Category Archives: Brussels

Vol is vol

11951866_10156009750400525_6003012855215547269_nSorry maat, of meisje, vol is vol.

We kunnen toch niet de ellende van de hele wereld naar hier halen? Dat begrijp je toch ook. Enfin, begreep.

We hebben van onszelf al genoeg problemen. Zoveel dat we er onze lagere middenklasse voor moeten pluimen om ze proberen op te lossen.

Goed, Turkije en de andere buurlanden van Syrië zijn zo lief om een stuk of 4 miljoen van jouw vriendjes, broers, zusjes, moeders en vaders op te vangen. Maar je moet ook niet alles met elkaar vergelijken. Snap je? Enfin, snoop.

De draagkracht bij onze bevolking om meer te doen is beperkt. Antwerpen staat bijvoorbeeld zeker niet op de eerste rij om voor extra opvang te zorgen. Dat stond ergens te lezen. Tegen de mensen zeggen dat we moeten besparen, en het dan langs ramen en deuren naar buiten smijten, het kleinste kind, zoals jij er eentje was, begrijpt dat dat politiek moeilijk ligt.

Zoals jouw broer, die in Damascus studeerde maar die nu ook ergens op dat strand ligt te liggen, misschien wist: Europa heeft tussen nu en 2050 tientallen miljoenen extra zielen nodig, alleen al om de bevolking op pijl te houden. Da’s economie. Harde cijfers. Ok, goed. Maar je begrijpt toch dat jullie niet gewoon holder de bolder naar hier kunnen komen varen? Kan je je de chaos voorstellen?

Per slot van rekening willen we alleen mensen die een netto-toegevoegde eh, alé, mensen die iets kunnen. Liefst geen moslims. We zijn per slot van rekening het Judeo-Christelijke Europa. Wij vragen ons al 2000 jaar constant af, wat zou Jesus doen? Met weinig succes overigens.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Brussels, economie, Europe, extreem-rechts, Globalisering, Human Rights, Mensenrechten, Middle East, Multiculturalism, politiek, Vluchtelingen

België moet vol inzetten op multilaterale samenwerking

Eerst verschenen in Mo* Magazine (online).

België moet vol inzetten op multilaterale samenwerking

Drie miljard euro investeren in hernieuwbare, lokale energiebronnen in België geeft mogelijk een betere return-on-security dan nieuwe gevechtsvliegtuigen.

Veiligheid gaat natuurlijk al lang niet meer over het bewaken van de landsgrenzen.

We identificeren bedreigingen verder van huis; kleine brandjes blussen voorkomt groter onheil. Van interne tot regionale of zelfs internationale conflicten. Vroeger ingrijpen is beter, bij voorkeur voor er gevochten wordt.

Conflicten maken noodzakelijk deel uit van de menselijke conditie. Mensen, groepen van mensen, landen, bedrijven hebben verschillende belangen. Dat maakt verandering en vooruitgang mogelijk. Kleine landen hebben er belang bij om zichzelf in een groter kader in te schakelen zodat hun belangen niet geschaad worden. Tijdens de Koude Oorlog besloot België dat NAVO-lidmaatschap de beste garanties bood voor haar territoriale en politieke soevereiniteit.

Meer dan twintig jaar na de Val van de Muur probeert de NAVO andere rollen uit. In Afghanistan moest de organisatie een peperduur Amerikaanse avontuur van ruggensteun en legitimiteit voorzien. Onderbemand en op louter militaire leest geschoeid kwam er van de vooropgestelde doelen – democratisering, ontwikkeling, vrouwenrechten – weinig in huis.

De uitbreiding van de organisatie zelf, naar bijvoorbeeld Oekraïne, blijkt meer en meer een factor van instabiliteit. Heeft België voldoende gewicht binnen het bondgenootschap om die zwalpende, gevaarlijke koers bij te stellen? En indien niet, durven we dan onze (dure) conclusies te trekken?

Realpolitiek

media_xl_752128België is meestal geen directe partij in conflicten, maar ervaart wel de impact van conflicten tussen derden: vluchtelingenstromen, verloren investeringen van Belgische bedrijven, enzovoort. In deze onrustige tijden is het oké om Realpolitiek te voeren, maar dan liefst binnen het kader van de VN. Het buitenspel zetten van die organisatie en het eigengereide optreden van onder andere een aantal NAVO-partners heeft bijgedragen aan de huidige chaos in het Midden-Oosten.

Het machtsvacuüm in Irak, het helpen verwijderen van Khadaffi in Libië zonder follow-up plan, het bewapenen van deze of gene partij in de Syrische burgeroorlog… kunnen vergeeflijk “westerse” zonden genoemd worden. Een alternatief daarvoor is geen onrealistische dromerij, maar pure noodzaak. Alleen zo kan de metastase van dat conflict naar Europa gestopt worden.

Veiligheid wil ook zeggen minder afhankelijk worden van invoer uit onstabiele gebieden of uit landen die die afhankelijkheid als politieke pasmunt gebruiken.

België moet vol inzetten op multilateraal. Een actieve rol in een geherwaardeerde VN. Veiligheid wil ook zeggen minder afhankelijk worden van invoer uit onstabiele gebieden of uit landen die die afhankelijkheid als politieke pasmunt gebruiken. Drie miljard euro investeren in hernieuwbare, lokale energiebronnen in België geeft mogelijk een betere return-on-security dan nieuwe gevechtsvliegtuigen.

Inzetten op eerlijke handel, duurzame ontwikkeling, partnerschappen aangaan met de allerzwakste landen betekent niet alleen het indammen van (economische) vluchtelingenstromen nu, maar ook nauwe banden met de dankbare tijgers van morgen. In datzelfde licht moet een verdere verstrenging van de regels voor de Belgische wapenexport gezien worden, helaas nog steeds geen vanzelfsprekendheid.

Europese samenwerking

Bij meer Europese militaire samenwerking de volgende bedenking: zal een hypothetische krachtige EU-defensiepoot een minder kortzichtige economische invulling geven aan veiligheid en roekeloos eigenbelang dan de op zijn laatste benen lopende Amerikaanse unipolaire wereld? Het valt te betwijfelen of concurrerende militaire blokken vrede bevorderen.

De markt werkt niet als het op veiligheid aankomt. Dat kan je zien op microschaal in de VS, waar iedereen zichzelf min of meer naar believen bewapent en verdedigt. Op macroschaal hebben we ettelijke millennia aan menselijke geschiedenis om uit te putten.

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Filed under Brussels, Europe, Globalisering, International Affairs, United Nations, Verenigde Naties

Morgen te Monk, Brussel #SprekendeEzels

BRUSSEL_nov_2014[1]

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November 25, 2014 · 10:22 am

Back asswards

These are tough times. “But not end times,” as Jon Stewart put it.
Still, there’s something in the air. A bit of a rumble. Like an empty stomach, or heads churning to try and make sense of what seems like a polar shift afoot. Where’s all the money gone?

It certainly hasn’t gone to that lady over there. The lady who’s asleep -one hopes- underneath a bench on the feted Place de Brouckère in Brussels, exalted by Jacques Brel, adorned by the Hotel Metropole; the only 19th Century hotel still in operation, birthplace of the Black Russian cocktail, and backdrop to the famous 1911 ‘Conseil’ Solvay, the first global physics conference attended by such luminaries as Marie Curie, Ernst Rutherford, Max Planck, Henri Poincaré, and Hendrik Lorentz. Not to mention a certain Albert Einstein.

That lady over there has turned her back on lapsed glory -the part of her back that often goes by another name. A can of Gordon’s sits on top of the bench; the second floor, if you will, of the recumbent lady’s abode. Shocked passers-by cast a quick glance at the half-exposed derriere and, well, pass by. The bleakness of the skin, the motionlessness of this prone human form begs the question: Is she alive at all? Has anybody called anyone?

I decide to flag a police cruiser, and am happy to discover someone else has had the same idea. Accosted in French and Flemish at once, the officers pull over. To protect and to serve and, in this case, immediately don surgical gloves. The bright side: if you’re not at the doctor’s, and people put on latex gloves before even approaching you, the only way is up. One of the officers leans over a bit and starts talking to her, snapping his fingers above her head for added effect. The other patrolman thinks gently shoving her backside with his boots is the way forward.

Then there is movement. An arm rises up as to a charmer’s tune. Rather dizzily. She’s alive. Thank God. The finger-clicking policeman finally does her the courtesy of trying to nudge her coat to conceal the pallid flesh. The other policeman kicks the woman’s backside once more before finally reaching behind the bench and hauling her to an acceptable state of disrepair. Gloves are binned, and off they go. A job well done. These aren’t end times, but one wonders, how much further down is it?

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Filed under Brussels, homeless, Poverty

My girls do massage.

My girls do massage.

26761-1My girls do massage,” she says, eyeing my reaction with the businesswoman squint of some eighties Michael Douglas flick about Japan’s corporate take-over. “Oh…” She cuts short my lack of a meaningful response. “And everything you want.” Our respective eyes wander involuntarily to the troupe of giggly women of Asiatic persuasion clutching drinks and drunken Irishmen. “Sorry, I don’t pay for sex,” I manage. Even if I actually had money to squander, I add in thought. “Good! You shouldn’t!” Linda –an approximation of what I gathered was her name, but could as well have been an inutterable profanity- is yelling almost. She shakes her head like a retriever. “You men are all the same. I know. I know how you are.”

Too drunk to flinch, even at the righteous indignation of a Thai madam, I flinch anyway, intrigued, and fearing indifference might induce even higher levels of human combustion. “You’re absolutely right.” “I know!” “Yes.” “I have hundreds of girls. All over the world. Men are all the same everywhere. Don’t tell me you like me.” I didn’t, nor was I about to. Hubris aside I’m positively fascinated, not just by her stunning black-maned looks, but at the sharkish acumen required to run an illicit business, to the extent that I can ascertain, of at least half a dozen girls, in a place of at least half-decent repute, at the putative age that gets most women fretting about their biological timepiece.

Can I ask you how old you are?” “I’m 38,” she says sternly, immediately preempting my predictive response with renewed and vigorous ire. “Don’t tell me I look younger” –she looks twenty-five, perhaps thirty if I weren’t so utterly toasted- “Men always tell me I look younger. You want see passport?” “Alright, alright. I believe you…” Jeez. “You just wanna sleep with me. Men are bastards.”

What are you, a newspaper? She calms down. One of her employees, acute ears jutting beside an equal amount of ponytails, approaches, very much a-chuckle. A wad of money changes hands. Boss-to-staff-member. Then Linda turns back to me. “You wanna a drink?” Last thing on earth I need is another drink. “Yeah, sure. Beer please.” I smile sheepishly if only because I’m too doused for any other type of grin. She glugs Gin-Tonic like it’s, well, in her case, Gin-Tonic. In the process of yapping instructions to other girls, she knocks over two or three drinks. Just barely I manage to hold on to mine, absorbing by means of jeans one hapless beverage after the other. “I’m drunk,” she confides, increasingly subdued. “You know how difficult it is?” She pauses. “Very.”

Oh.”

People want to kill me. The police harass me. All the time. Looking for this, and this. I tell them; ‘you try doing this. You know how hard it is?’ All the time. I pay moneys everywhere. Everyone wants moneys. I have stress. Very much.” She sighs, peering about, of a sudden confused. “Where’s my drink?” I shrug, inebriated to the point where I no longer care about other people’s potions.

Next thing I know she’s writhing up close. My hands have found, of their own vile accord, her taut belly. She’s stopped talking and my barstool’s become hers too. The queen’s honey bees in mirth nudge one another’s waspy waists. I ought to know better, but I really just want to know more. Of course to snuggle, as opposed to conversing, won’t do. I know. Who the hell are you to shake my moral fabric?

Then, like a ghost I’d imagined, she’s gone. “I have to go,” she says matter-of-factly. A perfunctory flutter of the hand accompanies the announcement like “clean-up on isle seven”.

Ok then. Bye.”

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Bday

Bday

larchiducIt’s my birthday today. Party time, I guess, were it not that I did most of that last week already, lumping together an overdue housewarming and a heralding of 31 years on planet Earth. It’s Friday night, and I was gonna take’r easy. It’s been a long week. I was tired. “Just a wee drink,” I told my friend over sms, “just a wee one.” My eyelids are weighed down by stout Scottish maidens, clinging to the lashes with intense peasant vigor, invisible to the naked eye, but naked nonetheless.

Have you been sleeping enough?” my friend asks shy of a minute after I make my appearance. Not quite. It’s not what you think though. Not quite. I wish. Just a restless soul, I guess. It’s been a long week. We down a couple of beers. And then some, standing at the bar and all is fine and dandy. Just don’t make me sit down, because all hell will freeze, and on the glistening slope of my fatigue I will slide down, and simmer to a frosty coma.

I’m good,” I tell myself in silent defense of the hammock-sized bags under my eyes. We down a couple more, and yesterday becomes today. Unannounced, sneaky git. This bastard at the bar charges eight Euros for a gin-tonic. I said gin-tonic, not gin-oil. Jeezes, did I miss a meeting? Asshole. Last time I ever go the Archeduc, I can tell you that. Until the next time. Duh! Before I know it –actually, quite some time after losing the ability to know anything beyond the tip of my shoes- it’s four, and I’m in a Clio headed home, conveyed by a beautiful Moroccan gynaecologist and her even lovelier sister.

Conveyed in the automotive sense. What the hell were you thinking? Never on the first date. Let alone, before the first date. Then again, it was my birthday, so in keeping with the prerogatives of…. Oh, shut up, already. There is still some chivalry left in this world. The night is up, and I don’t fall asleep as much as get squashed underneath the twin-towering boots of Hypnos himself, making a rare unannounced visit from beyond the confines of time-space and the wreckage inflicted by the age of steam and reason. His careless manner however is no match to electronic alarm clocks. He limps back to the Athens of yore in the squinting face of my 24 year-old, indestructible Sanyo, the likes of which single-handedly enabled the world of enforceable office hours. This thing will be happily buzzing long after the last cockroach is licked to death by the flames of the good Helios going supernova.

It’s 8.30 and I’m due to speak about life in Palestine at some Flemish government function. God knows where. Seriously. I figured one of the myriad invitations was sure to hold the address. I’ll look it up in the morning, I thought. Like I said. It’s been a hard week, and things of the weekend are best left until the weekend. But! Address schmaddress. Nothing. Nada. What were they thinking? Why, I ask, do they call it space-time? Because time alone rarely makes for successful appointments. That’s why. Lay off the pills! Of course I could have checked earlier, giving myself ample time to call and inquire, but alas. The week was, how shall I put this, busy. Very busy.

So, without the help of obsolescent deities I gave way, once more, to blissful slumber, way beyond the crux of noon. The rest of the day was spent among other things attempting to exchange a voucher at the local Apple store. And by “local” I mean “Why not get me a voucher for the store just around the corner from where I live, as opposed to the one that’s practically in another time zone. Jesus, I walked over there on Wednesday evening only to find it closed.

Today, they were horribly lacking in the one device I had picked during an hour’s peruse of the website, and no, sir, unfortunately we cannot order it. You have to buy it from the website. What the hell am I supposed to do with a voucher then? Insert in the slot-loading superdrive? Lay off the pills people. Life’s too short, and you’re missing out on a great deal of beauty, not to mention happy customers, when you’re zoned out in lala land.” I finished reading ‘The Pendragon Legend’ today. –spoiler warning- Ms. Roscoe is dead, and Cynthia will marry some twat captain of the navy. So much for a happy ending. As for me, I smile as my ears pick up the wail of the somnambulance, tires shrieking toward me. It’s been a long week.

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Ich habe sie geliebt PART 2.

Ich habe sie geliebt PART 2.

3-596-15803-6I haven’t yet figured out the book’s mysterious provenance. Neither, I must admit, have I applied myself diligently to the task. I have begun to read, however. Piecemeal, at breakfast, or whenever I’ve had the luxury of eating in a leisure way, unconstrained by jobs and job interviews and appointments with the vassals of Belgian officialdom. Beside the book, more mystery has come my way. Turns out I’ve merely scratched the surface, however itchy that’s gotten of late…

A couple of weeks ago coming home I found the door separating entrance hall and living room closed, even though I never close it. I don’t even touch it, and never has a draft or unworldly forces budged it. And yet. One day I came home and found it, unmistakably, defiantly shut. Of course, the building contractor has yet to fix a window, and their serfs have come to take measure, I thought. For this reason, and at their request, I’d tendered my house key. Of course.

And yet, something gnawed awkward. “When will you fix that window?” and “Could I perhaps have my key back?” I asked, but left it at that when the site manager proffered it be soon, and that I could have the key back, but that I’d need to hand it in again to install the new window. Fine, I thought. No problem. Until yesterday. Roughly four square centimeters of bathtub finish has gone missing over the course of the day. It was there in the morning when I took a shower, and somewhat less so when I enter the bathroom to brush my teeth in preparation of a night out. Pummeled. Splintered by a hammer impact, it seems.

I check the ceiling to see if missing concrete there can account for the damaged tub. Nothing. Perhaps a glass Fa deo stick has tumbled down –somehow roughly at the speed of sound- shattering the varnish, and without my noticing. Nope. My deodorants haven’t shifted, nor can any trace of impact be found there. Perhaps the shower water’s too hot then? Or too cold? Maybe I’m sleep-showering on stiletto heels? Every angle of approach offers more questions than answers.

I attempt some careful hammering myself, in various spots to see if I can dislodge anything. Maybe a rotten apple has dodged quality control in bathtub city… It yields not. So what the hell? Either I’m completely losing it, or someone, has applied great force on a surface conforming roughly to that of a hammerhead. Splinters surround the crater.

What the fuck? You may rightly ask. Indeed. What the fuck? It is a question that I’ve indulged in with increasing alacrity over the past twenty-four hours. Why would anyone do this? Once again, nothing’s missing. Not the computer. Not the stereo. Not the camera. Nuffing. Just this; a single, shattering blow to the bath tub. Have I, barely two months in the country, managed, unwittingly, to make an enemy? A singularly resourceful one at that, however absurd in his or her choice of target. Could I be dealing with the enigmatic book-owner, irked by my failure to return his/her prized possession? Vexed by my failure to finish it, and extrude the message I’m intended, for whatever reason, to find within its pages. Have I incurred, in other words, the wrath of a psychopath booklover? Or worse, a German psychopath booklover?

Failing this, the only reasonable theory I’ve come up with is indeed not very reasonable at all. But Ockham’s razor compels me to give this more than a cursory glance. Right, here goes; COPASEC is a company in the business of selling outlandishly expensive security doors, and our brand new building recently found itself in the vortex of their marketing apparatus. MECOP Falcon : 1650 EURO excl. VAT Fichet Forges G371: € 1.850, 00 excl. VAT Fichet Forges G372: € 2.163, 00 excl. VAT Fichet Forges G375: € 3.095, 00 excl. VAT Discounts are offered if more than eight people sign up. I haven’t. I’m on the third floor. There’s a decent door at the building entrance. I got one at the entrance of the apartment. And I got people waltzing in and out without as much as picked lock. Go figure. Is someone trying to scare me/us into buying safety doors? Are these people colluding with the building contractor? Two nights ago a garbage pile was set alight on the street.

I woke up at four in the morning doubting very much that my lack of cooking skills had deteriorated to account for wafts of burnt plastic roughly eight hours after a steak and potatoes extravaganza. The owners of the ground floor apartment together with a security detail of the Fortis Bank across the street had found nothing better than to douse the flames with bags of potting soil.

There mightn’t be any connection between all of the above. There might be a connection between some of the above. I dunno. I called the police anyway. A cruiser showed up. A tall Flemish dude and a short French speaker. They scratched their heads, and left. “Did you use any corrosive products perhaps?” You mean, apart from the nitric acid I employ to bleach my armpit hair? They could only ‘take note’ as the saying goes, in case something else occurs.

I’d be careful about who you give your key to,” the short one proffered. My theory of the armored doors people did not impress much. “If I wanted to intimidate someone, I’d have used your shaving cream and written something mean on the bathroom mirror,” the Flem said.

Well, no. That would have been a pretty clear-cut case, right? No. This one actually got me doubting my own sanity for a short while. Nicking the bathtub is a subtle thing. Inconsequential almost. You look silly reporting a thing like that. I almost didn’t.

Tomorrow I’m retrieving my key from the contractor. I’ll drag him upstairs to look at the bathtub too. I’ll be gauging his mien. Then again, he’s got half a dozen people working in that office. Any one of them could be reaping a nifty percentage of those doors. Perhaps they’ll cut me in if I keep mum. How does five percent sound?

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