory relationship has not been found. Provided we are here only a few weeks and our observations cover a small area of ​​this vast land, I will try to get some impressions of these relationships."

But then, he can’t stop thinking and writing about this journey. The result is a series of in the end sixteen articles, four months every week. In my opinion, not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively a highlight of his ‘journalism’. His ‘South Africa complex’ bothers him somewhat, because in the meantime there is also enough happening in his own country. In his articles he struggles with his image of the country. On the one hand, he does not fail to point out that thanks to the whites, the blacks are nowhere better off than in South Africa, on the other hand he always clashes with apartheid. "At the airport in Johannesburg, the annoying designation 'Vir blankes' and 'Vir niet-blankes' immediately caught my eye and the somewhat 'revolutionary' desire to ascend the stairs and go into the department 'for non-whites' crept over me. This was the first introduction to 'apartheid'. Meanwhile, like the words of Ezekiel, I would see greater 'horrors' than these."

"The Holy Scriptures want us to be Greek for the Greeks and, along the same lines, be Bantu for the Bantus. Looking down from above on the non-whites again and again is the dynamite of South African society. The center of gravity is not first of all in politics, but in everyday life."

"Great social inequality has always been the human cause of all revolutions. The French, the Russian, the Chinese, the Indonesian and those in several Asian and African countries. Being ‘anti-revolutionary’ is wonderful, but to be with the ‘anti’ ahead of the revolution is better”.

"Because of the great differences, separation would bring a solution. However, it is impossible to achieve, because it would require relocations back and forth endlessly."

"God has given us this land. Ons Suid-Afrika". Oh indeed. But there are also four times as many non-whites as whites in that same South Africa. It is just as much their country. And for everyone a decent human living space must be strived for. The whites must realize that not they alone are the people, but that together they make up the nation."

"Now this, and that may be something personal. I thought the word race does not appear in the Bible. The Bible speaks of gender, and language and people and nation. In my opinion there is something 'animal' or something ‘vegetable’ in race. It is cultivated, improved, multiplied, crossed, or kept pure. Arbitrary human interventions. But the human being created in God's image is above that, his progress and multiplication is not guided by men, but by God himself."

After sixteen weeks, Poarteboer ends the article series with: "We want South Africa to listen to us. We could do it to them too."

This way Ytzen K. Tamminga continued to listen all his life and tried to "get some impressions of the relationships". I'm so glad he put them on paper.

(1) D. Siegersma: Poarteboer, Anthology from the articles by YK Tamminga; Frisian CBTB Leeuwarden.
(2) PL van Enk: The retreat of the ARP; Kampen, 1986.

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