I’m seated in a cold old factory hall, clutching a cup of coffee that isn’t very good. As is my habit, I intensely stare at the stage imploring the evening to start. It’s a full house of people for tonight in the Hall of Fame in Tilburg, eagerly waiting. This is not about music though, but about voting.
It’s not a metal concert though, tonight I’m enjoying a reading from Esther Ouwehand and Lammert van Raan about the Partij voor de Dieren (Animal Party) and their vision that idealism is the new realism. We watched a short film about nature, which was very powerful. The party members spoke about the trials they’ve had to face from animal noises from other politicans to a guy from the VVD (party for many monies) eating a balloon to prove that they were not bad for the environment…
So how do you end up at a place like this? I thought I’d tell you.
My political journey
I come from a rather left wing nest, where voting for the more left orientated parties is the norm. Voting is always done with the idea of making the world better. We’re an idealistic bunch, My parents were divided about the main direction of that change, it was either equality or environment. I’ve been raised with those ideas, but also with the thought that there’s always two sides to a story. Trying to be critical and taking another view serious is important. Criticism, I sort of learned, is the cornerstone of effective democracy and almost a duty for every citizen. If we hear a politician shout certain facts, we should check them. If a politician suggests a solution, we should be skeptical of it. Not out of distrust, but because it’s our duty. Also, Henry Rollins tells us to do so…
I think that’s how I ended up in punkrock music. The idea that big companies were dominating the world, that polticians were doing a half-arsed job and the idea that music could change the world is deeply ingrained in my personal development. Again, thanks to my parents for encouraging and feeding that. My passion for politics always was present and I’ve never skipped a vote, whatever vote it was. I felt affinity to various parties and was a member of two others, but ended up here. What is it that so grabs me?
Shaping the way of voting
Was it my journey through extreme music, ending up listening to black metal that worships nature? Partly so, I’m certain of that. Was it the visits to the forests since I was a child and the endless string of films and documentaries, like Philip Glass’s ‘Koyaanisqatsi’? Certainly… Was it that magical moment when I got married to my lovely wife on a hill top in the middle of Lithuanian green fields in the Romuva tradition? A tradition that is based on harmony and balance with nature, on planting trees and love for nature? It might have tipped the scales.
At the age of 31 politics and the world around me made me think that the only way to change the world is finding the things you can do yourself. I considered not voting and focusing on that. Not the big things, but living conscious, buying durable and thinking how you can profoundly affect your environment for the better. It’s why I’m leaving business life for a teachers position too. This way I just might change a little bit of the world, change a mind here and there… An inspirational figure for me, who is a teacher, described it once as ‘planting a seed’. Exactly the words used in todays presentation.
If you can form a movement though, of people all wanting to make these little changes… well, we might just change the course of our world.
So what is it with this party?
During the reading it was made clear that the party is very progressive and therefor often ridiculed. The name also is often reason for jokes and mockery. Those two points I would like to address.
Progressive often means a new voice. To me, this is not a strange thing. If you try to get something very simple done and it doesn’t work, you try something else. Being willing to look at the groundwork of what you’re doing, for the ideals behind it, makes sense. I’m an idealistic voter, I’m not informed enough to have an opinion about all the topics in a program, so I want to vote for a general direction. An ideology if you will. At this point we have two choices, which are keeping on going in the direction we’re moving in now or radically change our orientation.
Most parties focus on economics, which never made sense to me. Economics has become a huge business in dealing with tangled, untouchable currencies. How can so many businesses deal in something that physically doesn’t exist? It makes no sense and it is bringing us nowhere, so why keep voting for them?. Dealing with issues as integration, foreign wars, taxes and all matters, but what is at the root of most problems we have? It usually is something with nature. That is something this party got right. This is that change we can all believe in, we need to believe in. Then there’s also the grassroots element.
The party is not just aiming at politics, it’s aiming at creating movement of people that are willing to change. It reminds me of the way Bernie Sanders describes his politics. The movement already was there, but now there’s a catalyst and a flag to rally around.
If you didn’t care
What happened to me
And I didn’t care for you
We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching the pigs on the wing
– Pigs on the Wing, Pink Floyd
A party for animals is a funny thing, unless we really look at what we’re doing. We’re behaving pretty much like animals towards each other. The less we take care of each other, the more animalistic our behavior becomes. Animals are focusing on surviving, regardless of others. The way our economy is dealing with the world currently is like that. The way we start dealing with each other is more like that. The core values that the party underlines aren’t just relevant to animals but very much so for human beings as well. Compassion, durability, personal freedom and personal responsibility.
I picked some lyrics here, that might say a lot about many situations. In this song people read different meanings, but for me the opening lines say the most. If we stop caring for another, then what are we really? The way we treat animals says a lot about the way we treat another. The way we talk about refugees for example is no other than the way we talk about cattle. They’re a nameless, faceless entity in our perspective. We create herds all the time, from PVV-voters to foreign nationalities.
Time to change
More and more this is arising. The people around us in traffic, in the supermarket, they’re not fellow human beings but competitors who we must beat in our consumerist hunt. We’re out for maximum gain, more stuff, bigger possessions and we have no disregard for others. We treat each other more and more like animals. Especially those big companies and businesses have found a special mercilessness and disregard of human life, nature and the world. I’m not a vegetarian, but the way we deal with life on our planet shows no respect and most of all is not a way that can last. A party for the animals is therefore not just a party for those that walk on four paws, hooves or feet, but also particularly for those who walk on two…
So that’s why I was there on a cold, rainy Wednesday night. That’s why I feel very passionate about this new direction. So that’s why I believe in this alternative. That’s why I believe that this is a different option and the way to go. A voting alternative for the road to ruin we’re on, because we have no alternative earth.
Disclaimer: This is personal opinion, not party policy or necessarily viewpoints. It’s an attempt at describing a feeling, position and experience by myself. I am greatly interested in pursuing this further.