Entry 928 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash
Belgium is known for its mediocrity. Maybe this has been glued inside in our genes because for the past couple of thousands years we have been invaded, occupied, violated, liberated and then invaded all over again. After a while if a soldier knocked on the door of a little cottage all he could hear from the inside was a deep sigh and “Who is it this time? Romans, Germans, Austrians, Spanish, French or Dutch?”
This is probably how the Belgian disease (as it is called in our country) originated. Belgians, regardless if they are Flemings or Walloons (and one always tends to forget the German speaking community of our land), have a built-in suspicion against any form of power: legislative, judicial or executive.
We don’t want to stand out. Ask for a volunteer in Holland and a dozen of Dutchmen will raise their hand. Not the Belgians. Ask for a volunteer in Belgium: we look sheepishly around and we slowly try to slide in an inconspicuous way to the middle of the group. That is quite normal. After each new invasion our new proprietors would get rid of the volunteers (suddenly called: collaborators) who helped the previous government. A quite effective method to do that was to attach a horse to each limb and to organise a horse race in opposite directions. According to the laws of Darwin this lead to the result that after a while the volunteering-gene disappeared completely from the Belgian DNA string.
So when we finally acquired our own independency in 1830, the first thing we did was to look for a mediocre nobleman to act as our king. Our royal family now owns a small fortune as they soon adapted to the Belgian custom to pay as less tax as possible and to put your money on foreign bank accounts where Belgian law enforcers can’t find it.
Irish people, who also suffered a lot, are proud and dance and sing a lot about how Paddy Malone stole a potato for his pregnant wife and his seven hungry kids and was consequently hung by the British. Flemings don’t. For decades our most popular dance was ‘In Zaire’ from Johnny Wakelin and our most popular songs exclusively narrated about the Spanish Costa del Sol and the American prairie. The Flemish anthem, a quite boring and – if I may believe Wikipedia – originally German tune (hence the fact that is boring), is about a… lion although that animal has never been spotted in our regions. Hedgehogs yes, but who would like to sing a tune that goes: “They will never tame him, the proud Flemish hedgehog”. Most of them are killed by traffic anyway.
A couple of decades ago the Belgian judo sport team was absolute world-class. European gold medals, World gold medals, Olympic gold medals. Of course the Belgian judo federation did not like this a bit so they did about everything to make us average again. Judokas who wanted to fight abroad couldn’t take their personal trainer with them and if they wanted to attend a foreign training camp they had to finance it themselves. While the complete Belgian judo team was sleeping in a drafty bungalow without heating or warm water and only one bed the Belgian judo officials explained from the local Hilton hotel that there was simply not enough money to give them some luxury. The matter of the one single bed aside, Belgian judokas were not very happy about that. One of them entered politics just to be able to sleep in a posh hotel from time to time. At the most recent Olympic games the Belgian Judo Federation finally accomplished what they had hoped for: zero medals.
The average Belgian is plain average, a little inefficient, a mild anarchic even. The same goes for Belgian television. A few months ago the VRT boasted that it had an exclusive interview with our crown prince who, for about an hour, gave the same answer to all the questions: he was deeply in love with our country, its institutions and its inhabitants. The future king of Belgium spoke in a language that sounded quite like Dutch but that was not exactly it. When the royal family speaks Dutch they do a robot talk act, feeding the opinion that these are not men but mere marionettes. The TV interview made me peer at the screen to see where the strings went and where the parrot was hiding who did the talking. A real journalist would have asked question such as:
- What do you think of your great-great-grandfather who butchered a few millions of Africans to get some rubbers?
Or if this question is a little bit too historical:
- Is it true the previous king stacked some billions on foreign bank accounts to avoid paying taxes?
Or if that question is not about the subject:
- Why do you, Monseigneur, refuse to give back Napoleon's bed (and some other valuable 19th century furniture) to the Flemish community you borrowed those from?
Simple questions like that.
A couple of years ago Belgian football, some call it soccer although sucker would be more appropriate, was infested by Chinese businessmen who threatened to break a few fingers if players such and so didn't do their best to lose with a 3 goals difference. Everybody knew it: the trainers knew it, the players knew it, the public knew it and the press knew it. There was only one big exception though: the Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) didn’t know it.
Even when police and court got involved, and as the Belgian courts are populated with Belgian judges representing the spirit of Belgian people it normally takes ages before they get a move on, even then the RBFA continued discussing the type of grass Belgian football fields were allowed to have or not. When finally the court made some decision and threw around a couple of sentences and penalties the geriatric football leaders were busy contemplating the important issue what to serve as hors d'oeuvre at the annual gala dinner.
Belgian official TV, normally a very average channel with very average programs although they prefer to call it polite (see point 5 above), named the RBFA a bunch of incompetent nincompoops and that on the news in full prime time. But all is forgiven and forgotten now because on this year's Olympic games, made in China and lead by the Belgian Jacques Rogge, the Belgian Young Red Devils (better call them devils than hedgehogs, somebody must have thought) soccer team is performing a small miracle. Needless to say that such splendid behaviour is not appreciated by the RBFA at all.
When Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, called on football clubs to let their players compete in the Olympic Games, it inspired one of our top players, Vincent Kompany, to stay at the Olympics instead of rejoining the German club HSV he was under contract with. He did this for king, for freedom and for justice as our national anthem proudly goes (this is another anthem as the previously cited Flemish Lion, as we are dealing with Belgium we have national, federal and regional anthems).
This time the RBFA reacted faster than a bullet out of Lucky Luke’s gun. Who this Vincent Kompany thought he was? He had no right whatsoever to defend the honour of the Belgian king, our Belgian freedom and the Belgian justice on the Olympic games. “If he stays in China and his soccer club HSV decides to bring it to court he is on his own”, said an official, “The Royal Belgian Sucker Association will, under no circumstance, back him up. Now where is this bottle of champagne you were talking me about?"
At the time I write this it is not sure if the Belgian Young devils will get an Olympic medal or not (we didn't). That is of no particular importance for this post. But if I were our king I would ask the RBFA very politely to take the Royal away from their name, to remove the crown from their logo and to change the name of our team to the Red Chickens instead. Can anyone contact the guy who holds the strings for that?
8 Post Scriptum (at 5 PM)
Tia Hellebaut just won a gold medal on the Olympics and when I went to the baker's to order me some croissants for tomorrow morning the music on my iPod randomizer was the magnificent Into The Fourth Dimension by The Orb. Life can be so beautiful.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Just like Belgium