Category Archives: beer

City of the free lunch

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 09.05.24Dalrymple writes that he has

a sneaking regard

for Brussels. What appeals to him is

  • its down-at-heelness
  • its comfortable air of concentrated mediocrity
  • its excellence only in beer and food

It is the kind of place, he says, that

I could easily and happily fit into.

Dalrymple points out that the value that most prevails in Brussels, thanks to the European Parliament, the European Commission, and other institutions, is that of

the free lunch. I have met European politicians there who haven’t paid for so much as a single course of a meal for 40 years or more, and who develop as a consequence that gray, slablike or tombstone countenance that members of the Soviet Politburo used to have.

Dalrymple has

nothing against free lunches myself—indeed I have enjoyed many—but I have never made them the acme of my ambition, nor did it ever occur to me that, in seeking and eating them, I was defending, furthering, or expressing ‘our values’.

The human rights of drunken, violent youths

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.50.20An incident outside the Cirio

Belgian beer, Dalrymple points out, is

nectar.

In order to partake of some while enjoying the ambiance of the place, he and his wife pay a visit to the Cirio,

a fin de siècle establishment in the heart of Brussels.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.01.20As the Dalrymples emerge, greatly refreshed one imagines, from the bar, an inebriated student, who is celebrating the university’s special day,

throws a glass at us and other people nearby. It shatters on the ground in front of us.

A number of people could have been badly injured.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.06.04Policemen who happened to be in the vicinity

charge after the student, who sobers up at once in his flight into the crowd.

But Dalrymple makes this shocking statement:

I confess, though I am ashamed to admit it, that when I saw the police giving chase, my first thoughts were not of the student’s human rights.

 

Belgian diagnosis

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 07.12.36Flemings, Walloons and a failed European project

In the course of a discussion of the implosion of the European Union, Dalrymple cites Belgium, stating a fact that is obvious to all but the West’s political and intellectual leaders:

What has not worked in two centuries in a small area with only two populations will not work in a few years in a much larger area with a multitude of populations.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 07.44.36Belgium has existed since it was cobbled together in 1830.

In all that time, it has not been able to create a durable national identity.

The country is divided into populations with incompatible politics: Wallonia and Flanders. Belgium is officially bilingual, yet you will not see a word of Flemish in Wallonia or of French in Flanders.

Not pretty

But it’s not pretty

The division could not be starker if barbed wire separated the two provinces. Only in the capital, Brussels, does one find any concession to bilingualism.

Wallonia,

though it contained a minority of Belgium’s population, long dominated its culture and economy.

Even upper-class Flemings spoke French at home, while Flemish was the language of the peasantry; until recently, Belgian schools forbade children from speaking Flemish in class.

With the decline of Wallonia’s coal and steel industries and the economic rise of Flanders, the pattern of dominance changed. Flanders

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 07.54.21went from being the poor relation to being the rich one, albeit with something of an inferiority complex. It started to make large transfer payments to Wallonia, which suffered from comparatively high unemployment.

Such payments

rarely promote goodwill between groups. Resentment is common among both the donors, who harbour suspicions that the recipients are exploiting them, and the recipients, who indulge in mental contortions to explain their dependency away.

The largest political parties in Flanders

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 08.01.59are either nationalist or free-market; both philosophies lead to reducing or stopping the transfer payments.

The largest political party in Wallonia

is socialist and wants the payments to continue or increase. The Wallonian socialist party’s patronage powers in its territory are almost feudal in nature and extent; the last thing that the party of social change wants is actual change.

Binding the Flemings and Walloons together

Binding the Flemings and Walloons together

The Walloons

want higher taxes to maintain the current arrangements.

The Flemings

want lower taxes and reduced spending to promote long-term growth.

A masterpiece.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 08.11.56

 

Brussels perambulation

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 23.10.41The capital of Europe combines the greyness of bureaucracy with the gaudiness of modern popular culture’s worst aspects

Finding himself in Brussels, Dalrymple stays in a hotel

among whose amenities was 24-hour access to pornography.

In the room is a hotel copy of The Golden Book, which Dalrymple peruses. It includes an article on the place of women in the Belgian armed forces, illustrated by

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 23.26.53young female mechanics in overalls clambering over a jet fighter plane

and bringing to mind

the era of Soviet propaganda.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 23.41.35Stepping out into the littered, crumbling city, Dalrymple is

invited into several sex shows by men who did not easily take no for an answer. Drunks were sleeping in doorways, and very large numbers of male youths loitered.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 23.43.29Belgian beer

is the best (and most varied) in the world.

But

not even this could lend charm to the scene. One had the impression of walking through an updated print by Grosz.

A very large proportion of the loiterers

were Moroccan in origin, dressed in the international uniform of the modern slum. They seemed drawn to this seedy environment as flies to a carcass.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 23.55.23Not a single woman of Moroccan origin was to be seen.

Where were they, the women of Moroccan origin? The answer was evident after the sun came up. Large numbers of women of Moroccan origin, dressed in a non-European way, were in the streets, as if a nocturnal curse had lifted. Fewer men of Moroccan origin were now in evidence.