The end of any year is the time for a personal recap on what happened to us for the past 365 days. However, like it or not, we are always part of a bigger picture. So, the last day of an old year or the first day of a new one is also just the right moment to reflect on how the society we live in had been doing this past year.
As some sort of an omen for 2017 to offer us much better times, here are 4 of the things the Netherlands did well in 2016.
1. Sent Wilders on trial
Unfortunately, in the modern history of the otherwise democratic and relatively open-minded Europe, there are very few trials against acting politicians, no matter what they do or say. This makes the case against the PVV leader Geert Wilders a special one, not only because it is a rare occurrence. Wilders has been pushing the public patience ever since with his anti-Islam, anti-Eastern European and anti-EU talks and actions. Before, the majority of his statements sounded just absolutely ridiculous. In recent years, however, with rising Euroscepticism, far right movements all over the old continent and a widespread migrant crisis, many other politicians took over this rhetoric.
And that’s when the Dutch state decided their well-known anti-boy has gone too far this time. Wilders was found guilty of hate speech towards the Moroccan community. There will be no actual sentence – let’s leave this to a more perfect, future world! Still, the message was clear – whatever crises the world is facing today, the Dutch state would like to stick to the basic values of democratic society and what the Netherlands is famous for, respect to race and religion.
2. Won a Nobel prize
Professor Ben Feringa from the University of Groningen along with Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France) and Sir James Fraser Stoddart (UK) were the 2016 Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry for their work on molecular machines. Prof. Feringa made a significant discovery in 1999 – the molecular motor in which part of a molecule can perform a full rotation when stimulated by heat or light. How is this a breakthrough discovery? A rotating molecular motor, just like a wheel, can transport drugs through the bloodstream to previously unreachable locations in the body with very high accuracy.
Prof. Feringa’s success is both scientific achievement to possibly save lives or cure diseases and a big recognition of the usually underestimated or unpopular, but in fact booming scholarly work happening all over the Netherlands in many fields.
3. Made it to the 17 million resident
On Monday, 21st of March, the population of the Netherlands crossed the 17th million milestone after 15 years since the 16th million resident. What’s interesting here is that it’s not the 17th million Dutch child that was born. In fact, it’s not even clear whether the jubilee person was Dutch at all. Residential statistics count everyone registered in the country – holders of Dutch passports, expats listed in municipalities, refugees, asylum seekers. It will be most accurate to say that there are officially 17 million people living on the territory of the Netherlands’ 41,543 sq kilometers, which makes 504 people per sq kilometer (unsurprisingly, most of them live in Randstad).
Is it a Dutch baby, or is it an immigrant? In fact, it really doesn’t matter. What matters here is that it seems the country keeps attracting people to come to study, work, make families, people who seek freedom, protection, chances, normal life. A big part of them stay permanently. This is good news not only because of the great and ever enriching social and cultural variety. The economy is driven further by an enlarging workforce and increasing consumer demand.
4. Painted their nails en mass
Every year around Christmas we are flooded with charity and donation initiatives. But one of them was especially significant this year as it completely redefined the way these things are done. A six-year-old boy, mostly by himself, managed to raise 2 million euros painting nails.
As part of an annual traditional event, Dutch radio DJs lock themselves in a glass house in Breda and perform initiatives or projects for a cause. 6-years old Tijn Kolsteren has been diagnosed with incurable brain tumor, but wanted to help other children and liked painting nails. He came with his father at the glass house and offered the challenge to do people’s nails for their donations for children with pneumonia. Those who had their procedure done had to challenge three friends to do the same.
The project and its hashtag, #lakaan (nail polish on) literary skyrocketed within hours and brought thousands of women and men, including celebrities and politicians of all colors to the little manicurist.
Everyone was ready to do their nails – from world-famous DJ Armin van Buuren to Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Little Tijn taught us a lesson we forget so often – children are the true miracles of the world.
In the dusk of a controversial 2016, we hope for a much better new year. Needless to say, any addition to a list of things done good is a result of a human action and inspiration. A society is doing well when its members work together. Other than health and peace, for 2017, let’s hope and try to add more things to our resolution lists not just for ourselves but for those around us. After all, we only live once and it’s our job to make it worth it 🙂
Happy New Year!