October 5, 2006

When Tolerance is Just Tolerance

When Tolerance is Just Tolerance


Signs of Moroccan-Dutch good will in Amsterdam [bicyclemark / Flickr]

bicyclemark is our man in the Netherlands. We know him as the active community member who has been around for as long as we can remember, but when he drops the occasional shameless but relevant plug, he reminds us that he’s also hard at work elsewhere. Mark vlogs and podcasts at Bicyclemark’s Communique. Back in May, he produced a podcast that touches on many of the issues we’ll discuss on tonight’s show, about Dutch reactions to the Ayaan Hirsi Ali story.

We asked him about his host country, a liberal bastion of multiculturalism trying to reconcile that tradition with the presence of radical Islam within its walls. We asked, “Is the Netherlands a canary in the coal mine for the rest of the West?” His emailed response is too good not to quote in full:

I think the questions you’re asking are the same questions many Americans have. There is a sense that if the Dutch, “the tolerant” Dutch are turning terrorism-paranoid, then there really must be something terrible happening.

Here comes a rant:

However. What I see is a political game. Similar to the one in the United States, which plays on fears. In Amsterdam, if you can believe this, every first Monday of the month, the city sounds air-raid warning alarms that one would swear are from the WWII era. Maybe they are. If you ask people what the alarms are for… some will respond very seriously: “In case of an emergency or an attack of any kind,” while others will just shrug their shoulders and say — who knows, they don’t bother me. Meanwhile I sit at my desk every first Monday of the month, and I listen in disbelief to what cannot possibly be the Amsterdam I know and love.

The country, like the UK, the US and so many places around the world, has fallen completely in line with the theory that any day now there will be an attack. Why? Because it is a very wealthy country where people enjoy a very high quality of life. Meanwhile there is a shadow world, where immigrants who were brought here throughout the past decades, are living, and they don’t enjoy that quality of life. Unlike 20 years ago, they’re also not as important for the economy, and are therefore seen as disposable.

The Dutch government actually now sends immigrants, assylum seekers, back to the country they escaped! By law, they can only do so if the city or town of orgin will take them back. I have eye witnesses who know of numerous cases where they actually bribe those community leaders to take the people back.

All this to say, the tolerance was nothing more then… tolerance. Which isn’t enough for a healthy society, and now we’re seeing what happens when tolerant people get scared. They find clever loopholes and explanations for going back on the policies that made their country succesful and famous worldwide.

bicyclemark, in an email to Open Source, October 3, 2006.

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