15 November 2006

The Dutch elections for the government are coming up and as such I'd like to speak a few words, confess my colour and motivate myself. Though if you've read any of my previous rants concerning politics, you'll know what I stand for already. If you're not from the Netherlands but are interested in our situation at the moment: I'll try to keep things understandable for the outsider.

At the moment, we've had four years of conservative, neo-liberal rule under Prime Minister Balkenende. Under his government (and actually also over the last fifteen years; a span where only the right-wing parties have been in power), the effects of neo-liberalism have become clear. The gap between rich and poor has increased; poverty has risen; valuable public service companies have been further privatised (making not quality their main objective but profit), the health care system has been rearranged with costly consequences; we've been absolutely pathetic in our mindless following of the mad warmongering of the American neo-conservatist government and the list goes on and on.

I don't wish to sketch a situation here that our country is in a bad state, because this is not the case. Certainly, the things I mentioned are quite grave already, but we mustn't act as if we're on the brink of disaster. It doesn't take an extreme measure of extrapolation however to see where things will go very amiss if this goes on. I don't like putting America up as a bad example yet again, because the country has a lot of great things to offer and I do not wish to invoke the idea that the people there are necessarily bad or na,ve. However, we see there the future of our own state: a future where neo-liberalism has caused a winner-takes-all mindset to detrimental effect. The successful take all the riches; the losers get nothing. There's no social security to catch those that hit the bottom and because of the system it is the rich that have exclusive access to opportunities and the poor who have little hope to ever get out. It may be an elementary thing to ask, but I will do so nonetheless: why would this be bad for the state itself? The answer is that this creates the largest possible unhappiness in the people, causing social unrest and decreasing the stability of the land. A state like this can impossibly maintain itself. Look at the riots on the outskirts of Paris this summer; where large groups of minorities began rioting every night for weeks on end because they had no chances whatsoever to escape poverty.

In the Netherlands, we have still some ways to go before ending up in this pit. But make no mistake; we are already sidling towards this fate, slowly every year. Neo-liberalism will drive us there eventually, after it has privatised everything and eroded the social security that has been the very hallmark of our humanist society.

Now, again, I don't want to put before you images of looming disaster that may or may not happen. But this future is one that lies in the line of the actions our recent governments have been taking. The main dealers in this are the CDA and VVD, the latter of which the foremost executor of neo-liberalism. The social programmes these parties uphold in defence are easy to counter; you need only look at their actions over the last four years. All the households have had to buckle up and suffer under the recession of recent times with measures and cuts in care, except the richest ones. There were no measures taken whatsoever that only targeted those who could afford it most. A more blatant example of a government condoning the winner-takes-all principle can not be hoped for.

And what, you might ask, is the purpose of all this privatising and putting people and companies up against each other? According to the VVD, it is to stimulate people to reach inside themselves and give it their best. In theory a nice idea, but in reality this will only be good in the short-term. After the day is done and the winners have taken it all, the losers will have nothing to hope for and inequality, lethargy and certainly unrest will be the result. Neo-liberalism, in short, yields only short-term successes, but long-term disaster.

What then is the antidote to this? Well, whoa there, I'm by far not schooled enough in this to speak of cures and rights and wrongs. All I'm doing is following a rational train of thought combined with a gut feeling. And that feeling tells me it's time we saw what the left wing can do with this country. For all these years they've been making viable, constructive alternatives to all the plans that were made by the ruling forces that have been shown in studies time after time to be far more effective, cost-efficient and -most importantly- dignified for man and environment.

I'm going to vote for the SP, the Socialist Party. Any Americans reading might immediately associate this with Russian Communism, but this is obviously not the case. The SP, along with the other left wing parties, crave a change in this country. No longer a country that's lead as a company; that sees its people as employees; that wants everything to revolve around money, money, money. Sure, the economy's important, but there are many more things in life that are vastly more so. Does money bring you happiness? No. What good is economy after we've wrecked the environment? No good. Will money enable us to live with ourselves morally? Not even close. The left wing parties all have agendas that tackle these things with greater care and compassion. Myself, I'm voting for the SP as I said, and I'd like to explain exactly why.

It's because there are two things that are very important to me. I think everyone has stuff he cares for most, and these are the things on my mind. Number one: foreign affairs. You'll all know it's a pet peeve of mine that we're the laughing stock of Europe when it comes to our spineless posture. While France and Germany around us are giving a clear signal of critique to the American government when they're up to no good again, we're hardly even fazed when the news comes to us that Bush is legalising torture, that there are secret CIA flights with the objective to bring people to the middle east to be tortured, that the whole war against Iraq (can I just still call it Persia? Has a more exotic swing to it) was based on lies, Unacceptable. The SP has the sternest agenda on this front: the Netherlands have to stand for something again.

The second thing is that I want to put a stop to neo-liberalism. It is not only the SP's but also my own conviction that this ill-conceived concept is at the heart of a lot of the negative trends in society we see today. The winner-takes-all principle, of which I've spoken so much already, breeds a harshness in society that is spreading more and more. The sense of community and responsibility is fading through it, because why should you care about others if nothing is shared and you can achieve everything on your own? Privatised companies that were once governed more closely by the state have also seen a downfall: public transportation is in shambles; health providers cut in quality because they need to compete with each other aggressively. When profit is put over quality and humanity in a state, things will always deteriorate. Neo-liberalism therefore has to stop.

For these reasons, come the 22nd of November, I'm going to vote for the SP. I'm not trying to persuade you here to do the same, though I'd appreciate it. My rationale here was to convince you that it's in the left field that we will find solutions to the problems that arose during decades of right-wing rule.