Review of Amsterdam by Russell Shorto

One of my favourite activity in my free time is reading. During this last winter break in Italy, I brought with me a book that i found in the gift-shop of the Hermitage museum. 





In 2011, when i first moved to the Netherlands I had read the most famous book about the history of Amsterdam written by Geert Mak. I decided to engage in the reading of the one written by Russell Shorto because lately my enthusiasm towards the city has substantially decreased.

Losing job and relationship in the same day was too much to take at once and I was beginning to think that the best solution was to leave, wherever in the world. 
After the first phase of outrage I felt I needed to remind myself what was the reason that firstly brought me to move to Amsterdam. Therefore I bought this book.
I was quite skeptical at the beginning because I didn't know the author and I had the memory of the good times i had while reading twice the Mak's book.
My high expectations had been abundantly outclassed. The book is not only focused on the city's history but mostly on his role as first liberal city in the world and from here these seeds took root everywhere else in the western culture.

The protagonist of this cultural shift was Spinoza who was able to influence both English and French thinkers and trigger therefore the French and the American revolution. 
I found absurd that there is only a statue to give tribute to this great philosopher in Waterlooplein, in the Jewish neighboorhoud. On the other hand also the Jewish museum doesn't reserve a special place for him, among all the other characthers of the Jewish Amsterdam scene. 
He was the first atheist of the history, he pointed out the inconsistency of faith, based on superstitial believes, promoting the role of mankind reason as source of knowledge, freeing the conscience from the burden of a supernatural will.

Going ahead with the reading I stumbled into a man with a curious name: Multatuli, which sounded familiar to me, because of a statue on a bridge across the Singel. In his book Max Havelaar, he told the western society, which was  colonizing Asia, the conditions of populations foced to live in a enviroment with no rules and brutality. His contribution made possible to start the process of decolonization.

I got to know people as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo Van Gogh. They realized a controversial video in 2004 with a naked arabic woman and her body covered in sentences from the Koran. It is voiced over stories of ordinary domestic violence in islamic families. Theo Van Gogh was killed by a lunatic in the same year, despite authorities had already suggested him to be careful and get body guards.

The woman is a very interesting figure. Coming from Somalia, she was a political refugee and enrolled in the Leiden University. She experienced on her own skin the brutality of some convictions of the Islamic world, since she was subjected to infibulation. With her political carisma she climbed the ladder of the Dutch politics till the point that her adversion for Islam was going too far, against the principle of freedom of cult. From that moment on she moved to the Usa and there she found a perfect enviroment where to talk about her adversion for Islam.

I feel proud to live in this city. I am glad this society is still defending the freedom of speech and expression and mostly I am glad that that is a real actual freedom.