A couple of days ago I wrote: “I sometimes despair for this country”. This week I came to the conclusion it is much worse then that.
It started out as a normal lunch with co-workers. There were six of us. I don’t quite remember how we got there, but conversation turned to climate change. From there it was just a few small steps to the EUnion and democracy. It proved to be quite an education.
I found myself being ganged up by four others for my ‘quaint and old-fashioned’ notions of democracy and sovereignty. My suggestion that people should be allowed to have a say in the way they are governed was, quite literally, laughed away as ridiculous. The consensus was that allowing ordinary folks to vote on the future of the country was unworkable. It was argued that since the majority of people do not have the time and the energy to emerge themselves in complex issues, it follows that they would make the wrong choice. Ergo, best not to let them vote, best not to have a referendum on any issue. When I held up Switzerland as the obvious counter-example, the dismissive reaction was ‘Yes, but they’re rich because of their corrupt banking system’.
These colleagues were perfectly comfortable being ruled by mere mortals, who they assumed were current with the intricacies of ‘complex issues’. And if decisions and measures were made that were not exactly legal, well, sometimes you have to bend the truth a little to safe-guard us all from harm. My question of ‘What makes you think these people are better equipped to deal with complex question then you?’ was met with incredulous laughter. It never did receive a serious answer.
The shocking part in all of this was: These were not evil people. These were ordinary colleagues, well-educated (there were three PhD’s at the table) and, arguably, well-informed people with broad interests and tastes. But the blind, uncritical belief in the men and women making up our parliament and government was staggering.
And then it just hit me: Most Dutch aren’t that interested in freedom and democracy, in having a say in their own future. They don’t want to deal with ‘complex issues’. They want to get on with their lives in a secure manner, safe from extraneous responsibilities. It seems that to most Dutch freedom and sovereignty are no longer a priority, are no longer an issue. This country of ours has already ceased to be.
Now, why does that bother me enough to write this blog? Why do I bother?
[UPDATE001] Serendipity strikes again as Dr. North writes:
“The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning … for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth”, says Peter Abelard, in one of many quotations extolling the virtues of scepticism. Although I am accused of the sin of cynicism, it is scepticism that I believe should be the default mode, especially – and always – when dealing with politicians, their officials, and the media.
Until we can learn that simple lesson and apply it, we are nowhere. We end up the gullible tools of the politico-media complex, ready to do their bidding at a drop of a hat, on the strength of a diet of lies and distortion that we are prepared to believe.
But whether we have the capacity as a nation to transcend our collective gullibility and develop into a mature, functioning democracy, I have my serious doubts. And recent experience has not given me any cause for optimism. These are dark days, and especially so when, as a collective, we are authors of our own grief.