Monday, February 12, 2007

Minutes 1/29/2007


PRESENT: Willow Pearce, Martha Ferguson, Amin Smith, St Clair Trott, Craig Harris, Alison Carr, Ian Boatman, Carolyn Boatman

· The meeting began at 6:10PM

· The club welcomed three new members: Ian & Carolyn Boatman and Alison Carr.

· It was noted that in the last month there have been approximately 25 enquiries, via email, to the club. These enquiries were generated via a posting on the website. It was agreed that the club should maintain this posting indefinitely as it apparently garners a lot of attention and interest. The club thanked Willow for his continuing efforts on this project.

· Conversely, it was also noted that although there have been numerous enquiries there appears to be little follow-up interest from most people. The club members noted, and agreed, that this club was not to everyone’s taste and we were pleased to attract quality members rather than aim for ‘quantity’. There are two others who did express interest in attending tonight but were unable to – they have advised they would like to be informed of our next meeting date.

· Details of the club meetings, and our philosophy, were discussed with the new members and they were in agreement with our goals and methods.

· The last book read, “Murder in Amsterdam” by Ian Buruma, was discussed. This book details the death of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and the struggle in the Netherlands to remain tolerant of Muslim immigrants.

· Amin opened our discussion by confirming that he had liked the book. The other members who had read it agreed. Amin explained that he was intrigued by the ‘open society’ of the Netherlands as well as the broad social assistance they offered to their citizens.

· Willow interjected that although the Dutch were known as being very liberal they were actually quite bigoted.

· Continuing with his point, Amin opined that one cause of unrest between the ethnic white Dutch and Muslim immigrants in the country was that the immigrants were not assimilating. They were maintaining a separate existence in every way possible including their appearance. As an example of integration he described the United States where ‘immigrants were proud to be an American’ and said it was ‘easy to spot an assimilated American’.

· Craig disagreed with this last assessment noting that many immigrant groups now arriving in the United States, such as those from Mexico or Latin/South America, were not assimilating. They were, in fact, attempting to change American culture to reflect their own.

· Alison, who is from the UK, described the situation in the Leeds/Bradford area where she has lived. It was her experience that Muslim immigrants to this area were ‘sticking together’ and ‘forming their own communities’. She highlighted the fact that there was much distrust between the native English in this area and the recent Muslim immigrants. She suggested this could be the result of neither side meeting and talking to the other.

· Loosely quoting the Koran, Craig said that Muslims were taught that there are only three ways to interact with a Christian – ‘to convert them, to subjugate them or to kill them’. He also reminded the group that very often the Imams teaching the Koran were as poorly educated as their students. Many could not actually read and understand Arabic and so their ‘teachings’ were often circumspect.

· Amin questioned whether better treatment of immigrants in general might improve relations between the two communities?

· Carolyn commented that the way the West has generally treated immigrants or the populations in their colonies has been ‘morally wrong’. This instigated considerable discussion on the history of colonialism, such as in the Belgian Congo. There were also parallels drawn between the large expatriate populations in many Arab countries, and even in Bermuda, and how they interacted with the indigenous population of their host country.

· Martha made the point that Bermuda’s difficulty at times in assimilating and living harmoniously with foreigners would be exacerbated if the foreign population outnumbered the local population here, as it does in many other countries.

· St Clair spoke on the effects that the influx of foreign workers has had on Bermuda’s society. He mentioned the cost of homes and how many Bermudians cannot afford to purchase one.

· Both St Clair and Willow lamented the demise of the Technical Institute.

· Returning to the book, Craig described his personal experiences of the mainstreaming of the Turkish community in the Netherlands. He drew attention to the fact that they were not described in the book as being a problem in the country in the way that the Moroccans were.

· Discussion continued on the benefits of colonialism in the form of infrastructure, language, the civil service, etc.

· Craig suggested many of Holland’s problems might be the cause of their own ‘white guilt’. He commented on the current backlash against this philosophy in many white, Christian countries.

· Amin countered that he was skeptical of the Dutch sense of atonement.

· In the ‘Page Turner/Page Burner’ segment of the meeting St Clair again brought the book ‘The Tower’ to the attention of the club. Craig mentioned that this book had figured heavily on many year-end ‘Best’ lists. Willow professed to not liking the book very much. Craig suggested the group might enjoy ‘The Embarrassment of Riches’ by Simon Schama. This is an interpretation of Dutch culture in the Golden Age and a good primer for understanding modern Dutch history. Amin again recommended ‘Fathers & Sons’ by the Russian author Turgenev.

· The group agreed to meet again on Monday March 5th.

· Willow and Amin both volunteered to choose the next two club selections.

· The meeting adjourned at 8:10PM