Column | We are all fallible

Since February 24, bombs and bullets have been flying wildly in Europe's backyard and a barbaric war has been taking place. 'That this is still possible in the 21st century…' is what you hear a lot around you. The Ukrainians are suffering enormously and their bravery, especially that of their president, is praised by most throughout the world. And we all are noticing the consequences: everything has become more expensive, with gas and oil taking the lead here.

The situation has become very serious, indeed. Who knows, maybe 'the bomb' will be dropped. It is a horrible thought. What's even more horrible, though, is that it's not all new. Although the death toll in recent wars has been lower percentage-wise and in total number than in previous centuries’ wars, the atrocities are, unfortunately, equally horrific.

It's terrible and sad that we look at a refugee from Ukraine differently than one from Syria, Nigeria, Libya, Myanmar, Yemen or Gaza. As the saying goes.... one can't carry all the suffering on one’s own shoulders, so that suffering which is felt more closely, is forgivable.

What disturbs me the most is the observation that, although (to quote Dutch writer Rutger Bregman) “most people are good”, there is a lot that goes wrong, both widespread and close-by. In the U.S., about one-third of the population seems to take the ‘great replacement theory’ seriously. Innocent people have been tortured and humiliated in the most horrible way at Guantanamo Bay for years on end. And even closer to home, the shameful scandal of the Dutch childcare benefits affair was allowed to go on for years -- instead of a fine example of diversity thinking, it is an example of systematic discrimination. And recently, the Netherlands’ actions in Indonesia after World War II have come under scrutiny again and are seen to be even worse from today’s perspective. Thus, evil creeps up on us scarily close.

We are all fallible.

Stigmatization, the us-versus-them thinking, seems inevitable. The only thing we can do to counteract this is to have a dialogue, postpone judgment, and try to separate facts from fiction. That is what we stand for at Studium Generale. It is a privilege that we can contribute our tiny bit to building a more respectful, inclusive and peaceful world, even if it is only a tiny bit, the size of a grain of sand perhaps.

But without grains of sand, no desert, no beach, no world. 

Lucas Asselbergs
Head of Studium Generale

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