Column: Birgit van Driel

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Columnist Birgit van Driel is surprised about the lack of self-reflection in society. She believes that politicians and administrators should look – publicly – in the mirror more often.

Foto © Sam Rentmeester . 20220602  .
 Birgit van Driel, columnist  Delta

When a colleague of mine left, she gave us small Delft Blue hand mirrors as a gift in the hope that we would regularly reflect on ourselves, our actions and our university. It was good advice which I try to follow. Reflection is an activity you should make the time for. For politicians and administrators, it would also not hurt to make these reflections and subsequent learnings public. Would former minister Henk Kamp for example really not have learned anything from the allowances scandal? At the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry, he said that he still stood by his – obviously faulty – approach in the Fraudebeleid en Dienstverlening (anti-corruption and service provision policy). While the opposition regularly says that Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s (yes, he is still the Prime Minister) self-reflections are poor, the opposition Members of Parliament also demonstrate reactions that show no reflection on their own actions. I have also not caught Rutte’s successor, Dilan Yeşilgöz, practicing any form of self-reflection either. And this while there is plenty to reflect on…

The lack of reflection is not limited to the political arena. I also expect little reflection by the EBU on the disqualification of Joost Klein in the Eurovision Song Contest and whether this punishment was proportionate to his alleged misdemeanour. Couldn’t he simply have apologised? After all, politicians always get away with that. On the other hand, I have also not yet seen any signs of reflection by Joost himself. We had to do with an Instagram post of dancing dogs.

It may now be recognised that the actions taken were not great, but the causes remain unstated

And what about the student protests and the way they were handled? You can, rightly, be concerned about Gaza and at the same time say that you condemn vandalizing university buildings. You can give the order to clear the grounds and at the same time admit that the military police were a touch aggressive. I understand that reflecting on these incidents does not happen in the heat of the moment, but I have little faith that, once things have settled down, people will look in the mirror.

I also see a lack of reflection closer to home. For example in the wake of TU Delft’s response to the Inspectorate report. It may now be recognised that the actions taken were not great, but the causes of this course of action, and especially how to make sure that TU Delft will act different in the future, remain unstated. I also miss reflection on the reappointment of the Rector/Chair. While, with hindsight, the Inspectorate report would have been shared with the Works Council and the Student Council, I cannot ascertain what addition knowledge has emerged since January. The collective outrage of the TU Delft community about the Inspectorate report cannot be labelled as ‘new knowledge’, but only as one of the predictable scenarios.

Narcissus looked at his own reflection for so long and so deeply that he fell in love with himself. This is not desirable of course. But nobody becomes any worse from regular critical self-reflection. Especially not politicians or administrators.

Birgit van Driel started working as a Policy Officer at Strategic Development in 2021. She returned to TU Delft where she started her studies back in 2006. She’s been affiliated to the Faculties of IDE (first year), AS (bachelor’s) and 3mE (PhD). After earning her PhD, she worked as a Strategy Consultant at Kearney and a Program Officer at NWO-AES.

Columnist Birgit van Driel

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.