Kritiek op ‘Ieder1’, a liberal middle-class Movement for Diversity

My 2 cents about ‘IEDER1’ and why it is a counterproductive, pacifying event rather than an empowering event.

I’m sorry that this turned into such a long post but I couldn’t stop writing and felt that is was necessary to clear up some points, especially around the goal of ‘fighting polarization in society’ and the motives of the organizers.

The criticism against ‘ieder1’ is not raised because a festival is organized to celebrate diversity, this is very nice. But just imagine what huge activities and programms organizations like We Are Here, Zwarte Piet Niet, University of Color etc. etc. etc. could do with €100.000..

The fact that the organizers of ‘Ieder1′ deem it necessary to spend €100.000 of resources, to be collected from the people, on this festival is the reason for criticism because it diverts a lot of energy and attention from the fight against oppression and exploitation, especially of People of Color and women towards the celebration of diversity. A celebration is very nice, yes, but really, what is there to celebrate and why do we need €100.000 to celebrate?

What is there to celebrate when People of Color are getting shot by the police and we still didn´t achieve victory over the racist police? What is there to celebrate when Geert Wilders is leading the election polls and fascism is on the rise and we are not even coming close of forming a progressive alliance of organizations and people in countering them? What is there to celebrate if We Are Here has to squat a new place a trillion times and refugees are put in concentration-like-camps and we are not even coming close of overthrowing this regime? What is there to celebrate if women and queer people are harassed and sexually abused on a daily basis and we still don’t have the infrastructure of providing for these victim’s safety and a way to fight back against their oppressor?

And yes, of course there are great initiatives and actions going on. There is no need to be pessimistic, we will win the struggle against oppression. But in this struggle we shouldn’t let ourselves get distracted and blinded by a costly festival with fancy artists and stuff. We need to have a clear sight about what is going on. This festival is not revealing the tough realities of life but is trying to cover them up.

Why didn’t the organizers collect €100.000, gave it to progressive organizations and had only one request: organize a big festival. I dare to gamble that this festival would be bigger than ‘ieder1’ (seriously, activists tend to have a talent for organizing a lot with the least of resources) and it would be more effective. ‘ieder1′ didn’t develop out of grassroots organizing. It didn’t develop out of years of blood, sweat and tears. It didn’t develop out of a relationship between oppressed and exploited people fighting back against their oppressors for a world of justice, freedom and dignity.

‘ieder1’ developed out of the middle- and upper classes. The festivals goal is to combat the increasing ‘polarization’ within Dutch society and to ‘give a voice to all those people in the Netherlands who believe in the power of a diverse society.’ The latter goal is an indirect insult to the oppressed and exploited people because they already HAVE a voice, it is just that they are powerless and thus nobody, or at least the people in power, don’t listen to them. Again, ‘ieder1′ didn’t develop out of already existing progressive movements and organizations in the Netherlands but it was established by the middle- and upper class.

‘ieder1’ expands on the goal of combatting polarization, ‘Personal concerns can differ, what connects us is the strong belief in a diverse society, in empathy, and in the willingness to listen and hear one another. A change in today’s atmosphere does not just happen. It is something you need to stand for.’ How lovely! If we all just had the willingness of listening to one another the ‘atmosphere’ would change.

First of all, we don’t need the ‘atmosphere’ to change (actually we do, because of environmental reasons, but that is not what is meant here   ), we need the reality to change. We need to get out of poverty, we need good houses, we need health care, we need equal pay, we need an end to domestic violence, we need an end to racism and discrimination in every sphere of life and society, we need to stop the police searching, beating and killing us, especially People of Color. There is no abstract atmosphere that needs be changed, the concrete realities of the lives of millions of Dutch people needs to change (and also the lives of the millions of people need to change who live outside the Netherlands and are affected by it in Syria, Nigeria, the Philippines, Palestine etc.). Their daily lives need to be different from what they are now. If they live in this or that atmosphere can make it a bit nicer, but if you are oppressed and exploited, the atmosphere in which this happens doesn’t change shit.

Secondly, the whole anti-polarization movement is in no way interested in actually fighting against oppression and exploitation. If you are all about fighting oppression and exploitation, you have to identify an oppressor and exploiter, who are very much people, just like the oppressed and exploited. The oppressed isn’t oppressed by its own existence, they are oppressed by an oppressor. The oppressed can only exist as long as there is an oppressor. If there is no oppressor than there can be no oppressed because there is no one to do the oppressing. If we accept this, then the notion of ‘empathy and willingness to listen and hear one another’ becomes pointless in the struggle for emancipation because it does not identify and sharpens the oppressed-oppressor relationship that causes misery and suffering. Instead, a focus on dialogue tends to mystify this relationship and works pacifying on the angry oppressed people who want to fight their oppression, and thus want to fight their oppressor. Since we know that oppression and exploitation don’t happen because the oppressor is ignorant and we know that we can’t convince them out of oppressing, it is necessary to promote fighting against the oppressor.

The preference of ‘ieder1’ towards dialogue can be traced back to the position of the organizers as ‘successful’ middle-class. Let’s take a look at ‘the organization’:
The board consists of: Nasrdin Dchar (acteur), Samuel Levie (Brandt & Levie), Julius Ponten (filmproducent van Wolf & Rabat) en Touria Meliani (directrice Tolhuistuin).

Also actively involved: Nadia Zerouali (culinair schrijver), Emma Levie (beeldend kunstenaar, actrice), Chris van Bokhorst (de Projectstudio), Tim Blaauw (programmamaker), Hesdy Lonwijk (filmmaker en regisseur), Laila Frank (campaigner, Being Frank), Giuseppe du Croq (creative), Hanna Verboom (actrice) Chris Keulemans (programmamaker), Marjan Sax (adviseur), Loeki Westerveld (campagne adviseur), Peter van Baak (Sponsorvisie), Jörgen Tjon a Fong (Regisseur en Programmamaker), Oscar van den Ouden (MerkTroubadour)

Committee of Recommendation: Ila Kazem (Directievoorzitter van der Bunt adviseurs), Sadik Harchaoui (Chef de Mission Society Impact), Leon Ramakers (Oprichter Mojo / lid 4 en 5 mei comité Amsterdam) en Ted van den Bergh (Directeur Triodos foundation).

All these people have climbed up the social ladder and are not (anymore) affected by most of the daily struggles of most poor, colored, women, queer and disabled people. They live their privileged lives in nice houses, do their groceries at the Marqt (bio food store chain, unaffordable for most people), don’t have to worry about not being able to pay for health care, can send their children to ‘the best’ schools etc. These people live a different life than most of the people in the Netherlands. How can these people even think that they have the right to speak on behalf of the oppressed people who are fighting against oppression? How can these people think they have the right to try and pacify the resistance into a fruitless dialogue?

Maybe the most ridiculous decision of ‘ieder1’ is to use as sponsors Ahmed ‘fuck off if you don’t like it here’ Aboutaleb (mayor of Rotterdam) and Eberhard ‘here stands a mayor who will do everything against political activism’ van der Laan (mayor of Amsterdam) [1]. These two people are directly responsible for the racism and islamophobia (remember Aboutaleb traveling to New York to talk about Muslim radicalization?), for police brutality against refugees, people of color and activists, for housing problems in both cities, and many many more problems. It are these people who should be struggled against. They are the enemy, not our friends.

Yes, we need unity and empathy in our lives. But we need unity between the oppressed and exploited against the oppressors and exploiters, we don’t need unity with them. We should have empathy for the oppressed and exploited, we should have no empathy for the oppressors and exploiters, for it is exactly them who create misery and suffering.

The polarization of society between oppressed and oppressors, between exploited and exploiters is good, very good. This world will not change because we start collaborating with the slave master. Change starts by breaking the chains to which we are bound, by driving the slave master off the land and by setting his house on fire – whether this slave master goes by the name of Geert Wilders, Kees Knot, Eberhard van der Laan or Ahmed Aboutaleb.

[1] Van der Laan said this in a discussion with refugees and Dutch political activists in front of his home (the exact words are spoken just after 2:45min)

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