Going Double-Dutch

Globalization and nationalism don’t mix well. They can’t, but this has been going on a long time. In the seventeenth century the Dutch were a global trading power, the global trading power, and the British wanted to be just that. That’s where the insults come from. A Dutch oven isn’t really an oven – it’s just a big pot – and a Dutch door isn’t much of a door – it’s more a gate with a window on top – and no one needs a Dutch uncle. That guy is useless to the family – and of course a Dutch treat isn’t a treat at all. You pay your own way – but the British were in a bad mood. The Great Fire of London in 1666 was bad enough, but the next year the Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames, then up the River Medway to Chatham, where they burned three capital ships and towed away the Unity and the Royal Charles, the flagship of the English fleet – and that put a quick and humiliating end to the second of four trade wars with the Dutch. The British fought back with idioms we still use today, about Dutch this and Dutch that. Sure, the British lost – they were humiliated – but everyone knows the Dutch are useless. The idioms were all they had. The only good thing that came of that second trade war was James II taking the Dutch colony of New Netherland and renaming it New York – but we eventually ended up with New Amsterdam, the Big Apple. This didn’t go well.

All this ended with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, placing William of Orange on the English throne as co-ruler with his wife Mary – both royal cousins from the Netherlands. This put the English on the same side as the Dutch, so they could gang up on France. The Dutch were toast, but France never was much of trading power, and French and Indian Wars and then the Louisiana Purchase got them out of North America. England prevailed – and then the Sun Never Set on the British Empire – until it did. Individual nations got very proud and fought to take over the world and make it just like them. There were two World Wars about that. Those bled England dry. There would be no more Empire, just a loose Commonwealth of this and that. Globalization lost. Blood and soil nationalism, with its one-culture one-language emphasis, actually won.

America took up the slack. America hadn’t been bled dry by those wars. America became the default global trade empire, without ever using that word, getting rich by selling its products everywhere and importing massive amounts cool stuff too. Life was good, and when diplomacy didn’t work, wars were fought to “open new markets” – or to stop communism, which might have been the same thing. It’s been that way for seventy years, and the only recent competition was the European Union, formed to tamp down the nationalism there. Free trade across borders, and free movement across borders, and a common currency, would put an end to that previous nonsense. No one there would ever be bled dry by that blood and soil nationalism that had ruined everything. They’d be like the Americans, but with more style.

The one-culture one-language thing, however, turned out to be a problem. Until this year, and Donald Trump and his Svengali, Steve Bannon, that had never been a problem here. We’ve proudly said we’re a “melting pot” where everyone has something to offer, even the Irish, and since the sixties, even the black folks, and now our gay brothers and sisters too – maybe. We’re still working on the Muslim thing. Hispanics are an issue too, for some people. The swastikas being painted on synagogues across the country each weekend now are a problem too. We’re working on it, in spite of Donald Trump. Many are working on it because of Donald Trump.

They’re not working on it in Europe. Britain joined the EU but decided to keep their own currency, which might have been a warning sign. Last summer they voted to leave the EU entirely, sort of. Free trade across borders was fine with them, but they’d had enough with free movement across borders. There were too many people in their streets and in their schools, and damned near everywhere, that didn’t look like them or think like them or act like them, and who talked funny. Keep them out – but the EU is pushing back. Free movement across borders is part of the deal – an essential part of the deal. Free trade across borders isn’t an a la carte option. You’re in or you’re out. Expect tariffs. Expect a shrinking economy. Sure, Donald Trump has guaranteed Britain a special bilateral trade deal, so they can trade with us and forget Europe entirely, but being cut out of open trade with all of Europe won’t be wonderful. That could be deadly. Negotiations continue. Globalization and nationalism don’t mix well.

It’s the same in France. There’s a good chance that Marine Le Pen will soon be their next president – and she has a specific one-culture one-language problem with Muslims, and wants France to drop the Euro and leave the European Union, and be “France” again. Her father is Jean-Marie Le Pen – he ran for president once too and his problem was with Jews – he’s Holocaust denier. He stood no chance. She stands a chance. Vladimir Putin thinks she’s wonderful. Donald Trump likes her. Her father is on record saying he’s a big Trump fan. A special bilateral trade deal might follow too.

There’s something in the air:

The Paris region has passed a new rule obliging laborers on public building sites to use French, copying action taken elsewhere in France to squeeze out foreign workers.

The Ile de France region passed a “Small Business Act” on Thursday aimed at funneling more local public contracts to small French businesses.

It includes a so-called Moliere clause which will oblige firms working on publicly-funded building projects, or in other areas such as transport or training, to use French as their working language…

The French government has long criticized EU rules that allow companies to bring in much cheaper foreign workers temporarily, often from Eastern Europe, who undercut locals.

Try that in the United States and all commercial and residential construction would shut down. Moliere would be puzzled too.

And then there are the Dutch. Afshin Molavi, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, takes us on a little tour of a curious old building:

It’s no exaggeration to say that modern market capitalism was born on this spot on this month, exactly 415 years ago, when a trading company known as the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie – the United East India Company – was born.

Walk into the silent, empty courtyard of the Dutch East India Company, as it is better-known in English, and you will be taking steps inside the genesis of our modern world. The VOC, as its brand notes on the door, was arguably the world’s first modern multinational company, pioneering the kind of global trade networks that we take for granted today. If we barely bat an eyelash that we have apples from New Zealand at our local grocery store, or spices from India one click away, it’s partly because of the Dutch East India Company’s trading prowess.

That trading prowess explains the four Anglo-Dutch trade wars long ago, but it was a good thing:

The Dutch East India Company drove what has become common to our modern way of life: consumerism. In the process, it also created whole groups of people and regions dependent on exporting goods abroad. In a sense, it lit the fire of modern globalization. The Dutch East India Company also anchored Holland’s 17th-century golden age, when Amsterdam had become the richest city in the world and European intellectuals from Rene Descartes to John Locke flocked to the city.

Amsterdam spawned the 17th-century Dutch enlightenment, which, as author Russell Shorto persuasively argues in his book “Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City,” was a precursor to the enlightenment wave that swept through Europe in the 18th century. That enlightenment, in turn, spawned revolutions against the old order and led ultimately to the creation of a unique experiment in governance: the United States of America. In that sense, the Western world of democracies owes a debt to the Dutch of the 17th century.

There’s a reason for that:

Amsterdam had a secret sauce that made it, well, great: state-sanctioned religious tolerance (in an age when that was scarce), innovative and risk-taking entrepreneurs, an incipient individualism, government that invested in trade, and the most sophisticated capital markets known to mankind.

It seems that they got that “melting pot” thing working just fine, making everyone rich and happy, but globalization and nationalism still don’t mix well.

All of this matters 415 years later not purely for academic purposes but because we are, if we believe conservative French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, at a defining moment in history, when “we are experiencing the end of one world and the birth of a new one.” For Le Pen and others hoping for “the end of one world,” all eyes are on Geert Wilders, the Dutch firebrand anti-Islam populist slated for a strong showing in the parliamentary elections this week.

We now know the type:

Wilders has a Trumpian way of dominating the headlines. With provocative tweets and a distinctive mane of bleached blond hair, the leader of the Party for Freedom, or PVV, is riding a wave of anxiety in the Netherlands aimed at political elites, globalization, migrants and what Wilders derisively calls the “Islamization” of the country. He has also referred to “Moroccan scum,” and, as the New York Times reports, has been the recipient of financing from U.S. organizations.

Geert Wilders has his American alt-right fans and funders, for good reason:

Wilders is channeling an anti-immigrant sentiment and suspicion of Islam shared by at least a third of the country, according to Pew Research – albeit maybe not as extreme. In his bombastic and hateful rhetoric, he is, in some senses, an extreme overreaction to famously liberal Netherlands, giving voice to a hinterland (or heartland, depending on your perspective) that sees elites in the capital, the Hague, or cosmopolitan Amsterdam, as out of touch. It has become a familiar story of our era, one that fueled Brexit in Britain and the election of Donald Trump in the United States.

Still, they’re working on that:

For some two decades, Netherlands, under the guise of multiculturalism, hardly made much of an effort to integrate Muslim and other migrants. Indeed, the phenomenon of “black schools” – composed mostly of children of migrants – and “white schools” of Dutch natives reflects multiculturalism gone wrong. Dutch political leaders today are more strictly enforcing the integration of migrant families, especially those seeking citizenship.

Don’t expect that from Betsy DeVos and her charter-schools-for-everyone Department of Education. Let parents choose schools with absolutely no integration of the kids of migrant families, if they wish. That’s freedom. Expect this:

Like most rabble-rousing populists, Wilders offers simple (and frightening) answers to complex matters. To say that the Islamic faith is worse than the Nazi Party is not only outrageous, but also a great insult to the 78 percent of Jews of Holland who died under Nazi rule – the highest death rate of European Jewry. Pledging to ban all mosques will incense devout Muslims for sure, but, even more, will alienate the hundreds of thousands of Dutch Muslims who are neither extreme nor particularly devout or mosque-going and are getting along just fine in Dutch society. Identity will once again become a weapon of politics.

In a political season of rising populism, suspicion toward globalization and Muslims, and repudiations of the status quo, the elections in the Netherlands will send a signal to the world about where we are headed next.

Yeah, but Donald Trump is a fan of Wilders. There’s something in the air, and Elliot Hannon simply notes this:

Republican Congressman Steve King – who has a history of tip-toeing around white-nationalist rhetoric – fired off a tweet Sunday afternoon that reeked of white-supremacist ideology. The tweet referenced “culture and demographics” being fundamental to European and American “destiny” before closing with: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

It is hard to read that any other way than it was written. It is an apparent, explicit call to protect white “culture and demographics” from immigrants. It’s the type of rhetoric that you might find at a Klan rally. Steve King is a congressman from Iowa.

The tweet was in support of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has risen in the polls on the back of similarly virulent anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric to the point where Wilders’ Dutch Freedom Party could come out on top in parliamentary elections in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

That might happen, but Nick Ottens points out something else:

The absence of a serious manifesto did not suggest that the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders had any intention of governing after the election on Wednesday. Now two former elected officials of his Freedom Party have confirmed that he isn’t interested in power – nor the responsibility that comes with it.

Jhim van Bemmel, who sat in parliament from 2010 to 2012, told the broadcaster “Human” that Wilders pulled out of accord with center-right parties that year for fear of losing popularity.

For two years, Wilders supported a minority government led by his center-right rival, Mark Rutte. He walked out when the ruling parties called for more austerity.

Wilders maintains that he quit in order to protect pensioners from cuts. Van Bemmel disputed that at “total nonsense”.

The man has no firm positions – he just wants to win and let it go at that – and this sounds familiar:

Van Bemmel also alleged that Wilders deliberately antagonized other parties with his infamous “fewer Moroccans” statement in 2014.

After placing second in local elections that year, Wilders asked Freedom Party supporters in The Hague if they wanted “more or fewer Moroccans” in the city. The crowd chanted “Fewer! Fewer!”

Van Bemmel said Wilders knew this hate speech would make a coalition deal impossible. By forcing the mainstream parties to speak out against it, he could maintain that the “establishment” had, once again, colluded to keep him out of power.

That was Trump’s primaries and campaign, and there’s this:

He has refused to release a serious program (it is literally one page with eleven bullet points) and he has so far refused to defend it in election debates.

He tweets and gives interviews to gossip magazines and tabloids, but avoids the serious media, which – taking a cue from Donald Trump – he calls fake news.

And that doesn’t matter:

Freedom Party diehards don’t seem bothered. Around 15 percent of the Dutch are voting for Wilders no matter what.

But his consistent refusal to take responsibility vexes conservative voters who want politicians to do more than talk about the problems they see in Dutch society.

The parallels to Trump are a bit spooky, and the Associated Press has more:

Wilders has made headlines and drawn condemnation for more than a decade for his anti-Islam rhetoric, which has included comparing the Quran with Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and calling for a tax on the veils some Muslim women wear.

At the same time, support for his party has grown in fits and starts, mirroring what he calls a “Patriotic Spring” sweeping Europe. Despite slipping in the polls recently, the Party for Freedom remains on track to become one of the biggest parties in the 150-seat lower house.

And there are the tweets:

As protests and riots unfolded this weekend in Rotterdam over a Dutch government decision to block the visits of two Turkish ministers, Wilders fired off regular incendiary tweets.

“Go away and never come back… and take all your Turkish fans from The Netherlands with you please. #byebye,” he said in one as Turkey’s family affairs minister was at the center of a tense standoff at the Turkish consulate.

And there’s the lack of detail:

His one-page election manifesto is light on economic policy and heavy on pledges to “de-Islamize” the Netherlands, a nation of 17 million where an estimated 5 percent of the adult population is Muslim.

Wilders calls Islam a threat to western democracy and vows to close all mosques and ban the Quran, if he wins power.

And there’s the vindictiveness:

Wilders set up his party so that he is its only member, allowing him to keep a tight rein on its message and lawmakers.

Wilders “rules his kingdom like an emperor,” brother Paul Wilders said in a recent interview with Dutch broadcaster RTL. “Whoever contradicts him is finished, family or not.”

Yep, he’s Donald Trump, and then there’s that man who doesn’t matter anymore:

In the first public outing for the president since his wife Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, the former president warned against the divisiveness of current nationalist movements around the world.

“People who claim to want the nation-state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalize separatism and division within borders all over the world. It’s like we’re all having an identity crisis at once – and it is an inevitable consequence of the economic and social changes that have occurred at an increasingly rapid pace.”

The event was in honor of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was remembered by Clinton as exemplifying the spirit of inclusion and problem-solving, the opposite of the characteristics he described in nationalist movements…

Clinton juxtaposed Rabin’s example against our natural tendencies, which he linked to nationalism: “we are programmed biologically, instinctively, to prefer win-lose situations, us versus them.”

“This is a very old story,” he explained. “It’s as old as the Holy Land, and much older. Ever since the first people stood up on the East African savanna, ever since the first families and clans, ever since people encountered the other. It is a very old story. And it always comes down to two things – are we going to live in an us-and-them world, or a world that we live in together?”

That’s the question. Globalization and nationalism really don’t mix well, and with nationalism we all go Dutch treat. Everyone pays their own way. I keep mine. You keep yours. But that’s not what the Dutch had in mind all those years ago. With the Dutch East India Company they invented the modern world. We’re walking away from it.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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