Almost two weeks ago, you will have noticed, VVD Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius gave the annual HJ school lecture in Amsterdam’s Rode Hoed. In her speech, which lasted a total of 58 minutes, she touched on many interesting topics. She condemned extremists who ‘seek to achieve their goals through intimidation and violence’, politicians who question the independence of our judiciary ‘without batting an eyelid’, the growing army of conspiracy theorists and the powerful social media companies that facilitate this.
She also spoke about what she called wokism with a nasty expression. By this she referred to the movement that arose in the United States, which considers factors such as origin, skin color and sexual orientation all to determine the opportunities that life gives you. (Another equally unfortunate term: identity politics.) She said sensible things about it. For example, that she is concerned about people who ‘under the guise of inclusion are only concerned with exclusion. By canceling everything they don’t like’.
She also said that she believes that Wokism promotes intolerance, ‘whereas tolerance is precisely the core of the democratic rule of law’. Her comments on this matter took up only four of the 58 minutes of speaking time. Yet the focus was almost exclusively on that – well into this week.
For example, a talk show host showed a video of colored girls to prove the minister wrong. (I’m not making this up.) Said a young politician in a newspaper Fidelity Yesilgöz’s ideas to cancel were ‘taken out of the blue’. Scissors The green Amsterdammer her resolved among those who inflate the term woke up to ‘caricatured proportions’.
And I read in my own newspaper that the minister is ‘inciting the population against people who exercise their civil rights’ and thereby forfeiting his right ‘to educate others about the necessary defense of the rule of law’ and, moreover, himself ‘a much greater pose a risk to the rule of law.
Continue. If the Minister of Justice gets wind of an opinion that is not to everyone’s taste, she must immediately be put in a corner as an instigator and a risk to the rule of law. Above all, the indignation over Yesilgöz’s speech shows how complicated it is to say something about wake. Exchanging calm ideas about identity politics – it turns out to be pretty much impossible in 2022, getting into arguments is too much to ask.
At most, for example, you’ll get back that the concerns about it are right-wing fantasies (‘Woke is nothing more than a term invented by the right to make the progressive left suspicious’). Or that those who question it only feel tainted by their white privilege. Exceptionally, someone is willing to admit that the awakened sometimes transcend, only to add that there is no other way; letters to the editor rarely bring the desired social change closer. Also popular: pointing out the rise of the far right in this country and saying it poses a much more serious threat.
The latter is absolutely correct. Angry farmers intimidating administrators to prove their point are many times more subversive than activists demonstrating cozily in Dam Square. Forum leader Thierry Baudet, who openly delegitimizes parliamentary democracy, is many times more dangerous than Bij1 leader Sylvana Simons, who mutters something about neoliberalism and ‘existing power structures’. But just because others are bad doesn’t mean you’re automatically above all criticism. (I wish that were true.)
In the meantime, one must do one’s very best not to see that the humanities, the classical media and the entire cultural sector – including museums, literature and the performing arts – are completely affected by the ideas that the minister expressed in his lecture. Not to say they are being held hostage by it. Of course we can be secretive about that. But I didn’t want to know why.
Elma Drayer is a Dutch scientist and journalist. She writes a change column with Asha ten Broeke every two weeks.