Harry Starren

The same but different

Is the right the new left?

The 1960s and 1970s were formative years for me. The years in which I constantly listened to music. I sang on the street and my thoughts were dancing. They were the years in which I formed my opinions, entered into new relationships and made decisive choices. No music can match the music from those formative years. That has been thoroughly worked out and, as far as I understand, applies to all generations, time and time again.

The same thing will happen to my daughter (19), who bridges her time with music that I cannot give a name to. If I say that to her, she does not understand me because she only takes out her earphones for exceptional cases. I am rarely that exception. Then little remains but contemplation.

You used to have ‘the Left’ as a matter of course, just as you now have ‘the Right’. The ‘it-has-to-be-said’ Right. Statements that are past any shame. Simply saying what you think. Giving room to the jerk in you. Give war a chance.

The ones who you did not hear in the past belonged to the silent majority. They were people who were too cowardly or too sensible: categories that are not mutually exclusive in the least, I now know. The petit bourgeois who saved the silence for the storm.

According to optimistic friends (I have no others) the tide will soon be turning and this is a phase “that may be needed.” The “I-do-not-agree-with-everything-that-is-said” friends. Those friends.

Perhaps this is what is going on: social cod-liver oil, which provides resilience for rough times. Something that fits in a series of terms: the crisis as opportunity, the reverse side of being right, a break in a structural trend, from the soft powers that win in the end. In the end. These are words that give the things their position and need to remove the threat. It will pass: you have to stand above the fray, make your own plan, not let yourself be afraid of anything, sail your own course. Carmiggelt called that ‘Whistling in the dark’, but who still knows him? A friend.

I come from an environment in which the soft forces would win in the end. According to my realistic friends (I have no others) “we will no longer experience that”: soft forces enough, but winning is not in the books. Soft forces lose every time to hard forces, my friend. And we? Guys, but nice guys, whose ship has come in. We have traded our standing room for seats. The retirement years will start to count.

We live in a time in which the right determines the agenda. The issues that were once made by the left fade and become musty, even if you have a seat on the left side. International solidarity, reducing differences in income and the ability to pay principle makes room for personal responsibility, more stringent punishment, closing borders and drawing lines. We keep a close eye on our fellow man. We put everything and everyone under surveillance. Make war, not love. Is the new right perhaps the same as the old left in my formative years? In the way that car salesmen are calling “white” the “new black”? Is right indeed the new left? Is it an expression of cultural uneasiness, but now from the other side? Is it a revolt against the “establishment”, the established order? Those who read the simple texts and consider the strange hair style of some new politicians become confused by that suspicion. Whereas we occupied the Maagdenhuis and organized events at the Spui, they occupy the parliament, determine the agenda of our society, and they tolerate (that’s what it says) the Cabinet. A friend calls it craftsmanship. “It’s craftsmanship, in any case.”

It was once all about us. And then… I see it. Geert Wilders is a bleached Roel van Duin. An improved version that stands on the narrow shoulders of his bearded predecessor. So that, according to my cheerful friends (I would like to have others) only one – clear, but unacceptable – conclusion is possible: “The matter is hopeless, but not serious.”

HARRY STARREN is Director of De Baak. He is a speaker, honorary chairman and commentator on themes such as strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship.



This entry was posted in Reflections.

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