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Declaration of Honour

On Saturday I listened to an interview to a Belgian politician who was saying that Governments should let out of the political scene extreme rights parties. He claimed that they receive too much visibility from the media and this is a reason for their popularity. He suggested not talking to them, as simple as that.

Some agreed with him, others did not, because we are a democracy and everyone shall have the right to speak, express their opinion, and fight for their ideas.

However, if you think about the values they refer to, they don’t look democratic at all. They are ultranationalists, xenophobic, chauvinists, racists, homophobic, transphobic, and ultimately reactionary.

I don’t want to analyse here what their politics would lead to, I think there are many examples in the world that speak for themselves.

What I would like to know from you, is what you would do. Let’s imagine you meet one of the alt-right movements, and you would have the chance to talk to them, what would you do?

In Europe, besides the national parliaments, we also have the European Parliament. There are also representatives of extreme right parties who don’t believe in the European values, actually they fight against them.

Why are they members of an institution they believe should not exist, then? I would set a condition for being elected that would state something like – I declare under my honour that I truly believe in European values and will do anything in my capacity to stand for them.

In my line of job, scientific research field, we ask applicants to sign the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. This code lays out reliability, honesty, respect, and accountability as fundamental principles of research integrity.

Do you think it would be worth having anything like that for politicians joining public institutions as well?

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a close up shot of a person signing a document
Signing a Declaration – Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

12 thoughts on “Declaration of Honour

  1. Well, while I agree with your sentiment, I don’t see it doing any good. First of all, who defines what “European values” are? The Right would argue THEY are defending European ideals. In America, the president and every member of Congress swears an oath to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. And how’s that playing out? The problem is, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, you cannot reason a person out of something they weren’t reasoned into in the first place. Political beliefs are developed and defended far more by emotions than reason. And everyone feels that THEIR view is tha one protecting the important values of a community. Banning media is also anti-Democratic, tho I’d love it if the government would heavily done any news program who disseminates demonstrably false or misleading information.

    It’s a vitally important issue, and I wish I were smart enough to have a clear cut solution, but there seldom if ever is in politics. And pledges don’t mean much when they are predicated on principles too vague to clearly define.

  2. ‘Why are they members of an institution they believe should not exist, then?’

    Good question. Our own right-wing politicians here in the U.S. (and I loathe to even use that term, as we’re hardly “united” in anything these days) have been railing against abstractions like “the government” and “the media” while shouting it from posts within the same government and media. They shout the same insults of “elites” while traversing the country in their private jets and yachts.

    It’s maddening that their adherents don’t see the irony and dismiss them out of hand.

  3. I completely agree with not giving any publicity to extremists of any sort…but people live for ratings, and normal doesn’t seem to be sensational enough. I don’t believe values can be so broadly applied in this context. Each country in Europe is different, with their own national pride and feelings about diversity.

    I lived in Belgium for 2 years, and though it felt better than my days in middle of nowhere United States, I still encountered racism and discrimination personally and observed it with Turkish, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern people being discriminated against routinely. Every country I visited I experienced some form of discrimination except Italy, but I only stayed in Venice for a week. I experienced more racism in Spain than anywhere else and I was only there for a month.

    The thing is, the discrimination wasn’t coming from ranting, far right, extremists, it was coming from run of the mill shop owners, police officers, everyday citizens. I think the main reason these sentiments aren’t immediately discarded as hate filled nonsense is because there are elements that actually appeal to more people than those willing to publicly admit it.

    1. I think that those people you mentioned are the same who support the extremists. As Italian I must say that you were lucky not experiencing discrimination when visiting Venice. Maybe the time was too short? Or maybe my country is changing? Not according to the news though…

      1. I’ll go with my time was too short 🙂 I was only there for a week. Compared to Spain, Italy was better in every regard.

  4. One of the problems with liberal thought is our willingness to hold space even for the most atrocious, the most vile without doing anything. “Yes, he’s a horrifying, inbred, racist pig, but everyone is entitled to hold an opinion, and everyone is entitled to share it unchecked, even if it is grotesque.” We should’ve thought more carefully about caveats. We should’ve thought more carefully about not just giving space to these opinions, but to correcting the problems that led to them developing. Hate, bigoty, racism – none of these things arise in a vacuum. We made this. We ignored the signs and put too much faith in the idea that humans are “good,” whatever that means and regardless of mountains of evidence to the contrary.

    And, here we are with big problems and no easy solutions. What do I say to an American neo-Nazi who’s been raised to hate and “own the libs,” and has heard “white makes right and you’re under attack” their whole lives? What do I say to radicalized Muslims from the developing world who are finally standing up against victimhood, but are now so angry and so used to being lied to and abused that there’s no trust? What do I say to make right the massive problems in distribution, or to correct the destruction of large swathes of the world in ways that don’t really impact those of us in developed nations? I have no idea.

  5. I love your list of “reliability, honesty, respect, and accountability” – as fundamental principles. You ask a great question and I don’t have a good answer. Except the word “accountability” strikes a thought that the key has to be holding people accountable. It’s extremely hard as we are finding in the US with the inquiry into the Jan 6 riot at the Capitol, especially with the people at the top. But it seems like a way that we can try without violating our own values.

  6. “Do you think it would be worth having anything like that for politicians joining public institutions as well?” That’s a great question! Sometimes I find myself wondering how effective certain practices are when they do not carry legal weight, or they do not “push” people to do, let’s say, “the right thing” or act in a particular way. However, I do believe I underestimate human nature sometimes. My first instinct upon reading your question was “What’s the point? They can just lie if they want to.” Of course, we all have that choice at any given time! But why don’t we? Not necessarily because some of us have stronger morals than others… Maybe it’s because some of us get reminders more frequently, and I think reminders are effective. Does that make sense? Or did your question refer to a legally binding statement? Anyway, thanks for a thought-provoking post.

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