Source: In These Times
Barbara Ehrenreich is a journalist and author known for her illuminating—and often searing—writing about poverty in America. On November 27, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands gave her the 2018 Erasmus Prize in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. Here are her remarks.
Wow. Amsterdam is completely disorienting to an American. I’ve been here for more than a week and haven’t heard a single gunshot. Even the dignitaries, like the king and queen, are warm, kind people. When I met the Dutch ambassador to the United States last spring, in connection with this prize, he was so pleasant and jolly that I had to question his credentials.
And now this: For me, this is like a fairy tale come true. We’re in the royal palace! With the king and queen! And I’m here with everyone I love including all the people who have enabled me and inspired me for so many years! Thank you so much to all the Dutch people not only for the Erasmus Prize but for this unforgettable moment!
Well of course I’m saying all these nice things about The Netherlands in the hope that you will, when necessary, grant me refugee status. Me, my family and friends, that is.
One thing about this country that is strange, even exotic, to an American is that you seem to lack the steep class divisions that are so visible almost everywhere in my country. You may eventually get to the same divided condition as my country – this is the way most industrialized countries are trending – but at least for now, the Dutch welfare state remains strong enough to prevent that from happening. In the US, by contrast, we have virtually no welfare state to protect the poor and downwardly mobile, and the results are visible even to tourists.
Take Manhattan, that once-beautiful island that, according to legend, the Dutch bought from the Indians for $24—and that’s a real estate deal that even Trump would have to admire. Today, Manhattan land sells for up to $10,000 a square foot, so $24 would get you next to nothing.