My Dutch office mate, Willem van de Put, felt strangely ‘inspired’ by the shock victory of Thierry Baudet, the Dutch version of Donald Trump, in last week’s elections in his country and wrote this week’s intro, adding a flavor of global health in the process.
Thierry Baudet: Plague or Possibility?
Thierry Baudet did for the Dutch living abroad what 9/11 did for the global Muslim community: you are asked for explanations. Working at ITM I am trying to find some appropriate metaphors that help in answering. So here I go.
Baudet is like Global Health. Nobody knows what it really means. It connects all kinds of contradictory agendas. It is sometimes apocalyptic, but brought with marketing-wise charm. Also, in true SDG health style, Baudet embodies the nexus of non-communicable and infectious disease challenges. The overlapping high-risk populations for outbreaks in my country (17% of Dutch voters) clearly have a huge need for long-term care. In line with the UHC momentum, Baudet’s emphasis on the nation state as the only possible habitat for civilization and democracy must be based on the deep conviction that it was the Westphalian treaty that ended the black plague and typhus.
Like Global Health, Baudet is full of paradoxes. Here you have the classical caricature of the elite, that thinks the European 19th century was the best of all worlds, a fine product of ‘Bildung,’ that managed somehow to become the voice of underbellies’ discontent. Baudet believes there’s an ‘ongoing attempt to alienate the Dutch from their history and separate them from their culture.’ He believes in the ‘great replacement’ ( a term coined by Renaud Camus) and in ‘cultural Marxism’. Baudet’s doomsday scenarios are indeed frightening. It is common knowledge that people cling to their personal biases more tightly when they feel threatened.
Now that Trump and Baudet have shown that ‘speaking truth to power’ is far less effective than lying all the way to power, we can understand the function of the many ‘fake truths’ in Baudet’s narrative. If the solution to the liar’s paradox (“this sentence is false”) is to see the sentence itself as a linguistic error, Minerva’s owl really takes off – and each wing carries an important insight. Like Baudet, I know I risk losing my audience here, but let me clarify:
On the left wing you find Thierry, the boy whose message is in itself oikophobic. He transcends the oikophobia he finds in others through his own self-hate. As a living paradox, he is in constant conflict between his hating self and his self-hated self. Highly educated, very smart, multitalented, he sees his ideal world threatened and is thus very scared. We therefore have to diagnose Baudet as suffering from what is called ‘pointless depression’. ‘In pointlessness, the world seems bleak and hopeless at best, a cesspool at worst […].The oppressive self has abandoned the real self [..] The oppressive self is glimpsed only in occasional fantasies of nobility or triumph, especially in fantasies of the nobility of suffering.’
On the right wing, there’s Baudet, the political philosopher. We now understand the role of resurrection in his thinking. Baudet’s oppressive self has found a way out, an escape. And in all his nobility, he carries us all with him! Because he knows that the discontent that gives him wings is real. Baudet, a master in meaningless communication, a connoisseur of pointless depression, is carried by his own unlikely Valkyries (Hiddema, Otten – i.e. other politicians from his party) to the front, where he is needed. In case you also need a soundtrack, just imagine the Walkurian sounds from the first draft of the campaign film, Apocalypse Now.
If I try to put this political conundrum in ITM terms, I would say that our Outbreak Research Team needs to be vigilant and on the alert for this wicked combination of a smart and scared mind feeding on massive ‘debris and decay’. For all of us, there is hope, however. Because we shall learn from all of this: nonsense sharpens the mind like nothing else!
Willem van de Put
Enjoy your reading.
The editorial team
(you find the pdf of the full newsletter here: IHPn 515 pdf )