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3 October 2006 / erikduval

The politics of openness – the openness of politics

And then there was the political dimension of openness, with the 0110 initiative in Belgium…

For those who would need some background: it seems like there is a growing rejection of openness in Belgium, and particularly in Antwerpen, my hometown. Much of this is directed towards the community of immigrants (or rather the kids and kids of kids of immigrants!). This has been going on for a while now, but things have considerably escalated over the last 6 or 9 months or so. The saddest highlight so far is that, a few months ago, a teenager went on a killing spree in Antwerpen and killed a two year old and her nanny, and wounded another woman, … because of the color of their skin. This happened a few 100 meters from where we live, and I’m still having difficulties to understand how this could happen. In a way, this has been sort of my personal 9/11: I guess that I think differently about responsibilities and priorities since then…

Even the level of tolerance for this sort of thinking is deeply disturbing to me: “Eigen volk eerst” or “My own people first” is the slogan of the largest political party in Antwerpen! In order to try and counter this evolution, a number of Belgian musicians decided to organize an event to promote tolerance, a week before we have municipal elections. We took our kids to the event, and I was very impressed with the celebration of diversity that it turned out to be: in total, more than 100.000 people attended the distributed event. (Oh, by the way, the music was great too!)

I do know that this may be old-fashioned (as one of the leading Flemish political commentators opined) and that it may not be very effective (how many people will change their minds because of this?), and I also know that there are real and serious issues with diversity (my youngest goes to a school where most parents do not understand Dutch), but I felt it was extremely useful to make the point that diversity is a positive thing in the first place: isn’t it GREAT to be able to eat Chinese or pizza, to listen to music from any place in the world, to read Latin-American or Egyptian literature, to drink African or Australian wine.

A big THANK YOU to all who made 0110 happen.

One Comment

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  1. Erik / Oct 6 2006 1:55 pm

    You can see-hear some of the music at http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=0110

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