At electoral-vote.com March 15th is a short item about European elections. It reads and Dutch presidential candidate Geert Wilders in particular:
Elections in The Netherlands, France, and Germany this year will test whether right-wing, anti-immigrant parties can upset the established order worldwide. The first test is today in the Netherlands, where 28 parties will be vying for seats in the 150-seat lower chamber of the parliament. Seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the popular vote, with no geographic restrictions. According to some polls, the leading parties are the VVD (Party for Freedom and Democracy) led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the PVV (Party for Freedom), led by anti-Islam zealot Geert Wilders.
Wilders is even more fanatically anti-Islam than Trump. His platform includes securing the borders, closing mosques, closing centers for refugees, banning the Koran, and forbidding women from wearing headscarves. He also wants the Netherlands to follow the U.K. out of the European Union.
He has some things in common in Trump besides his dislike of immigrants. In particular, he communicates with people by tweeting, in order to avoid the media filter. His hair is also somewhat unconventional. His economic policies are generally left wing, though, and so he will attract some votes on that basis alone. What is extremely unusual is that his official platform (in Dutch) fits on a single page and has only 11 items, as follows:
De-Islamitize the Netherlands (with 8 bullets about specific items such a banning mosques and the Koran)
Leave the European Union
Introduce binding referendums on policy issues
Eliminate all deductibles in health insurance
Lower the rents on apartments
Bring the age for Social Security back to 65 (it is creeping up to 67)
No government financing for foreign aid, windmills, art, innovation, public radio or TV, etc.
Eliminate previously imposed austerity measures in home care and care for the elderly
Expand funding for defense and the police
Lower income taxes
Reduce the vehicle registration tax by half
I’ve sort of kept up with events in Holland and other northern European countries for some years, due to the seemingly very real problems that they’ve experienced with Muslim immigrants being sometimes aggressive in pushing religious dictates on some rather small countries.
Frankly, it appears that that has been a clash of cultures, one that came mostly from their membership in the European Union. With the EU, anyone who can get into the EU is free to travel and work anywhere else in the EU. So, people who get into, say, Greece, can then travel up to Holland and get a job and stay.
This has been difficult for some countries that have had monocultures since forever. I can understand why some people have gotten freaked out by it, especially if the new immigrants have not melded into the existing culture in the small countries.
This is one way in which the EU has maybe not foreseen the fallout from their immigration laws, set long ago. I genuinely wonder how many members of the EU Parliament expressed concern for what can of worms were being opened with their free passage laws and labor laws – as they were being passed. Someone certainly could have seen this sort of problem being out there on the horizon.
If this in any way sounds racist, it genuinely isn’t. I’ve spent time in three middle eastern Muslim countries – Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, as well as Turkey. And I LIKE the folks there. I learned a LOT in my travels about tolerance and how PEOPLE in different cultures are so often not much different at their cores.
But I do also recognize the differences in the cultures. I actually hope that the uniqueness of each culture is not lost, in the meshing of cultures – in places like Europe.
And I recognize that each culture has rednecks and bigots. Rednecks and bigots who can be very troublesome with their provincial mindsets. I didn’t meet any jackasses n my travels, but I accept that maybe some did exist and could be problems for people eventually. Hell, I wouldn’t wish American rednecks on ANYBODY. Is that racist on my part there? So, if Turkish rednecks emigrate to the EU and end up in Holland or Belgium or Denmark, is it not reality to cringe at the possibility of confrontations that freak out the local populace?
It is non-liberal of me to say so, but I think that the clash of cultures sometimes needs to be addressed in non-liberal ways. I think that the Dutch DO have the right as a people to react and try to find some direction other than the EU direction. It happens in the UK, too. I met a Brit 16 years ago who came to the USA to marry his online sweetheart outside Chicago. The guy turned out to be the biggest jackass I’d ever met, talking about the Pakis and the ragheads and Muslims and wanting them out of his country. It seems his position is not uncommon, as his sort probably voted 100% for Brexit. I don’t feel that way myself, but then I am not blue collar in the EU and dealing with other cultures in the way they are doing. I will say that, for me, it would depend on how big of jackasses the immigrants are, too. When jackasses of different sorts confront each other, I am not suprised when antagonisms begin and then fester.
And I think festering is a big part of this issue. And candidates like Geert Wilders will eventually arise, when festering issues between jackasses within the cultures exist.
But I don’t quite see Wilders as a Trump clone at all, having learned a bit more about him. Yes, there are some anti-immigration stands in his platform. And he identifies membership in the EU as being the source of those problems, it seems. That part I get, too. (Read above.)
But once he has gotten past the issue of Holland for the Dutch, the rest of his platform is somewhere far to the left of even Bernie Sanders. He remains aware of the great benefits that have accrued to the Netherlands from liberal policies.
So, what I see is a complicated situation in European countries, a result of the EU’s policies, specifically its immigration policies. I ended up loving the Egyptian and Lebanese people, and was awed by the generosity of the Turkish people I met.
The funny thing is that I want THEM to be able to keep their cultures, too. Can that even happen in this world which is every day becoming more and more globalized? I love that cultures are different. I don’t want to see a homogenized world. For my own reasons I hope cultures stay different. I can see where immigration has a tendency to homogenize those who immigrate. I can also see why some people want to keep their cultures. While some immigrants want to assimilate, the reasons for emigrating are many, and some didn’t want to leave their old countries but maybe had to. Those immigrants would seem to be candidates for trying to maintain their separate cultures, even though they have been transplanted. I get it.
So, how do these people – immigrants and home grown peoples – find a way through this thicket of thorns and brambles? I honestly don’t know.
But it IS a problem, and it probably stems from the jackasses on both sides. So many OTHERS find ways to assimilate and to welcome others.
Lacking desert islands to exile both sets of jackasses in this conflict of cultures, if there is a solution to it, I think we are only in the early stages of them trying to find ways forward. Geert Wilders is offering one way forward. Is it the best way forward? Probably not. At the same time, taking NO steps in any direction is certainly not going to make things better, in either the short term or long term.
Europe may be in for a long slog. The immigrants are there now, and the problems of the intolerant jackasses are going to be with them for perhaps a very long time.
As a parting shot, the only thing that comes to mind is that if the immigrants currently in Europe stay long enough that they WOULD assimilate in time. New influxes of immigrants might make that assimilation less possible. Would ending new immigration be a way forward? Keeping the immigrants that are in Holland or Denmark or Belgium or Sweden, but not bringing in more? That has serious complications of its own, I know. It is NOT my problem, but engineers like me, when we see a problem, we start exploring possible solutions – it’s how we are made… Hahaha – It’s not like they would care what I say, anyway.
I was amazed at how mixed Wilders’ platform is. That is what brought me to write this blog post. An anti-immigration candidate who also wants to lower rents and eliminate deductibles. He seems to have some complexity to him, far beyond a Donald Trump.