Organisation - October 6, 2010

Tolerance

As I write this column I can see the television coverage of the CDA party conference out of the corner of my eye. My deadline is tomorrow, but it will not be known by then whether the agreement that has been reached will be accepted by the parliamentary party on Tuesday. It probably will, but history - and especially recent history - teaches caution about predicting the future.

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I must admit to feeling rather at sea in Dutch politics at the moment. It's all over the place, and the trusty distinction between left and right no longer seems to be the crucial one. We are opting en masse for disintegration: an approach in which the poor won't get any richer and the rich won't get any poorer. And what about the concept of a gedoogakkoord [Tolerance or, in this case, compliance agreement]? The word 'gedogen' usually refers to a characteristically Dutch strategy of turning a blind eye to illegal acts: something I associate with drugs policy or police overlooking minor traffic offences. We must stop all this gedogen, I have heard Geert Wilders saying time and again.
In a few weeks time Zakaria Hatim from Egypt will be joining our department to work on his thesis on desert vegetation in the Sinai peninsula. One of many foreigners that Wageningen University welcomes every year. Zakaria is a devout muslim and has told me a lot over the last few years about the essence of Islam: about love, forbearance and stewardship. I see few differences between this and Christianity. Zakaria tells me he has started learning Dutch. I wonder how long it will take before he asks me about the meaning of new Dutch words for 'headscarf tax' and 'assimilation contract'.

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