“And who will be the new Rudi van Dantzig?” the young reporter from AT5 asked me on Saturday, in front of the door to the Mozes en Aaronkerk. He had probably put the same question to the whole series of people attending Rudi’s memorial service whom he had already got on camera. The new Van Dantzig? I think everyone said the same as me – that Rudi was so unique that nobody would ever be regarded as a ‘new Rudi’. Just as nobody at Ajax will ever wear a shirt with the number 14 on the back. That number will always be reserved for the legendary footballer Johan Cruyff.
Ah Cruyff! On TV last week, they showed the old footage again of a young Johan Cruyff watching one of Rudi van Dantzig’s rehearsals. An encounter between two icons from completely different worlds. That was then. But now Rudi has slipped away from us. And Johan too actually, at least in my view – but then in a different way.
The reporter kept hammering away. “So isn’t there anyone at the moment who looks like being a sort of Rudi?” But no. I had nothing to offer him. And incidentally, if he’d asked me about the new Johan, I’d have been just as quiet.
Is it just me, or do all the icons of the past leave us with a certain feeling of emptiness?
For example, have the successors of Coen Moulijn, ‘De Kromme’, and Johan C. touched us in the way their illustrious predecessors did, so that they too deserve the epithet ‘legendary’ or ‘iconic’? Has the emotion I still feel watching clips of a stuttering Hennie Kuiper, a crying Gerry Knetemann or a firmly silent Joop Zoetemelk now been surpassed by people like Breukink, Boogerd or Geesink? The answer has to be negative.
I can go on.
Joop Den Uyl, Wim Kok, Wouter Bos. Get what I mean?
Simon Carmiggelt, Boudewijn Büch, Kluun
Johnny Jordaan, André Hazes, Marco Borsato
Wim Sonneveld, Toon Hermans, Hans Teeuwen
Dries van Agt, Ruud Lubbers, Jan-Peter Balkenende.
Mies Bouwman, Sonja Barend, Linda de Mol.
Queen Juliana, Queen Beatrix, King Willem Alexander.
Citroën DS, Citroën CX, Citroën C5.
The lists follow the same pattern: they have a gradually declining emotional curve.
Am I getting old? Yes, there’s no denying it, unfortunately. But there has to be more to it than that – I mean I’m not that old. And please note that I really don’t mean to suggest that the new generations are not as good as their predecessors. On the contrary! Footballers’ technique has improved, cyclists are faster and managers are more professional. But somehow or other, today’s icons just don’t move me in the same way. They hardly move me at all anymore. However better, faster and more professional everything gets, it all seems to become flatter.
So there’s a big chance that Rudi van Dantzig wouldn’t have fitted in as an artistic director nowadays. Johan Cruyff proves on a daily basis that time has definitely raced ahead and passed him by. His motto of ‘organised chaos’ – in actual fact a plea for the same authenticity and creativity Rudi believed in – no longer corresponds to the modern football industry. And Johan himself no longer understands what’s wrong. So his loss is as tragic as it is illustrative of what has changed in a couple of decades. Not that things are worse as such, but just radically different.
We live in a digital world nowadays. And digital means that everything is expressed in ‘zeros’ and ‘ones’. Imperceptibly, it is such digital laws that rule. Something is either a ‘zero’ or a ‘one’. There is nothing in between. This has a function, as it makes the digital system predictable and delivers reliable results. But the price we pay for it is that those who lead the way in today’s politics, sport, media or culture – the icons of our times – are increasingly less unpredictable, incomparable or individual as personalities. And they are increasingly rapidly succeeded by or exchanged for someone else. Because that, too, is something that goes with digital thinking. It is the speed of light that rules, and not the speed of emotion. Those who don’t make an immediate ‘connection’ are deleted.
It was a moving occasion on Saturday morning in the Mozes en Aaronkerk. And why? Because Rudi van Dantzig didn’t belong to the ‘zeros’ and ‘ones’. He was completely and uniquely his own authentic number. And that’s why he meant so much to people and was so admired, respected and loved. So if there’s one thing we owe him, it is to continue searching for the unique and exceptional numbers. To recognise them and to cherish them.
In others, but above all in ourselves.< blog archive