I found the friezes we saw today of the lions particularly interesting. To me, it looks like the lion is symbolizing the Dutch themselves. In the center frieze, a ship is followed by a lion and then a sword. This strikes me as a statement about crossing the seas and using force to take what is ours. To the left, a lion is pictured in a boat. The lion symbolizes power and courage and I think it’s fair to say that this is indeed how the colonial Dutch saw themselves. Evil never believes its doing evil and colonialism was celebrated as heroic and patriotic.
It’s fascinating to see the museum now celebrating diversity by hanging the banner pictured here below such friezes. At times this struck me as a bit patronizing and forced, but I’d much rather that than no attempt at all. Humanity is deeply cyclical and I wonder if colonialism will once again be celebrated in the Netherland (and throughout the world). It’s easy to think this impossible with how much progress we’ve made, but I suspect there are still many who view colonialism as a good thing or perhaps a necessary thing. Through groupthink, human beings can justify/support literally anything and who knows if we’ll continue to make progress or slide back. I like to think of the MLK Jr. quote that Barack Obama popularized: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’m not sure I believe this is true, unfortunately, but I hope it is. I also think MLK and Barack Obama genuinely believe this which makes me think there has to be something to it.