Last Saturday Interface (the company I work for) gave me the chance to join the Canal Parade in Amsterdam. For those who don’t know, this is one of the biggest parties in the Netherlands, period. It attracted 560.000 visitors! I got to be part of the Amsterdam Schoon (Amsterdam Clean) project. From our small boat, we handed out fishing nets and trash bags to the visitors in their stationary boats. And of course, we got to enjoy the music and see all the hilarious outfits ‘out there’. It was an awesome day and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
So why didn’t I just post the pictures on Facebook and be done with it? The day made me think once again about broader issues. Feminism, gamergate, the fact that I really don’t know which other letters I should include when I write LGBT… I read many smart opinion pieces. Tofik Dibi (semi-paywall) is unhappy about the current state of affairs when it comes to empowerment of sexual and ethnical minorities. In the comments of that article many people state it is their yearly celebration, while others state there is a long way to go. It’s clear that Euro Pride is not representative of all sexual minorities. I personally think that’s fine. King’s Day is not representative for all Dutch people either. It only becomes a problem when people feel they are never represented.
My own position is complicated. As a heterosexual white male from Western Europe, I have no idea what it’s like to be part of a minority. I’d like to think I am a modern, tolerant human being, but it is hard for me to say whether I am. After all, I do enjoy Cards Against Humanity immensely, and it’s hard to call the game ‘politically correct’.
When I returned to work on Monday, it occurred to me that we are between similar rocks and hard places when it comes to gender equality and sustainability. When you try to communicate the improvements needed and the urgency involved, there is a group that will tell you how enlightened we are and how far we’ve come, and we can’t expect perfection. When you celebrate the achievements made, another group will tell you that there is so much that needs to be done, and we shouldn’t rest.
I think the answer is adopting an ambiguous view. We should be proud of what we have achieved, and keep working hard to improve at the same time. As humans, we need a pat on the back after a performance. Getting to the top rarely involves the pole vault – often it involves an ordinairy set of stairs. So let’s split our missions into smaller pieces, celebrate small victories, and attack the next challenge with renewed energy and the confidence of knowing what we have already achieved.
PS: Of course you can see the pictures on Facebook.