Tuesday, 22 February 2005

Understanding freedom, responsibility and tact

Needless Protection Scheme
News reaches me that two of the most "fearless" read vociferous, irascible, controversial, irreverent, contentious, offensive and extremely opinionated MPs in the Netherlands are urgently in need of accommodation. [1]
Now, in the UK and the US, there is the Witness Protection Scheme which is supposed to help people in mortal danger when they have offered to testify on behalf of the crown or state in cases of serious and heinous crimes. [2]
This is necessary when the principals being pursued by the crown or state have a web of influence that can easily apprehend detractors with impunity and almost no consequence.
Usually, this involves taking the witness into some protective custody during the trial and after the witness is provided with a new identity, accommodation, life and probably career with some income and hopefully out of the reach of the hoodlum's network.
In the case of these 2 Dutch MPs they live in both a prison and a naval barracks, neither being criminal nor military personnel. Both accommodations offer quite good protection as well as a restriction to their freedom at great cost to the tax payer.
The cost of a soft centre
During the Prime Ministerial tenure of the previous Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mr Wim Kok whose government resigned en masse in April 2002 taking blame for the Bosnian Massacre, we somehow knew that some leadership existed which had been running from 1994.
Unfortunately, that resignation plunged the country in a chaotic political situation that allowed populists to thrive at the expense of moderate, visionary and competent politicians.
In fact, there were no such politicians to take on the mantle that Mr Wim Kok left and we ended up with the sympathy vote for a murdered extremist party leader and a weakly majority party leadership. [3]
This government lasted about 100 days before another election was called because of the intra-party squabbling of an immature party based on the personality cult of Mr Pim Fortuyn. [4]
The electorate then returned the current government whose visionary stance has included tinkering with the heretofore non-taxable perks of the middle-classes, a cack-handed handling of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease crisis, seemingly smart but surreptitious immigration policies, a lack of understanding of multi-cultural nature of the populace compared to the need to integrate and a number of high profile cases of the Prime Minister protesting about being depicted as penny-pinching, an ex-porn star and a toddler.
At one time, I did think my views of this Professor of Christian Sociology lacking genuine appeal and leadership qualities was harsh, but polls have suggested that the feeling is quite widespread. [5]
This was further corroborated in the Economist in the annual periodical for 2005 "The World in 2005" where they asserted that he has failed to stamp his leadership on the government at first and the people at large.
Consequently, a weak government or weak leadership is fertile ground for alternative and sometimes alarming populist views expressed by people who does not necessarily have a strong political base but built one of notoriety through unbridled commentary pandering to the basest instincts of the electorate.
These politicians in a nutshell
Ayaan Hirsi Ali [6] who is popular for having adopted rather radically views against Islam stemming from escaping the tradition in her native Somalia of submitting to the arranged marriage desired by her father and having committed apostasy has not endeared her cause to the liberation of woman of Islam nor fulfilled any worthwhile role-model objective apart from rebellion.
Geert Wilders [7] was once a speech writer, a profession which allows expression of sound bite without responsibility for the consequences, the Axis of Evil [8] speech by President George W. Bush in 2002, is case in point by David Frum [9]. Wilders now seems to have taken on a double anointing as Son of Pim Fortuyn, the last major indigenous voice against everything Islam and their practitioners.
There is no doubt that there are serious issues to be discussed to do with Islam and integration within the nominally Catholic, Protestant and at time Calvinist Dutch society.
More so, one can see the view that Mr Wilders expresses that tolerance is the problem in this society. We have tolerated everything including other people's intolerance leading to the stiffening of attitudes in the general populace.
However, this whole issue of toleration is a multi-dimensional perspective of the Dutch society where tolerating free speech should not be a license to be offensive as Theo van Gogh was, and the toleration of homosexuality, prostitution and soft drugs should not mean that those in that facet of society are either victimised nor should their minority rights be affected by any expression by the various people of influence in society.
Knowing tact
The Dutch are known for being quite direct and straight to the point, whilst the English are known for being rather more reserved and still achieving the same result. Politely rude is probably one of those epithets ascribed to the English.
However, it is really about the rich use of language, effective communication without offence; Yoruba a language spoken by some 40 million or so people in Western Nigeria with derivatives spoken in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil and some parts of Cuba juxtaposes the use of general commentary with proverbs and those are interchanged in ways to allow everything that needs to be said to be said without offence and quite clearly understood.
This is exemplified in this saying "Owe leshin oro, oro leshin owe, bi oro ba sonu, owe la fi nwa a" (A Proverb is the horse of expression and expression is the horse of proverbs, when an expression is lost, the proverb is the means by which the expression is conveyed).
In essence, the good use of expression in the exercise of the freedom of speech, albeit with both moderation and responsibility allows any sensible person to live in peace and at peace with their neighbours and society.
The wanton use of shock populism which attracts hearing and opprobrium in good measure takes the perpetrators into the extreme and makes them ready targets for people of similarly extreme conduct.
One is not apologist for violent conduct and that has been expressed time and again in many of one's previous blogs; but it is the symbiosis of life that allows for a one of extreme views to create the atmosphere for attracting extreme reactions to those views.
Nitwits Protection
These two Dutch MPs are hardly in need of witness protection [10] rather they need therapy in understanding the quality of tact in the expression of views.
Suddenly, that apt quote by Benjamin Franklin begins to make a lot of sense.
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Thankfully, there are a lot smarter people in the Netherlands than these two politicians, for once I even feel that it is mocking the oppressed can be exhilarating.
References
[1] Expatica - Living in, moving to, or working in the Netherlands, plus Dutch news in English
[2] BBC News | UK | Witness protection: A change for the better?
[3] Right-wing parties unseat social democrats in Dutch elections
[4] Dutch Government collapses as feuding cabinet quits - smh.com.au
[5] Dutch public gives Balkenende a 'lousy' rating
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
[6] The mission of an ex-Muslim
BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Moving stories: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Geert Wilders
[7] In Netherlands, Anti-Islamic Polemic Comes With a Price (washingtonpost.com)
Death threats force controversial Dutch MP underground
[8] President Delivers State of the Union Address - 2002
[9] Rationale behind the Axis of Evil phrase
[10] Witness Protection Scheme Cartoons

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