Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Dutch turn?

I always enjoy being able to post positive news. Last month provincial elections were held in the Netherlands. These elections are significant as they determine the seats held in the Dutch senate.

A new party called Forum for Democracy (in Dutch "Forum voor Democratie" or FvD), led by Thierry Baudet, made great gains, becoming the largest party in the senate with 13 seats (out of 75). The party led by Geert Wilders (Partij voor de Vrijheid or PVV) won 5 seats, giving the two nationalist parties 24% of the total.

I can't say how much the politics of either of the parties genuinely agrees with traditionalism, as I'm not familiar enough with Dutch politics. What I do know is that Geert Wilders tends to appeal more to working-class people and that he does not focus on building party membership but relies on his own media exposure. I do like the advert that he produced for the election:

This seems to me typical of Wilders, in the sense that there is an eloquent appeal to a national spirit, but also that there is still sometimes a liberal frame of reference (as in "we have the freedom to decide for ourselves how we want to live" which works in the context of the video by asserting national sovereignty, but which if taken individually can dissolve the cultural and social forms of a community on the grounds of individual autonomy).

And what of Thierry Baudet? His party is said to appeal to younger people and to the middle-classes. He is an intellectual, having written several books, including one titled "Oikophobia: Fear of one's own". He is a Eurosceptic who wishes to limit immigration. He told supporters in his victory speech:
We stand here in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilisation.

We won because the country needs us. We are being destroyed by the people who are supposed to be protecting us.

Successive Rutte governments have left our borders wide open, letting in hundreds of thousands of people with cultures completely different to ours.

He is said to be especially opposed to the cultural self-loathing of the Dutch establishment.

Thierry Baudet of the Forum for Democracy

One final point. It is particularly heartening that both parties are attempting to counteract what Patrick Deneen in his book Why Liberalism Failed calls "fractured time". It's a brilliant part of Deneen's book (pages 72 to 77 if you have the hardcover). Deneen argues that a core aspect of liberalism is its "presentism" - its dislocation of the individual from both the past and the future. It seems clear to me that this process has gone so far in the Netherlands that both Baudet and Wilders are making it central to their campaigns, by reconnecting people in a positive way to the past and by insisting that this can extend into the future as well.


  1. What do you think is the psychological impulse toward Liberalism?

    Following Nietzsche, I think it is escapism, mentally escaping conditions you perceive as disturbing, or expelling cognitive dissonance with other-worldly fantasy or idealistic (non-empirical) paradigms.

    There are more pleasant metaphors and euphemisms for escapism, one being liberation. The woman who yearns for liberation has learnt to be resentful of her lot of life (due to gaslighting by media, education, role models, etc.), to say 'nay' to life, rather than embrace her feminine biological instincts toward motherhood and dependence on strong men.

    The Stoics had another solution to the all to human problem of anguish: using disciplined reflection to re-calibrate their locus of control in order to find tranquility. i.e. recognising what's in their control and what is not. Thus the Stoic does not seek liberation from things he can't control or from his and society's natural inclinations (unlike the Liberal), but recognises his agency only in the his personal actions. Stoicism may be the 'cure' for Liberalism.

    1. Liberalism is so embedded in English speaking countries that it has become the culture - the "medium" within which people are raised. It also has the support of the elites who see it as serving their own economic interests, and it also has the support of various outsider groups who think it can be exploited for their own interests. Add to that the "millennial" types who think it is leading humanity to some final "sacred" purpose.

      There do exist people who see beyond all this and recognise the damage being done, but they don't belong the class with wealth/power/influence, and so can be socially isolated/contained.

      I think that explains most of why liberalism has dominated. As to psychological impulses, I suspect this varies. For instance, a young person's father often stands in psychologically for the larger society. If that person is in rebellion against their own father, this can translate into rebellion against the larger social order/tradition.

      I think too you're right about "mentally escaping conditions". Maybe there's a dream like element of creating a society with a structure in which people are just happy doing as they will without any inner or outer contention - so that the "struggle" element of life is no longer there.

      It can appeal as well to the prouder intellectual types who want to fashion their own unique framework for living and who chafe at the idea of limiting conditions in doing so.

      I don't, I have to say, have a fully worked out answer to your very good question.

  2. Thanks for that. Yes, it, Liberalism, is the norm, so to some extent perhaps it is 'just what people do', habituated, not something that comes from an instinctive drive or reflective decision. It is 'herd-following' in part, but also personal psychological impulse, which you've provided a good example of in the case of teenage rebellion.

    Perhaps pediatric psychology can help us explain when and why Liberalism, especially Socialism, becomes attractive? I think this is useful because, again following Nietzsche, understanding the genealogy of ideas can sometimes be more useful than attempts to justify or argue against them 'rationally'.