Amsterdam’s works of art, colorful bridges and picturesque canals are not the only reason that tourists visit the city. Countless international travelers descend annually on a nearby section of Amsterdam to participate in activities that are illegal elsewhere, taking advantage of the city’s lax morals and values. Scantily clad women on display in windows in the Red Light District will perform sex acts with anyone who meets their price, and adults looking to obliterate reality can ingest various forms of the psychotropic drug cannabis (marijuana, hashish, hash oil) and hallucinogenic mushrooms in numerous “coffeehouses” that are definitely not family friendly.
Faced with this difficult and often unpopular truth, one man decided to fight Amsterdam’s moral decline—using determination and the power of words. “In the beginning, it was quite difficult because I tried to get people involved with it—for instance, schools and police and politicians. But everyone said ‘no time,’ or … they didn’t want to help,” Joop Remmerswaal said.
Because Amsterdam had become so morally degraded, Remmerswaal and his wife, Berna, and about 10 others handed out books to tourists on the streets and to people in flower shops, coffee shops, noodle houses and cheese markets. Over three and a half years they walked hundreds of miles to drop books into mailboxes, distributing about 203,000 copies of The Way to Happiness in all. They plan to distribute more books in Amsterdam and The Hague, as well as in Haarlem and Almere.
“It’s so amazing what the effect of the booklet is,” Remmerswaal said. “It’s so smart and well done of L. Ron Hubbard. … It stops a lot of criminality and brings ethics into a city, or in a country, or in the world.”
To complement The Way to Happiness campaign’s success, Remmerswaal and his daughter, Merel Remmerswaal, 31, who works for the Church, extended the book’s reach by featuring the 21 precepts in public service announcements that run on two local television stations and reach more than 100,000 people a day.
“In 2013, the crime rate dropped 20 percent in Amsterdam. In 2014, again 20 percent,” Remmerswaal said.