Daylight Saving Time has just started [this article was clearly written much earlier, ed.]. An hour less time to sleep means only one thing: it is necessary to sleep longer. For example, I spoke to Josse van Proosdij after he had taken advantage of this pleasure on a lovely Sunday. We spoke about the inclusiveness of the debate world, about the value of debating because you learn to view a problem from multiple sides and about hiking as a corona hobby.
Profile Josse van Proosdij
Alma mater: University of Amsterdam (MA Military History) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (MSc Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics)
Current position: Strategic analyst WWFT at International Card Services
Debate achievements, including: Best speaker at the Cicero Tournament 2019 and Lund IV 2020. Winner Erasmus Rotterdam Open 2013 and Kalliope Debate Tournament 2019.
Favourite tournament: Lund IV (where he has been 4 times): there is a good atmosphere, the hotel is nice and you can get smoked salmon for breakfast for a low reg fee.
Hi Josse! Good to talk to you again. How are you?
Good! I am hiking the Pieterpad right now. At the beginning of the lockdown, it went a little less well, but now it’s going well. The work is steady and it is also fun with friends.
How did you get into debating?
In my first year of study (in 2009), I visited Bonaparte with a friend. I wanted to join but the secretary recommended that I come back when the beginner courses started again. In retrospect, I think that’s a strange comment but I came back the following year. That was purely coincidental because I was having dinner with a friend and Walter [Freeman, ed.] was there; he then went on to Bonaparte and I went with him.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from debating?
Personally, I learned the most from endlessly looking at something from different sides and considering various points of view and logically taking it apart. I was always good at presentations, although it has gotten better. At work, I quickly get to the heart of the matter. You learn that in the 15 minutes of preparation time and I still do that. You see things quickly and get to the core quickly. People say that a certain thing is the problem but then I see that the underlying issue is something else. The thing is that other people sometimes don’t think so quickly and that is more difficult; within a large company you still have to go through a whole process and that certainly requires patience.
Among other things, you were known for your critical attitude towards inclusiveness and equity. What is (or was) your opinion on this?
Speaking from personal experience, I hardly notice the practical compliance and impact of equity in the Netherlands. I honestly never felt limited in what I could say. I’ve never held back from using generalizations; why is that then stated in such an equity policy? You talk people into a kind of self-censorship. In extreme cases, such as transgressive behaviour, that exceeds equity, it must certainly be seen but the knowledge must then be there to forward it to the right authorities.
Do you also think that the world of debate is not inclusive?
I can imagine that there are people who don’t think it’s “their scene” and then don’t sign up for an association. This is especially noticeable internationally. I don’t think the debate world is against right-wing people per se but maybe less inclusive towards less smart people; debaters can be mean about that. The boxing club also does not have to take into account people who cannot box.
It bothers me less now than I used to because I used to think important things were being discussed and right-wing people fell out of it. Now I just sometimes find it a pity that some opinions are not seen as an opinion but as fact and then other opinions are excluded. The impact on society is not great so it is not a drama.
How do you notice that in debates?
It’s about the frame of mind. Debating is about reducing a specific statement to a general principle. People who follow a route that everyone understands can score points more easily with the jury. With Michiel [van der Zee, ed.] I just missed the break at Zagreb EUDC. The debate in round 8 was about whether microcredit should only go to women. Proposition said that women are oppressed in Mali (I’ll just name a country) and that is immediately taken as the truth. We defended that men in Mali also have a hard time. The jury looked at us as if they saw water burning but technically would both arguments require the same explanation.
What are you doing now to fill the gap?
So I don’t do much with debate anymore. It’s good that there was a natural break due to the lockdown. Bonaparte is still nice but I’m getting too old for it now. I spent two years trying to get really good and win seriously but in recent years it was fun in the first place. I would like to do more with my presentation skills, such as acting or stand-up comedy, but that is of course not really possible at the moment. I do miss speaking in front of groups. I’m doing a lot of hiking now because I’m training for the 4-day (Nijmeegse Vierdaagse). Every week I take the train to the east and there I walk 20 to 50 kilometres.
You work as a Strategic Analyst WWFT at International Card Services. What does that mean?
Transactions at all financial institutions must be screened against money laundering by the WWFT (Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act). I design the system that generates alerts for those transactions at ICS. For example, I am currently working on cryptocurrencies.
It’s an interesting level of thinking which is quite nice. I know enough about data science and IT to understand what data scientists are doing. I understand their problems from several sides (because I’ve debated) but I don’t want to sit in front of the computer all the time. Now I also do a lot of meetings and I research what the current rules yield and how we can adjust that.
You don’t do much with your geographical and historical knowledge from your Master’s. Do you miss that?
Definitely. 2 years ago I graduated and, after that, I did a data science traineeship; I was sure I wanted to continue with IT and data and this was the best way to start. It turned out differently than I expected; First of all, of course, the corona crisis started and the job offer was thin. The WWFT business was a very nice and interesting branch to delve into at the time. I sometimes apply my geographical knowledge to itself; the transactions go through many different jurisdictions and I know quite a bit about countries without having to read up on it, which allows me to estimate if anything makes sense.
What is a lesson you would like to pass on to those reading this article?
The debating world is fun, but it’s not the end of the world if you leave it. Don’t take it too seriously (both positively or negatively), whether you’re a good debater or not. Debating is very helpful, but just because you’re very good doesn’t mean you’re on top of the world, and being less good doesn’t mean you’re suggesting less wherever you end up.
Other than that I don’t have much more to report, except perhaps the quote from Louis XV: après moi, le déluge (or “after me the deluge”). That means something like I don’t really care anymore now that I’ve disappeared from the debate world.
Mike is an alumnus of the Tilburg Debating Society Cicero and has served as the secretary of the Nederlandse Debatbond (2019-2021). He was vice-chair of Cicero (2015-2016) and in that function oversaw the newly set-up international branch. He also organized the Dutch Debating Winter School, a debating training week that attracted participants of over 20 nationalities.