Seef Spees: diverse, but not sharp enough

In a Surinamese eatery, a customer happily tells that she has sold all her bitcoins and has become very rich in one fell swoop. But to her horror, her hand immediately starts to turn white. She has a rare condition that can affect rich black people: she is slowly turning into a “white, cisgender straight man” named Ben Witman. Frightening, but also useful, when a little later she is ethnically profiled by a police officer.

The new sketch show Seef Spees (VPRO) deals with racism, inequality and other issues that you encounter as a Dutch person with a non-Western background. The Allowances affair comes along, the housing shortage, the white woman who raves about Africa, and the family in the homeland asking for money.

The existence of the sketch show itself, and the expectations attached to it, are also Seef Spees Made fun of. Former news anchor Noraly Beyer speaks in the show of “a historic day”. Seef Spees will end “years of complaints about lack of diversity in the media landscape,” she said. For this, the VPRO has “picked random people of color from the street with care”.

Seef Spees is indeed struggling with high expectations: this is the program that should give color to the predominantly white Hilversum, and that can build bridges between population groups thanks to the light-hearted tone. Finally a sketch show that is not made by white men. And the array of talent also creates expectations, with the team including columnist Clarice Gargard, director Giancarlo Sánchez, actress Romana Vrede, and comedian Soundos El Ahmadi.

But alas, it’s not funny, not sharp, not loud enough. I had really sat down for it, and the above sketches really made me smile, but the ‘mirroring, persiflating and filleting’ of Dutch society was not yet the case in the first episode.

Westerbork after the war

According to writer Harry Mulisch, World War II won’t end until World War III starts, so hopefully we’ll have another month to finish all programs about the old war. This is how director Eric Blom and Frénk van der Linden say in the documentary War in Westerbork, April-September 1945 (KRO-NCRV) the little-known story of the transit camp in Drenthe in the months after the war.

The nine hundred Jews who remained in the camp were not allowed to leave. First they had to prove that they hadn’t been with the Germans. You’re not making it up. From 12 April 1945 they were joined by eight thousand arrested NSB, SS and other traitors. The roles were reversed, with disastrous consequences. The new camp residents also had to deal with hunger, disease, humiliation and severe abuse. With methods, in short, “which were copied directly from the Nazis.” About 89 people died, officially from natural causes.

It is an uncomfortable story that undermines the cliché of right and wrong. The interviewees cite a whole range of extenuating circumstances: the anarchy after the war, the understandable feelings of revenge of Jewish prisoners who learned about that time that their families had been massacred. Historian Hans Blom calls it ‘perverse’ that Jews and NSB members were put in one camp. Incidentally, the war criminals were only guarded by the Jewish camp police for a short time. Most of the abuse came from the Interior Forces.

Extenuating circumstances or not, whoever wants to distinguish himself morally from the enemy should not imitate his crimes. Or as the Jewish former prisoner Virry de Vries-Robles says: “The enemy may be the enemy, but if I do the same as the enemy does, I am just as bad.”

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