The following essay was emailed to Gates of Vienna today. The writer said that the ideas expressed in the email were too long for a comment, but needed to be understood by us in order that we might have an accurate picture of the political culture in the Netherlands (my paraphrase).
I have edited for clarity and syntax. Other than that, I hope I have remained faithful to the writer’s intent. And if not, perhaps our author will appear in the comments to clear up any infelicities.
This essayist lived in the Netherlands for some years. These are his (or her) observations…
There is a problematic reality in Dutch society that is discussed only within its borders. However, this phenomenon gets little attention outside the country, and Gates of Vienna is no exception. Outsiders need to understand how this problem muddies a coherent understanding of Freedom of Speech as it is understood in the Netherlands.
That problem is: Alles Kan, Alles Mag.
Translated as “Everything is Possible, Everything is Allowed”, this is the leftist-liberal ethic that has been a sore spot, particularly amongst elderly Dutch. They will lament, for example, the possibility of exiting an antique store, housed in a beautiful seventeenth century canal house in the Red Light District, only to step into the street and have their eyes accosted with dildos displayed in the window of the next door sex shop.
One of the prizes that is always unwrapped and put on display by the Dutch is their love for gay rights. This example is used again and again as the bona fides of Dutch freedom. But even staunch supporters of gay rights, some of whom may not buy into the “rights” advocacy” phenomenon, will undoubtedly admit that there is something a bit unseemly in using this as the zenith of civil achievement.
Such a freedom… such an obsession and fixation on this one facet of human sexuality carries within it a counterculture disdain and active hatred for traditional values. Holland is full of this bias within leftist circles.
Theo Van Gogh exemplified this ethic. Even those considered left of centre felt he was over the top. The “Alles Kan, Alles Mag” advocates, having gained such traction within Dutch society are what, in an earlier time, would simply have been termed licentious. But of course “licentiousness” carries baggage, religious baggage, and there is no question that Christianity is “on the outs” in Dutch culture.
This leads me to Gregorius Nekschot. He embodies the Theo Van Gogh model of the cartoonist profession. I applaud them both. Without them, the sad dusting of so-called democrats in Dutch Parliament, led by Jan Peter Balkenende, would never be confronted with the sticky idea of Freedom of Speech. But Nekschot, et al, muddy the understanding of the core values necessary for any civil society, and here’s why. In the article he says:
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The present governing coalition of orthodox Christians, Christian Democrats and Social-democrats is an outright disaster. The Christians in the cabinet try to rob the Dutch of their traditional small pleasures. A smoking ban, a ban on prostitution, a ban on smoking weed, and a ban on magic mushrooms have been introduced. The list is longer but, one by one, these are all attempts to teach the Dutch that their life on earth is not meant to be pleasant.
Nekschot conflates these issues with some form of Christian Puritanism. This muddies the argument. He places himself firmly in the camp with those whose sole concern is their petty pleasures. And the listing is his! He doesn’t lament, for example, the public ban on freely walking in the Dutch dunes due to environmental controls. He doesn’t lament onerous Dutch laws on sole proprietorship, or controls about where people are allowed to live or buy a house. These are ever-present controls. Some of them seriously limit Dutch freedoms… but no! He is worried about magic mushrooms!
I don’t say this lightly… we all, maybe, have equivalent pleasures… but for the “Alles Kan, Alles Mag” types in Dutch society the greatest offense is that their small obsession, their favourite “sin” is under attack, and for that transgression they will storm the Ridderzaal in the Hague.
In the name of “Alles Kan, Alles Mag” personal obsessions become national rights and these people perceive themselves as the vanguard for the whole of society as long as their group’s particular obsession gets not only respect and recognition, but affirmation. Meanwhile, others within Dutch society think differently, but they are shouted down, they get called out and labelled… that’s why Nekschot can get away with a drive-by smear against Christians – accusing them of robbing the Dutch of their freedoms. Calvinists in the Hague they may be, but Christians? Not really!
Nekschot goes further:
In Western culture, rationalism, science, humanism and democracy, in a lengthy and painful process, created the separation between Church and State. Freedom of Speech became a constitutional right in many countries. Thus, ridiculing Christianity, without fear of losing one’s life, has been possible for quite some time.
He is quite right, but he does what every post-modern Christian basher does. He only gets half the picture – he does not see that the Enlightenment was cradled in the lap of Christianity. Without Christianity there would be no Enlightenment. Not only does he typically misunderstand the idea of separation of Church and State (that in America it means the protection of the Church from the State while Canada, for example, sees no such need for this constitutional provision at all), he makes the same mistake that all Post-modernists make, namely that Freedom of Speech was necessary to free people from Christianity. He has it precisely backwards.
Christianity was the impulse that informed the greatest advances against injustice, Wilberforce regarding slavery, or Lord Salisbury regarding child labour laws being just two such examples. Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, one of the bravest and brightest people to expose Islamization, unfortunately makes the same mistake about Western cultural history. She was educated by these Leiden elites who rigorously deny and reject any historic contribution of Christianity to civilization at all. Ms. Hirsi-Ali fell victim to the post-modernists’ indoctrination and to their bogus claims of humanism’s exclusive ownership of rationalism and democracy.
There has always been a complaint in Holland that all behaviour has been micro-managed; from dog poop in the streets to the neighbour’s bushes overhanging onto the adjoining property. On such a small land mass as Holland these small things are justifiably issues. And the small things in Holland that irritate become national causes.
I am not saying gay rights are not legitimate. It is a normal human pathology after all. But smoking dope! Magic mushrooms! Hookers in windows and the concomitant criminality that follows these behaviours! Are these also to be put forth as examples of authentic freedom?
The issue has never been one of Freedom of Behaviour and Freedom of Speech. I have the right to park my car, but I don’t have the right to park my car on my neighbour’s front lawn. There is a necessary limit to behaviour, but Freedom of Speech is always paramount and must never be limited. Behaviour is another category. In Lockean fashion, like it or not, the Social Contract still applies if society is to remain law-abiding.
Many Dutch lament that Freedom of Speech has become the water-boy for “Alles Kan, Alles Mag”. That was never at all the intent in establishing Freedom of Speech.