Tuesday 18 March 2014

In Rotterdam we speak Dutch

Tomorrow, the Dutch will vote in municipal elections. In Rotterdam, the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), the right-wing liberal party of Prime Minister Rutte, is campaigning with an election poster featuring the text In Rotterdam we speak Dutch ("In Rotterdam spreken we Nederlands"). 

This official expression of intolerance in one of Europe's most diverse cities is part of the general backlash against multiculturalism that has swept over the Netherlands since the early 2000s. The new political correctness is that diversity is bad and that immigrants have problems because they refuse to integrate. In the recent past, some Dutch politicians have even proposed to outlaw speaking foreign languages in public spaces. 

However, is it really about speaking foreign languages? Or only particular languages with even more guttural sounds than Dutch, which most Dutch do not understand and which may therefore sound scary in their ears, such as Arabic or Berber? 

This seems indeed to be the case, if we consider another election poster used in the Amsterdam local campaign by the same party, which proudly states, in English!, Why do expats living in Amsterdam vote VVD? 

This poster targets resident foreigners who have the right to vote in local elections. The answer to the question seems easy: So-called 'expats' (which is really a euphemism for wealthy immigrants who do not like to see themselves as 'immigrants', a term rather associated to foreigners doing unattractive, low-skilled jobs) tend to support the VVD's political agenda of lower taxation, less regulation and a smaller welfare state. The poster even tries to conveys the message to the native Dutch that 'expats' possess some sort of special political wisdom. They are the super-immigrants.

This reveals the double standards that apply to different kind of immigrants. British, Americans and other immigrants from English-speaking countries are never expected to 'integrate'. Those who wish learn Dutch are often even discouraged to do so by the Dutch who are eager to speak English.

Indeed, some languages - as well as the immigrants speaking them - are more equal than others. 

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