Walking about in the Dam the other week I came across a rather unusual sight.
There’s an old church on a canal. There’s a Whorehouse on a canal. Neither of these things by themselves are interesting. But for the fact that they are right next to each other. Given the sheer proliferation of churches and whorehouses in this city, the fact that one of each ended up sharing a walkway probably should come as no surprise.
Coming from the States however, this is a shock. The same crowd that would have tarred and feathered Zwarte Piet would have been here the next weekend, high on Jesus fever, to run the whores out of town. Yet there the two of them were, happily co-existing and going about their respective businesses.
And then there was the cherry on top; the same window cleaning company has the contract on both. So while the church’s stained glass windows are being polished up, the whores’ windows were being given a spit and rubdown.
I remembered as a kid seeing a thing called a perfect universe where a fish, plankton and water were sealed up in a glass dome. The plankton makes oxygen and food, the fish has plenty to eat and breath and all the waste gets turned somehow magically into plankton again. It’s a perfect interdependence. And there was something about this that reminded me of it.
Apparently the Dutch Tolerance (of which they are very, very proud) had its origins in religion. And good business sense. The Protestants and Catholics worked out that it was better for business if they didn’t try to kill each other; all that chopping-up-of-your-foe energy could be directed into setting up businesses in a stable region that would draw customers. Which worked out rather nicely; it’s no accident that the Netherlands are the international business capital of Europe.
So back to the church and whores. While on opposite ends of the business spectrum, no conflict between them means business is good for both. One promising earthly delights, another promising a happy hereafter. And both need clean windows so that you can see the wares on display, whether stained-glass or strained-thong.
Someone prays, another gets laid and every week the window guy gets paid.