~ Reflects on hurricanes, reconstruction ~
WASSENAAR–Dutch King Willem-Alexander has called on people to work towards a sense of community in his traditional Christmas address to the nation on Christmas Day, Monday.
People, the King said, should “not be looking for a bigger I, but for the greater we.” Speaking at his home on the De Eikenhorst estate in Wassenaar, near The Hague, the King said it is becoming more difficult to meet people in daily life.
“The places where people used to come together – the church, the office, the café, the sports club, the school – are losing their role as places which bind us. Perhaps the hospital is the only place where you meet people with a different background and way of living,” King Willem-Alexander said.
In his speech, the King also reflected on the devastation in St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius after Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the islands in September.
“I also reflect on the desperation I saw in St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius where the force of nature literally messed up the lives of tens of thousands of inhabitants.”
The King also looked back on the “courageous initiatives” for reconstruction. “Images and stories that do not let go,” he said.
In his speech, the King also referred to the phenomenon of fake news. “Communication via Internet gives us fantastic opportunities but that does not mean an open window to the world,” he said.
“It is often difficult to separate fact from fiction. Nuance and empathy are getting the worst of it and Twitter sometimes makes the debate bitter. More and more people are keeping their digital door closed and are only open to ideas which confirm their feelings and opinions.”
Commentators said the King’s speech was a little sombre this year, particularly his references to the ebbing away of the community spirit.
Royalty reporter at Dutch public broadcaster NOS Kysia Hekster, however, said the King finished on a positive note.
“He said that looking outside your own world is a benefit. Be curious and then perhaps we can better the world,” Hekster said. “His key message this Christmas – about looking to the community spirit rather than to yourself – is a classic call which is completely logical at Christmas,” Hekster said.