Orange Juice Politics

Orange Juice Politics

"I was struck by how gamely - how earnestly - the Maastricht mayor answered questions"

26-02-2024 · Column

At the national level, Dutch politics is a mess right now. For many of us, the desire to have a government in place again is offset only by nervousness about what such a government would look like. There are worse things than a power vacuum, after all.

Maastricht mayor

How refreshing, then, to receive a small reminder this week that the Dutch contract between those who govern and those who are governed remains stronger than the front pages might suggest. The reminder came in an unlikely form: my 11-year-old daughter and her friend were looking for someone to interview for the school yearbook, and decided to approach the mayor of Maastricht. Keen to do it all themselves, they arranged the whole appointment without help. When the day came, the pair ascended the steps of the historic Stadhuis alone, and chatted with the city’s highest-ranking public servant over glasses of orange juice. Listening to the recording afterwards, I was struck by how gamely - how earnestly - the mayor answered questions that ranged from “If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be?” to “What’s the worst part of your job?”.

Feeling like citizens

I don’t have any particular insight into the current mayor’s politics - it might well be that we don’t see eye to eye on many policy decisions. I could nevertheless not help but be impressed. It is difficult to imagine two ordinary primary schoolers being able to arrange something like this in many other countries, including my native South Africa. The girls left the interview feeling taken seriously and listened to. In other words, they left feeling like citizens.

Small examples of trust

It's a long way, of course, from the Maastricht city hall to the Hague. And anyone can take half an hour from their day to speak to some children, you might argue; this hardly means they have the answers to the country’s most pressing problems. But is that true? Exactly because a widespread perception of political and social decay is one of those problems. Looking around us for small examples of trust and bipartisanship can help to prevent political distrust from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Elsje Fourie, assistant professor of Globalisation & Development Studies


Author: Redactie

Photo: archive EF

Categories: Columns and opinion
Tags: elsje fourie,elsjefourie,mayor,dutch politics,children

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