En Mijn Tafelheer Is Plato * Rob Wijnberg (2010)

This is the second book of Wijnberg that I review. The first one I got as a present, this one I bought myself. Wijnberg is a young (1982), Dutch philosopher and active column-author who writes about current events and current society, mostly the Dutch. The title of this new book translates something like “and my host is Plato”, it is a reference to the author’s appearance on television and how he hopes things might be some time. This new book is again filled with essays that he wrote before, many of which are also available on his website. They are ordered a little and a relatively lengthy introduction preceeds them. Wijnberg likes to write about the Dutch politics of today and the populistic politician Geert Wilders in particular, but the scope of subjects is wider in this book, especially towards the end. Scientology, raising children, the ‘sexualising society’, technology and Darwin’s theories, to name a few. All essays are about 5 pages. In these 5 pages Wijnberg manages to put a subject in an historical perspective and give an alternative way of looking at it. Since he has done that hundreds of times, he is (as noone I know) able to do that. This makes this book again a very easy and very thoughtprovoking read. Since there are way too many subjects here, it is impossible to give you an idea of what this book is like, so let me just very shortly summerise one of the essays. The essay “Obama and the tyranny of the weak” starts with Obama’s right on health insurance. The gigantic discussion this bill rose, is ununderstandable for a European because here health insurance has been secured for many many years. Wijnberg uses this subject to explain the fundamental difference between the American Democrates and the Republicans. Republicans base themselves on philosophers as Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755) and think that the government has to interfere with the lives of individuals as little as possible. The obligation to have a health insurance is an illicit interference of the government, since freedom for a Republican is freedom from force. Democrats, on the other hand, think that freedom of the individual increases when the government helps them, with a health insurance that they would normally be denied for example. Taken to the extreme, for the Republicans the norm are the strong/rich, for the Democrates the weak. There is more to say about it, but just to show how the author explains things and gives something to think about.
Only available in Dutch though and one thing that would be nice for a future book is a real book with subjects not touched in 5 pages, but rather something more in depth.
2010 De Bezige Bij, isbn 978023458418

2 comments

  1. Thanks for introducing this writer. Today, I read a piece by him here: http://www.nrcnext.nl/blog/2011/03/08/zo-werkt-de-totalitaire-democratie/
    I, of course, used google to translate, but even then, it was a refreshing piece. I wonder whether any one is interested in translating his writings (useful for non Dutch, living in the Netherlands). And above all, very young!
    I also wonder, given my ignorance in Dutch language, whether his writing’s style and content are ‘ordinary’ in Dutch standards. If so, this means that the Dutch society is very well-informed. But I doubt it.
    thanks
    A

    1. Hello Amouri. Yes, NRCnext is a newspaper Wijnberg used to be an editor of (he still writes for it). He has many more of such short texts on his own website (RobWijnberg.nl) and many of these can be found in his books. There is a lot to say about the way he writes, but I can tell you, his books sell many, many copies so yes, my countrymen like to read such works and/or want to read a little bit of criticism on usual ways of thinking. But why don’t you just contact him yourself to ask if he has texts available in English, who knows?

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