Buruma's Boundaries to Freedom

Just read Grenzen aan de vrijheid: van de sade tot wilders (2010), which Buruma wrote in Dutch (Boundaries to Freedom: from De Sade to Wilders). It’s only 95 pages long, but surprisingly thorough and broad in its approach. As in Murder in Amsterdam Buruma points out that the way conservatives in Western Europe now embrace the liberties that left-wing activist had to fight for so hard, battling against the conservative authorities of their time, is somewhat odd. Now those liberties are ‘our Western values’ (consider however that in the 1930s the Dutch government was still thinking it should be prudent to make it against the law for married women to work; That till 1954 women were still routinely fired from governmental position when they married; Don't even mention something like homosexuality) or ‘the enlightenment values’ (nobody had heard of those outside of academia till only a few years ago).

While Buruma seems to agree that it is laudable to pursue the ideals of the enlightenment, he is somewhat weary of turning them into dogmas, as politicians like Wilders prefer to do.

No surprise there. A bit unhelpful as well - in my experience people who embrace ideals as dogmas are as much beyond reason as fundamentalist religious people are (even though ‘reason’ is supposed to be one of the enlightenment values, but I guess they are a bit selective). While unhelpful with regard to the issue of dealing with people who converted to this or that dogma, the book was still interesting to read. Some interesting histories, and lessons or thoughts that might help navigate between Isaiah Berlins ‘negative liberties’ and ‘positive liberties’.

A review of Taming the gods ( I haven't read that book) seems in line with what I just read: ‘Presenting a challenge to dogmatic believers and dogmatic secularists alike, Taming the Gods powerfully argues that religion and democracy can be compatible--but only if religious and secular authorities are kept firmly apart.’ Seems reasonable enough, but how do you explain that to someone who is under the spell of one of those dogmas?