C’est Belgique, c’est pas logique
Robert Adam Kasozi
Belgians have a dark sense of humour, especially about themselves. Whenever something defying all logic happens about here, they tend to shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes, and mutter darkly: “c’est belgique, c’est pas logique” roughly translated as “it’s Belgium, [no wonder] it doesn’t make sense.”
Most of this exasperation is usually levelled at the fettering European Union bureaucracy that can try even the most patient souls. But this morning’s bombing of the national airport and Maalbeek metro station (situated within stone-throwing distance of the European Commission buildings) seem to defy logic too.
This is because it is a little puzzling why any young person would be disgruntled in one of the world’s most generous welfare states. Youngsters between 18-25 for example can leave home without a job, rent a flat and take courses of their choice and the state will pay them a handsome fee for it. Employers taking in these young employees again have special tax reductions clearly aimed at encouraging more youth employment. The state will even pay the salaries of these youthful employees for the first three years under certain programmes. So getting a job as a youngster should be a pure breeze, right?
Well, not so fast. Although it is a fact that Belgium at any one time has almost half a million jobs unfulfilled, it is more a question of the right jobs for the wrong people. Children of immigrants are usually born into poor families and grow up in the poor sections of the city. Their aspirations are usually to work in the father’s fruit and vegetable shop and hope to open one up for themselves later. Or drive a van delivering the said fruit and veg.
Truth be said, the education system doesn’t help very much either. Teenagers have a choice in secondary school to either take a vocational course like plumbing, electricity or building or a purely academic course that leads to university study. Whether willfully or not, it is a fact that the education system seems to push a disproportionate number of poor immigrant kids into the lowly paid vocational courses where they enter a crowded job market competing with already qualified already active workers from other parts of Europe.
It is not immediately evident from a casual look but actually the largest number of immigrants to Belgium is Italians! These numbers have been boosted by Greeks, Portuguese and Spaniards fleeing tanking economies. Add to that the African contingent from especially the DR Congo and Morocco, and you have a boiling kettle of immigrant populations.
What this has caused is a ghettorisation of Brussels. Each ethnic group seems to have seized a piece of Brussels and made it it’s own. The Moroccans in Molenbeek, the Turks in Schaarbeek, Congolese in Ixelles, epecially the Matonge area, named after one of Congo-Kinshasa’s districts. What these areas also have in common is that they are dirty, noisy, poorly managed — and now also getting very dangerous. Meanwhile the white Belgians have moved further and further from the capital to escape the creeping menace of ghettorisation.
Now, although the first generation of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants were content to live in these sorts of conditions because they still represented an improvement from their homelands, the second and subsequent generations are not quite so happy. These iPhone wielding, internet savvy wannabe’s want to join the Joneses on the high table of chic houses, nice cars and manicured lawns in clean neighbourhoods but as every immigrant knows, the journey from dust-covered Molenbeek to the tree-lined avenues of say Woluwe-Saint-Pierre can be a long and ardous one.
With no heroes or mentors to look up to, with an education system seeming determined to keep them in lowly paid jobs and living in over-crowded dirty houses, Brussels youths are really frustrated — and angry. They may go to the same schools as their native counterparts, they may speak just as good French, they may receive the same handouts when they leave home, but most realise they are trapped on a treadmill of poor jobs, poor lives, and even poorer aspirations.
Result? They feel discriminated against and they are pissed off enough to want to fight back. Which is why when some radical preacher whispers into their ear that there is a better life to be had — if only they could blow up the infidels — suddenly it makes a lot of sense to them. And with the foolishness of youth, they take up arms to fight an enemy they never knew they had before — their fellow commuter on a morning train.
This article was picked from Robnert Adam Kasozi’s blog