La Belgique, je t’aime
It is an honor to be asked to write for the “Tribune Libre”. As an Irishman, who travelled widely on business in French Belgium, some decades ago, 1970’s and 1980’s, I can still vividly remember the distinctive old Flemish and Walloon cultures. The perennial hospitality, the quiet politeness, and the safety of streets, free of tension. I studied German and French literature, and I was always a Francophile.
I loved the poetry of Baudelaire and Valery, the dynamic intellectualism, and, of course, the cuisine. It was easy to converse on most any subjects with a Walloon back in those days. Without a sideways glance, or a cautious glance over their shoulders, the Walloons in those days felt able to comfortably discuss Politics and Religion. Even the difficulties with the Flemings, the sometimes threatened split of Belgium, was a subject one was allowed to rationally debate, without fear of retribution. Let alone, Government persecution.
How matters have changed. There are many entire areas, never mind streets, where we are forced to tread cautiously. Especially after dark. The Molenbeek area of Brussels now enjoys a world wide notoriety entirely unprecedented. From there came the cold AK 47’s, and some of the eager manpower, destined to carry out the shameful terrorist attack of Friday, November 13, 2015. This time Paris was the target, including the Bataclan theatre, where 89 innocents were slaughtered. A total of one hundred and thirteen people were brutally murdered, and another 413 were injured, of whom 100 seriously. The name Molenbeek now forever will cast a long, dark shadow over our troubled world. The memories of anguished screams in the night, hysterical pleas for mercy, incessant sirens, and bursts of full-automatic gunfire. A cruelty, we are not allowed to say, founded on an ancient, 7th century, warrior-raider creed, cunningly dressed up as a religion, which seemingly often omits or trivializes the minor details of ‘compassion’ and ‘brotherly love’. Especially where unbelievers are concerned. A strange ‘religion’, indeed. Alas. It wasn’t always like that. But what saddens me the most, is not the loss of innocence, the loss of security, the tarnishing of an ancient culture, always slightly quarrelsome, but at heart peaceful, and wonderfully artistic. No, the real sadness is knowing that some subjects are now effectively taboo. Forbidden. There are now effectively no-go zones of the mind and spirit. Crucial intellectual and spiritual areas, where a once chatty and masterfully expressive people, now fear to go. The Government, increasingly quietly desperate, seeks to hide its ever slipping grasp on power and influence, by unleashing the full weight of totalitarian Government suppression on those brave, intrepid souls, who yet dare to speak up. And in French Belgium, La Belgique, we watch, sadly, the same desperate (and doomed) attempts by Big Government to induce Islamists to –please- love us back. If one could paraphrase the official establishment (and Official Media supported) line, it would go something like this:
- Islam is a peaceful religion, and has nothing what-so-ever to do with terrorism. This f-a-c-t is not up for discussion. We will persecute you, fine you, throw you in jail if you dare suggest otherwise. To hell with your personal peace, if you don’t agree with peaceful Islam.
- You want mosques? Special treatment? We understand. We will permit, even fund them. Many, many mosques. Mosques everywhere. Large Mosques. Flag Ships. You want special understanding? Sure, sure, we will give you that. Polygamy? Well, it’s actually against our laws, but…. It’s okay, we will look the other way. No problem. Preaching? Sure, sure. You can preach. We understand. Just… could you maybe tone it down, just a bit? Honor killing? Female genital mutilation? Shariah law? Child brides? Arranged marriages? First cousins marrying first cousins? Oh, please don’t do that. But if you must. We have our own Laws, you know, that all citizens must adhere to. But… well, we understand. Maybe not you guys then. We will have to, um, review all that. Cough. It’s part of your religion. Yes. We understand. Welcome to La Belgique. Please bring your parents. Uncles. Aunts. Extended family. The local village. Welcome, welcome.
- Oh, and one other, small thing. We love you.
Could you please, errr….. love us back? Just a little bit? Respect our Laws? Show you are interested in our culture? Just a little bit? Learn the basics of our language? You will? Oh, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. We always knew you would! See, voters, we always told you they were the religion of Peace!
The quiet observer, may be inclined to softly query this odd strategy of chronic appeasement. But if he or she queries the efficacy, all hell quickly breaks loose. Sometimes the Government reminds us of bruised children, standing in a school play ground, desperate to be right. And loved. Promising to love unconditionally, if only the bullies would stop throwing stones.
Those of us who have worked in Law Enforcement, the Corrections Service, or have otherwise faced the sharp, unruly side of society, know that a distressingly high percentage of people fundamentally only respect one of two things. Or both. Firstly ‘strength’ and secondly, ‘Pain’. The sweet natured folk, the idealists, those who tearfully hum the soft melody of Kumbaya, who flock to candle lit vigils, after each terrorist atrocity, and send cards and Teddy Bears, constantly repeat this simple, all-too-common human mistake:
They attribute values they cherish, to everybody else.
Allow me to say that again.
They attribute values they cherish, to everybody else.
They simply cannot fathom that too many people in this world interpret that only as weakness, even cowardice, which thus represents a ‘Green Light’ to demand ever more sweeping concessions. This emotional, spiritual, cultural outreaching attitude, so beloved by intellectuals, and wide eyed, idealistic student types, naively pursues a
Utopian Vision of a perfect multi-cultural Mankind, which exists only in their imaginations. The truth, the harsh truth, the blood-soaked truth, is coldly different, immune to lofty ideals, pretty speech making, and soaring good intentions.
This leads us, regretfully, to suggest that the Quiet Patriot, who instinctively dislikes tension, raised voices, or controversy, must stop – and think. And maybe even, one day, begin to realize that he/she could be part of the problem.
And that, far from helping the situation, with their tolerance and compassion, they are in fact feeding the stones to the schoolyard bullies…
Mes amis, il est temps de se lever.
Indeed, it is time to stand up.
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