We left Gent this morning in group, and we were singing our usual songs in French and Spanish. “They call it a democracy, but that isn’t true / It’s a dictatorship, and you know it!”
To me, it sounded a bit strange to sing something like this in a country without a central government for one and a half years running. But we are not talking about political dictatorship. National governments don’t matter that much any more, the states have lost their sovereignty bit by bit. The economy is queen, and her high priests united in obscure institutions like the Fed, the IMF, and the ECB decide on policy for the world at large. National states only need to implement their directives.
In a nutshell, this is what we are going to denounce in Brussels. Our political system has nothing to do with democracy. The socialist government in Greece is forced to sell the people’s property to multinational vultures in exchange for loans at unpayable interest. If it weren’t for the revolution, which will take place more sooner than later, the country would be enslaved indefinitely.
In Belgium, the crisis hasn’t yet made a real impact. Some of the Belgians I spoke say that this is in part thanks to the fact that they don’t have a government. Drastic measures cannot be taken by a provisional government, so deep cuts were not made until now. Life goes on here, banks are falling, but as long as people don’t feel it in their pocket, they don’t really care. They look at our protest as something picturesque. They are sympathetic towards us, but they’re not yet worried about themselves. In the South of Europe the tempest is raging, but here only few people have noticed the clouds rumbling in the distance. The storm is heading towards them as well, and when it arrives, they will remember us.
Gent is the most northern point of our expedition, from here we turn straight East, towards the rising sun. Like yesterday, the city never ends. These are still the suburbs of Waregem. The national roads are a very interesting urbanistic shadow zone. It seems like things are permitted here that you will not see in the cities themselves. There is no real need to keep up a façade, because apart from us, no-one walks by. Between the houses, the villas and the shopping hangars, you find lots of erotic night clubs and brothels, where people from the city can enjoy themselves anonymously, far away from peeking eyes, and far away from the lord our god. You will find all kind of buildings on the way, but you won’t find a single church.
Along the road a police van stops to ask us where were going. We are going to Aalst, our last stop before Brussels. It’s four thirty in the afternoon when we arrive, but it seems like it’s three a.m. on a saturday night. High school students are clustering around the bars in the center, drinking beer. Disco beats are blasting out onto the streets on every corner.
On the central square the mayor is there to welcome us. She offers us a camping space near the swimming pool at the edge of town. We respond that we prefer to camp in the center, and we create a ‘Square Commission’ ad hoc, to look at the different possibilities. The central square is out of the question, because there will be market tomorrow. We choose a square with access to water. A bit reluctantly, but with a smile, the mayor accepts our decision. I doubt they have sufficient police force at their disposal to evict us.
Instead of an assembly, cancelled because of the rain, we take the square and we play a game of ‘stoelendans’. The revolution is fun. It can only be fun, or else it won’t be worth the effort.
Tomorrow Brussels. It’s going to be a different story than what we’ve encountered in the Belgian towns. In a world without national states, the metropoles form a Champion’s League apart. The capital of Flanders, Belgium and the European Union has more in common with cities like Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Tokyo than with a small town like Aalst.
Yesterday evening we lost a lot of time in an internal assembly, trying to decide if we will accept the invitation of a Scandinavian left wing party to enter the European parliament. We could have made much better use of that time, to work on the preparation of debates and actions. To me it seems that many people consider all the talking to be an activity already. Once they finally decide on something, they don’t see the necessity – or they are too exhausted – to put it into practice.
The result is that we don’t really know what is going to happen in Brussels. Things have been prepared, but it’s not really clear by whom and how it will turn out. It might become a very constructive week of exchange. But it might also turn into complete chaos, which is more likely.
Still, as the great Dutch philosopher (and former football player) Johan Cruyff says: “Every disadvantage has its own advantage.” And the advantage of chaos is that everything becomes possible.