ISSN 1989-4163

NUMERO 82 - ABRIL 2017

Nicely Sorted (A Dutch Fairytale)

Coos Palmboom

The subterranean traveller grew up in a country which was just coming out of a time where each political and religious denomination lived in its own separate world. You had the socialists with their owned radiostation and newspaper, their unions and football clubs and schools, their writers and their thinkers and even their own humorists, and you had the protestants and catholics and communists each with their particular version of the same, and then a host of smaller communities, all trying to live with their backs to each other as much as possible. In the small industry town where the traveller spent the first fourteen years of his existence and which was known to its oldest inhabitants as Gomorra, the majority social democrats never mixed with either catholics or reborn protestants, and those groups between them also found little ground to trust the other. Above the labour movement floated the calvinists of old, who together with the last remnants of local jewry populated the upper-middle class. Anything higher up had left that forsaken place a long time ago, of course.

This system was called pillarisation. Each in their own societal pillar, although not all pillars were necessarily going straight up. It had naturally grown out of the multi-religious republic of yore and was considered typically Dutch. Tolerance was a matter of not noticing the intolerable. No big deal. It made people give in to expectations perhaps that much faster than wished for. After the sixties had wiped the madness out, parliament suffered a while longer from too many interests. Only in the eighties parties started to merge and we ended up with liberals, christian democrats, labour and a coalition of testimonial left wing parties calling themselves GreenLeft, in its new cloak slowly growing into an attractive choice for voters of all ages and incomes. The other three would share government responsibilities in various two against one set ups, usually aided by the smallish Democrats 66, a previous decent alternative which still succeeded in riding the waves on a desperate housewives voter profile.

Meanwhile a service economy came into blooming. People learned how to offer each other ways of getting rid of one's money, making the multinationals' riches float freely through society. And when early on in the new century uncertainty struck, a careful trend towards tying up one's business internationally seemed the best practice answer. Netherland had become a happy, wealthy, well-connected country, ruled by logic more than by conviction. Migrant communities tended to lack in development, though there was going on both actual improvement and a desire to see things happening. Few people felt the need to fear their neighbourhood's inmediate future.

Then Geert Wilders MP decided to break away from the liberals and start his own party, giving himself three years to establish a movement. Fearlessly supported by the now el País style defunct Volkskrant newspaper, which condemned his every quote and move with the biggest headlines possible, thereby making sure his name was on everybody's tongue, Wilders survived his first elections and then the party could start to grow. The freedom party's message is simple: everything is to blame on the muslims. If we can get rid of the muslims, people will be happy again. This dangerous nonsense is especially well-received in areas with few muslims.

The sad reality of my motherland has been the inability of other parties to undermine the hogwash with simple facts. An innate sense of guilt towards one's indifference to other people's reality is prohibiting many politicians from being honest. This has been an ongoing problem in Dutch politics. It gave way to Wilders setting the agenda with his ugly message, which resonated with a growing section of society,  a spiteful class of middle-aged losers who can't accept their own historic responsibility in bringing the whole sordid affair to a decent ending. And nobody spoke, apart of course from condemning the new words in long, yet ever more gleeful sentences.

While Wilders was growing, the neo-liberal Rutte, known for recently doing the one eyed thing in a nation wide newspaper advertisement, had his field day. He turned Netherland into a fiscal paradise for Europe based companies, offering office space halfway the airport and Amsterdam Centre, injecting money into an economy which was never much hit by the financial crash. And then came this year's elections. After a shameful collaboration with Wilders, Rutte had turned to the Labour party and his partner in crime Dijsselbloem, famous for dragging Greece to its grave and recently scoring infamy points with some sour remarks on southern elite extravagance. Now they faced an unexpectedly disgruntled electorate. Aside from the blamers, a washing number of people had grown unhappy with Rutte's crude neo-liberalism, which they considered unnecessarily heartless. Polls showed the government taking a beating, with gains nicely spread over a good number of profiteers all over the political spectrum. And so, the unimaginable happened: after fifty years of building an integrated society, Netherland suddenly turned back to its carefully separated roots.

As much as fat-bellied commuters enjoy talking tough on immigrants, in the voting booth they feel a sacred plight to choose to the best of their abilities. This blocks many from voting Wilders. Anyway, considering the other parties' reluctance to accept his support, he would need an impossible majority to enforce his disastrous ideas. But the call to arms all politicians shared in the run up to the elections invited many voters to follow their heart and vote honestly, no need for tactical ploys if everybody is showing up, leading to a surprise return to the days of pillarisation, with christians and democrats and greenlefters and haters and socialists all of equal median measure, with neo-liberals ahead and old labour decimated. To keep Wilders out, all these denominations will have to collaborate. In theory, this should be easy, as differences between parties are prepped up for strategic reasons yet in reality hardly existent. In practice, however, things may turn out problematic, as a lot of Dutch ego's are involved. Rutte will have to find ways to keep his financial experiment running while giving in to a handful of costly whishes from his many partners, something which so far he hasn't had to have done. Formation talks are already expected to take up the better part of this spring. New elections may soon be looming.

Nicely Sorted

Even a good half century after the most liberating sixties there's still a lot of prior thinking going on in Netherland



@ 2017