La petite bonte
As 2024 now begins, a new year of opportunity and possibility lies ahead. None of us knows what 2024 will look like or what it will bring.
This is true at the start of every new year, but perhaps a little more so now than in the past. This has to do with how the political landscape has changed since the elections for the House of Representatives on 22 November. The shift in how people voted was huge.
Of course, it is very important that at our university of applied sciences we can talk openly about the elections, what the results mean and how they should be seen in a larger context. In addition to the discussions about this election, there are often references to the sense of uncertainty or even gloom that many people are feeling. This is no doubt related to concerns about the housing crisis, the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, global warming and other problems and threats.
The best way to deal with the unease, with the gloom, is to act, to do something. Preferably together with others. It doesn't have to be big; sometimes it's better to keep it small.
A small thing the right way
In December, the Buitenhof TV program featured a discussion with psychiatrist Dirk de Wachter and psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe. They talked about the unease of large sections of the population. Unease is particularly problematic when combined with powerlessness. If a person can see no perspective, does not know how to solve the unease, it becomes a big problem. De Wachter says in the program: "I see our society sometimes becoming a bit complacent and neglecting the basic pillars of humanity. These pillars are health, education and culture."
When asked at the end of the talk if anything can be done about this sense of gloom, De Wachter quotes the French philosopher Levinas. He spoke of "la petite bonté", the little act of kindness. The best way to deal with the unease, with the gloom, is to act, to do something. Preferably together with others. It doesn't have to be big; sometimes it's better to keep it small. The little act of kindness can take the place of powerlessness.
This approach really appealed to me. It does not shy away from the concerns, which are very legitimate, but it gives a perspective. Something you can do, something you can put in motion. It fits seamlessly with Charting our Course (our strategic plan), with what we as HAN want to be and mean to students, staff and our community. How we are working towards a smart, clean and social world of tomorrow. Where we see ourselves as changemakers, as people who make a difference. And that usually starts with a small step; "la petite bonté". I already see wonderful examples of this. In various courses and departments, students and staff are working hard to raise money for Serious Request, for the benefit of the fight against ALS, with amazing and touching initiatives.
My wish for each and every student and staff member is that you find a place at HAN where you feel welcome, seen and valued for who you are. A place where you feel safe to talk or debate with each other. A place where you are encouraged and supported to make a difference, big or small.
I wish you all the very best for 2024.