ADVERTISING
 
Thursday, October 18   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Languages
How many languages do you speak?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Joëlle Philippe
 

Brussels’ two sides of the coin

The people of the “capital of Europe”, natives and European workers are mourning separately because they do not speak the same language and their frame of reference is different.

FEATURES AUTHOR Joëlle Philippe 24 MARCH 2016 11:10 h GMT+1
View of the Berlaymont last year, the most important building of the European Commission, from Square Marie-Louise. In front, typical houses from Brussels.

Brussels has the pride and the pain of being both the capital of Europe and of Belgium. It is like two sides of a coin that never meet. They are the same; they share weal and woe but on no account they really look at each other in the eye.



For the good and the bad, Brussels has been destined to live yet another (consented) invasion. Do not misunderstand me; I have written “for the good” on purpose.



Yet, in the midst of the tragedy, something seems not to be right; something does not click in the way the people of Brussels are mourning for the dead and the wounded in the blasts of the airport and the metro. The terrorists unquestionably targeted “Europe”, and this message has been clearly understood by the whole world. Nonetheless, the security forces and policemen were and are Belgian, and of course Brussels is in Belgium.



Brussels inhabitants, both Belgian and non-Belgian, are struggling to make sense of what has happened. They do it separately, because they do not speak the same language, and because their frames of reference and allegiances are different too. In his first press conference after the blasts, the Prime Minister Charles Michel’s address was for the Belgians. He did say “our country”, not “our Union”, and asked Belgians to be united. I wonder how many non-Belgians know his name.



 



Ik ben Brussel



Whenever we identify with something, we exclude others. This was the case with the attacks to the magazine Charlie Hebdo. Many people could not say “Je suis Charlie” because, even if they believed in freedom of expression, they could not identify with the disrespectful and irreverent way of using that right.



It was similar with the Paris attacks, where the French media focused on the Republic “values” taking for granted that everyone shared them. But maybe some could not sympathize with such a hardcore secularism which French laïcité represents.



 



The 28 flags of the European Union at half mast representing the 28 member states / Joëlle Philippe



In the case of Belgium, the question is still simpler: if “nous sommes Bruxelles”, which of the two Brussels are we talking about, the capital of Europe or the capital of Belgium? In Paris, it was about French society. In Brussels, we are talking about Europe. Here and now, Brussels is not comparable to Paris.



 



European security for Brussels?



The New York Times’ front page headline in Wednesday’s printed edition was “Brussels attacks shake European security”. Anyone that knows a little bit how the European Union works knows that “European security” –even in the current situation- is far from becoming a reality. In the meantime, Belgian security and government get all the “bashing” for the mistakes they may have made.



“Belgian bashing” is the act of criticizing the incoherencies of Belgium –I have to admit there are many-. It became trending topic after the Paris attacks to the point that some foreign media called the country a “failed state”. Thankfully enough, the former US ambassador to Belgium explained that the only “failure” was letting the media say that.



However, “this bashing” started much before. “Brussels, the city that just does not give a damn”: this is how a European communications expert titled his article last October. He, at least, gave some advice on how to improve the city. I twitted him that maybe Belgian government would improve the Schuman area (European neighborhood) if Eurocrats paid taxes for the infrastructures they used daily. “Agree!” he said.



 



A utopian subculture



There is quite some vocabulary to learn when you arrive in Brussels, but as soon as you get acquainted with the words, the big picture becomes pretty clear. Expressions like “Eurobubble”, “Eurocrats”, “Place Lux”, “EP pride” or “MEP” start sounding familiar. The one I prefer is “Expat” which is used to designate all those white, educated workers that we cannot possibly (I am being ironic) call “immigrants” because they are European.



Let’s be honest. It is quite difficult to get out of the European bubble: as privileged, rich immigrants, they get along well with each other, work long hours, fly home on weekends. How can they have time to learn French (or Dutch) or to discover the country they are going to live in for at least 4 or 5 years?



 



Official buildings wuth the Belgium flag at half / Joëlle Philippe



The paradox goes even further. Most of these expats are pretty “convinced Europeans”, that is, committed to the political project of the European Union that advocates for more integration. What they do not realize is that this ideal evolves in that highly-educated class who lives in the same “international” context. They can manage this Eurobubble-subculture where different nationalities coexist providing they share the same beliefs, culture and habits.



Feet to the ground, what kind of Europe are they dreaming of? How can they talk of a more integrated Union when they do not integrate in the country that has welcomed them?



 



Those kind “manneken”



What do Belgians think of this? It is hard to tell for Wallonia and Flemish regions. For twenty years now, the people of Brussels have seen a city grow into a never-ending construction site. In 2004 and 2007, with the inclusion of the Eastern European countries to the Union, a new wave of foreign workers arrived. These workers speak much less French than the Western Europeans. Who could blame them? History did not help that. English has become the second language of Brussels.



Of course, European workers bring money and jobs. Belgians do not feel entitled to protest. So they have just resigned themselves to accepting the city’s changes, as they have done for centuries. They are used to the insignificance of their country.



The French comedian Dany Boon said that “Belgians invented kindness”. It is probably not accurate, because Belgium exists only since 1830 and kindness could be found before, but there is some truth in the line. The people of Brussels have this artlessness and good nature, and they have learnt or at least tried –really- to speak English.



But at the end of the day, their sense of humor we see online is charming. The Manneken Pis is ridiculously small, but so funny. Fries, beer and chocolate are delicious enough when shared with expats. How much more do we need to know to be able to mourn together?


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Brussels’ two sides of the coin
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Photos: Reaching people with disabilities Photos: Reaching people with disabilities

Seminars, an arts exhibition, discussion and testimonies. The European Disability Network met in Tallinn.

 
Photos: Hope for Europe Photos: Hope for Europe

Unity in Diversity is the theme of the conference. Representatives of Evangelical Alliances and many other church leaders gathered in Tallinn (Estonia).

 
Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow

A team of Steiger mission is starting conversations about the gospel in the middst of the football celebration in Russia.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
VIDEO Video
 
Biotechnology: “There is a difference between restoration and enhancement” Biotechnology: “There is a difference between restoration and enhancement”

“We have to understand the times in which we live, and have discernment”, says Doctor Peter J. Saunders.

 
The Manzanas case The Manzanas case

A short documentary about how retired pastors and widows of an evangelical denomination in Spain fight a legal battle for their pensions after the favourable ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

 
How does romantic love change over time? How does romantic love change over time?

Psychatrist Pablo Martínez uses a metaphor to explain how romantic love evolves.

 
‘Mediterráneo’ ‘Mediterráneo’

“Something will change if you have hunger and thirst for justice”, sings Spanish artist Eva Betoret in a song about the refugee crisis.

 
How the loss of universal values led to a loss of civility How the loss of universal values led to a loss of civility

Author Bruce Little: “We have moved from a sense of responsibility to ‘my personal rights’”.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.