Why a crisis in Belgium makes me shudder for my daily life
Let me start by reassuring you: I am not shuddering out of some inane fear that Belgium will be split off, the tanks going down Avenue de Tervuren whilst nostalgics of the “One Belgium” concept reunite on Place Luxembourg, the new Tian An Men, to sing songs and burn candles while weeping for the good old days.
I am not shuddering either because I think this political crisis will affect my financial well-being or the future of my children: I have been paying taxes in Belgium for ages and can’t imagine my financial situation growing worse unless I have to pay the federal state and the zillion other entities not only over half what I earn but actually for the privilege of being able to work. As for my children, I still have the option of claiming Congolese citizenship based on the fact that I was born in Kinshasa…the day where being Congolese becomes the better option is coming closer, I tell you…But anyway, my oldest son told me he want to study in an American University, because “they play basketball while studying there and no one saw a Belgian dunking the way an American does” so I think they will be fine.
No, my shudder is much more selfish. Consider this: there are extremely few Belgians working as lobbyists in Brussels, certainly in my sector (Internet & Telecoms): Brits , as many as you want; French; German. Spanish….you name it, Brussels has it…but Belgians??? And on top of that, I have this really Belgian sounding name which (1) makes me end up in everyone’s porn spam filter because the Belgian version of “Smith” refers to the English version of a male attribute and (2) makes everyone spot from a mile that I am the real stuff (in so far as someone raised in Africa, South America and the Middle East, Flemish by upbringing but Francophone by her studies and who came back to the “home country” at the age of 18 can be qualified the “real stuff”).
So what am I getting at, are you thinking? Very simple: I just know that for the next weeks and maybe even months, I am going to get the fatal question every time: “Oh: you’re Belgian, aren’t you. Can you explain what the hell is happening with that BHV thing?”…and you know what, even if I could, I wouldn’t…Not because it’s not important or because I don’t care but because I just wish I could tell you a story about how Belgians act like Belgians when they are abroad and face all those other nations that call them “Les petits Belges / The little Belgians”…and on how I hope my kids will think when they are older that BHV is a supermarket that went bust ages ago when politicians realised they couldn’t make a profit out of it any longer.
My only positive element to this gloomy perspective is that at least, I can point people to this post that provides the best explanation of our current crisis…might actually print the URL on a card to hand out to anyone who considers my Belgian citizenship means I can decrypt waffling whilst imagining what went through Magritte’s head as he was making bland statement about pipes.