Leiden Law Blog

Who to vote for in these challenging times?

Who to vote for in these challenging times?

This year there will be elections in several European countries and on 15 March it will be the Netherlands’ turn. The number of parties to choose from here is historically high, no less than 28. But even with such a huge choice many people have said they do not yet know which party they are going to vote for. Apparently, choosing the right political party in these times is far from easy. And how do you know you have made the right choice? After only one month of Trump’s presidency in the US, I’m sure many protest voters are already very much regretting their choice. They had listened to his many promises but had not taken account of his personality.

Focus on individuals

Therefore it makes sense to be more aware in advance what the likely consequences will be of a particular vote. I think the prime question for the coming elections (in whatever country they take place) is: do you want to contribute to an escalation of conflicts (on different levels) or do you genuinely want to contribute to a reversal of the process? Considering the current developments in world politics and the presence of a survival instinct in all of us, I bet not many people would seriously opt for an escalation.
To realize the reversal process, a decline in conflicts, I think it is more important than ever that – before we blindly accept the beautiful promises of the party programmes – we must first take a closer look at the individuals within the parties, starting of course with the party leaders. The current situation in the US, which is affecting the whole world, shows that it is essential to get individuals with reasonably mature, balanced minds on the influential positions. The party banner they operate under is not insignificant, but it takes second place.

Transcending dualism

For me, the central criterion is to vote for someone who personally knows the limits and dangers of a dualistic world view, and is also able to transcend it – thereby creating a mental space for building bridges. In a nutshell we can say that dualism is an expression of our ego consciousness, which is rooted in our heads, whereas transcending it means that our heart gets involved as well and is even allowed to take over. When this happens, we are bound to remember that in fact we have always been interconnected beings – connected to others, to the country, and to the world.


That this deeper, connected side of ours is not just some fanciful idea we can witness in the fact that no one can live without breathing the air, drinking the water, and eating the food, which the natural environment keeps on offering us continually without asking anything in return. And the incredible amount of cultural wealth, created by people of previous generations and freely given to us, must also not be taken for granted. Transcending dualism means becoming aware of the importance of reciprocity: of being deeply grateful and considering it natural to offer something in return for all that has been given. This is essential wisdom for politicians who genuinely want to serve the inhabitants of their country and the natural world. It is my firm belief that only politicians who know at heart that we are interconnected beings can be trusted with making good decisions and creating good laws.

Avoiding bad laws and bad examples

I think we should avoid voting for politicians who are still largely missing this kind of wisdom. Observing today’s political developments we can see that ego-driven politicians are primarily identifying themselves with the Absolute Good and are recognising anything negative only in an absolute sense in other easily identifiable groups. Jungians would say they are projecting their inner shadow onto others. It should be clear to voters that politicians with this kind of dualistic mindset cannot serve anyone but themselves and should not be trusted with anything either – least of all with taking decisions and making laws that deal structurally with the problems in our society. And we should not forget that they are simply setting a bad example to all of us, by saying that it is OK to be like them – to be angry all the time, to be proud to exclude people, to project fear onto others – and that this is all there is to being human.

Balance and challenge

But of course there is a lot more to being human, and fortunately many people are aware of this. We should not underestimate the fact that a growing number of people on this planet have discovered the wealth of their inner potential, and know that the meaning of their life depends on developing this potential. They are continually working on transcending their own dualistic tendencies, on balancing their ego and their deeper interconnected side. They know that it is an exciting project that is never finished, and that there is also a real challenge in being involved in this. Because of this they have begun to feel more part of a rising Earth Community than of any particular country. (See my previous blog on this theme.) Naturally there are politicians who have picked up this ‘spirit’ as well and try to include it in their policies.

Finding the right candidate

How can we recognise these kinds of politicians? Simply by their sense of being genuinely grateful and compassionate, by their honesty and openness, by their peaceful intentions, by their cooperative nature, by the absence of any smart media strategies to trick us into voting for them, by the absence of hidden agendas. And, perhaps most importantly, by the fact that they only speak after they have listened! Personally I have spotted a few Dutch politicians who express these qualities to a reasonable degree. And, after having weighed the content of their party programmes as well, one of them will get my vote in March.  


Wim Bonis
Posted on February 26, 2017 at 11:07 by Wim Bonis

Dear Kevin, thanks again for your comments on my blog. The fact that there are many ‘undecided voters’ in the Netherlands inspired me to write it. This means that the ‘voting histories’ might change a lot. But I agree that people often choose on the basis of prejudice, and that it is hard to change this. Indeed we do not start with a ‘blank page’, but did we ever start with one? I don’t think that our minds have started ‘tabula rasa’, and that we need to have a blank page to open ourselves to phenomena like interconnectedness and reciprocity. In my view at heart we already are interconnected and reciprocal beings, and in our time many people are rediscovering this deeper, more authentic being in themselves. In the fact that the page has never been blank we can find our hope for change, an antidote to our cynical views that nothing will ever change.

You make a connection between rational arguments and the long term health of the planet. I think rational thinking, which in politics and elsewhere comes down to economic thinking, is more likely to limit its focus to the short term and to human society. If it is concerned with the non-human, natural environment, with the health of the planet, it is because the survival of our species is at stake. In line with what I said above, I consider our long term ecological concern to be primarily an expression of our deepest being. It comes from our heart first, and therefore initially it is more a matter of feeling, sensing and intuition, than of rational thinking.

There already is a Central Planning Bureau in the Netherlands. It is called ‘Centraal Plan Bureau’ (CPB). Facts like the funding of the promises and plans in the party programmes are checked thoroughly by it and also made public. But sometimes this check is impossible. For instance, the promises and plans of Wilders’ party, the PVV, are limited to single sentences on one A4, with no further explanation about the funding, about the ways to realise them. They also refuse to supply more details, and apparently his voters don’t seem to be interested very much in a check of their claims…

Kevin Walsh
Posted on February 24, 2017 at 20:07 by Kevin Walsh

As usual Wim, you chose very good topics for your blog, and it is almost impossible to argue with the altruism and goodness of heart running through your arguments. However it is possible to argue with your standpoint. If we were starting with a clean page, then, ok, people can use criteria like interconnectedness and reciprocity to judge political candidates; but it is not a clean page. People already have prejudices and voting histories. We are also not ideal decision makers, far from it [as shown in the works of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, recently highlighted in Michael Lewis’ book, The Undoing project];  we are much more likely to react to scaremongering than rational arguments about the long term health of the planet! I wonder if the Netherlands could open an office similar to the Central Planning Bureau, focussed on fact-checking of political parties; it would compliment the evaluation of economic and environmental policies with a reality check on the claims made against immigration and greater European integration.

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