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Apologies by the government are hot. This week, the Dutch government went through the motions again for its ill-conceived relaxation of the corona policy. Apologies for all sorts of colonial practices from the past are all the rage too. Isn’t it about time we apologized to the people of Brabant I wonder?

For almost 150 years, from the Peace Treaty of Munster in 1648 to the establishment of the Batavian Republic in 1795, Brabant was a ‘free-for-all state’ governed by the States General of The Netherlands. Holland and its six provincial allies relegated Brabant – which was in fact at the center of the Revolt – to a second-rate, politically disempowered mass as a buffer against enemy attacks. A colony that was fiscally gutted to the bone.

And all this while there was large-scale depopulation and irreparable damage to the Brabant economy due to the chronic war violence of the Eighty Years’ War. Dissenters were barred from government positions. Catholic property was confiscated. The practice of the Catholic faith was forbidden and Catholic education was quashed. The state of Brabant was merely a military buffer defending the Republic. That is also the reason why the fortress belt is located all the way to the north, near the major rivers. This left the Brabant countryside completely open to enemy attack. Against this background, Eindhoven also got trampled several times. So that little remained of the historic city and it took until the establishment of the Philips group for the city to recover economically.

Brabant tax florins

Funds from the Spanish treasure fleet coffers were unashamedly used to conquer the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch for short). It was there that, amongst other things, a magnificent cathedral was under construction. That situation was then put on hold. Which is why there is still a medieval tower in front of the high-gothic nave. A nave that had been planned to be no less than two bays longer across. Instead, Brabant taxpayers’ money was invested in a Palace on the Dam. And around the choir section of St. John’s Cathedral are all Protestant regents, buried under turned-over Catholic tombstones but each with new texts. ‘Ons ben zuunig he.’ (an old Dutch saying reiterating their reputation for thrift, ed.).

An apology given gains in significance if accompanied with compensation. Even this phenomenon is the order of the day. Corona funds are flowing generously. And for some time now we have been seeing a northern province playing crybaby about tremors that in countries like Chile and Japan, who have to deal with them seriously on a daily basis, would react to in amazement. The alleged backwardness of the North – let’s face it – is of course nothing compared to what has been done to the Brabanders without any form of apology or compensation.

Half-hearted dawdling

So, why are people being so difficult about the proposed, obviously innovative Van Gogh National Park? Why is there still no Rijksmuseum below the major rivers? Why do the four Randstad cities receive generous amounts of money for their urban facilities while Brainport has to make do with far less, even after redistribution? All this half-hearted dawdling. And all the while, we are once again the focal point of the country. Leading by example once more. Are we still seen as a kind of colony? Or will we, after a generous Mea Culpa moment, for once start to invest convincingly in the development of the widely praised and appealing business climate that is so beneficial to the country as a whole? Hopefully we will no longer need to make excuses in the future. Continuing the success of the Brainport Region is really not just a matter of course.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Eugene Franken, Helen Kardan, Katleen Gabriels, Carina Weijma, Bert Overlack, Maier-Leppla and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented by guest bloggers, are all working on solutions in their own way on the problems of our time. So that tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous articles.