October 4, 2010

Wilders On Trial

He's on trial now, Geert Wilders, for inciting hatred. Wilders is a right-wing politician and I suppose he can be compared to hardliners of the American Republican Party although I suspect the latter are more wise in public - generally speaking. The Dutch politician however spews out the most hard speech, particularly against Islam, that you have to wonder about things. One of the most remarkable matters is that he receives a lot of support, from the voters that is. Around 1.5 million people voted for him at the last elections. That in itself is a remarkable phenomenon.

I suppose a lot of people are attracted to his political program because of two things. The first item is the anti-Islam rhetoric. In Holland there are about one million people who are affiliated with that religion, mostly immigrant workers and their families who were brought here during the 1960s and 70s. The other 15 are (mostly) Christian all be it divided into Catholics and Protestants (and others). Once you contemplate the religious angle you'll realize that different religions don't mix well and that this has always been the case. Nowadays of course with terrorist attacks stemming from followers of Islam this division is inflated to massive proportions. This is one aspect. The fear of Islam is augmented by the fact that Muslim couples tend to have many children. I know for a fact that the most common name for newborn children in Amsterdam is Mohammed.
This is for some people an indication that Islam is on the rise in Holland since the indigenous Dutch don't have that many children anymore in our modern, expensive, fast-paced society. In the long haul it is feared that Muslims one day will surpass the Christians and will shape a nation according to their own religious ideology. For Christians this culminates in the potential loss of identity and culture. This is one aspect why Geert Wilders manages to gather so much support, from my perspective.

Secondly, and far more clever, Wilders drives the economic angle and connects the deficit to unwise, leftist spending which he calls "hobbies". Politicians from the left of the political spectrum tend to tax and spend more money on matters such as the environment, foreign aid, charitable causes, social security and so on. During these difficult economic times he claims that expenditures such as these are totally unfounded and even hints towards the notion that they are (partially) responsible for the current economic climate. The latter of course isn't exactly the truth since we all know that the financial system and the banks caused the crisis. Still, cutting back on (perceived senseless) government spending is something that sits well with many people and this factor also accounts for some of the support Geert Wilders is getting. Holland is a country with many forms of taxation and over the years many people from all walks of life got totally fed up with the system. I'm sure that goes for many other Western countries as well. A politician can score easy points by stating that he will tax the people less.

To be honest, I'm not totally insensitive to what Wilders is saying. Cutting down taxes is something that sits well with every person, myself included. Yet I'm experienced enough to know that this is half of the equation because what you don't pay in taxes that goes to government related programs, you'll eventually wind up paying the same amount (or more) in the corporate world because there is where it's going to be outsourced. I look at the political wings, left and right, as two wings of the same bird - the political/financial system. Left may tax more but right will lay the same bill in the corporate world. The left makes taxes mandatory while the right leaves you the choice but in the end you'll need those utilities and possibly wind up paying even more. Looking at it from a distance it resembles more of a financial game - for me - and it doesn't matter if you go right or left because you wind up paying anyway. From this perspective I find Wilders solutions to financial problems to be superficial. Many people have labeled him as a 'populist,' saying those things that attract voters but in reality don't offer any real solutions to long term problems.

The anti-Islam rhetoric is potentially far more dangerous and could have serious implications. I myself am a Roman Catholic although not a practicing one. I have no religious affiliation with Islam whatsoever, but I do understand and support the notion of freedom of religion. Having the freedom to practice leaves far more room for dialogue than imposing restrictions. When you start doing that people will automatically have a negative reaction.
I'm sure there are folks that will say that Muslim countries don't have freedom of religion and it's true to some extent, but while some countries have Islam as the sole religion and forbid the rest, other countries allow all religions. You can't lump everything together. Imposing restrictions here in Holland could result in similar measures being taken in moderate Muslim countries. The world often works with quid pro quo.

Like I mentioned before, I don't think Geert Wilders offers any real solutions. He's a politician in the truest sense of the word and will say those things which he knows will gather support. All politicians are bound to the financial system and climate, therefore automatically limited in what they can do for the people. There's never enough money to fix all the problems. Once you realize that you might also realize that there our no saviors in the political system. Wilders doesn't add any real value to the political process. Personally, I think he does the opposite.
How his trial will go is anyones guess. His lawyer managed to suspend the trial on the basis that the judge might be partial (based on some things he had said) and another judicial body is examining the matter. Wilders actually took the right to remain silent at the beginning of the trial. Quite remarkable since he's very vocal at practically every other venue. I'm not sure what he's trying to accomplish with that. But he is a showman, make no mistake.

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