The Netherlands has lost the plot

Author and actor Ramsey Nasr thinks the Netherlands has lost the plot. Norms and values have disappeared and it’s the politicians who are setting a bad example, he writes in the NRC.

‘It’s the Poles. It’s the Greeks. It’s the arts. It’s the Muslims. It’s the elite. It’s Europe. It’s always someone else’, Nasr writes.
The Dutch political leaders are ‘xenophobic and narcissistic’ and we are going to pay for what they are doing, Nasr warns. ‘In Brussels the Dutch have relentlessly badgered all those lazy Southern countries into accepting the 3% norm- no exceptions, we have to be strict. How pleased they were with themselves in the Netherlands plc. ‘I am Duch, so I can be blunt’. Now that we can’t make the norm ourselves, we shouldn’t expect any pity. We have fallen into a trap of our own making: 3% is 3%. We are going to suffer.’
Nasr goes on to name other examples of Dutch heavy handedness such as the prime minister causing a furore in the European parliament because of his refusal to condemn the PVV anti-Pole website while subsequently wanting the same parliament to support his tightened up new asylum policy.
Personal obsessions
The Netherlands is fast becoming an island, says Nasr and, worst of all, the government is obstructing international justice. It blocks any European initiative to break the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. ‘This has nothing to do with policy or the national interest but with the personal obsessions of two people. Our foreign minister has sisters living in Israel and his wife is from Israel. And Geert Wilders, the great facilitator, thinks deporting the Palestinian people would be the best solution for the Middle East.’
Nasr blasts the two passport controversy: while everybody else can only have one passport, in the absence of any information on the matter from the PVV it may be assumed that Wilders’ wife, who is Hungarian, has two as does foreign minister Rosenthal’s wife. There are rules for some and then there are the rules for everybody else, Nasr implies.
Whining child
The consequences of Dutch finger pointing are devastating, he says. ‘While we are still congratulating ourselves on the International court of justice in the Hague – where else but in the Netherlands – the rest of Europe thinks we are not to be trusted. If we are not in constant violation of European treaties which we ourselves helped to establish, we are trying to get out from under them or trying to get them changed. (..) The Netherlands is regarded like whining child trying to get its way.’
Nasr wonders what will happen if the Netherlands is indeed left to its own devices, and ‘a basketful of chocolate guilders’. ‘We had better know who we are’, he warns. The problem is that only a country that is conscious of its own strengths, economically, diplomatically and culturally can afford to keep other countries at arm’s length. But we’re not. We’re floundering, prey to an identity crisis bigger than the government deficit’, he writes.
Norms and Values – Nasr gets a ‘warm feeling of nostalgia’ when he read the words, they remind him of the guilder – have disappeared. ‘The new norm is no norms’, says Nasr and that includes Rutte’s refusal to recognise the enormous damage done by the PVV to the image of the Netherlands. ‘And how false is it to demand that foreigners adapt themselves when the core of being Dutch seems to be to flaunt every norm?, Nasri wonders.
But it’s not the politicians that have left common decency behind, says Nasri. Television makers and journalists have followed suit. ‘Only a country without norms would allow cannibalism to be presented as entertainment. The foreign press looked on in horrified amazement as two presenters ate a piece of each other’s flesh. (…) The Dutch would never consider it but it does happen: the Belgian commercial broadcaster 2BE recently decided not to broadcast their version of reality series ‘Oh Oh Cherso’. Too vulgar. Here, that would be a recommendation.’
Nasr goes on to say that what the Dutch would call ‘self censorship’ would be called ‘common decency’ abroad. ‘Freedom of speech is often evoked in order to defend things that would be seen as sick, narcissistic, nihilistic and crazy by others’, Nasr maintains.
Dutch culture
It isn’t as if the Dutch, turned in on themselves as they are, are so appreciative of their own culture. ‘Who knows or cares about the Martyrs of Gorkum, or the De Witt brothers? Who read Beets, Potgieter, Leopold, Fockenbroch or even Carmiggelt?’ he asks, rhetorically.
If you don’t care about your history or culture then don’t whine about it when it disappears, Nasr says. ‘Our forefathers have become strangers to us. We have smashed the mirror. It’s time to gather the shards. Without our past we are nothing.’
Citizens need to make an effort, Nasr concludes, and press and politicians should do the same. But first ‘we need a prime minister who gives as the feeling that there are norms and values beyond our individual freedom and who reacts when those norms and values are being violated. Call it: taking responsibility.’

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