Most people outside the Netherlands are probably only vaguely aware that it used be ruled by Spain. For Dutch people however this experience is seared into their collective memory. Especially since it took a war, lasting 80 years (1568-1648), to get rid of the Spanish yoke.
A key event in the run-up to this conflict took place in 1566 when a Dutch delegation came to see the Spanish Regent, Margaret of Parma (ruling on behalf of Phillip II) with a list of requests. One of her advisors would have been right at home in 21st century politics. He counselled the Duchess not to pay any attention to them since ‘they are only beggars’ (geuzen). This high-handed dismissal of the legitimate concerns of the Dutch people led directly to a war that Spain could ill afford, with massive loss of life on both sides.
Let’s fast forward to today. It seems our global elites are not keen students of history. The weapon of choice when it comes to the concerns of the ‘common person’ is still to sneer at them.
• Keen to preserve a traditional lifestyle? – You’re nothing more than a ‘clinger to guns and religion’ (Barack Obama)
• Thinking of voting for Donald Trump? – You clearly belong in a ‘basket of deplorables’ (Hillary Clinton)
• Not everyone is onboard with your extreme globalist agenda? – Why they must be ‘slackers’ of course (Emmanuel Macron)
• Voted for Brexit? – According to the British Establishment you had no idea what you were doing and you can’t wait to reverse your decision through a ‘second referendum’ (Democracy be damned)
• Think that there are legitimate questions that should be asked about the relationship between Islamic teaching and violence? – What are you, some kind of bigot? (Just about every mainstream media commentator)
There is of course just one little problem with the tactic of trying to shame your opponents into silence. It may work for a while (in fact it can be argued that it worked out quite nicely for the left for decades). Still, it has a limited shelf-life.
People can be forced to abide with a system that is clearly not in their best interests for only so long. So, eventually, those on the receiving end of the insults cease to care. In fact they may even embrace such insults as a badge of honour (see, for example, Trump’s ‘Deplorables’).
If pushed still further they will react. When they do, this reaction will have moved beyond polite attempts for their concerns to be listened to.
The stark reality is that authorities who engage in the politics of contempt will have to deal with the concerns of the common people eventually. They can do it at the outset by engaging in respectful dialogue, which is after all what democratic governments are supposed to do. Or they can demonise and insult…and eventually reap the whirlwind. There are many explanations for the Yellow Vest phenomenon in France. Very near the top must be the simple fact that if you are not willing to listen to respectful appeals for debate across a table, you may sooner or later have to listen to calls for your downfall from across a barricade.
And the Dutch Beggars? Well, they came to glory in that name. It was especially their ‘maritime division’ (the so-called ‘Sea Beggars’) who struck decisive blows in helping to liberate their country through their decimation of Spanish shipping. Who cares what names you are called as long as you are in the forefront of a victorious fight for freedom?
Tone deaf 21st century politicians thumbing through their dictionaries for ever more creative ways to insult the common people will do well to take note.