Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Prince of Orange tosses an orange toilet, then takes the opportunity to talk about the toilet-less

April 30th: Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange and heir to the throne of the Netherlands, won a village’s orange toilet bowl tossing contest that was held in honor of Queen’s Day.

Apparently, tossing toilet bowls is a common village game for celebrations, meant for “just a laugh.” But more recently, the Prince was quoted as saying, "I participated with a smile, but not without shame in thinking about the some 2.6 billion people around the world that do not have this most basic infrastructure to fulfill a daily need with dignity." He said that the only reason that he participated was because the toilets were to be used for a project in Gambia. (Although who wants orange toilets?)

The competition organizer, Jakob Buitenhuis, called the prince’s attitude “childish.”

The headlines on this in both of the sources I found the story (BBC and The Telegraph) sadly, though emphasized that he was “ashamed” of participating more than the why—the idea that sanitation is such a huge problem in the world. I applaud his attempt to highlight the issue, but the news outlets seem to have chosen instead to bury it.

Prince Willem-Alexander is one of the few celebrities who’ve publicly advocated for better sanitation, including writing this for the Gates Foundation and writing the introduction to this book. The only other celebrity I’ve seen publicly advocate for better sanitation (not water, which has enough celebrity spokespeople) is Shah Rukh Kahn, Bollywood superstar.

The prince won a cup with a little toilet on top with a string that you can pull to flush it. (Anyone else want one of those?)

My big question though—this story came out yesterday. Why on earth is this happening a month after the actual toilet toss?

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