Tag Archives: The Change Agent

Why bother?

11 Apr

Do you know that feeling, that you’d rather not watch the news? Because all it seems to bring are tales of sorrow, suffering and shameful selfishness? Bombings, refugee crisis, Panama papers, abortion debate, US elections.. sometimes it seems like we are not moving forward at all, but rather flipping back through the darkest pages of history.

And the weird thing is: the truth is often more absurd than the most far fetched conspiricy theory. So sometimes, it seems a whole lot easier to become a pessimist or an escapist than a pro-activist. To think: ‘why bother’ and go shopping instead. Been there, done that (and have the closet to prove it). But does it change anything, really?

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by lots of optimists, who, like me, believe that change does not just occur; it’s a verb: you have to just do it. Like the people behind the amazing ‘Harmony for Peace‘, whose annual concert at the Peace Palace in The Hague I will be hosting this month, with talented kids from all over the country performing together in the name of peace and cross-cultural understanding.

Or my wonderful coachee Saskia Stolz of the Power of Art House, who developed Moving People, to give refugees a face and voice, which she is presenting at Harvard, Yale and Columbia this week. You GO girl!

Or gender equality expert Jens van Tricht, founder of Emancipator, who will join us at the Gender @ The Lighthouse programme at Haagse Hogeschool for the Gender for Dummies event this week. Tell me: how often do you get the chance to hear a MAN talk about gender equality?

And speaking about gender equality, I will go back to my home town later this month, the lovely village of Bathmen, where I will join Vrouwen van Nu to talk about my book (S)hevolution and what we can do to change the world ourselves. Because isn’t that the best remedy in days of despair and devastation: being the change we want to see in this world?

And to the sceptics, who doubt whether all this will make any difference, who still say: why bother? Let me ask you this: when did doing nothing ever change anything?

Without change, no butterflies!

NY, NY..

31 Aug

Hello world!
It’s been a while since I last left a post.. I have been rather busy being a change agent. My most recent mission took me to Brooklyn, New York. Flatbush, to be precise. A predominantly West-Indian neighborhood not far from Prospect Park, where I soon got to be known as Miss Amsterdam. In fact, Flatbush, then known as Vlacke Bos, was among the first Dutch settlements in the borough of Brooklyn, established in 1634. Ditmas, Vanderbilt, DeKalb, names most New Yorkers know as streets or subway stops, are all buried at a beautiful little cemetry behind the Dutch Reformed Church of Flatbush, on the corner of Flatbush and Church Avenue. Judging from the fading inscriptions on the tombstones, those Dutch Brooklynites held on to their native tongue for years, even way into the second half of the 19th century, which means for at least 4 generations.. Interesting, while in the Netherlands, right-wing politicians use language as an important and critical factor in their measurement of integration of immigrants. Those who want to apply for a residence permit even need to pass a Dutch language test in their country of origin!
Language does not seem to be a critical factor for integration in New York. In fact, it’s quite possible to live in this city and not speak a word of English. Being Russian, Chinese or Spanish-speaking, you’ll have no problem whatsoever. Newspapers, shops, doctors, restaurants, advertisements all cater to their own audience. Even electoral campaigning is done is different languages. I was blessed to be able to join Gustavo Rivera for State Senate campaign team, which took me all the way from Brooklyn to the Bronx, where I knocked on a total of approximately 400 democrat’s doors, trying to convince them NOT to vote for Gustavo’s opponent, Pedro Espada (an old fashioned crook, who personifies everything wrong about government and doesn’t even live in the Bronx). To my surprise, hardly any of those people I met during my canvassing trips spoke English. Good thing I know my languages!
New York may be multi-lingual, but is New York really that multicultural melting pot that it is so often proclaimed to be? I doubt it. Attacks on Hispanics in Staten Island, an assault on a Muslim cab driver in Queens, and the heated debate over the planned Park 51 community center (the “mosque” near Ground Zero) show the melting pot may be boiling over. Fertile soil for Dutch right-wing politician Wilders, who will speak at a rally on 9/11 organised by “Stop Islamization of America”. Maybe mister Wilders should pay a visit to that little cemetry in Flatbush and contemplate why those graves are all in Dutch.. Or would that be pearls for pigs? Probably..

© Kirsten van den Hul The Change Agent

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