Re-pillarization?

Despite having turned Amsterdam’s red light district into some kind of adult entertainment Disneyland, and despite having instituted one of the world’s most relaxed drug policy regimes, the Netherlands were not always home to deep rooted respect of alternative lifestyles.

Even though the officially Calvinist prosperous and liberal Dutch Republic was a safe haven for religious refugees of all denominations during and after the – largely religiously motivated – Eighty Years’ War, which was ended by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and led to the procince’s division and the Republic’s independence from the Spanish Empire – the low countries as a whole remained an explosive religious blend, which, in the 19th century, amidst political radicalisation caused by the industrial revolution, led to a split of the Dutch society into Catholics, Calvinists, Liberals and Labour activists – the pillarization.

Each of the pillars led largely independent lives, while the country as a whole was only held together by cooperation of the pillar elites, a governance model later named “consociationalism” by Dutch political scientist Arend Lijphart, and – with a mixed record – promoted as a universal toolkit to achieve democratic stability in culturally deeply segmented societies.

Today, the Dutch pillarization has largely disappeared, predominantly because the main cultural cleavage – religion – has lost much of its political and social salience over the last decades. But I suspect this chapter of not-too-distant Dutch history is having a significant impact on the Dutch politcal as well as social reaction – from Pim Fortuyn to Theo van Gogh – to those who seem to build a new – this time a muslim – pillar.

Writing in Slate, fellow afoe blogger Scott MacMillan offers a summary of what happened since the murder of Theo van Gogh. Over on Viewropa, you can find a detailed timeline of the events that made Scott use the title “Holland in Flames”.

And, of course, you should watch the television short film (11 minutes) which, it is assumed, led to van Gogh’s assassination. The film is certainly a little disturbing to watch, but far less so than footage of Iranian women being stoned. It is called “Submission“, and already the third most popular item on “ifilm.com”. Spread the word.

28 thoughts on “Re-pillarization?

  1. As a dutchman, born in the early sixties, I think that’s very perceptive. I remember from my youth that the respective pillars could not stand eachother, competing for righteousness, superiority and influence, but they more or less managed to hold their adversarial tongues in public.

    In the seventies, the traditional pillars vaporized because the hippy revolution was all about burning traditional holy houses to transcend into freedom: the new holy house in which the majority of the Dutch populace found consent.
    In the “new Netherlands” traditional religion was tolerated because it had lost all influence.

    Post revolution, drunk from our liberal victory, we started mass-importing people from foreign cultures to satisfy our neoliberal hunger. It seemed a sound decision. Archaic pillars were a conquered hill and pluriformity was beneficial in keeping the old pillars down.

    Of course, interesting enough, the large base of immigrants to the Netherlands were not pluriform at all, sharing a strong and cohesive belief. And the seeds of a new pillar were planted.

    We all know the rest of the story. Many immigrants were unsuccessful in finding a place in Dutch society, unable or unwilling to meet market demand and failing to adapt. Isolation without perspective followed, and purpose is sought and found in the safe base offered by religion and religious peers.

    The Dutch have created and/or allowed for the creation of a pillar of failure. A pillar hoping for change.

  2. Finally!

    This is the first time since Van Gogh’s murder that I’ve seen the term pillarization mentioned on an English language website, even though the concept is crucial if you want to draw even the most superficial sociological conclusions about Dutch society (including those ethnically non-Dutch bits of Dutch society)

    I just did a Lexis-Nexis search for pillarization. Only one hit in the last 6 months: a May 2004 article in the Weekly Standard of all places bashing Holland for legalizing gay marriage. It’s a fun read (“Dutch conservatives made a valiant stand for procreation”) but not really helpful.

  3. This is not the first time the Netherlands has had its faith in multi-culturalism shaken. For those too young to remember, in the mid 1970s the South Moluccan community began a series of ‘actions’ including the hi-jacking of a girl’s school, which ended peacefully, and the hi-jacking of a train, which didn’t end peacefully. My recollection of ‘riots’ or, if preferred, very rowdy demonstrations in Capelle a/d Ijssel are very vivid – it was really quite frightening.

    The solution was a measured, very Dutch response of making sure the youths knew they had crossed the line with behind the scenes work to gently persuade the less radical majority that what they thought they wanted (return to an independant garden of eden in Indonesia) could never be.

    Hopefully, those sensible Dutch attitudes still exist today and the country is not seduced into some kind of ‘war on terror’.

  4. Hopefully, those sensible Dutch attitudes still exist today and the country is not seduced into some kind of ‘war on terror’.

    Seduction? How about forced? At some point, a incident so terrible will happen that even the most impotent apologetic will have to accept that the War on Terror is real. Not something that can be managed by talking or made irrelevant by comparing it to other terrorist incidencts of 25 years ago.

    The Dutch Moluccans, who never numbered close to a million in the Netherlands nor had brothers in arms in every European country, wanted to change the fabric of European society. They merely wanted an Moluccan homeland in Indonesia. Your comparison is wanting imo.

  5. “At some point, a incident so terrible will happen that even the most impotent apologetic will have to accept that the War on Terror is real.”

    Why is it that everyone who makes this kind of prediction gives the distinct impression that they would welcome such an incident, because it will confirm everything they say about the evils of terrorists and punish Europe for not supporting Bush’s war?

  6. At some point, a incident so terrible will happen that even the most impotent apologetic will have to accept that the War on Terror is real.

    A self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Cornelius, you say that there were less than one million Moluccans, and you are quite right. How many radical muslims live in the Netherlands, 1000, 10.000? How many radical muslims will be living in the Netherlands if the Dutch begin some knee-jerk persecution of those vast majority of muslims that just want to get on with life and not change the ‘fabric of European society’?

    As for impotency:
    Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength.
    (Frances de Sales)

  7. Why is it that everyone who makes this kind of prediction gives the distinct impression that they would welcome such an incident, because it will confirm everything they say about the evils of terrorists and punish Europe for not supporting Bush’s war?

    Not welcome, but inevitable.

    If I believe that Islamists have the goal of destroying liberal Western societies or having people submit to their demands *and* I believe that relativistic, politically correct attitudes encourage these goals then it doesn’t matter what I want. I just think it will happen unless there are changes. So your right in one sense. It does confirm what I think. But I wouldn’t welcome it.

    As for you ‘Bush’s War’, it’s a red herring and intellectually flaccid argument to simply spout conspiracy theories.

  8. Why is “Bush’s war” a conspiracy theory? Doesn’t everyone acknowledge that it was a war of choice, even if they argue about whether it was justified?
    And I think the implication that Europe’s “impotent apologetics” deserve what’s coming to them is pretty strong…

  9. Cornelius, you say that there were less than one million Moluccans, and you are quite right. How many radical muslims live in the Netherlands, 1000, 10.000? How many radical muslims will be living in the Netherlands if the Dutch begin some knee-jerk persecution of those vast majority of muslims that just want to get on with life and not change the ‘fabric of European society’?

    Neither you or I know how many ‘radical’ Muslims there are in the Netherlands. But what is radical?

    There’s a paradox for Europeans with regards to their Muslim citizens because in many cases fundamental Muslim values which are shared by a ‘vast majority of Muslims’ are in direct contradiction to mainstream European values. This is where the whole multicultural paradigm breaks down. Is it knee jerk prosecution to arrest a Muslim for threating violence towards someone who critices the Koran? Or Muslim values? You may not think so but some Muslims, maybe many, would. You seem to be saying don’t prosecute these people because you may radicalize them. I think that’s absurd. Immigrants to your country need to adopt to your ways, not the other way around.

    Large numbers of Muslims in living and working in Europe is a new phenomenon, and I think it should be treated with much skepticism.

  10. First of all, big Kudos to Tobias for mentioning the pillarization (verzuiling) of Dutch society. His essay makes a lot of sense.

    The Netherlands also have a culture of ‘talking’ and many Dutchmen are under the impression that nearly everything can and should be said. In Flanders, Belgium, the Dutch are very often seen as arrogant loudmouths (I can testify to this, as a Dutch expat who has lived for almost 30 years in Belgium). This is also an important cultural element in the events surrounding Van Gogh’s death. Hence all the fuss, this time justified, about ‘freedom of speech’.

    The Dutch, in general, are very outspoken and confrontational. It is a country of strong opinions, not having an opinion is seen as a weakness. I have been following the comments threads on some major Dutch blogs and saw confirmed what I already knew: Dutch discourse can be very hard and shrill, at least on ‘the streets’. Combine that with criticism of the Koran, for instance, and you see one part of the problem.

    The outspokenness (is that a word?) is however counterbalanced by two other pillars: that of political correctness (Sixties onwards) and that of lingering Calvinism (do not show emotions, stay ‘real’).

    I am summarizing and simplifying a bit here because I haven’t slept for 24 hours (work), but you can connect some of the dots yourself.

    On another topic, I am glad Cornelius mentioned the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. I think that is one the greatest dangers we are facing nowadays. People more clever than I should really start talking about that.

    “in many cases fundamental Muslim values which are shared by a ‘vast majority of Muslims’ are in direct contradiction to mainstream European values.”

    Yes! That also. We need to clearly define mainstream European values and debate the consequences of enforcing them (and the risk that some of these values may be watered down) if we should so decide.

    I am going to stop here before sleep deprivation reduces me to a babbling heap of nonsense. Just felt the need to add my 1/2 eurocents to the debate before it disappears off the radar screen.

  11. This is where the whole multicultural paradigm breaks down. Is it knee jerk prosecution to arrest a Muslim for threating violence towards someone who critices the Koran?

    Justice should be faith blind, so if, say, an animal rights activist is arrested for threatening violence so should an islamist. If not, so not.

    Immigrants to your country need to adopt to your ways, not the other way around.

    Immigrants must adopt the laws of their chosen home. Within those laws, they are free to follow any ways they wish. Or, are you suggesting the Amish people, for example, should have been forced to adopt the ways of the east coast city folk?

    Eventually, as peoples merge, each will adopt ways of the others, which is why America has always had such a vibrant society. And, why we can all enjoy Jazz and a great variety of cuisines.

    Large numbers of Muslims in living and working in Europe [...] should be treated with much skepticism.

    Do you mean like communists? Perhaps we should set up a congressional committee to find out if we have any jihadis hiding within the ranks of decent white christians.

    The Dutch, in general, are very outspoken and confrontational.

    Old Dutch saying: What are two Dutchmen in a room?
    A. An argument
    And three?
    A. A debating society
    And four?
    A. A new political party

    I know it wasn’t your intention, but don’t put the Dutch down too much. They do always have an opinion, but they readily listen to others and will change their prejudices to fit facts more easily than many cultures.

  12. Why is it that everyone who makes this kind of prediction gives the distinct impression that they would welcome such an incident, because it will confirm everything they say about the evils of terrorists and punish Europe for not supporting Bush’s war?

    Because that is a basic tactic of guerilla warfare. One of the aims of a guerilla campaign is to force the superior force to a policy of ineffective repression thus alienating the broader population. The same tactic roughly works for the superior force. Generally you use propaganda to incite the population against the barbaric terrorists.
    One of the problems of such a situation is that a compromise approach is a recipe for failure. You can either be gentle or very tough, but anything in between is bad.

  13. If Muslim imams are preaching that I should be stoned to death because of my sexual orientation, or if they argue that misogynistic oppression should be accepted as the natural fate of women, or if they believe that van Gogh’s murder was understandable and even justifiable in certain circumstances, then some skepticism about these people seems warranted. And yes, cultural engineering: Certainly you’re not arguing that tolerance is something reserved for non-Muslims, or non-immigrants?

    Blanket suspicion of Dutch Muslims, certainly not.

  14. Randy, I don’t know who you are referring to, but I haven’t seen anybody on this blog say anything even remotely like that. Murder and incitement to violence are crimes and should be dealt with as such regardless of race or creed.

    Its the “about these people” phrases I am wary of. What people? Those that plant bombs? The families of those that plant bombs? The fellow church / mosque members of those that plant bombs? The communities in which bombers hide? Or, all members of a particular religion? And, “cultural engineering” just sounds like a politically correct phrase for “civilizing the natives.”

    The forest fire analogy has been used before and seems apt. Fire fighters don’t put a major conflagration out, they know they cannot. Like a war on terror, a war on a major fire can not be
    ‘won’. The solution adopted is to take out any direct sources, contain the blaze, starve it of fuel and it eventually exhausts itself. Containment occasionally includes professionally lighting other fires for surgical removal of combustible material however, this is a dangerous strategy, and where possible it is better to douse adjacent forest with water. So, immigrant and other communities are the surrounding forest, some of it tinder dry, and shouldn’t be ignored. However, far better to reduce the fuel potential by dousing it with a better alternative to radicalism than lighting lots of little fires by treating the community differently to everybody else.

  15. [p]reaching that I should be stoned to death because of my sexual orientation, or if they argue that misogynistic oppression should be accepted as the natural fate of women, …

    That is a bit too easy. It’s not far from the position of the SGP, a political party that is accepted over here.

  16. The solution adopted is to take out any direct sources, contain the blaze, starve it of fuel and it eventually exhausts itself. Containment occasionally includes professionally lighting other fires for surgical removal of combustible material however, this is a dangerous strategy, and where possible it is better to douse adjacent forest with water

    That is a strategy applicable in ordinarily wet, preferably managed, forest, like they exist in most of Europe.
    In other circumstances, such as an arid forest, limiting the fire will mean accumulation of flammable mass, which is unavoidable. In such forests the only way to control forest fires is to set them more frequently and preemptively.

  17. In other words, if there are people who are oppressed, the best is to kill them. There was a guy that thought in this way, he spoke of “untermenschen” or something akin, do you remember who that can be?

    DSW

  18. I remember very well. If you like to draw conclusions then please draw them from all I’ve written. I hope there will never be a need for so radical a measure.

    I said that you need to be harsh, not genocidal, or to be precise, to be harsh or gentle, but nothing in between. The current strategy of ignoring the problem has failed.
    In Europe immigrants too often live in bad quarters and get bad jobs. To be sure immigrants have always lived in worse conditions than the indigenous population, but that will not convince any disenfranchised youth, nor could anyone expect it to.

    To me after 9/11 it is too late for gentleness and there will be wars, but none of them has to be genocidal in nature. And I must add, the sooner decisive action is taken, the less victims there will ultimately be.

  19. To clarify this:
    I don’t there will necessarily be a civil war in Europe, far from it. Internationally between the US and some muslim nations, yes there will be war. Europe better keep out of that as well as possible.

    But Europe’s measures to integrate and assimilate immigrants are poor. We’ve allowed a kind of alternate culture to grow and get into conflict with the main stream. I don’t believe that segregation, which pillarization would come out as would work.

    So some stronger measures are needed, such as breaking up traditional and patriarchial social structures using the full force of the law, ending the worst cases of ghettoisation and use of the secret services even against religious organisations.

  20. To me after 9/11 it is too late for gentleness and there will be wars, but none of them has to be genocidal in nature. And I must add, the sooner decisive action is taken, the less victims there will ultimately be.

    Spengler, over at Asia Times, wrote about this:
    In Praise of Premature War.

  21. If there is war, immigrants integration will be harder, which imply more wars, less integration, etc. Such mindset in fact imply genocide, because it is the only admitted solution (and the implicit idea that one’s own are those to survive)

    Eleven of September 2001 did change nothing in fact, except the silly presumption of some in the USA that oceans put then apart from commoners.

    To keep with my metaphor of forest fires, do you remember Afghanistan? Their Mujahidin and Al Qa’ida, the Taliban, and quite a few other such terrorists were the “controlled” fire set by the USA against the URSS.

    DSW

  22. Randy, I don?t know who you are referring to, but I haven?t seen anybody on this blog say anything even remotely like that. Murder and incitement to violence are crimes and should be dealt with as such regardless of race or creed.

    Its the ?about these people? phrases I am wary of. What people? Those that plant bombs? The families of those that plant bombs? The fellow church / mosque members of those that plant bombs? The communities in which bombers hide? Or, all members of a particular religion? And, ?cultural engineering? just sounds like a politically correct phrase for ?civilizing the natives.?

    No one’s talking about that, no.

    But.

    Doesn’t talking about pillarization as an option–in this case, the construction of a self-contained Dutch Muslim community inside the Netherlands, existing parallel to the remainder of the rest of Dutch society, with its own norms and institutions–imply the acceptance of the idea that Dutch Muslims are “different,” so different in fact that regular institutions and basic assumptions about individual rights won’t work for them?

    Dutch Muslims are Dutch. They should be treated as such. No one’s served well at all by treating them alternatively as a despised out-caste or as, well, a respected out-caste. Each alternative is IMO equally racist.

  23. Dutch Muslims are Dutch. They should be treated as such. No one’s served well at all by treating them alternatively as a despised out-caste or as, well, a respected out-caste. Each alternative is IMO equally racist.

    But that is not a development initiated by the state. Nor is it beneficial to the state. If you want to prevent it, you need to target some minority and force it to integrate. This will need laws that are in practice are affecting very disproportionately a minority.

  24. The Dutch pm, Christian democrat Balkenende, today visited a mosque to celebrate the end of Ramadan with a community of Muslims in Eindhoven. That was the right thing to do imo.
    I am less at ease on the proposal of the head of our government (minister of justice and teacher of Balkenende) Donner: he announced more judicial steps against blasphemy.
    But then again: it’s Okay that he brought up this issue.

    Please take note, non-Dutch readers, the strongest advocates of a Muslim pillar can be found among the democrats-democrats.
    Among conservatives some nostalgia can be found to the time of “pillarization” (not a correct English word I think; maybe that’s the reason of the little number of references). Until very recently in school hours pupils from Turkish and Moroccan descent were taught Turkish and Arab. Even more absurd: most Moroccan children were taught Arab while most of these children have Berber parents for whom Arab is NOT their mother-tongue!

    In September 2003 I wrote a post at my blog: ?Backwardedness of the Islam? or backwardness of the macho-culture?
    ( http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/reactieding.php?id=122_0_1_0_C )
    It still holds.
    There are good arguments to view the murder of van Gogh and the plans to kill two mp’s as a new stage in a terrorist war.
    I am still convinced that the right approach to this terror is to focus on the insanity of these young.
    “Lock up the walking time-bombs before they kill” (http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/reactieding.php?id=P433_0_1_0)

  25. Oliver:

    If a minority of a given nation’s population is unable to participate in wider society for whatever reason, then the individuals who belong to the minority should be empowered to participate. Yes, this involves targeting a disadvantaged minority. Shouldn’t it?

  26. If a minority of a given nation’s population is unable to participate in wider society for whatever reason, then the individuals who belong to the minority should be empowered to participate. Yes, this involves targeting a disadvantaged minority. Shouldn’t it?

    In my oppinion up to a point they should be helped as far as it is possible without reverse discrimination.
    But this is besides the point. It is not a problem of inability but of unwillingness. The Netherlands have done a lot for immigrants up to the point of making immigration a net monetary loss. As far as the Dutch policy failed, it was not a matter of insufficient resources used.

  27. In my oppinion up to a point they should be helped as far as it is possible without reverse discrimination.
    But this is besides the point. It is not a problem of inability but of unwillingness. The Netherlands have done a lot for immigrants up to the point of making immigration a net monetary loss. As far as the Dutch policy failed, it was not a matter of insufficient resources used.

    Agreed.