‘We shouldn’t run away from each other’
17 March 2008 - When Geert Wilders publishes
his anti-Islam film, young VVD members will go to Slotervaart to
debate with Moroccan youth. “You can have a nice debate about
that. We shouldn’t run away from each other”, says Jan
de Geus, the new chairman of the Amsterdam branch of the JOVD, the
youth organisation of the VVD.
During the past years, the Amsterdam branch has been inactive.
De Geus, who studies business economics and political and social
philosophy, was approached by the JOVD to revive the branch. Last
week, a new board was elected.
Like the Amsterdam VVD, the JOVD will have a more progressive profile
than the national VVD. For example, De Geus finds that the VVD is
not doing enough on environmental policies, a popular issue among
This is not to say that he agrees with Amsterdam’s plans
to make parking more expensive and to ban old cars from the city
centre. “That’s more harassing car owners than making
a contribution to air quality”, De Geus says. He prefers a
“I think it’s great what [former astronaut] Wubbo Ockels
is doing on sustainable innovation, in collaboration with universities.
We have to find ways to become sustainable without having to make
sacrifices. Amsterdam should market itself as Energy City”.
Other priorities include student housing, the quality of education,
legalising soft drugs and a less panicky response to magic mushrooms.
De Geus also calls on the Amsterdam government to participate in
the Gay Pride, just as Minister Ronald Plasterk has promised to
An important issue for the JOVD branch are disadvantaged neighbourhoods
such as Slotervaart. De Geus is not in favour of getting tough on
problem youth. “There is no point in tougher punishments.
If someone has been in jail for two weeks, people will only think
this is cool”.
Instead, it’s better to involve young people in the work
of the police and in politics, De Geus says. The JOVD wants to organise
political debates at schools, in collaboration with other youth
organisations of political parties. “Many young people think:
I can’t make a difference. That’s not right. We have
to make them understand that they can make a difference”.
De Geus admires Chairman Ahmed Marcouch (PvdA) of the Slotervaart
District. “Because he is straightforward and because of how
he deals with things: stop fussing, things must change”. However,
he disagrees with Marcouch about the issue of so-called street coaches
(social workers) refusing to shake hands with women.
Marcouch finds it acceptable that religious street coaches refuse
to shake hands with women. De Geus: “Liberalism stands for
freedom; in principle you don’t go about telling people that
they have to shake hands with each other. But here it regards people
who have a function that requires them to do so”.
He finds the situation comparable with that of civil servants who,
because of their religion, refuse to marry gay couples. “They
too must simply do their job, as far as I’m concerned”.
In addition to visiting schools, the JOVD branch is going to organise
political skills courses and excursions to the Port of Amsterdam,
the Bijlmerbajes prison and the El Tawheed mosque (which according
to secret service AIVD played a role in the radicalisation of Muslim
Political youth organisations are often a springboard to a political
career, but De Geus does not know yet what he will be doing in a
couple of years. “I find politics very interesting, but the
same applies to the government and business”.
Amsterdam (in Dutch). Image: preparation of a political evening
on problem neighbourhoods with anthropologist and criminologist
Hans Werdmölder; De Geus to the left (photo JOVD)
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