In this contribution, Dr Sid Lukkassen, an individual member from The Netherlands, asks whether his book, written in Dutch and published two years ago, Avondland en Identiteit, is still relevant today. Risen to prominence in recent times in Dutch public debate, Sid in his book pleas for a political strategy and identity that is rooted in self-confidence, while also contemplating the question of the role liberalism plays in the decline as well as in any possible renaissance.
As a young city council member for the VVD, I made my debut in 2015 with the book Avondland and Identiteit (Aspekt). The book draws attention from influential people. Prime Minister Mark Rutte posed with it while Dr Thierry Baudet wrote the introduction for the reprint. I was invited to speak in the European Parliament by ALDE Party individual members. Applying its analysis on Europe today: is it still relevant?
‘Avondland’ (in German: Abendland) is the overarching concept for the culture of the European civilization. The Abendland signifies the western sphere where the sun disappears after sunset. For the European Union, this sunset may be proverbial: thinking about Brexit, the debt crisis in the southern member states, and the discussion about constitutional reforms in Poland. Together with the migration crisis, these factors create the perfect storm that could end the European Union.
The book is my plea for a political strategy and identity that is rooted in self-confidence while also contemplating the question of the role liberalism plays in the decline as well as in any possible renaissance. When I published the book in 2015, I was optimistic about the European project – marching Russian boots, the threat of Islamic extremism, China’s neo-colonialism and ethnical tensions in our cities would be the wake-up call for European citizens and their representatives. My expectation was that within a few years, Europe would restore its self-esteem and through that formulate a realistic approach to geopolitics.
The opposite has happened. By manipulating the migration crisis and European feelings of guilt, while supporting its ‘storm troopers’ in European cities, Turkish President Erdogan blackmails the European Commission. The idea of a solid foreign policy through the unity of Europe has failed completely. Despite the acquisition of bonds by the ECB, monetary easing and the European Stability Mechanism, the economic outlooks are grim as well. Great amounts of financial aid are flowing back to financial institutions instead of helping economies in need. The resulting inflation damages the middle-class and their savings. In the midst of this, the British have lost all hope and resigned from the project.
The end of liberty
The explanation of the rise in popularity of Trump, Farage, Hofer or Beppe Grillo by mainstream political parties and media remains one-sided without self-reflection. These forces immediately claim the role of authentic moral resistance, while at the same time promoting the interests of the increasingly distrusted status quo.
Meanwhile, Merkel, Timmermans, and Zuckerberg cooperate to “eliminate hate speech on the internet”, aided by others such as Google CEO Eric Schmidt and George Soros. The latter financially supports Correctiv, which is supported by Facebook and German law to “remove messages from doubtful origins”, especially “negative stories on migrants”. Who determines what is fake news and what is truth? Who defines these criteria is ultimately a question of political power. People who haven’t experienced higher education, and who fail to voice their concerns adequately, will be frightened to voice their opinions due to this imminent censorship. They will be disconnected from the political debate and take their revenge in the voting booth.
Those we call “elite” today –those in control of the judicial systems, top-ranking public officials, media-moguls and CEOs – do not experience the negative consequences of these changes. They live in a safe and wealthy environment; their children enjoy the best education. They are mobile and are always able to escape the situation that may arise if civil society collapses. Psychiatrist Dr Esther van Fenema published about the cosmopolitan elite: the view of highly educated people in secure office buildings. From their privileged position, they survey the burkas that slowly but steadily fill the streets.
Ethnical tensions and economic resentment
In Brussels I could see it with my own eyes. At the Berlaymont, where European Commission civil servants work, a secured parking garage was built. Made possible by the taxpayer. The rest of the people have to park somewhere on the streets. If damages to property occur, perhaps due to vandalism, the people request better law enforcement and more police. In response, they will hear that they should not “live their lives in fear”, that they have a “authoritarian worldview”, and they should “open their hearts towards their fellow men”. At the end of the day, these officials drive out of the secured parking lots. I mention this anecdotal evidence so that you may recognize the rhetoric and understand the class interests that are the basis for these statements.
Besides the ever increasing ethnical tensions within Europe, the economic resentment creates another problem: the disappearing of small retail, where the young used to gain their first working experiences in order to become middle class later in life. It is there where they learned the work ethics that defined the middle class. Nowadays these small business are replaced by multinationals that can avoid taxation through mailbox companies and legal loopholes.
Better prospects of work do not elevate the position of the young, but instead they are worsened through zero-hour contracts and financially inadequate internships/traineeships. In all the LYMEC and ALDE conferences I have attended between my twenties and thirties, I seldom heard young representatives voice this concern, which defines the struggle of our generation. These traineeships are being sold as “investment in your career”, while they supress their income and compete with workers who have completed the same education and now have to pay off their loans. This situation is detrimental for the formation of families – a vital topic I see ignored by many young cosmopolitans, which in turn increases the problems of demographic decomposition and ageing. Whilst problematic for one, employers see the demographic explosion of Africa – Nigeria alone will host 440 million people in 2050 according to forecasts of the United Nations.
Politics degenerates into emotional storytelling
All the while these substantial problems persist, the status quo tries to seduce voters with rhetoric and imagery language. As I’ve shown in my latest book Democracy and her Media, voters do not receive a coherent set of ideas but are the recipients of associative imagery. The beauty of football matches, successful Olympic Games or recreational life on the terrace are used to distract people from social tensions. The imagery is as follows: pleasure above principle. The Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han, explains how our demise is sold to us as a form of optimism: compulsory positivism with a ‘double-think’ vocabulary where failures are redefined as ‘learning experiences’ and the loss of individual rights are called ‘challenges’. Loss of security is framed as ‘agility’ or ‘flexibility’. The compulsory positivism of society supresses reasonable worries into a taboo: especially the concerns that cause people to think about cultural cohesion and national sovereignty.
We must conclude that Liberalism has the duty to defend the ‘Avondland’ from collapsing. After all, the philosophy of liberalism was born out of the need to defend freedom of thought and speech.
Dr Sid Lukkassen
 De Blauwe Tijger, 2017. ALDE Party President Hans van Baalen MEP (VVD) said about this: “A sharp analysis about the influence of the new technologies of communication on the political decision making in Western democracies; at the same time about the ways in which these technologies derail decision making.”