Brook of the Mill

I am not going to apologize, despite having been born in Belgium. But man, we messed up! And we have been messing up for years, decades even. Not just in Molenbeek, the much in the news urban commune north-west of Brussels, once cited as a prime example of urban multiculturalism, now an area more multi, less cultural and inevitably associated with the nefariousness of a failed immigration policy.

Belgium suffers. Mostly it suffers from its own state model. Federal institutions have been superseded by an often incomprehensible complex structure of three communities, three regions and three language areas, which has led to the decline of the centralized authority, which in turn, inevitably resulted in the collapse of public institutions. Overlapping local structures and authorities, politicization of nominations on all levels and a lack of statesmanship have hollowed out the Belgian state. A lack of funds, the diminished capacity of armed and police forces, failed policies on budgetary, fiscal and social levels have led to the exacerbation of the notion of state.

The empty streets of Brussels, capital city of Belgium and of Europe symbolize and illustrate the essence of our current Western nature. Inactive, motionless, spiritless.

What do we, at the heart of Europe stand for? Global warming? Renewable energy sources? Human rights? Gay marriage? Transgender Equal Opportunities? Freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? All noble ventures for sure. But how did we reach these achievements and how will safeguard them for future generations?

Our Western model is crumbling under the indecisiveness of politicians and citizens. We dare not offend, we dare not show our colours. So sensitive have we become that we rather than express ourselves with words we elect an emoji as word of the year; that cinemas prefer not to show a 60 seconds church ad, encouraging people to pray; that the press and social media users respect a police request for radio silence.

Empathic defenders of everything and everybody, we tend to look at things from every angle. We are sensitive to everybody’s needs. We understand, we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. To our credit perhaps. But even the fiddler on the roof, challenging his traditions, “On the other hand, …. on the other hand,….” finally decide that, “No, there is no other hand.”
The example is relevant. Tevye, under the guise of a traditional father figure is a flexible man. But how far will he go? How far will he bend? And will he allow himself to break?

Fiddlers on roofs are fictional characters, which, in many ways, makes them malleable tools. But being malleable or, as any dictionary will state, ‘able to be hammered or pressed permanently out of shape without breaking or cracking‘, is not necessarily in the best interest of a nation. And while H. G. Well’s “Adapt or perish”, may sound appropriate as nature’s inexorable imperative within the integration and assimilation debate, the question as what the West should do in the light of recent events whereby the war in the Middle East now lashes out beyond its borders, demands an answer, removed from fiction or slogan and soundly grounded in a strategical action plan. Turning ourselves into a ghost nation the way Belgium has turned Brussels into a ghost town is not a strategy but a deplorable tactic of inefficiency.

Born in Belgian, I am saddened and dismayed and even Eric Zemmour’s joke that “Rather than Raqqa, France should bomb Molenbeek” leaves me nothing but

anguished-face emoji