Politics, as Unusual

A Column

Robert van Schaik

Just before the last Dutch parliamentary elections, Jan Nagel (73), with a history in politics in parties all over the political spectrum, founded a party that thus far was unique for the Netherlands: 50+.

The 50+ party – the first thing it makes me think of is the ripeness of Gouda cheese at the supermarket – must be the ugliest name ever given to a Dutch political party. According to Nagel, my parents (and most of our Dutch campus’ parents) should vote 50+, because that is in their enlightened self-interest. With a vote for 50+ they can safeguard their much awaited pension and social security benefits. Truly, we have now come across the most oppressive form of politics: a conservative interest group solely focused on the wellbeing of a select portion of The Netherlands’ citizens.

The first program point of the 50+ party argues that the annual contribution to the pension fund should rise by 8%. Not a single introductory remark is made about a desired political course for the Netherlands. Why would one vote? “If you vote 50+, you know that we will continue to represent the interests of the elderly,” said party leader Henk Krol (62).

50+ actually advises its supporters the following: Focus on the overall importance and what is involved. Just think of yourself. Your whole life, you have had a stable job, you’ve taken full advantage of decades of economic growth and you’ve accumulated impressive pension rights. Why compromise?

The 50+ party is the aged version of the stereotypical tart Party Against Everything, a party founded on the basis of the slogan “Together for our own good”.

Some say that for example the Dutch Party for the Animals, which focuses solely on the protection of animals, also has just a few, narrow interests. Sure, but that program is not limited to a narrow, well-defined group of the population. The Party for the Animals considers animal welfare from an ecological perspective, which includes less consumption, sustainability and alternative energy elements. You do not need to share their vision to understand their perspective.
What about the labor movement, which was set up at the end of the nineteenth century, not only in the Netherlands but in almost every other European country? Isn’t this also purely based on self-interest? Of course, but with the big difference that at the time, not even the slightest rights existed for the proletariat. Moreover, the advocates of the labor movement itself understood the wrought system at the time, but nonetheless projected their ideals to save those that, thanks to capitalism, were between a rock and a hard place.

Fortunately, I’m sure my parents won’t vote 50+. If there is one lesson they have taught me, it is to take care of the people who aren’t as fortunate as you are. The selfishness of this party is directly contrary to the elder generation’s guiding principle: solidarity.

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