Us Europeans

Royal Reflections (5/12)

The Hague, NL (View on map)

I`m a few days ahead of schedule, inserting another `personal reflections` article into the Us Europeans archive. The reason is fairly simple and straightforward. I have been following the news in The Netherlands quite closely while travelling, and am quite worried about what`s happening. Politicians are messing around with something they all label as `Dutch heritage` and which they see as the ideal future for The Netherlands: a future of national safety by social exclusion and religious separation, where freedom of expression means that people should be prepared to be insulted by people who have a different point of view.

I finally found one person who shares the same view. She has moreover been able to put together a coherent report that exposes the problem in appropriate wording. Surprise, surprise, here`s an interpretive translation of Queen Beatrix`s Christmas speech of this year. Let me remind you that the Queen is neither supposed nor allowed to have a political opinion, which explains the indirect style.

…. Christmas opens the doors to a world in which people accept each other in neighbourly love. Every era is marked by its own challenges and tasks. Today`s situation puts our safe, reliable and tolerant society to the test, one day after the other. Feelings of unrest and insecurity predominate. It seems like we have lost our almost proverbial self-confidence.

Fortunately, a lot has been achieved in the past centuries. The basis of our constitutional state has been assembled in democracy and has been anchored in legislation. Our democratic tradition is more that the mere acceptance of power to the majority. It equally integrates the respect for minority rights. History has proved, that tolerance serves as a basis for our country to overcome tensions and to overcome conflicts. This precious piece of knowledge is part of our cultural heritage and remains a source of strength.

Today, what we see instead is the tendency to emphasise contrast. Roughness in words and actions harm tolerance, while discussions transform into cold relations. In such an atmosphere, groups of people are judged by the actions of individuals and prejudices are adopted for truth – leading to an erosion of the sense of community.

On top of this dangerous tendency to generalise, there is another developments which jeopardises our societal unity. Individualisation converting into pure egoism degrade the common interest. If we lose sight of that concerns all of us, we effectively undermine our society. A country concentrated purely on its own destiny moreover closes its eyes to the wider world, avoids responsibility for justice and denies the necessity of solidarity.

Tensions and conflicts will keep coming and going and there is no sense in denying them. But instead of reinforcing them, we should look for ways to control and solve them. Getting this done requires mutual attention and understanding for the fear and dissatisfaction that may live among different groups in society. Human vulnerability resides in what people hold dearly and holy. We should at all cost prevent that hurt feelings turn into despair and aggression. What matters is that grieve is recognised and taken seriously.

The space required to build new confidence starts with the acceptation of diversity, which is nothing more or less than daily reality. One can not expect people to all think the same, act the same and believe the same. Religions and political ideologies are rightly given recognition and freedom. However, observance of the legal framework is required of all, regardless of their people`s personal lifestyles and convictions. The rudiments of our constitutional state apply to all and everywhere. The resulting values should therefore be commonly carried and realised. We experience on a daily basis, that this is a lengthy and demanding process.

Problems in society cannot be solved with simple recepies for an integrated society. At the minimum, a united effort is needed for discipline in people`s contact, for the re-evaluation of undifferentiated stereotypes and for breaking through negativism. Although such is not easy, resistance can be conquered by creating links with people from different backgrounds and different conviction. An open, learning and listening mindset is required. Dialogues are only possible if all are effectively prepared to involve their own securities into the discussion.

Social skills and educated behaviour can be transmitted by education and by setting good examples. Children who are brought up in a reliable ambiance will be better prepared to overcome mistrust, to respect others and to discharge them. Taking each other into consideration, keeping an eye open for what people need and paying attention to those who have trouble together form the glue for social cohesion on a daily level. By united involvement, we can convert vulnerability into strength. Today more than ever, people long for a sense of unity. The same applies to the world around us, which equally urges for peace and justice.

`Justice grows where there`s peace and who sows peace will harvest justice.` This quote from the Bible is no less relevant today than it was 2000 years ago. At the time, a message of peace on earth was declared, a message which still today requires an effort from all involved. Neighbourly love is the road towards it, such is the task Christmas empowers us with….

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