The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk – Hegel
Elections took place in the Netherlands’ 12 provinces last month, where the voters were called to reelect the provincial councils, responsible for daily administration of the provinces. An important role of the provincial councils is the election of members to the Senate. The election takes place within three months of the provincial council elections and comprises the designation of 75 members who will make up the senate or Eerste Kamer (First Chamber). As with all local elections, the Dutch elections proved to be an acid-test for Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition.
In this year’s elections we witnessed a frightening sight. It was a vision of an owl spreading its wings across the country and covering the delicate tulip fields with a mantle of populist rhetoric tinged with wisdom that would have had its place in Plato’s Gymnasium. The Dutch had just replaced the somewhat coarse Geert Wilders and his hockey stick, with the erudite Thierry Baudet and his owl of Minerva. It’s to be hoped that the results of the provincial elections reflect nothing but a protest vote. If they don’t, we will be in big trouble because here is a politician who denigrates women, is against immigration, against the EU, and doesn’t believe in global warming. He even goes as far as to say that people like me are a curse to the Netherlands by diluting Dutch society with impure foreign rituals like not having dinner before 8.30 pm, whereas the rest of the country eats at six.
Apart from the fact that if he becomes the next Dutch premier there will be yet another EU referendum that I won’t be able to participate in, Thierry Gaudet – whose name makes him more suitable for Marine Le Pen’s party instead of his own – not only has warped views of the world, but also an inborn talent of convincing ordinary people with powerful metaphors inspired by Greek and Roman mythology.
For Baudet, I do not have my place in the Netherlands because I prefer to read in French or English. I’m not defending Dutch culture, am I. Must I start to worry like my father did in the 1930s, escaping persecution in Poland and France?
The self-hate that we are trying to transcend by putting everything into administrative procedures, by homeopathic dilution of the Dutch population with all the peoples of the world means there will be no Dutch people left. (PvD party conference, in run up to elections in March 2017)
I’m exagerrating of course, and I don’t believe for one moment that Baudet wants to rid the Netherlands of all foreign blood. At least, I don’t want to believe. Even Baudet himself admits rather conceitedly, that his use of language is, “poetic.” No, this is about defending and promoting a culture that is, “the best culture in the world.” It is in danger of being swamped by a foreign invasion of rituals and beliefs that menace to sink even further a country that already lies below sea-level. For Baudet, it is the influx of these foreign cultures that is threatening Dutch freedom, undermining Dutch values, and will lead to a loss of Dutch national identity. He claims that the influx of immigrants is not a problem if it leads to a strengthening of national values by integration into Dutch culture.
Thierry Baudet’s political party, Forum voor Democratie (Forum for democracy) proposes new legislation in the form of a law to protect Dutch values. It describes 5 areas of Dutch culture that should be guaranteed:
- Dutch law takes precedence over religious doctrines in case of conflict,
- Freedom to believe what you want to, and the freedom not to believe,
- Freedom to mock, criticize, and question religious beliefs,
- Fundamental equality of all individuals, regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation,
- Freedom of choice of partners – forced and child marriages are not tolerated.
Baudet’s vision of where the Netherlands should be heading corresponds to an intellectual revolution that paves its way through the whole of Dutch society. It concerns everyone who lives in the Netherlands and comprises a profound nationalism-based vision of how schools and universities should be run, how the arts should receive subsidies, and what the freedom of the press should entail. It would correspond, in fact, to a complete cultural homogenization of Dutch society.
Like all the other countries in our boreal world we are being destroyed by the very people who are supposed to protect us. We are being undermined by our universities, our journalists. By people who get art subsidies and who design our buildings. – Thierry Baudet (Election victory speech, March 21, 2019)
The concept of a boreal world is nothing new to extreme-right-wing rhetoric. In an interview given to a right-wing weekly, some years ago, Marine Le Pen’s father alluded to the menace that a boreal Europe was facing.
We must imperatively seek agreement with Russia to save boreal Europe and the white world. Boreal Europe includes the Slavics, but also Siberia that I fear the Russians cannot keep for themselves. – Jean-Marie Le Pen
There is nothing poetic about the term “boreal” used by Le Pen. He was referring to the Aryan and polar origins of the European race, and made no secret of favouring a union running from Brest to Vladivostok.
One cannot but agree with Thierry Baudet’s views on freedom of beliefs, religious tolerance, and gender equality. But what begins as a cultural homogenization – the only antidote to the cultural dilution that Baudet is so afraid of – runs the risk of ending up as ethnic cleansing and genocide. It is a continuum that follows an evil logic. Numerous historical examples from all over the world testify the fact that the ideology of homogenization can lead to the practicality of genocide.
The most frightening fact is that this continuum can be facilitated and carried out by the most ordinary individuals who do not appear to be monsters. German philosopher Martin Heidegger is the archetype of an intellectual who begins the process. At the other end of the continuum, Nazi civil servant Adolf Eichmann has shown us how this process can be carried out, and by whom.
The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgement, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together. – Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem
Thierry Baudet strongly believes that the Dutch elite hate their own culture and that Dutch universities are indoctrinating students with left-wing ideologies.
All cultural and societal institutions in the Netherlands are infiltrated by left-wing activists to a significant degree. We need to, slowly, start getting our people behind those desks. – Thierry Baudet (quoted in NRC)
Baudet’s views on the reform of Dutch universities have a sinister historical echo. On 30th June 1933, Martin Heidegger took up a post as rector at Freiburg’s Alfred Ludwig University. In a speech to the rectorate, he outlined his vision of the future of German universities and the role they must play in the education of the perfect German citizen.
We regard the German university as the “high” school that, grounded in science and by means of science, educates and disciplines the leaders and guardians of the destiny of the German people. The will to the essence of the German university is the will to science as will to the historical spiritual mission of the German people as a people that knows itself in its state.
– Martin Heidegger (The Self-Assertion Of The German University)
Thierry Baudet likes to think that he is the only politician who has understood what is going on in the Netherlands and beyond. If we have reached the end of a historical cycle, philosophy can teach us lessons concerning how we got here and where we should head. That is what Hegel meant when he alluded to the owl of Minerva spreading its wings at dusk. Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom, and it seems that the owl has deserted her and chosen Baudet as the new keeper of wisdom, and that, in itself, is not very wise.
The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with nightfall. – Thierry Baudet, 2019