Geert and Gedogen

Gedogen is one of those (many?) Dutch words that is somewhat difficult to translate. On the face of it, it means to tolerate, permit, suffer and allow. However, there is something lurking behind those straightforward definitions; an additional layer of meaning that indicates that the tolerance, the permission and so forth are granted, well, perhaps not grudgingly per se, but perhaps almost in spite of the thing that is being tolerated. There’s a sense of turning a blind eye to behaviour that, strictly speaking, is illegal, or should not be condoned, but which one tolerates out of a sense of liberalism and of a sense of “live and let live”.

Someone who has been the beneficiary of much gedogen is the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders. He, on the other hand, exhibits near zero gedogen for his targets: immigrants, Muslims and Moroccans.

We’ve just had elections here in the Netherlands for the town councils (the Gemeenten), and Wilders’ party fielded candidates in just two places: The Hague and Almere. During the campaign, Wilders went on record as saying that voters in The Hague should vote for a city with lower taxes and, if possible, fewer Moroccans. As a result, one Labour candidate (Fouad Sidhali) tweeted a comparison of Wilders to Hitler, a statement he later withdrew after criticism from senior Labour officials, saying the comparison had been unjustified.

I found it fascinating to observe the media and politicians exhibiting gedogen towards Wilders by focusing on Sidhali’s tweet, rather than the initial remark by Wilders. It was as though Wilders was the injured party, rather than Sidhali, who had probably responded with understandable exasperation over yet more of Wilders’ xenophobic rhetoric.

Wilders then (oh so predictably) responded by saying Fouad Sidali’s rethink was sensible but that ‘it would have been more sensible to leave for Morocco’.

And so it goes. Geert grins under the grace of gedogen.

But perhaps a line has now been crossed. During last night’s after-election celebrations in the Hague, Wilder asked his supporters ‘and do you want more or fewer Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’ To which the crowd chanted ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’. ‘ We’ll arrange that,’ Wilders said with a faint smile (or was it a smirk?) when the chanting died down.

I would like to think that people are beginning to think that enough is enough, and that the emperor has no clothes, other than rags of xenophobia and racism. We will see what happens during the European elections in May.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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