The Belgians are better?

A couple of days ago I attended a literary evening in Amsterdam. The SLAA (Amsterdam foundation for literary activities) organized a 2 day program on Flemish Belgian writers. The first day got titled ‘The Belgians are better!’. Being a Belgian living in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist ;-)


While walking there, I ran into a friend who works for Microsoft. We talked about how great Amsterdam is to live in, about Microsoft trying to counter play Google, and about this literary festival.


He ended by a summary (of which I had already heard half, but anyway):

'We live in a really crazy world:

The best golfer is a black guy,

The best rapper is a white guy,

The French think the Americans are arrogant,

Microsoft wants to use antitrust against Google,

And Belgians think they are smarter than the Dutch.'


The evening was great: Tom Lanoye, Bart Koubaa (thanks for the beer!), Yves Petry, David Van Reybrouck en Arjen Fortuin had a very interesting discussion, and of course it had nothing to do with Belgians being better. They explained their view of the differences between Belgians and Dutch society, about the differences in reading culture (it is true that the availability of so many great bookshops makes you read more), about having to adapt words to make them understandable in the other culture - even if we speak the same language, and mainly Tom Lanoye talked about the difference you can make by taking a (political) position and opinion.


And looking back at 2006, he probably has a point. StudioBrussel (the coolest of Belgian radios) creating social responsibility by raising 2.5m euro (and winning 2.5 million hearts!) in a project named ‘Music For Life’: Tom Barman organized concerts all over Belgian and there are others, and Humo (more a lifestyle than just a magazine) provides free with their magazine with a DVD of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.


One used to say that art should have the sideline perspective of society, but in Belgium they seem to be the very engine of social conscience.