RIP Philo

Return to Oude Pekela

Financial Times on Oude Pekela, the poorest village of the Netherlands.

Oude Pekela lies 40 kilometres to the East of Groningen. It grew along a canal in a 17th century peat exploitation.

I add some photo's I took there some time ago.
Permalink Lotti Fuehrscheim 
April 12th, 2018 5:15pm
That lady doesn't seem to be happy that you took her picture.
Permalink DrNo 
April 12th, 2018 5:26pm
I don't pay for membership on FT. What did they say?
Permalink DrNo 
April 12th, 2018 5:26pm
"Subscribe to the FT to read: Financial Times Return to Oude Pekela: a Dutch model for resisting the far right"

That's all that is available for less than "$6.45 per week".

Pay links are NOT PERMITTED on CoT. It's in the TOS you received when you joined.
Permalink Reality Check 
April 12th, 2018 7:18pm
I Googled the first sentence in the starting post and that gave me a link around the paywall.

VERY interesting point about the lack of despair.

This looks like a really good place to put all of those Somalian, cough cough, Syrian refugees.
Permalink Voice of authority 
April 12th, 2018 11:05pm
Probably something about referrer.

I read it through this twitter link:

Then, after posting, when I checked the direct link in the OP, the paywall also appeared for me. And then even through the twitter link the paywall appeared. Yesterday.

This morning the link through twitter worked again for me.
Permalink Lotti Fuehrscheim 
April 13th, 2018 1:40am
Copypaste content:

Return to Oude Pekela: a Dutch model for resisting the far right
‘In the Netherlands’ poorest villages, unlike in many Trump towns, the state is very present’

About 70 people are gathered in the cosy civic centre of Oude Pekela, one of the Netherlands’ poorest villages. When I ask them: “Do you see Pekela mostly as a poor place, or a happy one?”, no hands go up for “poor”. Almost all are raised for “happy”.

There’s a new genre of journalism about poor white Trump- or Brexit-voting towns. Desperate inhabitants, typically interviewed in a diner or pub, tell the visiting reporter that the jobs have gone. But Oude Pekela is different. You can best judge a country by its poorest places, and I came away from my second visit here thinking: the Netherlands treats its left-behinds relatively well. That’s a weapon against the far right.

Pekela is in the Dutch north-east, 20km from Germany, as remote as the Netherlands gets. Yet cycling past beautiful brick houses along the canal, and visiting people on benefits in their well-maintained homes, you think: surely this isn’t the country’s poorest village? Unlike in many Trump towns, the state is very present. The civic centre, De Binding, has a warm library, a billiards room and a bustling bar where you can sit and watch local teams playing league volleyball. The municipality of 12,200 people has 25 sports clubs.

Civic spirit is strong. The decades-old ritual mocking of the place by Dutch media baffles many inhabitants. In Pekela, I was repeatedly told, everyone brings a sick neighbour soup. A woman who moved here recently says: “Within three weeks, I was decorating the street with my neighbours.”

Yes, there is suffering. Pim Siegers, local councillor for the far-left Socialistische Partij (SP), says: “Many people have days left over at the end of the month, but no cents.” In a place without train station or cinema, boredom and frustration encourage addiction (though the hemp growing in the nearby fields won’t get you stoned, as generations of disappointed teenagers can testify). A quarter of Pekela’s shopfronts are empty. Eighty-five households use food banks, and unemployment is 8.5 per cent. (Nationally, it’s 4.1 per cent.) From 2013 to 2016, Pekela had the Netherlands’ lowest house prices. A pastor told me that the couples he married during the economic crisis had stayed, largely because starter homes cost €45,000. But most of them work in busier towns nearby.

I first visited last year when historically communist Pekela was an electoral target for Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, whose PVV party threatened to become the Netherlands’ largest. There were tensions over the local asylum centre: some people on benefits felt the state was mollycoddling refugees. A few asylum seekers from “safe countries” in eastern Europe and north Africa misbehaved.

The PVV scored 24 per cent in Pekela in the March 2017 elections, beating the SP by one vote. But the PVV got only 13 per cent nationwide, and has since lost ground in Pekela too. In local elections last month, the party won just two of the municipality’s 15 council seats: a pair of brothers became Pekela’s first ever far-right representatives (other than the National Socialist mayor in the second world war).

Leftist parties took 10 council seats. Siegers says the SP won by campaigning on local issues — above all, by fighting plans to raze a working-class neighbourhood. Across the Netherlands, local parties without national presence won nearly half of all municipalities. Siegers thinks Pekelders perceive the SP as a local party.

The SP’s victory here highlights another national trend. Dutch far-left parties hold 18 per cent of parliament. That’s three points more than the far right. In continental western Europe outside northern Italy, the far right’s power is often exaggerated. Its national vote shares range from zero per cent in Spain to 26 per cent in Austria.

Last year, Pekela’s asylum centre closed, like dozens across the Netherlands, for want of asylum seekers. The EU’s deal with Turkey has kept refugees stranded in Turkish camps. Some Pekelders, especially churchgoers who volunteered in the asylum centre, opposed its closure. Maurits Langeler, a company owner, says: “These people gave our town colour.” A lorry driver’s wife recounts cooking all evening for her Syrian goddaughter’s baptism. Siegers describes a doctor from Damascus who fell for Pekela and insisted on being rehoused with his family here, rather than in a richer region.

Some business people miss the asylum seekers’ custom: two food shops have recently closed. Most Pekelder political parties would welcome a new, small asylum centre (and the state subsidies it brings), but that’s probably wishful thinking: bulldozers just flattened the old one.

Still, Pekela is buzzing, by its own sleepy standards. The Dutch state — worried about left-behind places — is putting €5m into renovating the village centre. When a futuristic promotional video of the planned improvements was shown in De Binding, one old man shouted: “Dubai!” Local roads have been widened, reducing Pekela’s isolation. And Pekela no longer has the country’s cheapest houses: average prices have jumped to €150,000, from €128,000 last year, according to government figures.

People vote far right for many reasons. But insofar as they vote from despair, the Netherlands is a model for how to respond.
Permalink Lotti Fuehrscheim 
April 13th, 2018 1:45am
>Netherlands is a model

Until they suddenly realised they're fucked.
Permalink Anabela Huang 
April 13th, 2018 8:22am
>Until they suddenly realised they're fucked.

Indeed, they're fucked already, they just haven't realised it yet.
Permalink Marius Moga 
April 13th, 2018 3:45pm

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