You’re seriously concerned about climate change, you’re a member of the Party for the Animals and you’re against waking up. At first glance, it’s hard to fit into a box.
‘It’s a pity that left-right thinking is so decisive, if you’re right, the left is always wrong and vice versa. I don’t think that’s a constructive way of looking at things, I prefer to see political views without immediately knowing who they’re coming from. When I look at a statement, I first ask myself: I agree, can there be good arguments for this? Regardless of who develops ideas, you should always evaluate them by their intrinsic merit. The result is that I am right in the eyes of the left and left in the eyes of the right. If we disagree with someone about one thing, we say that he is wrong about everything. But your opponents may also have something clever to say.’
How does Awakening respond to criticism?
‘Wake is very polarizing: you have to embrace the whole package all the time, everywhere, and if you don’t, not only do you not fit in, you immediately become an enemy. In this demonization of the enemy, the Awakening shows solidarity with the far right, because a party like the Forum for Democracy does not talk about the enemy, but rather the enemies as sewer rats or reptiles. I’m often asked why I read the far left – because it’s woke. The far right is pretty bad, isn’t it? I don’t know if that is the case. I look at it this way: you also have multiple specialties in the hospital, and you wouldn’t ask an oncologist why he doesn’t deal with another disease, would you? Just because I focus on the far left doesn’t mean I’m far right.’
What exactly is awakening? Everyone seems to give it a different meaning.
‘First, awakening is a collective term for identity politics, politically correct thinking, pluralism, cultural abolitionism and colonialism. The system of thought stems from a far-left neo-Marxist ideology that is intolerant. There are many people who call themselves slightly awakened, but they don’t see themselves as radical, because they understand being awakened slightly differently. Talking about being awake always amounts to a Babylonian jumble of tongues, so it’s better to discuss concrete topics.
Oneworld believes that Vogue is misused by conservative voices opposing the emancipation of various social groups and that about a hundred years ago, African Americans pointed to the origin of the term to warn each other about racism.
‘Once upon a time meaning something was a semantic matter, it’s funny these days most people turn a blind eye to what it means when they wake up. Then you actually walk away from the discussion now. With a definition dating back a hundred years, the far left literally means you can’t be against the Awakening, while the far right uses the term as a slur for everything bad. Neither is a very effective system.’
Compared to America, Vogue seems to be doing better in Europe.
‘Awareness is slowly spreading in our society. Every university and many institutions have Diversity Officer, artworks are being removed, everyone is attending an inclusive curriculum and many municipalities have language guides on how to approach people politically correctly. There is still plenty of room for free discussion in the Netherlands, but staying awake makes it more difficult because it can become a minefield of communication. American linguist John McWhorter also calls bullying masquerading as progressive thought. Vogue is more serious in American universities than in Europe, but I think there is a good chance to throw more. I hope my book will help prevent that from happening, because raising an independent hand leads to all kinds of censorship and lack of freedom.
Where do you see it in the Netherlands?
‘For example in museums. Until recently you went there to have fun, learn something, and see beautiful art. If you walk into the now-awakened museum, you will continue to be held accountable for your guilt as a white man. You must teach that you have participated in slavery and that you owe all kinds of concessions to your present condition. I quickly get the feeling that I need to go to a North Korean re-education camp. Vogue is allowed to condemn things, but it’s strange that you, as a white person, are constantly referred to as evil. Of course I’m against racism and equality of opportunity, but I’m a liberal humanist, stand for individual freedom and don’t believe in historical guilt. No one on this planet bears personal responsibility for slavery or colonialism.
Was awakening ever this intense?
“Vogue has been liberal since the beginning. To a large extent, the ideas come from the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who said that inequality of power determines everything. Indeed some power imbalances need to be ironed out, but Vogue suggests that you can never escape power inequality and that you must constantly strive to reverse it. There is no conscious debate about it. I’ve been invited to symposia several times, but people like Gloria Wekker, a sociologist at Utrecht University, never want to get involved in the debate. I don’t think it should be allowed to run away from a discussion in an academic environment. According to Wecker, rationality is a power used by whites to keep others under control. If you see reason as a means of power, the debate ends quickly. It has gone too far and you cannot rationally respond to it. If you, as an academic, present reason as a tool of white empowerment, you’ve cut yourself off the branch you’re sitting on.’
Why such a strict vigilance in it?
Like the left in the 1970s, Vogue wants the system to change radically: not in steps, but all at once. But that behavior is negative. If you were in North Korea, I can imagine you would, but the Awakened has lost sight of the truth. The Netherlands and other Western countries are far from ideal, but historically and geographically the emancipation of women, the disabled, people of different skin colors, people of different religions, people of different sexual orientations and trans people has made enormous progress. Here. All have the same constitution, police protection and career opportunities. Indeed we still have some hurdles to overcome, but wake up and it looks like we are living here in 1950’s America with racial segregation and deep racism.
Want to see more of our achievements?
‘Of course. It is important to keep your anger in proportion. For example, you sometimes hear accusations that the Netherlands is Islamophobic. But within certain limits you can be a Muslim here and no one will be arrested for it. We have public funds for mosques. Of course there are Islamophobic Dutch people, but it is hard to say about society as a whole. So it would be fine to say that there is a phobia of Christians and atheists in Saudi Arabia. And a well-founded criticism of Islam is not Islamophobia. Vogue sees the West as an embodiment of evil and sees only the black sides. Vogue has no eye for the preciousness and fragility of liberal democracy and equality as we know it.
What is the main risk of being awake?
‘Let’s become an intolerant society where freedom of expression is at stake. Vogue puts ideology above all else, and if the facts don’t match: too bad. That is the upside down world. Take gender identity, for example: in large part determined by biology and in part a social construct. For most people, biology and social structure are not hierarchically interconnected. Needless to say, there is room for those who are not. You don’t have to wake it up. But, as woke, to completely deny the biological dimension of gender identity is going too far for me, and then it becomes anti-scientific.
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