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.