Entry 1593 posted in: 6. Self-Made Monsters
My brain is like a sieve, did sing the very underrated Thomas Dolby on a sunny day once, but today Felix suddenly had a heroine-like-flash of memories from, what he thought were, his anarchic student days. Try to visualise young Felix Atagong, pimple faced jam jarred glassed weirdo who was frenetically trying to belong somewhere, anywhere, but has always been too afraid to do so.
Caught in a crossfire of childhood and boredom, brought up in the deep-rooted Flemish catholic tradition that it is not done to get up, stand up for your rights, Felix’s small-town boy thoughts were a maelstrom from the baroque and the bizarre.
Felix lost his religious beliefs somewhere between the age of twelve and fourteen, as this was the time when he had finally realised that magic didn’t have a place in the real world, and this included Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas, the European version of Santa Claus), the mystery of transubstantiation and the miracle of the loaves and fish. In first grade that last miracle had been explained as something that had really happened, but the progressive priests in second grade tried to explain that the story had a symbolical meaning and that no wizardry had taken place in order to multiply 5 loaves and 2 fish into a giant barbecue.
Felix’s mild condition of the ailment that is defined by torturers of the human language as ‘pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified’ has made him classify the outside in small wooden boxes where Schrödinger’s cat doesn’t fit in. In Felix’s world the cat is either alive or dead and not both simultaneously like Schrödinger maintained. To continue this train of thought and liaise it to the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fish; either this is a miracle or either it is an allegory, but not both. As there was obviously a lack of consensus regarding the loaves and fish problem the only logical thing to do for Felix was to abandon catholicism. The fewer boxes there are the better. Leaving catholicism behind wasn’t such a big step, Felix thought, he had never been too found of men in drag throwing smoke curtains around in church.
If catholicism imprinted something into little Felix’s little brain it was a nagging sense of honesty and morality. Strangely enough the people who openly adhered catholicism didn’t seem to behave ethical at all, another paradox that didn’t fit into one of Felix’s small wooden boxes.
Leaving religion behind left a void into Felix’s brain although he didn’t always realize this. So he went looking for something else, and every time when he thought he had found something this would be investigated very thoroughly and rather maniacally. One day it was Erich Von Däniken’s UFO theories, another day it could be a would-be groupie-fashion-model whose picture he had found on a record sleeve.
Europe in the seventies was a battlefield between conservatives and progressives, left and right (paradoxically the USA were situated on the left and the communist block on the right side of Europe). American readers will perhaps fail to understand this, but as Europe was literally sandwiched between capitalism and communism, we tried to obtain the benefits of both worlds (although some countries didn’t really have a choice). In Europe communism (or its softer counterpart socialism) wasn’t always frowned on as in the USA, where even the term liberalism was (and still is) suspicious. In Europe a liberal defaults to a right-winged-conservative although some left-liberal parties do exist or co-exist.
Students in the Seventies didn’t take la démocratie à l’Américaine for granted. Once too often our western capitalistic regime ignored the democratic voice of the masses in favour of NATO’s (read America’s) nuclear strategy. Even today our prime minister may neither confirm nor deny the fact that about 20 nuclear missiles are present in Belgium and members of parliament have got no right to ask questions about these. Master and servants.
It was no wonder that the young Felix listened eagerly to the progressive voices that were omnipresent in the university of Louvain. Although catholic in name the university mothered dozens of progressive clubs whose saviours were not named Jesus Christ but Mikhail Bakunin, Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and mass-murderers Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, although in those days his name was still known as Mao Tse-Tung, a dictator famous for his poems and for his musings in the little red book. Felix has to retrospectively confess that the progressive movement was quite overenthusiastic regarding the Marxist model. Western progressives were often bragging how excellent the communist crumbles were, but they deliberately ignored the fact that the bread was bad, the oven broken and the baker corrupt.
Poor Felix didn’t quite fit in. He sneaked in at a symposium that was organised by the anarchist collective La Cecilia (it was not hard to spot the Belgian secret service, the suits were the only middle aged men drinking Fanta at the bar downstairs) but was taken aback when he found out that the participants were merely discussing the Belgian anarchist interbellum movement or the ideological differences between Henry David Thoreau and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Organiser was Luc Vanheerentals, who wrote the definitive Belgian anarchist bible, and now an independent journalist whose latest article, a hagiographic piece about the effectiveness of the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, is sponsored by KBC and CERA banks. That is how Children of the Revolution become Grannies of the Restoration.
Felix soon discovered that intellectual left didn’t allow labourers (nor their children) in their caste, although they kept on pretending that the power had to be given to the masses. The left elite was as paternalistic as the catholic priests had been and if revolution came they would – obviously – fill the seats that mattered and do the thinking for the proletarians. Felix still remembers the gorgeous girl in the designer jeans who turned her back to him when she found out that he wasn’t studying politics at the free (free as independent from church and state) Brussels University. When she walked away he saw Lenin's picture stitched on the back of her jacket. Felix now pities her daughter who still has to explain why she has been named Ulrike.
In 2007 Johan Vande Lanotte, presiding the Flemish socialist party SPA, begged the socialist movement to get the labourers back in Parliament, as there weren’t (and still aren’t) any. Vande Lanotte, whose political career started within extreme-left, is now a master in law and professor at the Ghent University, and was swiftly put aside after the elections from this year as being to radical. Labourers in parliament, the insult!
An encounter with Peter, the anarchist squatter, wasn’t really fruitful either. Full of radical ideas Peter was a prominent follower of proletarian shopping and was mostly seen in pubs, where he developed his theories as long as someone else was paying for his beer. In Felix’s wooden box proletarian shopping was regarded as stealing, even if the stealing was done in big super-capitalistic supermarkets getting super-profits. He simply didn’t grasp the concept how borrowing a cheap bottle of wine from the mall would help the masses to brake their ideological chains.
Thus the only radical action done by Felix was driving through the city of Antwerp, on a stolen bike, without any lights on, in the opposite direction of a one-way street, and being caught by the police. The pigs didn’t torture him, they didn’t put him into jail, they even didn’t give him a fine but just a kind warning to fix the light. Doesn’t add up much on the revolutionary scale, does it?
Nearly 3 decades later Felix has become salonfähig, which is quite an expensive German word for couch potatoe, but he still can’t help having some revolutionary thoughts from time to time, mostly when the brown fog of Guinness has entered his brain.
Felix has always wondered how it comes that a terrorist attack on American soil could lead to an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks in the first place and how this event made the greatest democracy on Earth evolve into a cheap pastiche of the Soviet Union, including its own infamous Gulag. America’s anti-terrorist actions reached a surrealistic zenith with the unintelligible boycott of French fries. As if throwing a potato-stick in a 190° oily bath is an act of freedom.
More serious is the fact that since 2001 775 human beings have been kidnapped and deported to Guantanamo Bay. It is believed that eventually 60 to 80 of them will be put on trial, the rest will have to be set free. Guantanamo prisoners have testified that they have been repeatedly tortured with pepper spray, broken glass, barbed wire and burning cigarettes, they have been chained to the floor. They were sexually degraded and assaulted, drugged and religiously persecuted. In Iraq, in violation with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, 14000, that is fourteen thousand, people were imprisoned by the US authorities at the Abu Ghraib prison. So far the humane and democratic actions of the land of the free.
The above stands in shrill contrast with the recent economical crisis that didn’t come from an Afghan grotto but from offices at Wall Street and the American monetary policy (or non-policy, if you will). Predictions go that over 50 million jobs will be lost in 2009 alone. However, and here comes Felix’s anarchic streak again, how many bankers have had their homes raided by US soldiers and how many have been shot? How many have been abducted from their houses and put in economic prison camps? How many have been waterboarded, raped or sodomised by security contractors? How many had to stand nude in public so that hordes of newly unemployed could have a laugh at them?
No future, did sing The Sex Pistols once, but Felix still carries some hope. After all if history repeats itself and if America is really turning Soviet, we may never forget that the USSR reformed its regime through a democratic process, although that, so told us the American propaganda machine in the Seventies, was inexistent.
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