| Niels ter Meer

We thought we were done with COVID, festivals were being set up, but no, we weren’t done. With the new temporary COVID regulations, columnist Niels ter Meer wonders what got us here again (it’s all our hubris!).

Our favourite uncitable source, Wikipedia, defines ‘hubris’ as ‘a personality quality of extreme or excessive pride or dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with arrogance’ (Merriam-Webster largely agrees, so we’re good to go). We have loads of this in our ‘extremely cool country’, and when it comes to our collective COVID response, we have way too much, and, because of that, we often do too little.

Please raise your hand if this sounds familiar: the case numbers are rising, first slowly, then faster every day – growing exponentially. The government squabbles for ages over what to do. Every little interest group whines about the possible impact of the measures (think the KHN or the VSNU). ‘It’s not in our nature!’, or ‘unenforceable!’ some say. When the government finally decides on what to do, it is immediately ignored by other parts of the government. When the peak has barely washed over us, the government eagerly eases the measures, after which – for some reason – the case numbers start rising again. So much hubris.

Our university has a hand in this hubris too. Let’s look at one of the [STUDENTS] update emails in my inbox. For one, the UT, apparently happy that it didn’t have to check for the COVID certificates, it argued that it wouldn’t even need to, since, according to a survey (which relied on self-reporting, one should note) most of us are already vaccinated, and therefore the university does not need them to offer a ‘safe study and working environment’. Furthermore, it wrote that it stands for  an ‘inclusive university, in which there is a place for everyone’.

Keep in mind, the pandemic is by definition a global problem; arguing that it’s just about our local safety misses the point - based on a questionable survey no less. Moreover, inclusivity does not mean accepting everyone without question; especially if some, of their own volition, for whatever reason, chose not to do something simple to prevent harm to others – and expecting no consequences! Plus, would you trust the hospitality sector if they tried to argue, based on a questionable survey, that they shouldn’t have to use COVID certificates? I smell dangerous overconfidence, excessive pride, and a ‘hint’ of arrogance – it’s hubris!

In any case, hopefully sparing the education sector is an exception we can all agree on, but that should not spare us from our responsibility. I recognize that COVID certificates have problems in their execution. Besides all the ‘practical objections’ buzz, it has been hard for internationals to receive their certificates, and I don’t know how they work for the involuntarily unvaccinated. But instead of squabbling for too long over those difficulties, we should lead by example. Part of that might be COVID certificates. Let’s take our hubris down a peg, and show that we are deserving of, and can responsibly handle that exception.

But I know the hubris will continue.

Stay tuned

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