In response to a comment I left on his blog, Snouck Hurgronje put up a rather darkly pessimistic(1) post about the social structures of the future. I'm taking the freedom to answer him on this modest blog, since this will be, I fear, a little too lengthy for any civilized comments section.
The Equality promised by the French revolution has become different things to different people. Actually there's two types of people, those that take the individualistic approach and those that take the collective approach.
Individualists recognize that people are different and in a sense unequal. I am the worlds lousiest soccer player, but I am pretty good at genetics. This makes me better then van Nistelrooy in the lab and very much worse then van Nistelrooy on the football pitch. I hate it (the latter, I mean), but that's the way things are.
But if he or me commit a crime, there will be no consideration for our particular talents (or other consideration outside the crime committed) when sentencing is done. Or at least, there shouldn't be. The Rule of Law obliges the state to make no distinction between him and me in that respect.
But that obligation does not cover private persons or companies. Nike is not obligated to treat me equally lavishly as it does van Nistelrooy in their ad-campaigns. Nobody's surprised about this, since van Nistelrooy is a talented and successful footballer and I am obviously not. But the fact is: as long as the state does not step in on my behalf, market forces will determine whether I or van Nistelrooy gets chosen for Nikes campaigns. Too bad for me, but such is life.
Collectivists take equality quite literally. They do not treat people as individuals but as (identical) members of separate groups. Within groups they completely ignore, and even deny, individual differences. Collectivist legislation will therefor always target the group as a whole. And if you do not quite fit the mold, bad luck. Especially in Holland, where overregulation is elevated to a form of art and causing envy in the halls of Brussels, not fitting the mold also means an Kafka-esque journy through the wheels of state (I should know. Been there, done that, as they say).
But that same thinking leads to curious and sometimes quite oppressive legislation. If 10% of Dutch inhabitants are foreign born then 10% of the police force, or the military, or university students must also be foreign born. And if it isn't there's something very wrong with the system and we must introduce legislation to correct that. Hence positive discrimination. And thus an untold number of students are denied the opportunity to do the study of their choice because quota of certain groups need to be met. And thus less talented, but by birth more fortunate, people are attending university courses. And if they fail then obviously there's something wrong with the course and standards need to be lowered. Because naturally also 10% of the graduates should be foreign born(2).
50% of Dutch inhabitants are women, so of those participating in the work force ideally also 50% should be women. No matter that (in Holland at least) there's a clear trend for a sizable portion of women consciously deciding to stay at home and take care of the children. These women must not be allowed that choice, because that causes 'inequality', meaning unequal representations of categories of humans in the work force. So we introduce legislation that'll ultimately force women to find a job. Forcing even those that actually, given the choice, would rather stay home and attend to the upbringing of their children. That's what feminism (collectivism in another name, really) has come to.
Thus collectivist equality leads to inequality before the law. Moreover, it leads to less freedom and less justice by unwarranted removing options from those that could and would like to make use of those.
Of course, in the van Nistelrooy example I also don't have options I would like to have. But here's the difference: My lack of options are not because of the law or the state or some other anonymous body of fallible humans that decide against me. In the latter examples it *is* the one group of humans (the state) that creates injustice and (individual) inequality among other humans.
Sadly, we see an increasing amount of collectivist legislation, especially coming from the EU. I don't necesarily agree the EU is the new Soviet Union. But we certainly must be wary of that blighted collectivist thinking that seems to enthrall those in the corridors of Brussels. The State is not the end, it is the means. The means by which the parameters are set within which the economy can flourish and individuals can set up their life as they themselves see fit. *That* is freedom. And that is what we stand to lose if we let transnational organisations like the UN or the EU dictate our lives.
By necesesity trans-national organisations have to be collectivist. All humans are created equal, as the Human Rights charter of both the UN and the EU take as first principle. That however, does not mean all humans want the same things or will make the same choices in the same circumstances. The same is (maybe even more) true for peoples from different countries. However, both the EU and the UN would find it impossible to function if they were to take account of these differences. Hence they ignore and deny them: Collectivism.
In his classice text The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek deals with the problems of collectivism versus individualism. His conclusion: Collectivism can never NOT lead to oppression and even totalitarianism. I cannot recommend this text enough to everyone, especially those that are (thinking of going) into politics.
If we do nothing, if we stay silent, what Snouck describes may very well be (part of our) future. But I am not ready yet to shut down my computer and call it a day. At the start of WW2 my grandfathers unit chased Nazi paratroopers from an airfield they'd taken. Later on in the war he and my grandmother housed 'underdivers' on the run from Nazi security for long stretches of time. Pompous as it may sound: not doing anything, not speaking out against the threats I see would feel like a callous dismissal of the risks my grandparents exposed themselves to during the Occupation.
(Now, if there were only some to actually read this... )
(1) Dutch to English alert: Originally I mistakenly put a descriptive word of Snoucks post whos meaning was inapropriate and unintended. Hence edited. Sorry!
(2) This, BTW, is no joke. The entire system of education in the Netherlands has been infected by this thinking and we're only now identifying and starting to repair the damage this infernal thinking has caused. In the mean time the cohorts that received their education between 1995 and now are already dubbed the 'Lost Generation'. It is a real disgrace.