That removed painting with smoking old men at Leiden University doesn’t sit well with me. The takeaways said afterwards that it was an act of irony. Irony is always a nice tree to hide behind. But a real ‘diverse composition’ committee will be set up to investigate the case, and the president of the Executive Board has said that ‘inclusiveness is one of our most important tasks’. Farmer, watch your chickens.
We are used to the fact that old men have to leave. I got stuck with the cross-border nature of their cigars. So it was not real, but only metaphorical smoke, which hurt Dean Joanne van der Leun. In 1985 the house was too small because Minister Brinkman of Culture did not want to award the PC Hooft Prize to Hugo Brandt Corstius because he had turned ‘hurting into an instrument’. Hurting was allowed in art at the time, no: it was a must, but above all the state was not allowed to interfere in anything.
Times change and deans are already annoyed by painted smoke. Art is no longer allowed to hurt and the government is intensively involved. It’s been that way for a few years now Code Diversity and Inclusion of the Art Council. Without demonstrable diversity and inclusion no subsidy, is the rule. Museums don’t know better than to organize a slavery exhibition, and just like art, history has become a form of public admonition and no longer a thing of its own.
Two weeks ago, the director of the Stedelijk Museum, Rein Wolfs, to an interview NRC. The obsolete autonomy of art had to come to an end, he believed. The interrogator understood this as the end of the romantic artist, but later in the article it turned out that the director now judges the quality of art by the skin color of the maker. This obsession with color must of course lead to the disappearance of racism. You should take the end of autonomous art literally: the mission of museums is to propagate the right view. The good, the true and the beautiful are again in the trusted state hands.
Joanne van der Leun, the law dean who wanted to get rid of the old smokers, has certainly not mastered her former colleague Thorbecke. As is well known, Thorbecke believed that the government ‘is not a judge of science and art’. He was against state subsidies, because they would lead to a state concept being imposed. Thorbecke’s assignment was to design a new constitution, in which free citizens would no longer designate their representatives in the government, but free citizens. The core of his innovation was a strict distinction between the private and public spheres. There had to be a part of society from which the state should remain outside, so that the bourgeoisie could speak, think and organize in freedom.
If I see it right, then the state is gradually reclaiming that free space from the bourgeoisie. There are still neat committees that distribute the subsidy money, apparently at a distance, but no one can fail to notice that ministers, municipalities, universities, broadcasters and museums sing in unison about the blessings of diversity and inclusion. The free study of the colonial past, we know in advance, will be followed by the solemn apologies of the superiors.
Cross-border injuries are part of the class state. Estates, guilds, confraternities, monasteries, universities, cities – they all had their special rights. Until the new constitution of 1848, those privileges were enviously guarded, and any transgression of rank and position was an encroachment that had to be wiped out. Thorbecke’s life’s work was to disentangle the estates in order to replace them with equal rights for the individual citizen.
Sometimes I think that we are indeed back in the status state, in a modern guise of course. The same sad group categorization from which there is no escape, such as Joris Luyendijk’s seven ticks or Gloria Wekker’s white privilege. The border crossings of today are vaguely described, can vary from handing out an unsatisfactory to the misconduct of Matthijs van Nieuwkerk. What is certain is that you should not commit yourself to it. When NWO boss Marcel Levi wrote a light-hearted column about social safety in The parole, the reaction at the university was ‘disbelief and dismay’. Levi went with his piece himself along the edge of the cross-border abyss and had to make excuses in a hurry.
Anyone suspected of crossing the border will have to deal with unclear integrity companies. Adversarial arguments are not always necessary and even an age-old principle such as habeas corpus, the right to know what the charge is, can be set aside. Recently became Nico Besnier fired, attached to the UvA as professor of anthropology – another bastion of freedom. It was not his views, he had recently signed a manifesto against racism and intersectional discrimination.
But according to the university, there was a culture of fear around him and he had to leave. Besnier went to court, who accused the university of negligence. The result remained the same. Besnier was fired, now for broken working relationships, because that’s the way things are. The dean of the UvA did not bow her head humbly after the judicial beating, but said that she was ‘struck dumb’ by the verdict and spoke of ‘the world turned upside down’. Besnier had won his case, but the suspicion remained. Because the class state also requires long toes and an iron memory.