Monday, March 28, 2016


It is strange to observe how a one-liner can get a life of its own, multiply and become the gold standard. Once it sticks it becomes an uphill battle to roll back a perception, legitimized by repetition.  The Brussels terrorist attacks are a perfect example of this paradigm.

The US media were the first to advance the notion that in light of the objective circumstances for all to see, Belgium is a "failed state".  From this first assumed proposition, the premise led to the accepted conclusion that the Belgian "model" is structurally bankrupt.  Whatever the achievements might be otherwise, world opinion retains only the view of urban decay, adverserial socio-economic situations, and, last but not least, of a weak federal authority.  The land of beer, surrealism and chocolates has become in a fortnight the face of some Dickensian inferno.  With few exceptions (the prime minister), the communication matrix and the chain of command were totally inadequate.

The consequences of this deconstructed image will be major in terms of economic downfall (services), international credibility and political stability.  With many others, I have argued that the Belgian system is no stronger than a house of cards.  It is anti-modern and hostage to jealous resentments.  I fear that its lifespan is already too long to reverse course. The EU has its sick man.

All this is, to some extent however, unfair and exaggerated to a point. There are still enough "positives", but they belong to a pre-globalization mindset and fail to fill up the gaps, which observers have chosen to ignore for too long.  So, for the time-being Brussels will remain the unavoidable stopover for the repetitive EU and NATO meetings. Otherwise, the images of last week have removed for the foreseeable future the Pollyanna fiction in tourist brochures.  It is too bad that so many volunteers, medics, police, who did so much while being understaffed or taken for granted, are virtually absent from the TV screens worldwide. We are left with the hapless mayor of Molenbeek and some contrite ministers who couldn't make it anywhere else.
Last Sunday's black-shirt manifestation in the center of Brussels was one drop too many in this chalice of colliding frustrations and embarrassment.

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