Our expatriate Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends us some further observations on the state of political affairs in the Netherlands.
On Christmas day Queen Beatrix gave her annual Christmas speech. “Christmas sermon” would be a better description, but that is to be expected. Also a lot of blah-blah talk: peace on earth and people of good will; that sort of thing. Most if not all government leaders feel the urge to say something they absolutely don’t mean in the first place. This forms part of the Christmas decorum.
This year, the queen’s speech didn’t go according to plan, however. All thanks to the Internet and bloggers. The Queen made a mistake. She spoke of “certain elements” in society who would not be willing to open their minds, and who harden society. She didn’t quite say “certain element with blond hair and family names beginning with a ‘W’ and ending in ‘ilders’,” but close enough.
In the past, not much would be said or done about it. Granted, one can write a letter to a newspaper. That newspaper may or may not publish it. You may talk amongst your friends about an event, and discover you are not alone. But that would be just about it.
Today is different. We have the Internet and we have blogs. Minutes after the queen finished her speech bloggers already started blogging it. And they weren’t happy…
The week after the speech many blogs discussed the queen’s speech at length. Newspapers couldn’t ignore it, if only because so many readers posted their remarks on their Internet editions. One of those “certain elements working to harden society”, the one with blond hair, made a public statement that in his opinion the queen shouldn’t make such politically loaded speeches, and should be removed from the government. Her job should be relegated to cutting ribbons, hosting parties, and opening schools.
The prime minister stood firm behind the queen. And rightly so, as he himself is politically responsible for her acts and actions. In the past, this would close the case. Everybody spoke his mind, end of story. But today is different. We have the Internet…
So, public opinion was polled by newspapers, bloggers and polling bureaus. The result is that the queen’s popularity has dropped massively. A plurality, 46%, agrees completely with that certain element with blond hair (Mr. Wilders), and finds that the queen’s job should be cutting ribbons and not much more. 41% thinks the queen should remain part of the government and 13% doesn’t know.
Now, until very recently, the media reported popularity figures of 95%. The royal family was —supposedly — that popular. That was before the Internet came along. Today we know that this figure could have been written by Mr. Goebbels. Nobody could check it out anyway. But with the Internet we can. And much more important: we do.
The queen really made a very bad political mistake: since 1848 the king or queen of The Netherlands has reigned, but does not rule. The prime minister and the council of ministers do that. If the monarch speaks in public, the responsible minister (usually the PM) should okay this speech. Normally, they do that.
Also, since the monarch does not rule, the unwritten rule is that he or she should refrain from political statements. Most certainly about hotly debated political items. The queen didn’t abide by the rules, and now finds out that saying something in public does have its consequences… even if you are the queen, and even if you are politically invulnerable.
You can fool some people all the time and most people some of the time. But that was before the Internet came along. Today the people realize very quickly they have been fooled. The people don’t have a long memory span; however, bloggers and the Internet do. Right on top of the queen’s speech a lot of unpleasant royal behaviors slipped back into the limelight:
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- Rumors said prince Johan Willem Friso might be gay; he has never been seen in public with a girlfriend. The queen doesn’t really like faggots. In the 90’s during an official state visit to South Africa she refused to be introduced to a Dutch diplomat on duty and his partner there. She had to apologize, and today she does tolerate faggots. But the government actually had to intervene to get her that far.
Right after those rumors started, Johan Willem Friso suddenly announced his engagement and later married Mabel Martine Wisse Smit. This beautiful lady is also a lady of very ill repute. She was the lover of Klaas Bruisma, the Al Capone of the Dutch underworld… Well, she doesn’t have to worry about her husband having illicit affairs with other women.
- Crown Prince Willem Alexander married Maxima Zorreguita. Now, this lady (who got Dutch nationality in the [super] fast lane, and was elevated as the first civilian and the first [ex-]foreigner into the nobility) endeared herself to the nation. But many Dutch question the choice of the prince. Since there is hardly any nobility in the country, we can understand he needs to marry a foreign princess. But if he chooses a commoner as wife, why on earth an Argentinean? Common Dutch wives are too common for a crown prince?
- Maxima said in public, speaking for and on behalf of the Council of State (Raad van State), that the Dutch identity does not exist. This fell very bad. Practically everybody felt insulted by it. How on earth is it possible that a foreign lady, no less, who will become Queen of the Netherlands, can say the Dutch identity does not exist? As a kind of penance she was seen during the state visit to India almost invariably in orange dresses… Maybe her mother-in-law said something to her.
- Her husband blundered in India: he said that Indian peasants should not wash themselves or drink a lot of water; they could better use it for agricultural purposes. I refrain from commenting on this. Too easy. This chap wouldn’t set the Thames on fire — he wouldn’t be able to find it!
In The Netherlands we have an age-old proverb: The lord regents drink a glass, urinate, and everything remains exactly the same… (de heren drinken een glas, doen een plas, en alles blijft zoals het was). This refers to the 17th century habit of the ruling regents to talk a lot, but change or act only to their own advantage.
Times didn’t change much. Until the Internet came about. It’s about time the lord regents of today, including the Orange family, begin to understand that.