Who is that ‘normal, ordinary Dutchman’ prime minister Mark Rutte and the new coalition keep talking about and who stands to gain from the new government accord? The papers have been on his trail but he is proving to be elusive.
The normal, ordinary Dutchman, or NOD, is first of all a tried and tested ‘right-wing trick,’ says professor of public administration Hans de Bruijn in Trouw. ‘He is the ‘silent majority’ of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump’s ‘forgotten’ Americans, and Rutte’s own ‘hardworking’ Dutchman of a couple of years ago all over again,’ he told the paper.
It is also ‘a rhetorical device’, and it works. ‘The clever thing about it is that it is undefinable: everyone can say he is a NOD. Besides, everyone likes to belong, or at least not be regarded as the opposite of hard-working and quiet – ie lazy and loud-mouthed. It also feels right to hear someone say he is doing his best for ordinary folk. No one could be against that,’ the paper quotes Bruijn as saying.
CDA leader Sybrand Buma said in a recent lecture that the NOD is an ‘angry, frustrated citizen whose job has been taken by an immigrant or Eastern European and whose children’s schools teach too much theory.’ It was a statement which generated much criticism at the time.
According to historian Jos Palm in Trouw, to both Rutte and CDA leader Sybrand Buma the NOD does indeed represent the political middle ground. He has been neglected by all parties as they ‘focused on the civilised, thinking part of the nation, the people who don’t grumble about the Netherlands no longer being the Netherlands,’ Palm said.
But singling out NODs is not a good thing because it promotes dividing the population up into groups, Palm told the paper. ‘As long as the political elite doesn’t rise above this the situation the normal, ordinary Dutchman finds himself in is not going to improve one bit,’ Trouw quotes him as saying.
Are you a NOD?
The paper then went out into the street and asked a random selection of people if they consider themselves NODs.
‘Political bullshit,’ said pensioner Leontine Groothorst (62), ‘the normal ordinary Dutchman doesn’t exist.’
Cora van Ark (49) and unemployed ‘is Dutch because that’s what it says in my passport. But the politicians are not standing up for pensioners or people who haven’t got a pot to piss in.’
According to builder Stefano Losada (28) ‘you can be green, yellow or purple. If you act normally, you’re a normal Dutch person. That includes me. Of course! But criminals and scum, no.’
‘The term conjures up people who only eat cheese, take their kids to school and eat at six. It would have been better if Rutte had talked about all citizens, just: everyone,’ 18 year-old journalism student Nina Stefanowski told the paper
The Volkskrant thinks Rutte means the NOD to represent ‘families with children on middle incomes’. This prompted a number of its readers to have a go at the prime minister.
‘In a society such as ours the government shouldn’t worry about the normal ordinary citizen: he will be fine. The government should look after the vulnerable,’ Marcel van der Poel wrote tersely.
‘Shame on you, Mr Rutte,’ wrote G. Geukes. ‘I find the use of the term ‘normal, ordinary Dutchman very discriminating. As queen Máxima once asked: is there such a thing as the average Dutch person? As far as I can see the government agreement doesn’t consider the infirm and pensioners to be normal, ordinary Dutch people.’