These children of Erasmus appear highly sceptical of ideology and above all seem committed to fostering an absolutely neutral campus where everyone feels heard. The LE feel that Erasmus University should not be forcing ideology on people, for example in the form of rainbow zebra crossings. They also seem to have a problem with the food provided on campus going fully vegan.

Before I start criticising, let me just emphasise the fact that I do sympathise with Liberi Erasmi with regard to certain issues. Open debate and greater student engagement with university policy are ideas I can get behind: I would very much welcome more open debate on campus.

However, I have a strong feeling that Liberi Erasmi’s freedom-loving and emancipatory rhetoric is underpinned by a form of political cowardice and indifference. In my view, they are committing one of the greatest political fallacies there is (and one which has been the ethos of the neoliberal West for decades): they are reducing very complex social disputes, including those that deal with the acceptance and safety of human beings (such as homosexuality), to issues people can either agree or disagree with – as if we were talking about an ice cream flavour rather than a fundamental part of a human being’s life.

For example, party leader Nawin Ramcharan (with whom I’ve occasionally had some polite conversations), stresses that he is all for acceptance of being gay, but that he ‘equally wants space for people who feel differently on the issue’.

I would have been a little more sympathetic to that statement had the focus of the issue been different (for example, ice cream flavours).

Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with food preferences but with the social safety of a specific group of people. It doesn’t take a PhD in Political Science to recognise that accepting and respecting homophobic individuals means denying space to gay people. If someone feels people with a different sexual orientation to them are inferior, this has implications on our social climate. There can be no reasonable middle ground in this case: either one or the other has got to go. You can’t have a community of which half is pro-LGBTI and the other half is homophobic. A society like that is doomed to implode. As such, this ostensible neutrality is a false neutrality.

On top of that, this fabled neutrality that the members of Liberi Erasmi are talking about is in fact a myth. After all, who decides what is neutral and what isn’t? How do you even distinguish neutrality from ideology? Throughout history, we have seen neutrality and rationality take very different forms. At one time, neutrality meant burning Protestants as heretics, simply because Catholicism was the norm. Similarly, neutrality once meant preserving a system of slavery because the desire to abolish serfdom was considered a form of political idealism that would ruin the economy. A few decades ago, it was equally controversial to say that women were not destined for a life at the kitchen sink and should be able to develop their skills.

In the end, everyone is ideologically engaged in some sense or other, and no one can ever achieve pure neutrality. Precisely those people who say that the campus should be devoid of political symbols such as rainbow flags are themselves master ideologues: they may not be communists, confessionalists or social liberals, but they are adamant centrists whose political logic is entirely based on avoiding sensitive issues and relies on pandering to the crowd to keep the peace. However, not every type of peace is worth keeping. How can there be peace if your goal is a social climate in which gays and gay haters, feminists and chauvinists, socialists and right-wing nationalists treat one another with ‘respect’?

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek once said: the most dangerous ideology is an ideology that pretends not to be an ideology. This also makes indifference an ideology – if not the most dangerous of them all. So let’s not kid ourselves into thinking we can always expect some sort of peace or reconciliation as the outcome to a debate. Some issues are too personal or too human to send everyone on their way with half a solution.


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