Winner Take All

This is a dispiriting read. They win. Bullying wins, death threats win, force wins, violence wins, pushing people around and beating them up and killing them wins. Interesting situation, isn’t it. People who have some capacity for moral reflection and awareness make some effort not to oppress and dominate and bully other people; people who don’t, don’t; so the people with some capacity lose to the people who have none. Familiar paradox. People who don’t give a rat’s ass about the freedom and rights of anyone but themselves are, of course, at a similar sort of advantage over people who do. People who think, like Callicles in the Gorgias, that people who can win because they’re stronger should go right ahead and do just that, often get their way. (Would he have thought so if he’d been small and puny and weak and sickly? Probably not. Hence the use of the Veil of Ignorance. But of course the Callicleses of the world don’t mess around with any old veils of ignorance, because they’re not small and puny and weak and sickly, so why should they.)

The decision by Wilders and Hirsi Ali to reveal their secret lives, one in a jail cell, the other on a naval base, has raised a question that is troubling many Dutch: is it acceptable for legislators in a Western democracy to be forced to go into hiding, to live like fugitives on the run in their own land?
Abram de Swaan, a prominent sociologist, said: “Of course this is an outrage. It’s not bearable. The government must come up with better solutions, like putting them in protected homes. That’s the way it happens in other countries.” The NRC Handelsblad, a leading daily newspaper, ran an editorial recently headlined “Unacceptable”. A situation in which legislators are “hampered in carrying out their tasks puts democracy in question and makes terror successful…”

Is it acceptable? That’s an easy question to answer. No, it’s not.

It was Hirsi Ali, though, who first decided to go public with her own and Wilders’ hiding places, out of frustration at the government’s seeming foot-dragging over finding appropriate housing. Her own proposals were regularly rejected as unsafe, she said.
Her bodyguards, she said, have deposited her on many weeknights on a naval base in Amsterdam, or hustled her off to sleep in different hotels. “They are keeping me alive, but I cannot concentrate on my work,” she said. “I need a place where I have my desk, my books, my papers, a home where I can meet with people.”…Hirsi Ali concedes she is struggling with the question of how long she can continue in politics, denouncing what she regards as the excesses of Islam. In the past she has shown she is not easily cowed, but she said a deep fatigue was setting in. “I am willing to sacrifice a great deal, but I don’t know if I can live like this for a lot longer.” She put her inexorable quandary this way, “The real problem is, I cannot stop because that will only serve and stimulate the terrorists.”

I find that dispiriting because I can imagine it so well – I can imagine going stark raving mad being forced to live in hotel rooms or on a naval base all the time, away from my desk, books, papers, own living space. Hirsi Ali is tired of it. She doesn’t want to live that way. And why the hell should she? How could she? So they’ve already won – even if she does persist. They’ve won by spoiling her life and making her work impossible. The mindless sexist bullying thugs who can’t stand to see women who are not under the thumb of a man, get to win. It makes me crazy.

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