Column ) Monkey Business

Aap-noot-mies. My first words in Dutch primary school. It means monkey-nut-little-girl-called-mies. Words that formed the basis of my sense of language and in a way underlie the art of writing this column. And yours as well, but then to read this. That is, if you were born in the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 60s. I was thinking about it last week when I read about an entrepreneur’s prank, that totally went wrong. You remember, the white man who shouted on social media ‘Island of Apes’ referring to Curaçao and then had to go into hiding because of death threats. He forgot about aap-noot-mies. And used less clever words in a not so smart moment.

He found out, soon enough.

I was not surprised by this explosion of indignation. I classify the insulting words of the entrepreneur under the heading of colour and covid19. Curaçao was struggling for survival, and Holland had the island by the balls. His mouth was too Dutch. For example, the music club AMAK was sure: The expressions were hateful, racist, insulting and aimed at the people of Curaçao. Another bloke on the Internet put a 25,000 guilders price om the entrepreneur’s head for…, yes for what?

And nobody called the entrepreneur and asked him what he meant by his not so aap-noot-mies story.

Because quite a lot has happened in the country of entrepreneurs in Curaçao in the weeks before. On March 13, the island was locked to protect it from the dreaded virus Covid-19. It turned out it was less deadly than expected, but in march nobody knew. Hence drastic measures were taken and according to the epidemiologists needed to protect society against certain death. Moreover, health care would not be able to cope, so an outbreak had to be avoided at all costs. The business community was sent on holiday inside their own country. Flying was no longer allowed. And the island’s government was temporarily put in the hands of health workers and epidemiologists.

Remarkable. For decades, health economists and insurers have made complicated calculations to assess whether someone is still entitled to full healthcare, but if you have Covid19, you have to be saved at any cost.

It is this price that the people of Curaçao have to pay and it underlies the enormous frustrations of CEO’s, employers and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who apparently can’t hold their tongue and are spinning out. First your business closes, then there is a loss of turnover without money coming in, then you have to eat your own hard-earned money to keep your staff. After that, the government will come to you with an NOW-scheme that does not work and also has no legal basis. After that you can open slowly, but with so much distance in the new normal, that you no longer get out of the costs. All is new, but nothing is normal.

Don’t get me wrong: I too was offended by the words of the white entrepreneur. Curaçao is also my island and I am proud of it. You don’t compare this rock with our primates. Admittedly, if he had written “pussy island,” the feminists might have fallen over him, and if he had written “typhoid island”, the Princess Wilhelmina Fund would have rebelled. While I can just as well imagine that as an entrepreneur after two months of Covid19-closure, he no longer feels like it and uses the wrong words in a drunken mood. And, Oh yeah: he is white. 

I think he was not referring to Curaçao population. He just wanted another government, where the economy would be governing again. The old normal, so to speak. The ‘normal’ that once started with aap-noot-mies.