Goodbye Maaskant

Farewell speech of Adriaan van der Staay after more than 40 years’ membership of the board of the Maaskant Foundation.
Rotterdam, 6 March 2020

Taking leave from this Foundation is a moment of reflection for me.

I was born in 1933, nearly on the day the Reichstag was set on fire. It was done by a communist, and brought fascism to power.

My social-democratic parents were liberated with the help of capitalist America and as West-Europeans became part of the American empire.

I felt myself, during a long life, more and more a migrant. And as such more a European than a Dutchman, and more a citizen of the world than a European.

Cultural policy also changed.

In The Netherlands, ideas on cultural policy had been postponed for twelve years by the war. The first minister of culture Van der Leeuw was a theologian who embraced the socialist idea of lifting the masses out of cultural poverty.

The reconstruction of Rotterdam after the world war was inspired by the ideas of the thirties

Even as late as 1968 when I was appointed to continue the cultural reconstruction of Rotterdam I was inspired by these ideas. A democratic society would find the methods to bring quality and the masses together. Cultural policy was a guarantee that culture would be protected.

The colonization of the European mind by America afterwards decided differently. Cultural policy was steadily marginalized by the market and became a hobby of the rich. Power in culture lies in the hands of the big monopolies of music, film, news, and publishing. Never has so much power in culture been wielded by so few. It would have been unrealistic not to take that into account.

Nevertheless my legacy to Rotterdam in many cultural functions was to have looked for the un-powerful, the minorities, the non-commercial, the pioneers. And to give them recognition.

That is what I seemed to recognize in the last will of Maaskant: to safeguard quality for the masses.

And that is why I served on the board of the Maaskant Foundation since its beginning – perhaps for too long.