Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why They Hate Him

I wrote a bit the other day about the ongoing hate speech trial of Dutch politician Geert Wilders.  The Wilders trial, of course, encompasses issues broader than  freedom of speech.  There's an apparently credible allegation (I can't really judge, other than that the Dutch media is covering it in earnest) that his trial has been orchestrated by his political opponents, who hate him perhaps more than his Islamist enemies do.  Despite the fact that his party's platform on every subject but one is mainstream European social-democratic -- which is to say hard Left by American standards -- he and his party are regularly described as "far right" by their opponents and the media.  Why the disconnect? It comes down to that one subject left out: immigration, which in the Netherlands mostly means Muslim immigration.

Wilders is loathed by his political opponents because he dares to argue that European nations should be proud of their cultures and should pursue policies of immigration and assimilation that will maintain and strengthen those cultures for the future.  Why on Earth is this controversial to the point of being labeled hate speech?  Firstly, the practical matter: there is simply no other way for a nation like the Netherlands to remain anything you or I would recognize as Dutch while continuing to welcome immigrants. Secondly, being a culturally-defined nation is one half of being a nation-state, and such cultural definition is positively uncontroversial elsewhere.  The Arab League is made up of 21 countries that proudly declare themselves Arab nations and seek to maintain and strengthen their Arab cultural identity.  The Organization of the Islamic Conference consists of 57 nations that declare themselves officially Muslim and enshrine Islamic jurisprudence in their constitutions.  Is it really so offensive then for a Dutch political party to argue that the Netherlands should be proud of her Dutch culture and Enlightenment political philosophy?  If this is hate speech, Europe is surely doomed.


Greg said...

What you say is so obviously true, yet how did this happen? Why did Western Civilization decide to take a suicidal course like this? Who or what is responsible for this? Can this be reversed?

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Good questions, and I certainly don't have any answers, just some broad suppositions. The classicist in me is tempted to consider our civilizational suicide an inevitable arc-of-history phenomenon. It certainly does seem that civilizations do just run out of steam, and the West has had a decent run by global standards.

On the other hand, that view is a product of being blinded by hindsight; everything looks determined in a historical view, when it certainly wasn't at the time. There are certainly points in early Roman history when Romans must have wondered whether their best days were past. So there's always hope.

As to reversal, I think the most important thing we can do is to continue to stress, publicly and in private conversation, the surpassing value of our Western freedoms. Remind your friends that our Western cultural values are the foundation of our political freedoms, and remind them that "multiculturalism" requires giving equal respect to cultures that do not value them. Raise your children in the same awareness.

Western cultural confidence has certainly been undermined by political action over the last generation or two, particularly in Europe, but I don't really see a plausible political path to strengthening it. I don't really know how to turn a culture around; I don't really think anyone does know. All we can do is try.