Saturday, October 10, 2009

What's Going on in Europe?

I imagine I'm not alone, a citizen of the U.S. who really doesn't understand what's going on in Europe. From the little I read in the press, it seems that we need to just write off all of Europe as some sort of failed conglomeration of Euronations--either write them off or join them.

Here's a quick word association: When you say Europe, I say. . . Socialist. Correct? Wow, there's some deep understanding of the issues. Most Americans, including myself, are woefully and willfully ignorant about the rest of the world.

The discussion of Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, given to him by the Norwegians, is just one example of the confusion that exists in my mind about Europe: people on the Right say something like Obama's Nobel Prize is Europe's bid to re-colonize America. That's from Dick Morris: "Europe wants to reverse the American Revolution and re-colonize us and it sees in Obama a kindred spirit willing to do its bidding." Is Morris right? Hell, I don't have any idea.

The photo is of a guy named Geert Wilders. I don't know much about him, except that he's an anti-Islam politician in the Netherlands. What does that mean, exactly? How much influence does he have? Is the backlash against Islam in the Netherlands on the rise? Again, I have no idea. Wilders put together a 10-minute film in March of 2008 that was supposed to have Holland in a "panic." I guess they survived. The film is called "Fitna," meaning "mischief" in Arabic. [An alternate translation: "unbelief," "confusion."] The film is critical of the Koran; Wilder has called the Koran a "fascist" book that incites violence. Here's a blog that catalogs the fallout over Fitna. I can't honestly say I remember hearing anything about it in March of 2008. Evidently the website Atlas Shrugs had the Wilder film, but it's disappeared. There's still information about it on that site, however. The film can be found on YouTube, but I'm not going to post it here. It's difficult to watch, which was Wilder's point. When films first came out about the Holocaust, they were difficult to watch as well, I'm sure. I wonder where Geert Wilder is living today, because he's surely under an Islamic death sentence.

Here are Parts 1 and 2 of an interview with Wilders from Fox News. I don't recognize the voice of the interviewer.

Wilders belongs to the "People's Party" and has recently been voted Holland's most effective politician. [Commentor "Vince" reminds me that there is no such country known as "Holland." Of course he's right, and this is just our lazy American way--the Netherlands, Holland, Dutch. But I would say to Vince that he will also see me using the term "America" or "American," for which some politically correct people in my own country would take me to task. It's just sort of a lazy shorthand, Vince.]  Some call Wilders an Islam-basher and say that all over Europe, people like him are trying to appeal to anti-Muslim prejudice. Or are they trying to appeal to the head-in-the-sand attitude of secular Europeans who don't get it--that the 6,000 and growing number of mosques in Europe might somehow be a problem? A million Muslims in the Netherlands in 2006, double the number in 1990. The Netherlands a country of 16 million.

Here's a speech Wilders gave to the Dutch Parliament. He sounds sort of flipped into crazy about Islam, but maybe he has good reason:Madam Chairman, this government, this elite does not have even the slightest will to oppose Islamization. No, it looks to it as a great enrichment of the Dutch landscape. All those snug mosques, those cute headscarves, those cozy burkas. Yes, the Netherlands really becomes more beautiful with that. Here and there from time to time some are left dead, or some are raped, and eventually our country will go bankrupt. But all that may not spoil the fun. Only a grumbler would pay attention to that. Just have patience for a little while, because we await the Islamic Utopia.

I need to read up on this guy. I'm particularly interested in what's going on in the Netherlands because my family roots are there--my grandfather emigrated from there when he was fourteen years old in 1902. I still have relatives who live there, cousins my age who "vote left," they tell me. Holland is a bigtime Socialist country, and now I read that it's becoming a Muslim nation. What is going on in Holland?

A friend gave me some books to read that look interesting, but I haven't gotten to them yet. Undoubtedly they would be a start in understanding some of the issues facing Europe. I feel like I'm almost hopelessly behind the curve on all of this.

Londonistan, by Melanie Phillips, 2006. It seems like London has lost both its mind and its soul. Phillips is a British journalist. The book is described as powerful, frightening, and courageous--a last-minute wake up call for the British to act before its too late. The book's thesis: Britain has largely created a culture which breeds Islamic terrorism. How and why has this happened? Well, it sounds just exactly what Obama and his acolytes are pushing in this country.

First: Britain no longer believes in itself, no longer cherishes its founding values, and no longer thinks it has a role to play in the world. Wow, does that sound familiar?

Second: British authorities have seriously misjudged the threat of Islamic terrorism. Therefore Britain is engaged in a policy of denial, appeasement, blaming itself, and hiding its head in the sand. Read the news: denial, appeasement, self-blame--doesn't that sound like the main thesis of most of the Obama speeches we've heard lately?

Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Too, by Claire Berlinski, 2006. Europe has lost its way and has a gaping hole in its soul, with its outright repudiation of its Christian heritage. Berlinski is an American academic and journalist who has lived and worked in Europe for many years. She argues that Europe is in the midst of a major crisis--one that will impact America and the rest of the free world.

The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, by Walter Laqueur, 2007. Lacqueur has four-plus decades of experience writing on Europe's recent and contemporary history. He has no tolerance for political correctness and does not mince words. Europe's immigrant populations have high birthrates which increase social tensions, since the concept of the melting pot is utterly alien to Europe. Immigrant groups have ghettoized themselves and this hostility to the host countries is breeding violence. Europe will become a gigantic museum with Muslims as the ticket takers. Good-bye Europe. Depressing.

There are simply not enough hours in the day.

Update: Holland has a long, strong tradition of tolerance and freedom of speech. This is my grandfather's brother, Gerrit Roorda (1890-1977), speaking out in Holland against the Vietnam war. In 1966, at the age of 76, Uncle Gerrit walked 35 km in a Vietnam protest march. My grandfather said he was an avowed Communist, a man who "couldn't keep his mouth shut," so for the last 50 or so years of his life, he couldn't get a visa to visit his American brother.

His other brother, Jan Roorda, and Jan's wife Rien, were awarded the Certificate of Honor by the Yad Vashem for saving Jewish families in their small Dutch village during WWII.

That's the Dutch tradition that I know--politically complicated, even among families, but most of all, tolerant, of all voices. Is Islam tolerant? Judging just from the reaction to Geert Wilder's film, I would say a blanket "No." The facts of the film were never disputed, yet Liveleak was forced to pull the film from its site because of "serious" threats to the staff. When the European Union condemned the film, saying it inflames hatred, and calling the movie "anti-Islamic and insulting," others wondered where the EU's calls for tolerance had been when the jihadis were busy blowing up schools, businesses, rioting, and otherwise seeking to kill non-Muslims and those who are not strict adherents to their brand of Islam?

I am grieved at what's happening in Holland, and I want to know more--beyond the soundbites. My guess is, so goes Holland, so goes Europe. And then they would like America to be next--so we should be paying attention and getting educated. Or are we already just hopelessly behind? And is that question just hopelessly naive? I'm afraid the answer is "yes" to both.

Update #2: Here's an article written by Rep. Peter Hoekstra, (R, Michigan) in the WSJ, Opinion, titled "Islam and Free Speech," dated 26 Mar 2008, around the time the Wilders film was released. Pete Hoekstra was born in Holland and came to the U.S. at the age of three. His district in Michigan has the largest concentration of Dutch Americans in the country. His is a good voice to be speaking to the issue of the Wilders film, although I wish he had viewed the film before writing about it.
Hoekstra writes that free societies hold freedom of speech to be a fundamental right: Criticism of Islam, however, has led to violence and murder world-wide. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie over his 1988 book, "The Satanic Verses." Although Mr. Rushdie has survived, two people associated with the book were stabbed, one fatally. The 2005 Danish editorial cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad led to numerous deaths. Dutch director Theodoor van Gogh was killed in 2004, several months after he made the film "Submission," which described violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch member of parliament who wrote the script for "Submission," received death threats over the film and fled the country for the United States.

While efforts to create parallel Islamic societies have been mostly peaceful, they may actually be a jihadist "waiting game," based on the assumption that the Islamic populations of many European states will become the majority over the next 25-50 years due to higher Muslim birth rates and immigration.

What is particularly disturbing about these assaults against modern society is how the West has reacted with appeasement, willful ignorance, and a lack of journalistic criticism. Last year PBS tried to suppress "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," a hard-hitting documentary that contained criticism of radical jihadists. Fortunately, Fox News agreed to air the film.

I do not defend the right of Geert Wilders to air his film because I agree with it. I expect I will not. (I have not yet seen the film). I defend the right of Mr. Wilders and the media to air this film because free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can appease the radical jihadist movement by allowing them to set up parallel societies and separate legal systems, or by granting them special protection from criticism.

The entire article is a worthwhile read.

Update #3: Dutch right-winger Geert Wilders wins challenge against British ban

From some Home Office British spokesman (which I assume is like hearing from an anonymous White House "Senior Spokesman": ''The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence. We still maintain this view.''

Fabulous, how the Brits are so diligent about keeping right-win crazies out of their country. Recently they also banned American right-wing talk show host Michael Savage. They also published a list of people banned from the country for "fostering extremism and hatred." Said Michael Savage of Britain's Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who decided to publish the names of 16 of 22 people who have been banned by the government since October: "She's linking me with mass murderers who are in prison for killing Jewish children on buses? For my speech? The country where the Magna Carta was created?"

Savage is another figure who doesn't coddle people with PC speech. He recently said about the epidemic of autism in this country that autism is often "a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out." I don't know that I buy what Savage says there; I only know what I see, which is parents, particularly in the grocery store, who seem to be clueless about how to be a parent to their child. Yes, I see that just about every day. Is there more autism? Probably, yes, more diagnosed autism than in years past. Are all children given the autism diagnosis really austistic. Almost certainly not. Savage says he is considering legal action against Smith for defamation.

What I would like to see from Jacqui Smith, rather than a list of people she has banned from entering England, instead is a list of people she has happily let into the country. If we had any actual practicing journalists these days, maybe such a list would be produced through, oh I don't know, something they used to call research.


Vince said...

יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

This is Aaron's Blessing and I lay it upon your brave forebears who risked life and limb ti help the oppressed.

Maybe I can give you a few markers to go by?

The Netherlands (there is no nation called "Holland" ) not only has a history of tolerance but als one of war and trade. We were the first republic in the worl; both the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man have their roots in our revolt against the king of Spain, once our sovereign. Our national anthem stil commemorates this fact.

This Revolution we call the War of Eighty (yes) Years and it was a political uprising against oppression by the northern states (Holland being one) of those in the south. As with your Civil War, religion and beliefs got mixed in with mercantile and other economic interests. The result, from 1650 on, was again very much like the U.S. situation from 1865 on. The traders in the north ruled, the land owners and factory workers in the south suffered.

Let's skip Napoleon an French rule (1795-1815) as well as the Kings imposed on the old republic by the Vienna Congress. Fact is, we still have a constitutional monarchy, mostly all in peace and quiet but this year's Parliamentary budget discussions once again have to deal with the wealth of the Oranges and their power.

-to be continued-

Vince said...


The much-touted Dutch tolerance finds its roots in the need to pacify many parties interests over long centuries. Catholic or Protestant? Mercantilism or industrialisation? King or President? War with England? Yes, several times. Colonies? Yes, but with subtle reins, not as brutal as the Belgians and Brits colonized. Indonesia was, for centuries, The Dutch East Indies and we did then what Petraeus and McChrystal advocate now: Ally yourself with the people in the countries you occupy; carrots work better than sticks.

Which is not to say that some islands, notably "Atjeh", now written Aceh, were "pacified" with long wars, atrocities and war crimes by Dutch officers - one later was prime minister and famous for not seing the dangers of Nazi-Germany.

The German occupation still is the point of reference for what's right and wrong in our country, which makes it easy to forget our East-Indian history. The point here is, that Indonesia is the largest Musl'm country and that our Dutch libraries hold the oldest and widest studies of that land: geography, history, languages, culture - and religion, Islam. We knowe these people, they have lived among us and we amongst them for centuries. Islam is not , repeat, not the problem.

The problem is this young upstart whose photograph you include above. His old boss in the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (the VVD, sort of your Republicans) saw electoral gain in making Islam a problem. W. saw it too and took it to extremes. But, held back by VVD membership, he started his own movement. I stress: Movement, because his Party for Freedom, PVV, has no membership, no meetings, no party elections nor anything you associate with a party. It has a website, that's it for the public. It has W. and his friends. The PVV is W. period.

What's happening here and elsewhere in Europe is a problem the U.S. has grappled with for centuries, has fought wars over and still divides the nation. The problem is race. The problem is white people hating other skin colors.

Other cultures always integrated and gave to the Netherlands and we accepted it gracefully. It took us centuries to learn how to do so but we finally understood that oppression and hatred serve no good purpose. We are even good friends with the French, the English, the Germans, Indonesians and and Japanese: All nations that once were the subject and object of just such hatred.

Now, this man has once again opened the doors to the dark side of mankind. Yes, this nation (that is, part of it!) once ruled half the world. We dealt with Japan when no one else was allowed to. We knew Musl'ms better than they understood themselves. We protected Jews from a heinous enemy - or turned them in for profit, as happened to Anne Frank.

You see, there were and there always will be people like your forebears who stood up for freedom at their own peril. Hence the blessing.

And then there are those that were cursed by Aaron, by Moishe and countless others: The haters, the warmongers, the dividers, the inhospitable, the selfish profiteers. Yes, mister W. profits by protection paid for by me and all others in the land. He thrives on it.

And that's all I can say for now, a visitor arrives.
Maybe til later?

Hope this helps, for now?

Yours truly,

Drs. VHJM van Neerven MSW MA
editor-in-chief VNC communication counsel
Amsterdam the Netherlands

Labwriter said...

Vince: Thank you so much for your post. I appreciate you taking the time to help me to understand the other side of the issues surrounding Geert Wilders. You have not made your profile public, so I don't know much about you. What is VNC Communication Counsel?

I was with you until you made this statement: "The problem is white people hating other skin colors." We in the U.S. call that playing the race card. It's a simplistic answer to a complex problem. People here tend to use that argument when they aren't able to make a better case using logic and reason. I do not share your point of view. Your country

Then you say that some saw "electoral gain in making Islam a problem." While that may be true, I think it's naive and dangerous to believe that radical Islam isn't a problem.

In our country, our children have been overwhelmed in school with the concept of political correctness, to the point that many white people felt guilty unless they voted for a black man (oops--African-American man) as President; a candidate who, had he been white, wouldn't have been qualified to be elected to the Senate.

I think that Wilders' comments about past political correctness and "tolerance of intolerance" are exactly right. Here's a partial transcipt of the interview with Fox News:

[Wilders speaking] "We tried for many decades in Europe, we tried it the other way, we tried dialogue, we tried to do it by accepting other cultures, by calling them equal and by saying that everything is allowed. . . we were politically correct. We tried it every time, every day again. . . . we pampered all those people, we have a real perverse social security system. People even get more social benefits than when they work at the minimum wage, so there’s no economic incentive to get the best out of yourself, to work. . . and if you work, you assimilate, you have friends, you have something to be proud of, you share the values more often. If you don’t, you give people housing without any pay, if you give people social benefits. . . . It’s the Dutch politicians, that were responsible, that they allowed it to happen, that they never said, ‘Stop, it’s our country, we are the boss, it’s our values, if you want to come and stay here, that’s OK, but only if you adhere to our values, to our principles, and our law and constitution. . . . With all the tolerance we are having, unfortunately we are also tolerant to the intolerant, we should learn to start being intolerant to the people who are intolerant to us. This would be the best lesson for the Dutch government to learn."

Respectfully, I ask you, where is he wrong?

Vince said...

Dear Lawrence,

As this is a busy Monday, I will restrict myself to your first question, for now, and a few short notes.
But not without first giving you thanks for the thoughtful, what's more, peaceful reaction you posted.

Here is the company's profile sketch in two languages:

fiercely independent non-profit web-based network
of international professionals in the human sciences
philosophy - psychology - defense - religion - politics
we retain our experience in wood- and metal-construction to balance our human science component
the arts are always on our agenda as acute reflections of our changing societies

Van Neerven Compagnie - Communication Consult
een klein zeer zelfstandig communicatie gezelschap om informatie van het net te verzamelen
ter verspreiding van select nieuws en commentaar aan redacties, politici, parochies en industriëlen
en alle anderen die daar belangstelling voor (kunnen) hebben
op uw verzoek kunnen wij een gericht informatiepakket samenstellen
of samen met u uw informatie-verstrekking verbeteren

VNCCC is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
editor-in-chief and sole point of contact
Drs. V. H. J. M. van Neerven MSW MA
Drs. Social Philosophy, Universiteit van Amsterdam / Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
MSW Social Work, Sociale Akademie Markendael, Brabant, Netherlands
MA Phenomenological Psychology, Sonoma State University, California, USA

Van harte hopend dat wij u van dienst mogen zijn en dat u ons van dienst kunt en wilt zijn

met democratische groet

drs. VHJM van Neerven MSW MA
editor-in-chief VNCCC
phone x 31 (0)20 682 8103

Then here the short notes:
Your point on political correctness is well taken. It is certainly something to always be critically aware of and I will come back to it at a later date.

I agree with you on radical islamism; for me the essence of the expression is in the first word. I see many threats coming from many radicals, not only Muslems. I think of settlement- squatters in Judea and Shomron, many from the USA; of communist liberation armies as they were and are active in Africa, South America and elsewhere; I'm not happy with Christian fundamentalism, or Hindu attacks on Mogul antiquities and, well, the list is seemingly endless.

It is my sincere hope and the work of my company, to promote peace by understanding that all this is only seemingly endless; that we can put an end to senseless violence and hatred. Call us naive or idealistic, as you like it. We think that the pen, err, keyboard, is mightier than the sword. We have no illusions about the time and effort it will take and we fully realize our small part in it all. But hey, lety's give it a shot. What have we got to loose?

I wish you good times and, again, until later. In the meantime, the WKP article is not bad reading:

Respectfully yours,
VHJM van Neerven

Labwriter said...

Thanks, Vince. I'll read the Wikipedia article about the Netherlands. I used to believe as you do, that the pen is mightier than the sword. For me that changed when I saw those planes plow into the World Trade Center. I think we are in for some very bad times. Do you have any idea how much gun and ammunition sales have gone up in this country since Obama's inauguration? I know people who are buying guns and learning to shoot who never, ever would have thought of doing that. We live in very strange times. Things are changing in ways I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Just curious: how old are you, by the way?

Hope to hear again from you soon. Do you live in Amsterdam?

Vince said...

Yes, I live in Amsterdam, after the south Nl where I was born (1952, 57 years old now) and raised and studied first. The time of Apollos to the moon and Vietnam. Military service and conscientious objector. Then on to Israel, into a real war. From there, thru contacts made, to Vancouver, Mexico, California (ah, Sonoma!). Studies. More study in Leuven, Belgium. Continued at both Amsterdan Universities. More than fifteen years in this city now. Love it ambiguously, like I loved Berkeley, San Francisco, New York, Ciudad de Mexico. Bologna.
So many people, languages, smells, sounds, visuals. Overwhelming, at times.

So I also like te peace and quiet of my modest apartment, time for thought and ruminations.
History, philosophy, arts and religion keep me in balance - and at work.

I remember Kent Sate very well, Freedom park in Berkeley, 'tune in, turn on, drop out,' Woodstock- times of hope. Lived under Carter, Reagan and Bush 1. Going down, I felt.

So I turned to teaching & preaching and finally, (now) communication and a bit of politicking.
And always learning, keeping an open mind, listening carefully (I hope!)

I am a (step)grandfather and keep in touch with the young. They feed my mind and keep my age down; and I try to give something back in turn.

Come Saturday, I will marruy my sweetheart from forty years, Hetty from Bandung, Java. (Finally, in RC Parish "Love".)


You got me to write quite a bio for everyone to see!

Kudos to you.
I enjoy this conversation. Let's keep it going.

Tell me some about yourself that's not in the profile yet - if I sparked off something.


Labwriter said...


Thanks for your detailed reply. We are the same age, which is what I predicted. So we share a chronological context.

I was born in Denver, Colorado and I was raised, along with three brothers, by a toxic narcissist, so I learned the hard way the lesson that appeasement never works. I also learned early the school of hard knocks. My gene pool is largely Dutch and Scottish.

I lead a dull life here in the American Midwest. I have never owned a passport, and as the years go by, I see less and less reason for getting one. People on the left and right coasts in America mockingly refer to where I live as "flyover country." I refer to it that way with pride. The midwest mindset suits me just fine. The Metrosexuals from Washington, D.C. and Manhattan and San Francisco often seem to me as people who have never been off a sidewalk. When the revolution comes, they will be the first to go. I would rather be surrounded by the midwestern and western "good old boys" (and girls) who know how to chop wood, who know how to grow their own food, who know how to defend themselves. Get my drift?

I'm a writer, so I spend my days sitting at a computer. Before I did that I was a Registered Nurse for 20 years, working in Labor & Delivery. I've estimate I assisted on about 2,000 deliveries. After that I went back to school for an English Literature degree. I taught college-level writing, but quit when I realized that I would never have time to do my own work.

I have finally admitted to myself , after several years of sitting in front of a computer all day, that I will be much better off if I get myself back into good physical shape, so five days a week I carve out time from my writing to "spin," which is indoor group cycling. It's the closest thing to running that I've found, something I did for 12 years about 20 years ago. It's good to feel like I'm getting back into that again.

I've been married to a wonderful man for 36 years. Congratulations and all the best on your own upcoming marriage, by the way. My husband is a "take no prisoners" kind of guy, a Slovenian by origin. He works for a company that writes software for the health care industry--an international company, so he works every day with Swedes, Chinese, Californians (ha--that's a joke), Italians, Canadians--you name it. It's fascinating to listen to his stories of trying to bring together this disparate group of people.

We have one son--so he is Dutch, Scott, Slovenian. He is the guy you would want to have with you in a foxhole. He spent 5 years of his life in the Army in Iraq. He's home now, and teaching his father to shoot. He's very smart (like his father), very opinionated, and a lovely, warm person who is wondering how he will be able to start a family with all the nonsense going on in the world.

Today--at this moment, in fact--my yougest brother's wife is in labor with his and her first child. Otherwise, I have one nephew, a son of one of my brothers. My husband's sister and her husband are childless, an increasingly popular choice in this country, it would seem.

All the best to you,
Becky from Flyover Country, USA