Frank van Pamelen

Frank van Pamelen: Values

Column 1 min. Frank van Pamelen

Comedian, writer, poet, grand artist and alumnus Frank van Pamelen reflects on values.


All that is of value is vulnerable, the Dutch poet and painter Lucebert famously wrote in 1954. Back then, there was no “Europe”. As a word, it was but a name on a map and geographically it more or less classified as a continent. But the unified entity the word evokes today was still in the future. Sure, there were a few isolated regional treaties and a slightly bigger one for coal and steel, but that was about it. Even a European soccer league had yet to be invented. That only happened in the second half of the 1950s. As did the EEC, and then only as a purely economic collaborative alliance. It was only after the 1992 Maastricht Treaty had been signed that the quest for shared values beyond the interests of trade appeared to begin in earnest. But frankly, not a great deal has changed since. European norms and values are still mostly – scratch that: only – expressed in money. In fact, we now even call our money “euro”. Just so we all understand what it’s all about. In tackling environmental issues, we are underperfomers, because for now taking action costs more than it yields. We barely invest in helping other continents grow, because it serves our economic interests far better to use European subsidies to outcompete those nasty emerging economies. One third of the entire European budget is allocated to our own agricultural industry. European farmers flood the African market with subsidized dry milk, leaving local cattle farmers in Burkina Faso, to name one of the poorest countries on the planet, with a cat in hell’s chance. If there is any “European value” to speak of, it mainly appears to be the value of the European currency. I am really curious whether the new expertise center will make a difference. I hope that they will throw themselves wholeheartedly into all that is of value there. And that for once all that is of value is not too vulnerable.