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Thursday, June 05, 2003

Holland's Verteilung: Compartmentalization Along Socio-political Lines

A letter from one of the Bonobo's best friends: Frans in Holland. As you can see Bonobo is different. In the first place why only a regime change in the US? Why not a regime change in Europe toooooooooo......... (Oh, how I long for it). And why not having some politicians who don't lie to us, for 'bureaucratic' reasons, who can face the pensions reality and can look us in the eyes and say: 'we're about to go bust'? Unfortunately, for the time being, this kind of debate only goes on in Blogland. But, I'm sure Frans would agree, since he dreams of a 'different' politics'.

Then there is the question of immigration, I am sure Frans is no racist, my son from his own medical practice shares many of Frans experiences about non-integration and of a widespread lack of sympathy with our liberal values (and I am also sure my son is no racist). So we need to understand this problem (this is what my reasearch with Margy is about, the process of identity change). Why: because we are condemned to understand. And if Europe is to have a future we need to overcome our present difficulties, of this I am firmly convinced. But first we need to speak, freely and without fear of abuse. This is why Frans is here.

The issue of necessary global cooperation remains a big (the biggest?) problem. Sometimes I contemplate on a worldwide campaign for regime chance in the US: an appeal to the voters net year from “the rest of the world”.

The political landslide in the Netherlands in 2002 surprised almost all inhabitants, so surely for interested observers from outside the developments in my country must have given rise to complete bewilderment. To at least understand it in retrospect we have to go back in the history of this extraordinary nation (of course going back in history makes every nation extraordinary).

A major phenomenon in Dutch history is called “verzuiling”; this is so strong a Dutch phenomenon that there is no correct translation for the word. The dictionary suggests: “”. An often used example of it is the fact that organizations like the “catholic sheep breeders” existed into the seventies of last century (along protestant, socialist and/or “general” as well). An important feature of this “pillars”, i.e. of the religious ones, was that these were supposed to organize both the catholic working men and the rich Catholics and so, -for many years-, people from both the “left” and the “right” side of the political spectrum. Before 1994 the Christian-democratic party (and its predecessors) CDA, formed a coalition with social-democrats (PvdA) and liberals (VVD) in turn, for more then 70 years. Preferably and more often with liberals then with social-democrats but on some important issues the Christian democrats agreed with “the left” for many decades. Among these for example were a minimum percentage of the GDP for development-aid and the way of dealing with frictions between Muslim-immigrants and the population of the poor(er) districts.

The years the first immigrants from Islam-dominated countries arrived in the Netherlands (the first labour-immigrants after WOII came from Italy and Spain; they quietly acquired their place in the Netherlands) were also years of special political developments. Under the leadership of den Uyl the social-democrats managed to form a coalition government with two small political parties from the left that was also supported by two of the three Christian democratic parties. This was highly remarkable. On the first place while the three of them were already working towards a firm alliance (some years later they indeed merged into the CDA). Secondly because they got a kind of second-class position within the government. In retrospective one could say that the Christian-democrats were completely cut out.

In the same years on the very left side of the political spectrum grew a concern about the environment. The growing prosperity of the working class (den Uyl wished “a car for every working man”) made them look for the “real victims” of capitalism and they were easily found in the poor immigrant labourers. Although they had good reasons to come to the rich countries they indeed lived in shameful conditions. Far from their families; crammed with 4 or 6 in caravans or living in a part of the greenhouse they worked in. The first moment that right-wing extremists targeted these newcomers this gave rise to a very very strong disapproval from all of the political parties; not just the parties from the left. When the socialist party (SP) in the early eighties signaled problems of non-integrating immigrants they met the same reaction: a “cordon sanitaire” was formed with reference to Hitler’s concentration camps as a normal part of the debate. There was a tremendous overprotection of the hardly threatened (at least not by racism) immigrants. For example all governments-communication to the citizens go with Turkish and Arab translations. How this overprotection works can best be illustrated by the fact that not only children from Turkish or Moroccan parents are taught the language of their parents in primary schools: most Moroccan children are taught Arab while most of these children have Berber parents for whom Arab is NOT their mother-tongue!

In the first decades most labor-immigrants considered their stay as temporarily and they stayed with that idea for a long time even when they let their families come over. This contributed to the fact that generally speaking they did not integrate very well. Another import factor explaining this is that these immigrants came from the rural side of their countries and probably would have problems migrating to the big cities in the countries the came from!

A big part of these Islamic people strongly disapprove of the liberal points of view dominating in the western countries. The fact that they don’t face our society seems illustrated by the astonishing number of people with a Moroccan or Turkish descent who are born in the Netherlands but “import” a groom or bride from the country their parents came from: some 60 or 70%! But there is a nuance in this one too. Recent research on this phenomenon revealed that these “imports” have different, even opposite, reasons for men and women. The men want submissive wives, don’t find them enough in their new homeland and go for them in the countryside their parents were born. The women want husbands who respect their freedom and rights don’t find them and go for them in the urban areas of the countries their parents came for! The masculine side of these cultures provide an ongoing influx of problems. So the problem we face here is not “backwardedness of the Islam” but backwardness of the macho-culture (that often goes with the Islam). This also contributes to the high “performance” of the Moroccan (and Antillean) young in crime.

From 1994 to 2002 social-democrats and liberals for the first time formed a government without the Christian democrats. Especially for the traditional voters of the social-democrats the difference between their party and their longtime “enemies” seemed to disappear. Among other things the big ideologically led privatization projects (of railroads, energy) and the creation of quango’s were devastating for the belief that the social democrats was “their party”. And here mr Fortuyn entered the scene. A frustrated man. Once a member of the communist party. Had tried in vain to get an important position in all of the major parties with special resentment for the social-democrats. A very intelligent man. Provocative gay. Millionaire. The media, especially TV, couldn’t get enough of him. Capable of getting under the skin of the establishment. Admirer of Berlusconi. Playing the populist trump of the criminal young immigrants in a very intelligent way. In fact he was no racist -second on his list for national elections was an immigrant from Cape Verde- but he was ready to blow up the real existing problems with not-integrating immigrants and juvenile delinquents and work with extreme-right to get the power he wanted (desperately it seems). He claimed to go (without a party of any significance!) for the highest only: become prime minister. The fact that his panicking opponents kept implying that he was a racist gave his electoral campaign an enormous boost: all people that once had had some tactless remarks on immigrants and were then faced with unjust accusations became absolutely sure Fortuyn was their guy.

The fact that his killer turned out to be a rigid fighter for animal rights (direct reason for the assassination probably the provocative statements of Fortuyn on fur-farms!) worked out as a tremendous blow to the environmentalists and the political parties that are most associated with environmental issues. Nine days after being murdered his party entered parliament winning 15% of the seats. Christian-democrats and liberals included his new party, LPF, in the government. MP’s as well as ministers from his party quarreled so much among them selves that 3 months later they were dropped from government. The resigned government gave “political but not military support” to Bush-Blair in the war against Iraq in spite of a majority in the population strongly disapproving this war. In the elections of 2003 LPF lost 18 of their 26 seats.
The now formed government bears a great resemblance with the governments the Netherlands knew before 1994. Disappointment in politics as such probably has never been greater.

In Bonoboland there is a strong conviction that demography is an important factor, to often overseen, to explain the economical challenges we face; especially in Europe. I don’t argue with that; the suggestion however that labour-immigration could be an important part of the answer I doubt very much.

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