“We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it”

Published on: 15 March 2023

Was everything better in the past, or does “now” have its advantages? Different generations discuss social issues on the basis of propositions. This time Nazima Ramdin (54) and her daughter Shanna (27) and son Lorenzo (22).


Nazima (54) lives in The Hague, Netherlands with her fiancé. Lorenzo and Shanna are her two kids from her first marriage. Her fiancé has four kids and ten grandchildren. Nazima calls herself a real family person. She works in the central government and sits on various boards. She has also had her own business.

Lorenzo about his mother: “My mom is always there for me and is also my brainstorming partner when it comes to my business. We have a lot of fun together, but we can also work together. My mom is a born networking queen.”

Shanna about her mother: “A bond between a mother and daughter is indescribable. Ours has only grown stronger over the years. I always appreciate being able to ask her for advice.”


Shanna (27) lives near Rotterdam with her fiancé. She works in a hotel in the Meeting & Events department. She is also into fitness and healthy eating.

Nazima about her daughter: “Shanna and I have a strong, loving bond and we look an awful lot alike. She does not live and work in the same place, unfortunately, so we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but with modern technology we can at least ‘see’ each other digitally, on Facetime. Shanna is a warm and spontaneous person.” 


Lorenzo (22) lives in The Hague by himself. He is a self-employed video/filmmaker. He inherited entrepreneurship from his great-grandfather, his father and his mother, who were all entrepreneurs.

Nazima about her son: “Lorenzo and I not only have a tremendously strong, loving bond, we are also very similar in our actions. Because he lives so close, we see each other often. Once a week we have dinner together. Lorenzo is caring, helpful and spontaneous.”

Proposition: We are looking after each other less and less

Nazima: “In our (Hindu) culture, solidarity is a great thing. Our traditions come from Indian and Surinamese culture, mixed with Dutch culture. In Hindu culture, it is very common for older and younger people to take care of each other. Shanna and Lorenzo helped care for their great-grandfather and great-grandmother when they got older and went into a nursing home; it was natural. In that nursing home, I did see a lot of lonely elderly people. Still, in general, I don’t think we are looking after each other less and less. On the contrary.”

Lorenzo: “I agree with my mom on that. Just look at the pandemic. People cared about each other especially at that time. I think it brought us closer together as people because we experienced what it is like to be isolated from each other.”

Shanna: “Right. Things we took for granted before suddenly became special. I think we value simple human contact even more now.”

Nazima: “We do live in a country where everyone is concerned with ‘how can I create the best life for myself and my family?’ We all strive for greater prosperity, good-better-best. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of our charity. I always try to put that first in my family. Take care of yourself, but also of each other.”


Proposition: In the Netherlands we are behind in women’s rights

Nazima: “I think for the most part, we are doing quite well. We have institutions like SER, and the government provides all kinds of guidelines for including women. I think it is great that we have the option to work part-time, for example. In general, it is really good. But, of course, there is always room for improvement, so that everyone can participate regardless of the differences. And by that I mean man/woman, color, background or religion. And the #MeToo movement also caused a change. Together, we can make sure that it is not taken for granted that men have dominance - referring to the so-called seven check marks. I believe that we can make a difference for the future through the way we raise our kids. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and try to make the world a little better ourselves.”

Shanna: “I agree that we are well on our way, but we are not yet where we need to be. For example, street harassment is still a big problem. Respect for women still leaves something to be desired here and there.”

Lorenzo: “Yes, there are things that could be better. For example, there are still far too few women in top positions in the Netherlands. And worst of all, there is still a wage gap between men and women. Women should obviously earn as much as men.”

Nazima: “It makes me proud to hear my son say that.”


Proposition: The gap between rich and poor is only going to get bigger

Nazima: “I certainly hope not. We are a prosperous country; no one should live in poverty here.”

Lorenzo: “I think and fear that that gap is only getting bigger. Now that everything is so much more expensive, more and more people are having financial problems.”

Shanna: “You read so many stories about people who can’t even pay their gas bills. It is terrible that we have to experience something like that in the Netherlands.”

Lorenzo: “But I do think it’s positive that there are now new ways to make money. ‘Wealth’ has become more attainable for everyone, now that an ordinary person can invest in shares or set up a webshop relatively easily.”


Proposition: A good life is attainable for everyone in the Netherlands

Nazima: “Yes, I think that’s true. If you’re open and curious, do your best in terms of getting education and training and work, I believe you can get opportunities and grab them. Nothing comes of its own accord, but if you work at it, a good life is attainable for anyone. Even though it is not by default. I’m seeing that, unfortunately, there is a lot of poverty in the Netherlands and that some old people are not making ends meet, for example. Fortunately, there are agencies that are helping, like the Food Bank, but it would be much better if they are no longer needed.”

Shanna: “I also definitely think that if you get an education, you can work your way up in society. Everyone basically has the chance to develop themselves and make something of it, although that may be a little easier for some than others.”

Lorenzo: “I agree. There is so much work available right now that anyone who can work should theoretically be able to find a job. In some ways, we might have it too good in the Netherlands. Many people are doing okay even though they only work four days a week, while in other countries people often have to work six days a week.”


Proposition: Today’s youth has it too easy

Shanna: “Hmm, I think today’s youth may lack a bit of the hard-worker mentality that used to be there. Trainees at my work are sometimes really less serious, they have an attitude like ‘whatever...’ That seems a bit spoiled.”

Lorenzo: “I don’t think young people have it too easy. In some ways, I'd say we are even an unlucky generation. For example, buying a house is much more difficult for us than for previous generations.”

Nazima: “You’re right about that. Today’s youth has it easy, but not too easy.”


Proposition: Technological advancement is good by definition

Nazima: “It is, if you look at what is possible in the medical world today. But it can get scary when robotics starts taking over human behavior. A doll as a replacement for your partner, for example, should we want that? It also shouldn’t come at the expense of jobs. If everything becomes so automated that people are no longer needed, it will be disastrous for social contact.”

Shanna: “Self-scanning checkouts are already very impersonal. You used to have a chat with the cashier, now you don’t have to talk to anyone. Where will this end?”

Lorenzo: “I do support technological progress. Look at all that has been invented in the last 30 years. It has made many things easier and more efficient.”

Nazima: “Technological innovation is good. If you see all the things that are possible that allow us, for example, to make the world cleaner and more sustainable, medical advances and so on, it’s good. But we have to ask ourselves: where is the limit, how far are we willing to go? I think that is an ethical issue.”


Proposition: Everything was better in the past

Nazima: “Everything was different; not necessarily better.”

Lorenzo: “I think I actually like the present time better. Yes, there are all kinds of crises, but we still have better lives than people used to have.”

Shanna: “It seems to me that there used to be a lot more time. We are on a speeding train and hardly ever have time for ourselves or for doing something fun. Hopefully the Covid pandemic has made us realize how valuable certain things are. Maybe that will bring some change.”

Nazima: “You have a point there. You really have to block time in your calendar now for personal contact. We want to be everywhere, participate everywhere. And technological developments mean we can do much more. But as long as we have an eye for the people around us, our loved ones, friends, family and loved ones, it’s always good.”