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“Maybe something went wrong in his upbringing”

Maxim: the way Geert Wilders expresses himself is typically Dutch

Right-wing politician Geert Wilders visited London last week to show his anti-Koran film Fitna in the House of Lords. At a press conference prior to the presentation, he called the Turkish prime minister a nut and the prophet Mohammed a barbarian, a mass killer and a paedophile. Is this rude (or direct, as some might say) way of expressing yourself typically Dutch?

“Well, the Dutch were never known for their politeness”, says Nico Baakman, lecturer of European Studies. “Ever since the 17th century, foreigners who visited the Netherlands have complained about the bad manners of the Dutch. When I was a student and demonstrated against the Vietnam War, the slogan ‘Johnson: murderer’ was used, but the judge decided that this wasn’t allowed because it insulted a friendly head of state. But in spite of our reputation, I don’t think Geert Wilders’ manners are typically Dutch. We are not that rude.”

Chahinda Ghossein, a medical student who was born in Lebanon but has lived in the Netherlands for twenty years, disagrees with the maxim. “The Dutch people I know are very polite. Some people might think it’s furtive not to be direct, but I think it’s good to express yourself in a way that doesn’t hurt or insult other people. I must say that most people I know are Limburgs, maybe manners are different in the north, but then again Geert Wilders is Limburgs too. Maybe something went wrong in his upbringing? Not everybody has a chance to learn good manners as a child.”

Sjaak Koenis, associate professor of philosophy, disagrees too. “You can find this kind of foolishness everywhere. The way Wilders expresses himself has nothing to do with his cultural background, but with his political ideology. He thinks he says what other people think and therefore he has to speak in a direct, simple way. It is his political style, you see other populist politicians do the same. Another reason why this isn’t typically Dutch, is because this is not the way the Dutch used to do politics. We have a history of ‘coalition politics’. Since the murder of Pim Fortuyn, a lot of the elegance and politeness has disappeared.”

 

Cleo Freriks

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