2, 2014
me+ME: On having a communist education

1. On having a communist education
2. On the advantages of a communist education
About ME/CFS


This file is not about the crisis, because there wasn't anything to be found about it today, which may be because it is a sunday today. This I do not know, but I do know there was nothing, or at least: nothing of any interest.

So today I will not write about the crisis, but about having had "a communist education", as the phrase is, which is certainly different from what almost anyone who did not have it would guess, and which also is a bit difficult for me to be clear about, and is so mostly because this is the only education I got, and I simply do not know how it is to be educated "normally".

Also, precisely because of this difficulty, it is not easy to say for me how much this influenced me. In the end, I think quite a lot, but probably mostly indirectly, quite possibly especially through my never having had any idea that the society I live in is decent, fair, or equal in any relevant sense, which indeed it isn't and never has been, at least not for the vast majority of the poor and the middle class.

1. On having a communist education

One of the main problems with one's education is that one doesn't have any comparison. There are some exceptions to this, but most persons, certainly of my age, are children of single pairs of parents, and they don't know any other persons who played that role to them. [1]

This is the case for me, and what makes it difficult for me to get some clarity about my own education is that I got a communist education. Or rather, a bit more precisely: both of my parents were communists and both were also card carrying members of the Dutch Communist Party; both had been in the Resistance in the second World War [2]; and finally they also were the only two persons who functioned as parents that I ever had, from which it - supposedly - follows that I must have had "a communist education", especially  because my parents also were fairly prominent communists in Amsterdam.

I do not say "No" to this supposition, but it is a bit difficult to say what this communist education was, and while I agree that my education was somehow different from the one that most children of my age did get, I certainly wasn't brainwashed or lectured.

In fact, my parents told me and my two brothers [3] that we had to make up our own minds, and that we could do so when we had grown up. They did in no way stress that I should be a communist, and in fact seemed to have thought that this was mostly for grown ups and not for children, or at least very much less so.

But let me try to be a bit clear about this, also because most people are not at all clear about their own education as children. I have for the moment two fairly brief lists, that outline some of the most important differences.

What we did NOT do that many others did

This is probably the most important list, also because in the 1950ies - and I was born in 1950 - the Netherlands was far more conformistic than it has grown since.

- go to church

I put this first, because this differed from the vast majority, but not because this was important for me. I recall that my mother explained to me when I was around 5 and saw children who went to church, with specially baked breads, and in a large procession, that "we do not go to church, because we do not believe there is a god", which did explain something to
me that I did not know, viz. that all these children were religious and were engaging in something religious, but I never thought about god, since he clearly was an extra hypothesis that I saw no need to assume at all.

- believe in god

This is related to the previous point, but is not the same, for quite a few persons who go church either do not believe in a
god, or have different ideas about him than their religious leaders, and this certainly was the case in Holland in the fifties and sixties. But my parents were complete atheists, and indeed my mother came from one of the oldest Dutch atheist families, back to the grandmother of her grandmother (who was kicked out of her farm with her five children by the Catholic church after her husband had an accident, died, and was held, no doubt falsely, to have made over his farm to the Church just before dying).

- share the ordinary prejudices

This is a lot vaguer, but it certainly is important: Both of my parents were revolutionaries, who wanted a better society, on a socialist and communist model, and they never praised the society they lived in, except comparatively, in the sense of saying that the Dutch situation was not as bad as it was elsewhere.
They also did not complain much, but it was very clear that they disagreed with very much that was "typically Dutch". This also means I got no education of any kind that I should be normal, or think normally, or act as a normal person, as I think most children do get: In Holland the most often expressed moral norm is "Act normal!".

- take part in festivities on "the Queen's Day"

I am pretty certain this was not very important to my parents, but it was a clear difference for me as a child: my parents did not take part in the festivities that are common on "the Queen's Day", which is April 30 in Holland, when also everyone has a day off, and children get some special presents. In fact, they thought real workers have fesitivities on Labour Day, which is May 1, and my father also proudly displayed the red flag on May 1, till the early sixties, as one of the very few who did so.

- enforce our ideas on others

This may come as a surprise, and my parents were quite clear about what they thought in the privacy of their own house, but they did not try to enforce their political ideals on others, and indeed also not on their own children, except indirectly. I think this was mostly related to their having been in the Resistance, and also due to the relative impopularity of communism, at least from the early fifties onwards.

Next, here is a list of the things that were different:

What we DID do that differed from most others

The following list also is more specific to the education I did get:

- very intelligent parents

My parents were both very intelligent, and both had IQs over 130. Had they grown up as I did, in relative wealth and without war, they very probably would have studied in the university, as I did, but they grew up a lot more poorly, and also had to live through five years of war in their twenties. They also did not have much of an education, although they did have more books than most people of their class, and had more and wider interests.

- lots of talk, mostly about politics

My parents were talkers, and talked a lot, and about many things, but most about things relating to politics and to the economy, and I am a talker as well. Again, this talking was not explicitly doctrinal, though especially my father was a faithful communist: we could disagree about many things, and as long as my father did not get angry [4] this was all easily tolerated.

- very active parents

My parents were great activists, and tried to further many causes, that indeed were nearly all communist causes (though this covered many things, and was not at all obvious in many cases). They did far more for other people than any other family I know of, and also spent great amounts of time, all unpaid, on doing things for other people. Also, from the early sixties onwards my father stopped working as much as he had before for the Communist Party and the Communist Trade Union, and instead started doing a lot for the Sachsenhausen Committee, and specifically designing, making and traveling with an exhibition about nazism and fascism, and the occupation of the Netherlands by the Germans, and about concentration camps, and also about the present. In the end he also got knighted for this, which was very rare, because communists were commonly and automatically supposed to be "betrayers of The Nation", and as such would not get knighted. Also, my mother for many years gave free legal advice to persons with little money about the rents.

- always explicitly dissident

I think it is quite correct to say of my parents that they were explicit dissidents, simply because they really disagreed, on rather rational grounds also, with very much that was accepted, and indeed often embraced, in the capitalist Nether- lands by the great majority. Then again, it is also true that they were considerably more dissident in the privacy of their own house than in ordinary society, as indeed also makes a lot of sense.

- my parents had no explicit dogmas

This may come as a surprise, but is mostly true: My mother was a very rational person always, and my father was so most of the time, when he was not angry [4], and both were rarely insistent to others on the convictions they themselves did have. Also, this is not saying they had no dogmas: it is saying that they usually avoided these, and indeed also, as I said above, they were more intelligent than the vast majority of those who surrounded them, though also not very well educated.

- considerable freedom

Finally, I was mostly left free to do and think as I pleased, especially since I was 15, when I got a room of my own in the attic. This probably had three main reasons: First, this conformed to my parents ideals. Second, as my father put it to me: "you are more than intelligent enough". And third, there were my father's problems due to his having survived over three years and nine months of German  concentration camps, that made it difficult for him to function normally in the Sixties, and also led to him being given "a Resistance Pension" in 1966 (although that was quite miserly, as I briefly explained in [4]).

2. On the advantages of a communist education

I do believe that an education like I received has mostly advantages, and especially for a man like myself: someone born to think. The main reasons are that my parents were intelligent, fair, mostly rational, and quite decent - and indeed when I was between 17 and 22, almost every male I met who was around my age told me, almost always without my asking, that "my dad is a weak scrotum" (I translate from the Dutch, in which "scrotum" is also called "sacḱ": the Dutch is "mijn vader is een slappe zak"), probably also with considerable justification, given the great amount of Nazi collaborators in Holland - but I could not say and never thought this about my own father.

In fact, I think that my parents' being
intelligent, fair, mostly rational, and quite decent is what made them communists in the first place, which in my father's case happened in the thirties, and in my mother's case in the forties, also both in reaction to the rise of nazism.

Again, I think that my
being intelligent, fair, mostly rational, and quite decent is mostly due to their genes and education, and also that I was both quite extra-
ordinary [5] and quite justified when I ceased being a communist when I was 20, in 1970, simply because I had learned to see through Marx, mostly thanks to Evert Beth and Bertrand Russell, and also had come to vastly dislike and distrust the leaders of the Dutch CP.

Finally, the reason why I did very much less than I might have done otherwise does not have anything to do with my parents or indeed myself, but has everything to do with the fact that I fell ill when 28, and never got better, and indeed got a lot worse thanks to the former Amsterdam mayor Eduard van Thijn's decision to serve the interests of the Dutch drugsmafia much rather than do his duties as a mayor.

But that is another story.
P.S. Mar 15, 2014: Corrected a few typos.
[1] This is nowadays a bit different in that there are at present many more divorces, which means, effectively, that quite a few children have experiences of having had several men who played at being their (step-)fathers. My parents, and indeed most people of their generation, did not divorce, and indeed had a faiirly good marriage that lasted over 30 years.

[2] This was rather important in several ways: Both my father and his father were convicted as "political terrorists" in 1941, by Dutch collaborating judges, and were sent to a concentration camp, that my grandfather did not survive. That both my father and his father were convicted "political terrorists" was quite rare, as indeed was being a member of the Resistance, in Holland, where most people collaborated with the Nazis, albeit for many different reasons, from having no real choice to being fanatically pro-Nazi. (This is also something most Dutchmen without my background still lie about. As the former prime minister De Jong, who had faught in the war as the captain of a submarine
, as part of the U.S. fleet, once related, he found that when he arrived in Holland briefly after the end of the war, everyone was A Hero Of The Resistance, and no one knew anything about the disappearance of more than 1% of the Dutch population, who were all murdered for being of the Jewish race.)

[3] I have two younger brothers, but the oldest of these drowned in 1959, age 6.

[4] My father did get difficulties related to his having spend more than 3 years and 9 months in German concentration camps during his late forties and fifties, and then could easily become angry, often not reasonably so. He did get a resistance pension, as these were called, but being a communist he got the least advantageous possibility, that provided him with little more than the dole, also quite unlike most other former concentration camp prisoners.

[5] It was extra-ordinary because no one else with my background did it: Everyone I know who had roughly my age and my background remained a communist until the eighties or indeed early nineties, when those with academic degrees that I did know published an awful booklet - "Alles moest anders" in Dutch - in which they for the most part tried to defend their completely indefensible careerist choices.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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