Procrastination is a constant thing in my life even at a point that I frantically dive into one of my famous unfinished projects for pretending I am busy while, in fact, I am just delaying something else. So I had to force me to write the following…
It is now a certainty that the two halves of Belgium are going separate ways and even the Walloons have commented that they have to think about a future without Belgium as it exists today. The latest rumour I heard is that Wallonia and Brussels would further continue as Diet Belgium and that a new country Flanders would be conceived.
Practically this is an impossible scenario as Brussels is geographically surrounded by Flemish territory. Does any remember after-war Berlin and a patriotic speech that ended with Ich bin ein Berliner? I already see Barack Obama giving a speech before the Brussels NATO headquarters and ending with: Ik zèn nen brusseleir.
Lucky for us, we Belgians (Fleming and Walloon alike) are mediocre, lazy and inefficient and frankly too chicken too take up arms and shoot at each other like they did in former Yugoslavia… and probably we are incapable and don't have the guts to form a guerrilla movement like the IRA or the ETA, which is, I guess, a good thing…
There have been two terrorist movements in Belgium, both between 1982 and 1985.
The amateurish CCC was followed by the state security from its start, as no Belgian can keep a secret until he enters the local pub, but the powers that be didn't intervene until one of the bombs killed a couple of firemen. The militant communists were sentenced for life, which means they are all free now as life has got a different meaning in Belgium than in any other country of the world, and the former terrorists even have got their own website now.
The far more efficient and eponymous 'Nijvel
Gang' (or 'Brabant Killers') was probably extreme right and killed
nearly 30 people in military commando style operations. The mystery has
never been solved but the group was probably linked to extreme-right
army and police officers, dodgy politicians and shady industrials.
Fact: in the Eighties NATO had sleeper commando units and secret weapon storage places in Belgium for when the USSR were finally going to invade us.
Theory: the deadly 1982-1985 raids may well have been a kind of general repetition, goes one conspiracy theory.
Thirty years later justice still doesn't know who really was behind the killings and as it is improbable, even for Belgian standards, to stay that ineffective for 3 decades rumours about a cover-up are abundant.
Another point in the news that caught my attention were the obscene reactions against euro-commissioner Karel De Gucht when he, in a Belgian radio interview, stated that there was an important Jewish lobby in America and that it is difficult to have a rational discussion with Israeli people regarding the Palestinian issue.
Although these statements are hardly world shattering the commissioner was immediately crucified as a blasphemous anti-Semite and he had to officially apologise. De Gucht is not one of my political friends but I quite like his sharp tongue. As an anti-clerical liberal he was only using his freedom of speech for stating that you can't have a serious conversation with people who, according to their religious beliefs, think they are always right in what they are doing.
If you liked the above rant you might like this one as well:
Which leads me to the following. Past week there was a documentary on the telly about homo-aggression in Brussels. The figures are staggering: one out of 10 gays in Brussels has already been physically attacked and one out of 6 has already been verbally insulted or spit on.
The aggressors are, almost without exception, young islamic boys, often operating in gangs and the ones who usually go whining, whenever television cameras are around, that they are so misunderstood and discriminated. Why do we need to be tolerant to people who abuse civil liberties in order to attack others? As usual the Belgian islamic congress, nor any imam, found it necessary to condemn these practices, what only feeds my dichotomous opinion about islam in Belgium and the rumour that this religion is incompatible with the western credo: liberté, égalité, fraternité.
If you liked the above rant you might like this one as well:
Escape from Kuregem
Saturday my progressive newspaper De Morgen (the morning) had a complete white front page with only one small sentence on it. It informed that reading the paper would kick you in the stomach.
The much-debated catholic sexual abuse commission presented its report and the end result is that paedophilic practices, by catholic priests and monks, were omni-present in schools and youth organisations in Belgium for the last 50 years. The catholic church did everything to cover up these crimes and still does today, by the way.
Although the 200 pages report could be downloaded in its entirety, I refused to read it as the parts cited in the newspaper were already making my stomach turn and my blood boil, raping two year old boys, for god's (!) sake.
Suddenly I can understand the anger of islam boys against (what they consider) immoral actions, and even physical attacks suddenly don't seem that repulsing to me. If I would be confronted with cardinal Danneels today I would be seriously tempted to kick him in the face and plant my shoe in between his balls. Chance is he would probably like it, one never knows with those men in frocks.
Today (Monday, the 13th of September 2010) the cardinals and bishops gave a much attended press conference. A priest - who has been supporting and representing the church victims for over a decade - tried to attend the meeting but was violently pushed outside - manu militari - by the Church's body guards.
Business as usual.
If you liked the above rant you might like this one as well:
Last but not least, last week a preacher, whose flock is actually smaller than the followers of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit, turned into a world-wide phenomenon because he threatened to burn a few korans. Instead of giving the poor man a valium and ignore him like the dog turd you have just stepped in he was given a prime-time pedestal to divulge his sick ideas. Even Barack 'my white friends call me uncle Tom' Obama needed to ventilate an opinion although I would have appreciated it more if he had finally given a date to cut the Guantanamo Bay ulcer out of the American body.
As if this was not enough international whorenalists then probed for the average mohammedan protester's opinion, who are invariably chosen by the amount of bad teeth they can flash at the camera. Well, answered an illiterate item who enjoyed every moment of it, for every koran burned we will kill a catholic priest. Apart from the fact that killing priests isn't a bad idea to begin with the answer did not really shock me. What does one expect?
Imagine, for a second, that the man would have replied: for every koran burned we will... burn one bible as well. No, no, make that two bibles! Laughter all over the world with the same impact Dr Evil had for asking a million dollars in order not to destroy the world.
But not these nutcases are to blame, they just enjoy Andy's glorious fifteen minutes. I blame modern journalism that has been degraded to a doctor Caligari freak cabinet with the morals of an Endemol game show.
Also last week an Iraqi candid camera show placed fake bombs into cars of innocent bystanders, just for the fun of it. We will all be amused to death, whether you like it or not.
The Terrorist Act of Breastfeeding
In the last two years I only had to use the term imbecile of the week twice but what I read yesterday in the newspaper made me re-examine my pudeur to use that particular term. This week's Felix Atagong Imbecile of the Week Award goes to the the doctor of the ASZ hospital of Aalst (Belgium), who is of the opinion that breastfeeding is obscene and even called the police to prevent a mother from nourishing her baby. The story so far:
On Wednesday a woman, who had fractured her ankle ligaments, was brought to the emergency ward of the Aalst ASZ hospital. She waited, in the hallway, until a doctor would see her. Unfortunately the mother had her 3 months old baby with her, obviously the hospital would have preferred if she had let the boy behind in the trunk of the car, and the baby was hungry, and when I mean hungry, I mean hungry!
So she did the perfect natural thing of opening her shirt and (discretely) breastfeed the baby. Immediately a doctor and a few nurses came to her, claiming that - according to the house rules - it was forbidden to breastfeed babies in hospital, and wheeled her, out of sight, to a private room.
Normally the incident should have been closed, but not for this mother. Annoyed by the fact that a doctor prevented her to feed her baby in a waiting room she asked the nurses to show her the hospital statutes where it was actually written that breastfeeding was forbidden. They didn't.
She then wheeled over to the information desk and asked once again for the document. They said they couldn't. (Obviously, the hospital later admitted that such a rule doesn't exist.)
The mother went back to the public waiting hall and continued feeding her baby. A row started. Other patients and visitors defended the mother but according to the doctor in charge the only proper way to feed a baby was to tie it down in a bed and stick a needle through its veins. It all became rather tense. The hospital called the police.
The riot police arrived within minutes, which must have been about the record of the year. One never sees the police when somebody holds a gun to your brains, but when they are needed to arrest a breastfeeding mother they are as fast as superman.
Four heavily armed policemen entered the hospital. Four. But they didn't really know exactly how to react. I mean, it is simple to hit an immigrant into hospital, especially when it is four against one, but how do you hit an already injured mother, who is breastfeeding a baby, in hospital when she is already in hospital? Modern society can sometimes be very puzzling for our police force.
They thought for a bit.
This was a painstakingly long process.
Finally, one of the coppers, probably the one who could read and
write, switched over to Plan B, the one that never fails.
If you can't hit a suspect, intimidate him (in this case: her).
He stretched his body in all possible directions and loudly proclaimed that according to Belgian law breastfeeding in public was considered an obscene act and a disturbance of general order. The three other policemen had tears in their eyes and one even started to applaud. With exception of the doctor and the nurses, everybody in the waiting room loudly protested and booed.
But boy, did this cop regret afterwards what he has just said, because obviously he had picked the wrong woman to bully.
What I haven't mentioned up till now is that the woman in question was, is, the coordinating executive of MammaCafe, a Belgian - volunteer driven - breastfeeding organisation with 20 meeting places and subsidiaries all over Flanders. Probably there isn't one women in Flanders who knows more about breastfeeding than she does. She gave the cop a small exposé about the legal issues of breastfeeding in Belgium, proving that his bullying tactics had been based on a misinterpretation of the Belgian constitution.
And now something inexplicable happened, something that normally only happens when policemen are confronted with Kalashnikov armed thugs in the Brussels Kuregem area. The four policemen turned their back and went away without even filing a report. The incident as such never happened.
But also the mother in question had to leave the hospital as the doctor still refused to treat her, which is in contradiction with his Hippocratic Oath. Theoretically doctor (and hospital) could be sued for refusing to help a person in need, but chances seemed small as even the police refused to note it down.
Luckily, in the mean time, at least one visitor had contacted the ombudsman of the hospital to complain about the event and, as this is summertime, also the newspapers and private and national television got hold of the news. The hospital was obliged to officially apologise and issued a press declaration that excels in saying absolutely nothing of importance.
(The above article is entirely based upon facts, some situations have been enlarged for satirical purposes.)
My previous imbecile of the week awards:
2010 Holy Wars
2009 The Purloined Ladder
Facebook group (Dutch) with about 2800 members: Spoedarts Asz Aalst stuurt politie af op vrouw die borstvoeding geeft.
Update 1st of September 2010: The Facebook group ended with 4591 members and the official apology of the hospital has mysteriously disappeared from their website.
Julian Palacios' Syd Barrett biography
Julian Palacios, contributor and friend of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit let us know that the revised version of his Syd Barrett biography (first edition, 1998 already) will be out any day now. So, for the first time in the history of Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects, let us celebrate a commercial break.
Update: The final title is 'Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe', and it is out 29 September in Europe and America (Source: Julian Palacios).
Here is a loud announcement. Silence in the studio!
Syd Barrett, who died in 2006, was a teenage art-school student when he founded Pink Floyd. Famous before his twentieth birthday, Barrett led the charge of psychedelia onstage at London s famed UFO Club, and his acid-inspired lyrics became a hallmark of London s 1967 Summer of Love. Improvisatory and whimsical, Zen-like and hard-living, Barrett pushed the boundaries of music into new realms of artistic expression while fighting what would prove to be a losing battle against his inner demons.
Julian Palacios' probing and comprehensive biography, ten years in the writing, features a wealth of interviews with Syd s family, friends, and members of the band, providing an unvarnished look at Barrett s life and work. Author Julian Palacios traces Syd s evolution from precocious youth to psychedelic rock star; from leading light to drug burnout; from lost exile to celebrated icon, examining both his wide-ranging inspirations and his enduring influence on generations of musicians. A never-to-be-forgotten casualty of the excesses, innovations and idealism of the 1960s, Syd Barrett is one of the most heavily mythologized men in rock, and this book offers a rare portrayal of a unique spirit in flight and freefall.
Buy Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe on Amazon.
The official (still not updated) page:
Julian Palacios. Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd: Dark Globe. Plexus Books.
320 pages / 60 photos / 230 x 155mm
ISBN10 85965 431 1
ISBN13 978 0 85965 431 9
(Felix Atagong's Unfinished Projects is not affiliated with or endorsed by this company.)
In May I wrote how the Belgian catholic church was left unbothered after a flood of paedophile priest cases came suddenly out in the open. The church communicated, in its own veiled way, that they had set up a commission that would, in all discretion, investigate case per case and take appropriate action: Matthew 19:14.
This is partly understandable as lots of paedophile cases date from 20 years ago or longer, are legally expired and victims don't want to go through all the meaningless legal hassle. But at the same time the commission also received complaints that, following the letter of the law, had to be immediately handed over to justice, a thing the commission refused to do, in their own words to protect the privacy of the victims. (That some of the accused priests are still on the job was apparently not that important.)
But on Thursday the 24th of June justice reacted with Operation Chalice. This was a typical Belgian rude police operation.
Indiana Jones and the Chalice of Malice
In February I wrote how Belgian police invaded the house of a Moroccan immigrant, insulted him and threatened to put a bullet through his head, unaware of the fact that their victim fluently spoke Dutch and thus understood all they said. En passant the police smashed in windows, kicked furniture to pieces for the sheer fun of it, to find afterwards… that they had misread the street number and had really been instructed to search the house next-door: Escape from Kuregem.
I deducted that the Belgian police was a racist lot but Operation Chalice has now proven that Belgian police simply likes to act like a bunch of Liverpudlian hooligans on a day out. What bothers me even more: they are proud of it, because all television stations and newspapers had been informed beforehand of the raid, so that its images would go all over the world.
When the police invaded the Archbishop's Palace and the Cathedral in Mechelen they damaged a couple of graves, believing that priests had opened it on a moonlight-lid night to hide papers between cardinal Mercier's decomposing bones, and drilled holes through floors and walls to find secret hiding places, although all paedophilia files were neatly stacked in paper files and/or stored on computers, church administration is efficient, to say the least.
The church later called this a Da Vinci Code house search and a fishing expedition, hoping that amongst the thousands of seized documents there will be at least one to legitimate the search.
The church commission immediately retaliated by saying that this was unprecedented in Belgian juridical history and that the unwritten rule of charitable immunity (the fact that justice will respect the oath of secrecy of victim support organisations) had been breached. A few days later the commission could do nothing else than to disband itself as all files and computers had been seized.
Belgian justice isn't really trusted by the population as it reflects the Belgian disease of mediocrity. This was again proven by a remark from Jos Colpin, press magistrate of Brussels justice and a not entirely unbespoken loyal follower of the liberal open VLD party, now running for the imbecile of the week award. When journalists asked him that lots of paedophilia victims were afraid that their files would come out in the open, against their will and wish for privacy, he cynically replied that 'this was a pity for them'. As an unnecessary extra blow in the face of the victims this could count. Luckily the next day another press officer tried to appease the remark and also the minister of justice found it necessary to intervene.
Stalin wasn't stallin'
If there is one constant in this world it is that imbeciles can be found everywhere, especially amongst press officers. The Vatican found it necessary to condemn the house searches and compared it to the oppression under the communist system and a while later the Pope himself invited the Belgian archbishop Léonard to discuss the matter.
When the current pope was still known as Ratzinger he instructed every bishop in the world to classify paedophilia abuse complaints under the pontifical secret, in other words never to instruct justice about it. It is believed that there are about 5000 child abuse cases in Belgian catholic church that have never been handed over to Belgian justice so the Vatican should be careful by accusing Belgian justice of Stalinist methods.
Alas, Belgian justice is not only known for its shady press officers, but has also a rather bad reputation concerning its many leaks. So when yet another press officer told that the victims were protected by the secrecy of the investigation everybody, the journalists at first place, had a good laugh. Any cretin knows an average Belgian official investigation has got more holes than Britney Spears has got knickers.
Meanwhile the church investigation is under fire and justice doesn't even try to hide the fact that there is an open war going on between the so-called catholic (or christian) appointed judges and liberal or socialist judges (although judges are supposed to be neutral they are chosen according to the political families in parliament). At the same time the lawyers of the catholic church are using every legal trick to make the ongoing investigation (and the raid) suspect and illegal. Some parts of the investigation have already reached the press and it is only the question who has been leaking this. It would indeed be a very stupid move of the freethought faction of Belgian justice to undermine its own investigation by giving details to the outside world.
Nude dot com
The most recent leak, that contradictorily appeared in a catholic popular newspaper, and thus shows how dirty this war is becoming, is about a picture of a young naked child that has been found on the personal computer of cardinal Danneels. The picture in question, found on the temporary internet files of the cardinal's computer, had been automatically downloaded from www.cobra.be, the cultural portal site of Belgian television, made by a Belgian photographer and nominated for a national art award, so hardly pornographic or paedophilic material. The cardinal immediately issued an official complaint and perhaps that is what was the initial intention of the leak, finding a way to undermine the investigation.
Obviously this does not take away that cardinal Danneels is named, if we may believe other leaks to the press, in at least 50 files where he refused to take measures against paedophilic priests. But as things are evolving now I fear that in the end investigations will be discontinued nolle prosequi.
Catholic church will lick its wounds and carry on as before, Belgian justice will continue as ineffective as ever and in the end the victims, as always, will still remain the unheard victims…
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well:
Escape from Kuregem
The Purloined Ladder
A few of years ago there were a couple of racist attacks from right-wing skinheads in Belgium. Basically the skinheads, having been drinking far too much lager at their local skinhead pub, saw a passing stranger with a different skin colour than theirs and decided to kick or stab the victim into hospital.
Television crews and newspaper journalists tumbled over each others to cover the news. Prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, ministers of interior, ministers of justice, ministers of equal rights and even some ministers nobody had ever seen before all had their say on prime time television and on the first page columns of the serious newspapers.
Some of them uttered the kind of stupefied arguments that one would normally only expect to hear from the skinheads they were reacting against. Like: we will immediately forbid skinheads and their skinhead pubs. When confronted with quotes like these the quite cynical man behind this blog thinks, in his own uncensored way of reasoning: "Oh yeah, you silly cunt. Just tell me how?" As long as there is freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Belgium you can't simply stop people to wear silly outfits and to shout Oi! at each other. This, my dear politicians, is what we call democracy. It is a system where any single person, even very stupid ones, can become a politician and you are the living proof of it.
The Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism obviously condemned these vicious attacks in very harsh words and quite rightly so. But when a few weeks later some brown-skinned Islamic youngsters, although it is not considered politically correct to say that, kicked a passing girl into hospital because she didn't wear a traditional headscarf the same institute refused to describe this as a religious inspired discriminatory attack. The centre called this an unhappy incident and politely instructed the boys that their cultural and religious habits were not always appreciated in the laic state of Belgium. But that is not what this post is about.
The Belgian catholic church, as in a couple of other countries, is momentarily under fire because of their strange way to deal with paedophilic priests. Newspaper De Morgen revealed past week that five priests, who committed sex with minors between 2000 and 2008, are still on the job today. In some cases the catholic church has paid the victims huge sums of money to buy their silence.
Since bishop Vangheluwe had to resign, a couple of weeks ago, 270 claims were entered at the sex abuse commission of the catholic church, but 353 other complaints arrived through other channels as some victims simply don't trust catholic organisations anymore. This is understandable: asking the catholic church to investigate its own sins is like asking the Cosa Nostra to investigate its own murders.
What is even weirder, not one single politician of any importance dares saying before the camera that it is about time to have a closer look at the institute Church (one notably exception is Marleen Temmerman).
Not one single member of parliament proposes to throw a few bishops in jail until they confess that they have neglected to inform justice of these criminal acts and actively tried to minimise and cover-up the abuse.
Not one single minister dares whispering that we could, at least as a temporary matter, (partially) withdraw the yearly subventions the church receives. The catholic church gets the yearly amount of 550 million euro. This amount isn't based on the actual percentage of practising Catholics in Belgium (about 12%) but on the assumption that 70% of all Belgians have been baptised and that out of a silly traditional habit. This means that the catholic church, for the past 30 or 40 years, has been over-subsidized with at least a factor five.
I am not preaching to burn down some churches (although to paraphrase novelist, poet, painter, playwright and movie maker Hugo Claus: a burned down church is a good one), but we can at least sell one for each abuse and distribute the money to the victims. And paedophilic priests do not have to contemplate their sins in a monastery but in prison. Just like skinheads.
If you liked this post, you could maybe try this one next: The Cross and the Maiden
Double standards or niggers and Jews not allowed
The last couple of weeks I tried to explain to foreign friends, who had read in Le Monde or la Libé that Flemish politicians openly forbid French speaking people to buy houses in Flanders, that these restrictions were only valid for so-called social housing projects and not for the free market.
But last week Belgian television found out that several Flemish town administrations recommend building project agencies to only sell their houses to Dutch speaking people and to, on a voluntarily basis, hand over a list of interested would-be buyers to the city council before making the deal. This has apparently been going on for ages.
Asking such a thing is of course illegal and the housing agency doesn't need to be cooperative but then the subtle hint is given that the necessary licenses to build the houses will be delayed or - if possible - refused. This is not that far from South-African apartheid sunbathing rules (see image above) or German national-socialists asking for lists of Jewish entrepreneurs in the thirties.
An example of how illegal this is: Belgian anti-racism laws will not allow anyone to refuse to rent a house to a colored person out of racial prejudices and rightly so, but Flemish government now uses crypto-fascist methods to stop the unstoppable French immigration into Flemish territory.
Unlike London, Paris or Berlin it is not considered hip to live in the Belgian capital. During the day Brussels is filled with people who flee the capital en masse as soon as the church bells sound 5 PM, after that, many fear, the minarets take over…
Basically only the immigrants (legal or not), the poor and young live in Brussels. For reasons that would take to long to explain they mostly choose French as their official language. Luckily quite a few of them succeed in ameliorating their (financial) position but as soon as they have reached a certain status these families want to leave the capital faster than Speedy Gonzales and settle in one of the neighboring villages.
It is here that the linguistic clash occurs. Geographically speaking Brussels is a francophone enclave surrounded by Flemish territory. Every year (originally small and rural) Flemish villages are confronted with about a thousand French speaking 'migrants'. Over the past decades this resulted in the demographic fact that several villages have now a French speaking majority although politically and geographically speaking they are a still part of Flanders.
Although Flemish politicians refuse to acknowledge this, a recent study (2009) at Brussels university has pointed out that it is simply impossible to stop Brussels migration towards Flanders. Brussels is an octopus whose arms are grabbing more and more territory whether Flanders likes it or not.
That same study agrees that there is a problem, but also concludes that shortsighted (read: repressive) measures are ineffective. The only way to stop unilingual French infiltration into Flanders is to build a strong Flemish socio-cultural presence in Brussels and even more of importance: build more Flemish schools in Brussels so that future migrants will at least have learned the language of the region they will migrate into.
Although the house-selling rules are obviously in a legal gray zone and openly racist the Flemish vice-minister president Geert Bourgeois sees no problem and even finds these measures positive.
A political editor of the progressive newspaper De Morgen compared these methods to racketeering and was wondering how far Flemish local politicians will dare to go: will they refuse to send out the fire brigade if a French speaking person's house is on fire?
Geert Bourgeois is a member of the federalist N-VA party, but his roots are the (now disbanded) Volksunie party that has always struggled with its image, due to some hardboiled members who refused to hide their sympathy for nazism and apartheid. At least we now know what Bourgeois stands for.
It is not a coincidence that the racketeering measure has leaked out this week. But contrary to what logic should dictate it has not been made public by francophone language activists but by their Flemish counterparts.
Since a couple of months ultra-secret negotiations are going on between Flemish, Walloon and Brussels political hotshots, lead by ex-prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, in order to find a solution for the federal (and constitutional) impasse Belgium is in right now. These negotiations are now in its final stage and separatists parties are desperately trying to sabotage these.
It is no secret either that the N-VA (whose ultimate goal it is to split Belgium) is using emergency plans and is, behind the screens, giving instructions to Flemish extremist language groupuscules to heat things up. I'm pretty sure more linguistic fires will be started the next couple of weeks.
But like in any good espionage and counterespionage story these quarrels could have the opposite effect and only strengthen the negotiations to get Belgium out of its troubles, once and for all.
Other Flemish Belgian stories on this blog:
Just like Belgium
Escape from Kuregem
A slight miracle happened last week in Belgium.
When a few weeks before Christmas some (anonymous) policemen had complained in the press that they didn't dare to patrol anymore in certain Brussels streets this had been vehemently contradicted by the chief of police as utter humbug. Two incidents triggered this sudden change of opinion. A school in the Kuregem (Anderlecht) quarter closed and moved its classes to a safer part of town because its pupils were incessantly violently attacked and robbed by young thugs and the same weekend a police officer received three bullets in the leg from a Kalashnikov.
Until now these kind of occurrences had never been taken serious, last year had different incidents where police patrols had been ambushed by youngsters mostly because the law had tried to arrest a faithful fellow of the band. In one, rather ridiculous and shameful situation on the 7th of September 2009, the police could only get away by returning the Kalashnikov they had just seized from the gang. Later that day the Brussels police found a Kalashnikov, a riot-gun, a revolver and eight Molotov cocktails left after a shooting.
Only a few years ago the progressive parties called a sociologist racist because she had published a study comparing Brussels crime statistics with the nationality and religious backgrounds of these youngsters. Of course only a minority of Muslim immigrants are criminals but Brussels criminals are, almost without exception, part of the so-called lost maghreb generation. Instead of thinking of a solution for the problem the Belgian government tried to cover up the statistics by automatically giving all immigrant offspring the Belgian nationality. The result is that the immigrant criminality statistics lowered spectacularly but of course, not crime by itself.
The politically correct establishment tried to explain this as an anti-racist measure but a decade later theoretical crime researchers and sociologists complain that they have no longer the information they need to trigger the right stratum of the population.
To aggravate the matter the Brussels police is openly racist as was testified again this week by a Moroccan man who was arrested by mistake in the aftermath of the current events (the police simply entered the wrong house, doesn't police school teach anymore how to read housenumbers?). The cops kicked in doors although they simply could have opened them, smashed in windows just for the fun of it, emptied cupboards on the floor out of sheer sadism and sneered that it would be simpler to fire bullets through the heads of all Moroccans. The police officer (as a matter of fact the coordinator of the raid and thus the main responsible for the action) who uttered these threats was apparently unaware of the fact that the arrested man spoke fluently Dutch. Extreme right parties should finally understand that not only immigrants need to be instructed how to deal with other cultures.
But it also needs to be said that over 30 years of street work, educational projects and anti-discriminatory measures didn’t have the desired effect on the lost generation (the Kuregem quarter alone has got 4 neighbourhood committees where autochthons and immigrants can sort things out on a friendly basis). The editor in chief of the official Flemish television, not an illiterate racist redneck if you ask me, once told how the Brussels police was instructed not to verbalize cars if the owner was called Mohamed but only if it they found out the owner had a distinct French or Flemish surname. Those measures didn’t help, on the contrary, as these well-meant positive discriminatory measures only gave a minority the feeling that they could get away with anything. What started as a bunch of youngsters stealing handbags from old ladies has now evolved into gangs who empty their Kalashnikovs when they see a blue uniform.
But finally change is gonna come or so we thought. This is Belgium where a politician can't have a pee in his garden without creating a communotary crisis between Flemings and Walloons. Francophone politicians openly wondered what the fuzz this was all about and claim now that Flemings are planning a coup against Brussels (geographically speaking Brussels is a Francophone enclave encircled by Flemish territory). The mayor of Brussels centre called the shooting incident a fait divers and his 18 other colleagues more or less shared the same opinion. Brussels must be the only capital in the world that has nineteen (19!) different city managers, 19 city councils and 9 independent police zones.
But as is often the case also the Flemish politicians spoke without thinking first. Police and judges aren't opposed to the zero tolerance treatment but have already warned that this is not possible, at least not in the immediate future.
Whenever the police catch a Brussels thief he is inevitably set free a couple of hours later as the courts have an eight months delay to catch up. Youth delinquent centres are overbooked, so are the prisons and convicted suspects with sentences less than three years are free to go for lack of space in prisons.
The politicians shouting for an immediate solution have not realised that putting speed trials into place will ask for at least 10 new judges. Apart from creating an extra budget for this the legal procedure to appoint a Belgian judge usually takes over nine months. So new judges simply can’t be appointed before the end of this year. Such is the law and the politicians shouting now for immediate action have voted it that way.
Then there is the shortage of blueshirts in Brussels. To create an efficient police force in Brussels 750 extra forces are needed, but nobody is eager to take the job. No wonder if even the mayor, who is also head of police, calls being shot at by a Kalashnikov a fait divers. And weeding the extremist and racist roots within the police will be a hell of a job as well and is as important as getting the young thugs of the street.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in these as well: The Purloined Ladder
Slow Train Coming
The Belgian railways have this magnificent computer management system that fully automatically delays all trains with 20 minutes or more whenever weather conditions change.
Although most Belgians knew it was going to freeze a couple of weeks ago the over-subsidized operators of the NMBS, drinking pink champagne with scarcely clad nymphets in corporate bubble baths, weren't aware of this fact and thus the train schedules suddenly looked like overcooked macaroni.
On television a communication officer explained that the train schedules were disturbed by, and I quote, the extreme weather conditions.
I understand it had snowed a lot and that it was minus five. Celsius that is, not Fahrenheit. But the press buff apparently wasn't aware of the fact that, in Belgium as in most other European countries, there is an annual recurrent phenomenon called winter.
Over four decades ago I learned a little French poem about winter, it was in first grade and I must only have been 7 or 8. I still can (partially) recite it now.
L’hiver est là
Et nos pas
S'effondrent la gelée (?)
Un beau matin
On n’entend rien
Car la neige est tombée
(Winter has come.
Our steps trace the ground.
On this beautiful morning,
you don’t hear a sound,
because snow has fallen down)
In those last 40 years something very important must have happened to our school education system that young university graduates who are willing to speak for our national railways do not have a notion anymore of what could eventually happen in winter. Do they not play White Christmas anymore on the radio? I would call minus 20 degrees damn cold, but is minus 5 extreme? People go swimming in the Northsea at minus 5.
It is a well-known secret that trustworthiness isn’t really demanded from NMBS public relations people. Belgium has always been an ambassador of surrealism and these spin doctors, paid with taxpayer’s money, need to excel in that artful quality as well.
A couple of years ago, and I dare betting my left testicle on it that this is the truth and nothing but the truth, the Parliament wanted to know why the Belgian trains had this uncanny tendency of always arriving too late.
This was, so said an NMBS fantasist on television, due to the fact that people were getting in and out of the vehicles when these halted in the stations, implying that if trains would drive around the country without any passengers on board they would at least drive on time. Obviously that made sense and the answer was very much appreciated by our politicians and the Belgian press.
It has to be said that most spokesmen (or women) of the NMBS only make it to the television screen once and that after their maiden speech they are never heard of again. It was rumored that this one was last seen in a straightjacket, just before he was ceremonially drowned in one of the corporate Jacuzzis.
This week on Tuesday, the commuter train I daily take was announced with a delay of 20 but arrived only after 50 minutes. The reason?
The temperature had risen above zero, in other words: it had stopped freezing. Just like an autistic can't bear a sudden change of environment so can’t our Belgian railway company.
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Z for Zeitoun
It was freezing cold this morning and exactly this week clothing manufacturer H&M decided to adorn the railway stations with some lingerie publicity that made me even shudder harder when I passed the semi-naked fleshy skeletons that pretended to have a good time. In the name of science I had a good look at them and decided that two models glued together would make a normal looking woman with the necessary accessories to put some lingerie around (and then, as I am – but – a man, take it back off).
Although there is an anti-skinny movement going on for a couple of decades now the haute-couture and fashion world doesn't seem to be interested and carries on promoting an anorexic lifestyle. When Photoshop Disasters published a promotional picture of a model whose picture had been so maltreated that her hips actually were smaller than her head Ralph Lauren immediately attacked the blog for copyright infringement and its internet provider removed the post without even asking if Ralph Lauren had made a valid point or not (it wasn’t but the image still hasn’t reappeared nearly 3 months later). The new censorship dictators no longer carry the title prince, king or emperor they are now called CEO and lawyers throwing crap from sad green mountains have become their licensed fools.
Later on Photoshop Disasters published a second Ralph Lauren publicity, but this time the company didn’t respond anymore as their previous reaction had backfired, mainly because other blogs, especially Boing Boing, newspapers and television stations had jumped in to the rescue thus creating a so-called Streisand effect. If you have a couple of hours to spend just do a Google search and enjoy. It is also rather dubious that Ralph Lauren never found it necessary to apologize to Photoshop Disasters, nor Boing Boing, but prefers to send silly press statements to the world about how misunderstood they are.
Thank god, dog or blog we have democracy and freedom of speech. So we think, I was a big believer of the nivellement par le bas theory in my progressive twenties (suddenly the name Habermas flashes through the mist in my brain) but when the first fat rolls started to grow on my body that had a reverse proportional effect on my ideological beliefs as well. Now that I have turned 50 I’m back full of anger and angst and the future looks as gloomy as when I was 18.
I used to ironically quip how (Bush ruled) United States of America slid more and more towards the direction of that big fat, but nevertheless undernourished, ancient enemy of theirs the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It isn’t irony anymore.
Both countries basically had a rigid one party system with an infallible but often slightly demented leader at the top. Both countries used a ‘common enemy’ to enhance nationalistic feelings, anyone opposing or even debating that issue was considered unpatriotic and measures where then taken to remove the unpatriotic elements from society. In the USSR you disappeared in a mental institute or a Gulag archipelago, in the USA – being a capitalistic driven society – it was mostly enough to sack the person from his/her job, although there are enough examples of American citizens that have been imprisoned for ‘unpatriotic’ behavior. I recently came across Dave Eggers’s non-fiction book Zeitoun and it enraged me at a point that I had to take physical distance from the novel from time to time.
The book meticulously describes how Abdulrahman Zeitoun, an American citizen, stays behind after the hurricane Katrina disaster, peddling with his canoe through the inundated streets and helping citizens who didn’t or couldn’t flee the city and who were eagerly waiting for official help organizations that would never arrive, as if the USA was one of those third-world countries who can’t look after their people after a tragedy.
As a devout Muslim Abdulrahman finds it his task to help wherever he can, but one day he gets arrested, in true Mad Max style by self-appointed police officers, and deported to a nearby prison camp.
Zeitoun is put in an iron cage (!) that ASPCA would find unsatisfactory for animal transport and is accused of terrorist activities. How on Earth an Al Qaeda terrorist would plot satanic plans, peddling in a canoe, by helping old ladies from the roofs of their inundated houses, remains a mystery, but from then on the story, although it is not a story - but hallucinatory fact, gets Kafkaesque proportions. Zeitoun literally disappears from Earth, is refused a lawyer, his family is not informed of his imprisonment and they are led to believe he has drowned trying to protect his property. If this had happened in the USSR we’d call it Stalinist and rightly so.
Zeitoun, falsely accused, repeatedly insulted, (verbally) abused, emotionally and physically tortured, was not the only citizen doing Katrina time says Dave Eggers, and all-in-all Abdulrahman was still quite lucky:
There were hundreds of people that did months in jail, and I'm sure there are dozens of cases of prisoners who did over a year in various jails and prisons around Louisiana, where no one even knew where they were. It's unprecedented in American history, (…) I think there was a dark age, right in the middle there, from 2003 to 2006 especially, when anything seemed possible and nothing was surprising. (Taken from: Salon)
Zeitoun’s unnecessary persecution didn’t turn him onto a Muslim terrorist; quite the contrary. He seems to see the whole episode as a weird test and has forgiven his persecutors. He tries to persuade himself and his entourage that the whole process has strengthened him as a religious individual and as an American citizen who, as everybody else, watches Pride and Prejudice with his family. While a droopy dog-eyed George Bush was firing one-liners to television cameras around the world Abdulrahman Zeitoun saved over two-hundred New Orleans citizens trapped by the water. The American government rewarded him by putting him in a dog cage and by refusing him the most elementary human rights, including medicial treatment for his wounds.
I wonder if the chairman of the next Republican Party convention will have the courage to openly repudiate George Bush and his politics. If Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev had the guts why not Michael Stephen Steele?
I urgently need a drink. Now.
(Profits of the Zeitoun book by Dave Eggers go to the Zeitoun Foundation.)
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Last week a Belgian governmental institution published some HIV statistics. In 2008 1078 new cases of HIV have been diagnosed (other sources say 1079). It has been established that, concerning unprotected heterosexual encounters; there is an almost infinite small chance of getting HIV in Belgium, 1 in about twenty thousand. Strange enough the government and its affiliated partners refuse to confirm that we may all screw now like horny rabbits, in their minds protection and safe sex are still the standard when sexual encounters are involved. We are also informed that whenever we think there is something wrong with our reproductive systems we should go to hospital to have our tubes examined. Now here is a strange advice and I’ll tell you why…
Some statistics are harder to find than others but in 2006 it was made public that – yearly - 2500 to 3000 people die in a Belgian hospital bed of hospital-disease, an unhealthy collection of bacteria, viruses and fungal infections that have become resistant against antibiotics. The numbers are somewhat vague and not as well defined as with the HIV infections for the simple reason that hospitals don’t like to brag around that they have killed another patient thanks to their lack of hygiene. It was believed (in 2006) that this number would increase by 8% a year, so the annual hospital-bacteria-death-toll for this year could be anything between 3150 to 3750. I haven’t found any triumphalist hurrah-messages that these numbers went spectacularly down although apparently simple hand-hygiene from doctors and nurses in between patient-care, in other words: washing your hands, could lower hospital-disease with 40%.
Although over one hundred thousand patients a year get MRSA (and other resistant infections) in Belgian hospitals there aren’t dozens of subsidized organisations around to promote its prevention, as for HIV. In Belgium this results in 445000 extra hospitalisation days and as these extra days are paid for by the Belgian health insurance (and unfortunately the patient) we have the uncanny effect that the hospitals get more money out of a patient by being less effective.
The risk of catching a deathly disease in hospital is about 100 times larger than contracting HIV by screwing around. For every AIDS-related-death in Belgium, and my statistics are getting rather cynical now, 50 persons will die in a hospital-bed of a disease they didn’t come to hospital for.
I find it very strange that, at the entrance of every hospital, there isn’t a very big sign, in unfriendly letters, reading:
ENTERING THIS HOSPITAL
MAY BE LETHAL
This post is meant to be satirical, although I fear that the numbers are correct. But statistics will prove anything, so said the scientist who drowned when he tried to cross a river with an average depth of 30 cm.
AIDS is a very serious life-threatening situation, especially in less-developed countries, and it is of course better to avoid it. While Belgian heterosexuals are rather safe, even when practicing unsafe sex, statistics for gay encounters are very worrying. The chance for a male homosexual to get an HIV infection is 1 in 20, thousand times larger than for heterosexuals. This is not something to act funny about, but - warning: here comes satire again - at the other hand I’m still wondering why some organisations find it discriminatory if one says this is a buggers disease?
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