A new bridge over the Meuse river is in the works to help bring Rotterdam together, connecting Kralingen in the north with IJsselmonde in the south. The election results reveal not only a physical distance but also a deep-seated ideological gap. In the ‘Erasmus University’ polling station in Kralingen-Oost, PVV (Party for Freedom) secured about 4 per cent of the votes on November 22, whereas in the ‘Topsportcentrum’ polling station in Oud IJsselmonde, they secured almost 38 per cent of votes.

While we might celebrate the outcome at the university and critique those on the opposite side of the Maas, such an approach is not acceptable for academics, particularly when the university emphasises its commitment to being an integral part of Rotterdam society rather than an ivory tower.

For fifteen years, I sat opposite Geert Wilders in the Dutch House of Representatives: he as the leader of PVV and I as a member of SP (Socialist Party). Wilders positioned himself on the far right, and I on the far left. In parliament, avoidance is not an option, and individuals with differing opinions must engage in meaningful debates. This is only possible if we make an effort to comprehend the perspectives of others: understanding why opponents hold certain convictions, how they think and their worldview. In the House of Representatives, I often engaged with people, visiting them or going for coffee, to gain insight into their thoughts and motivations. It is a diverse environment with many different parties who, in practice, are all willing to collaborate.

It has irked me, the way some academic circles discussed PVV’s victory. Not so much the criticism of Wilders’ plans, as I share those sentiments, but rather the depiction of PVV voters. They were often portrayed as ignorant individuals who wouldn’t grasp political intricacies – incapable of making informed voting decisions. The respect for diversity appears to dwindle when those with opposing views live in closer proximity. Scientists should exhibit more curiosity about the reasons why people chose to vote PVV. From my observations, it seems to be primarily a plea for attention from the political arena.

Post-election, the PvdA/GroenLinks coalition in Amsterdam urged its members to protest against the results. I found this not only peculiar but also sending the wrong message: implying that PVV voters don’t truly belong. In my discussions with PVV voters, it becomes apparent that most don’t seek to distance themselves from politics. Rather, they fear that politics is moving away from them. PVV voters are angry, but even more so, they are fearful of people like us. What we think and do in Kralingen-Oost can significantly impact the lives of those in Oud IJsselmonde – the reverse is much less true. So bring on that bridge, as we need it to bridge this gap. It is up to us to make that happen.

On 2 February, Ronald van Raak will release his book entitled Spelen met waarden, betalen met gedachten (Playing with Values, Paying with Thoughts), which delves into Erasmus, Spinoza and the question of what binds us.

Lees meer

Erasmus’ search for love and affection

Reading the letters of Erasmus of Rotterdam, Ronald van Raak, professor of Erasmian…