Ruud Lubbers over angst voor allochtonen February 21, 2008

(Excerpts from a translation I made of an article from the NRC M magazine, December 2007 special edition. Even though I have decided to only post in Dutch, since moving to the Netherlands, this is an interesting article for those outside the low countries… and it took me several hours, spread across two months, to translate the whole article — Phillip)

“Een goedmakertje?”

I weigh that also. Take your time, I find. And now there
is another coalition. I am glad there too, naturally. But
we are far from being there. Another tone is important,
but not enough. Participation is the only way forward.

Participation is a word that occurs in “The fear beyond”.
You could say that the word is used instead of the overloaded
word emancipation. Anyway, participation and emancipation
seem together:

It shall be a whole process, just as the case of emancipation
of women in the workplace was. Initially, awaiting their arrival
certainly did not sit well with the managers [in the workplace].
But that changed gradually. [Always?] Yet more often, there is
someone from the advisory body of the executive board who stands
during a discussion and says “I find it nevertheless so rare
that there is not a single woman sitting at the table with us.
We must do something about that.” I would for an equal reason
choose [vote for?] an immigrant to close the gap [to make for
lost time?]. This is how it also originally was with the
emancipation of women. That is indeed positive discrimination,
and that is badly needed.

Terug naar het begin…
“Back to the beginning. You ran through the streets and
were shocked. Where did you run? What did you see?”
‘What i said there is especially a metaphor [is
a special metaphor]. It is also not only walking. It is
also hearing how people talk about something. For this,
my wife is my primary source of information. She is in
this case the most often [source]. There is also the
dimension of older people who are taken care of. We go
[interact] naturally a lot with people of our own age.
And those questions themselves determine where things
must go.’

“But nevertheless: you live in the middle of the city.
You walk through the city.”
‘Yes, naturally. Therefore in that sense it is
no abstraction. On the other hand: it doesn’t only happen
in the large city. The intensity is greater in the large
cities. The negative and the defensive, how many fewer
immigrants, how better — that is stronger here. But
large cities always let us see developments which also
come [appear] elsewhere. Therefore what that concerns
is itself further stretched out. Such as the [Just as the]
participation of women was also not only a question of
the large cities.’

En over ‘k*t-Marokannen’…
And about ‘c**t Moroccans’:
Criminal youth must be tackled harder. I mean that the
perception of people depends on little things: the unsafe
feeling on the street and girls being called after on the
street. My plan works thus also only in combination with
crime supression [crime reduction].

Do you frequently get the reproach that you’ve become a
softie ?
‘There is naturally a small restricted group
who read such a booklet. And there are a lot of black-and-white
[ideas]. But my [ideas are / position is] not black-and-white.
People think: “Ruud Lubbers? He has the wrong idea that we must
be positive about immigrants.’ But I absolutely [certainly] do
not write that. I write that we must take firm actions against
crime. And I require that everyone roll up their sleeves and
work. Many people think that that’s not in the booklet. Or they
have read the booklet well, but do not want to see it. They find
that too complicated. These people say: are you now for or against
immigrants. I call that, like cowboys tended to be called, black
or white, this or that. Whereas I try to write precisely as I
stand [with my ideas].

There remains the possible accusation that Lubbers as the prime
minister stood at the cradle of the current problems. The
immigration flow of what were then called guest workers (guests who
should again return) occurred during his time [as prime minister].
The “Fear Beyond” also discusses this criticism, with a historical
sketch of a few pages. The conclusion:
The immigrant youngsters are contributing insufficiently
to society. That is now our largest problem. As the first generation
guest workers know how to save themselves here, so shall their
offspring automatically well “Dutchify”: that was for a long time
thought in the Netherlands. I also just later realized that
there is more needed for letting people integrate, even when they
are born here.

Is there, looking back, also something of regret? Had we seen it?
‘No, I don’t have regret. Naturally, you can ask yourself
whether we must not have done something earlier. Before I went into
politics, I was a factory manager. Back then we thought: the guest
workers will go away again. That was a misconception. And in this
manner you can see a whole series of misconceptions. Things of which
you said: it had been possible to be better. But it is [has] just
recently exploded.’

Is it difficult for politicians to recognize social problems swiftly ?
‘That is very difficult, yes. It is difficult to see things
swiftly. And it is also difficult to know what politicians must do
and what politicians must leave alone [ignore]. In the perception
of people, politicians have become moreover greater: only they can
solve it [the problems of...]. The politicians think the same too.
And the enormous journalistic environment creates the image that it
all happens there [in the politics].
But the strength of a country lies in the society. You
hopefully have a good cabinet and a good prime minister. But
nevertheless: eventually, the society must do it.’

Why did Pim Fortuyn recognize these problems well?
‘He lived in the middle of the city, but that was not the
main point. The main point [reason] was: it was a broad-minded
person with a good, careful capacity. And as a gay person he
experienced that muslims could be closed and rejecting. Was he
therefore a hard man ? No, i don’t think so. He was for a
general pardon. And he was aware of the fact that the cabinet
had lost contact [touch] with the society. It is not because
of Pim Fortuyn that things have gone bad in this country.
Things have gone badly because you must not only say things,
but there must also be participation [there must also be action].
That did not happen. As a result, there were always more calls.
And yet less of a movement that opens itself to others. I plead
for a movement that opens itself. I call that participation.’

But people listen preferentially to Rita Verdonk than to you
‘That would best be one [voice]. And that is maybe also
one part of the problem. I have many interviews with youngsters.
That comes from the fact: I speak about the long term, and I
think positively. Youngsters are aware of the fact that
much is short term. We live in a world of sound-bytes, where
negativity sells well – the dispute, the sensational. Youngsters
are relieved when someone with a different story comes along.
They want to hear positive things. To think about the long term.’

En het spiegelbeeld is: witte, bange, oudere kiezers

And the mirror image is: white, afraid, older voters.
‘Yes. But also young people, yeah. I encounter
contemporaries who say: my son or daughter is pro-Verdonk
or pro-Wilders. That occurs everywhere, also in the
better [social] circles.’

Only politicians with a convincing future-vision and
a clear moral compass can turn the tide, says Lubbers
in De vrees voorbij. And then yet further:
‘The acceptance of muslims is very sensitive:
the wounds in the society are still fresh. Every word
in the media has a wrong explanation — you can easily
burn your fingers there. I note the difference myself
too. If I come to a reading I love about climate change,
then I wait for a standing ovation before I have said
a single word. With regards to integration it is the
other way around. That is cycling through loose sand
instead of making good time on the asphalt. But that
should not be a reason to ignore the question. How do
you prevent two groups, muslims and non-muslims, growing
further apart? It seems to me the most important topic
of this time. More important than the mortgage interest
calculation and similarly the financing of the general
retirement pensions.’

‘Thus it will be well. Not immediately, but the
results will return one day. This is a phase we must go

‘De Vrees voorbij. Een hartenkreet.’ Ruud Lubbers in
conversation with Carolina Lo Galbo. De Bezige Bij, 2007.
60 pages, 6.90 EUR.

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