Posts made in March, 2010

Why Brussels needs its Onion, imho

I like writing imho, as people using that expression are generally very unlikely to have a humble bone in their body :) but at least, they have an opinion!

People think that Brussels is this bubble far removed from reality where every legislative act takes 3 painful years to move along the co-decision omnibus train (you know, the one that is slow and stops at every station?)…and they are right to a certain extent. But Brussels is also a city of power and politics, a mixture that rarely breeds calm and serene atmospheres. It is is finally a city of institutions and procedures, a combination that induces and fosters many frustrations and in some cases, utter boredom with a thin veneer of cynical humour.

How appalling you must think at this stage! Well not at all: to me, Brussels is the perfect breeding ground for a new satirical newspaper (except I’m of the generation where paper seems odd and it being satirical, you can hardly associate it to news). I’m a great fan of The Onion in the States, and have thus cooked up the idea to start something similar in Brussels.

So here is the big announcement: at a time where the press keeps on reporting about the journos leaving Brussels, a new “newspaper” is born in Brussels and it’s called: “The Brussels Jungle – No Trees, lots of Monkeys“.

The logo of The Brussels Jungle

The logo of The Brussels Jungle

This newspaper will report pieces that stem only from the writers’ imagination, the greatest difficulty so far having been that reality in Brussels often surpasses what imagination could come up with. The editorial guidelines are a work in progress, and submissions are invited by anyone that feels inspired, either under their own name or a pen name.

So eurobloggers, journos, creative civil servants, bored politicians, inspired lobbyists, all you out there that make up what constitues the EU bubble, start reading The Brussels Jungle and, even better, start sending in your contributions!

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Happy Woman s Day! Is it just me or does that sound wrong?


The future generation

First: for those who hadn’t spotted it yet: this rhino is a “she”. So, I basically have a sound knowledge of what it means being a woman, stemming from practical experience ranging over…well, many years!

On Twitter, someone suggested to rename Woman’s Day” to “Day of the Condition of Women”: it’s a mouthful, I will grant you that, but at least it has the merit to focus minds on the fact that there’s nothing extremely “Happy” about this’s about women still being disregarded and ill-treated in many parts of the world, and someone thinking it was a good idea to at least ponder on this issue once a year. It’s about have to point something out that should be so obvious in the 21st Century!

This is the reason of my title…but beyond that, I just want to share a few thoughts from a woman that (1) lives in part of the world were inequalities do still exist but are certainly not life-threatening (Brussels) (2) has a great career and job that a lot of blokes would envy (I know: 0 humility on that one) and (3) discovered your view on women changes dramatically when you have a daughter.

I was raised by a stay-at-home mum that had the full-time job of raising four kids whilst moving every 2 years across Africa, South America in the Middle East…and as a child, I kept on thinking: what a lousy job she must have….As a mum myself now, I changed my view to thinking she must have had a tough job, but she certainly did it the best she could.

Growing up, I was struck by the fact that my mum taught my 3 brothers to cook and pretty much do everything a “New man” should be able to do, but when I asked if she could teach me anything behing a furnace (or God behold: sewing on a button), her answer was always the same: study, and make sure you get a job that pays enough for you to be able to pay someone else to do that. And the odd bit was: I actually thought that made a lot of sense!

I built my career so far in the full-knowledge that (1) I was a woman (2) I had every intention of having kids and that at a reasonnably young age, which is considered of very poor taste if you’re a lawyer who has the insane view that you can combine family and career (3) that I’d try to stay polite when for the 100th time someone asks me: “How do you do it?”, a question no one ever seems to ask my husband who does a huge share of the “it” too.

But initially, I didn’t think much of feminism: if you wanted to succeed, you should just do it, regardless of gender and not go into those “gender balance”, “equality”, etc discussions. I don’t want to be equal to a man: I know I’m better anyway :)

But you know what: yes, it is pretty different to try and run a career as a woman than it is as a man, even in our “developped” countries. And yes, the pressures and disparaging looks you get are sometimes heavy to bear (you know that: “oh, your kid sure has been ill a lot” look…or the even better “what: pregnant again?” look). Not to talk about the guilt that seems to be a standard mum feature…and the surprising thing is that burden is often put to you equally by men and women (especially the younger ones)!

So I am now consciously preparing the future of my daughter in a society that still needs to go a long way...and when I kiss her and her brothers good night, I always whisper four things: “you are smart, you are kind and you are beautiful…and I love you to bits”. Because I just know that if each kid in the world had the chance to hear that whisper every night, a lot could be changed…oh: and the fact that my 3 year old girl can manipulate and kick a** her older brothers with such ease certainly made them aware that there’s no such thing as the “weaker sex”!

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The EU as a sitcom: remake of West Wing or Un Gars, Une Fille?

I was “dared” by @kattebel to write something on the latest post by the European Parliament web-editors at Writing for (y)EU, regarding the fascination of EU officials at all levels (even the highest) for the West Wing series, and the dual conclusion drawn by Steve that:

“The first is my new working theory, Steve’s West Wing Paradox or the West Wing euro-idealism coefficient. This theory holds that the extent of devotion to an American TV series about American government is a reasonable indicator of the level of euro-idealism among officials of the EU institutions.

The second is linked to this observation, not least because it in inevitably a theory of limited shelf life, and to the second observation that the EU system is maturing and starting to resemble the US system to an ever greater degree. It is simply that the time is surely ripe for an equivalent of the West Wing to be made about the EU…” [emphasis added by me]

Of course, the thought is tempting, and with all the writing talent both inside the institutions and in euroblogosphere, it could probably be done…the problem is: would anyone outside the EU bubble be willing to sit through a one-hour episode about the fascinating interactions of three Presidents and a High Representative, their inner cabinets and outer DGs, etc? Not so sure, quite frankly! I’m a bigger believer in something short and sweet, maybe less in awe of the fascinating wheels of power and more irreverent in the French sense of the word (i.e. “irrévérencieux”, which does not imply a lack of respect, but just an unwillingness to not criticise at the same time, possibly in a funny way).

So how about this alternative: French TV had a great serie called “Un Gars, une Fille”, showing a guy and a girl (Chouchou and LouLou) in 5-minute episodes in their daily interactions, with everything that can imply in a couple and with nice men/women stereotypes.

Imagine the scene above, replace the guys with Herman and José, the girl with Cathy, the shouting step-mom by the Council…close your eyes…yes, you’re getting my drift (though I would imagine Herman to be less hairy).

But then again, this may be a bit intimate an approach and not suite for our respected institutions (I frankly would not be keen on the bed scene translated to our EU leaders…really not).

A more “professional” alternative would be a remake of “Caméra Café”, with Herman, José, Jerzy, Cathy and all their staffers and entourage meeting around the coffee machine and exchanging their thoughts, frustration, master plans, etc.

Here I leave it to your imagination to replace the actors with EU officials…

So Brussels Wing, Three Presidents and an HR, or Caméra Berlaymont? What do you think? Vote and let us know.

[Addition: Oh, and I'm having some fun exchanges on this with Conor from the European Citizen blog, who is definitely rooting for a "Yes Commissioner" version: check out his post and our exchanges here]

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