Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Belgian Revolution

Today, I got asked by a foreign pupil (from Norway) what needs to happen before the Belgians really get fed up with the situation – and act upon it.

He had a point – we’ve broken the world record last week – and honestly, I don’t think we’re one step closer to a federal government than, let’s say..4 months ago. And no, no one seems to lose a night’s sleep over it.

But why would we? There are jobs for everyone, there’s money to go around, there’s freedom, there’s democracy (albeit not a working one – granted). And when we inevitably MUST go voting again (really, it’s only a matter of time) – sure we’ll grumble, we’ll be annoyed…and then have a big traditional Sunday lunch with the family and just wonder how long it will take them this time. No one seems to realize that all this is costing our country truckloads of (tax-) money.

Yes, there might be friendly and joyful manifestations in Brussels to tell the politicians “look, we do care” – but honestly, no one in the “Wetstraat – Rue de la Loi” is taking this seriously. Hence the reaction of foresaid politicians : “yes, we understand the manifestation. And it’s a good thing that the people care. But we can’t take any “hurried” decisions about our country”.

So when will the Belgians really get fed up – and show a bit of “badass”? Throw a few Molotov cocktails, or have a day-long protest on some big square in Brussels?
It won’t happen. You know what we did do?

- We started cancelling our memberships of political parties. Some parties have already lost 5 to 10% of their members. (naughty, isn’t it?)
- Last week, we celebrated our world record with street parties and the distribution of free fries.
- Newspaper Le Soir has organized a big betting contest. Whoever guesses the right date when we’ll have a government, wins his / her own weight in waffles
- Newspaper Het Nieuwsblad made a Belgian version of the game Stratego. The pawns are Belgian politicians.
- There’s a protest group that encourages men to let their beard grow (how any resemblance to the Taliban is going to help us, is beyond me – but who knows)
- And last but not least : there’s a website where you can “virtually” camp out in front of the main government building (
See: we have our “Tahrir Square” – it’s just online.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Free waffle!

On the day Belgium broke the world record of longest government negotiations, I was offered a free waffle! Can it get more symbolic?

The free waffle was a little present of the Belgian (government owned) mail company “bPost”, to promote their package delivery services throughout Europe. So it was no coincidence that their little waffle stand was planted smack in the middle of the European quarter (lucky me for teaching there). That we didn’t get any mail for almost 5 days last week, because they were once again on strike, was of course not mentioned. But I happily accepted my free waffle, and truth be said: it was a mighty good one! So good that I almost forgave them last week’s strike.

Maybe the Brussels’ public transport company STIB/MIVB could organise a similar action to compensate for their unannounced strike last Tuesday. Because if there ever was a bad joke…. The whole strike came about after “a metro driver was attacked by a passenger”. Then came the video of the security camera. And guess what? It was the driver who delivered the first punch.

So STIB/MIVB : tomorrow free fries for everyone?