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In this series, TU student and councillor Boris van Overbeeke tries to interest students in politics. Politics is struggling, just as he is.
Boris van Overbeeke: "Virtual contact is just a mere shadow of the real thing."

In this series, TU student and councillor Boris van Overbeeke tries to interest students in politics. Politics is struggling, just as he is.

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Two months ago I promised Delta’s editors that I would write a column about students and politics. That promise was pushed aside by the virus and I failed miserably to keep it. I am now making another attempt.

I am probably not the only one struggling. ‘Only together will we get corona under control’. The Dutch Government’s motto may be made of candyfloss, but in all its sentimental ugliness it is just too true. Only if everyone takes their responsibility, will the hospitals be able to cope with the number of ICU patients. The intelligent thing about our lockdown is that we have to think for ourselves. We’re supposed to be smart enough to understand that. I want to take my responsibility. But I’m struggling to figure out how best to do so.

So I called a friend. She’s a doctor, graduated recently, and ended up in the ICU room of a major hospital. Last week she saw 15 people die there. Fifteen. Unimaginable. She's just as old or as young as me. But while I was writing python scripts in my room, she had to tell three families every day that their loved one was on the way out. That it wasn’t going to be okay anymore. Hanging up the phone I wanted to lock myself in my home until Christmas, anything to make her work easier.

‘I doubt that I am truly aware of the seriousness of the virus’

Still, I don’t think that's the right thing to do. My days are already merging into a grey blur. Yeah, there’s Skype, Hangouts and Zoom. But virtual contact is just a mere shadow of the real thing. We are not solitary creatures. People need to see each other. That’s how we define ourselves. By the time Christmas comes, what kind of person would crawl out of my house? I would be suffocated. That is not good either. I believe that taking responsibility also means to keep doing the things you’re allowed to do such as meeting friends – within the rules of course.

What applies to me personally applies to everyone. And so this column finally takes a political turn. Recognition of existence is the most fundamental of human needs. Politicians need to be aware of that. What happens to a society in which people haven't been able to look each other in the eye for months? What happens when a self-isolated city awakens from a coma? That city wakes up crying out for the attention it has missed for months. In my opinion, taking responsibility also means that politicians keep enabling people to meet each other.

But when I remember my doctor friend, I doubt that I am truly aware of the seriousness of the virus. Fifteen people in a week. We’re all still struggling.

Boris van Overbeeke (28) graduated in Art History and then studied Engineering Policy and Management. He is a member of the Municipal Council of Delft and writes about TU Delft and local politics (not at the moment though). Follow him on Instagram of Twitter.

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