The festivities to commemorate the mi-centennial of the world fair in Brussels 'ExpO58' have officially started. Saturday night brought fever and joy. A well made documentary by Farfetched Productions premiered. Maya Van Leemput concept, research and direction, Bram Goots, camera, light, sound and grip and Simone Rau co-editing wizard form quite a team. For the Cultural heritage cell of Antwerp they produced this original, relevant, beautiful, insightful documentary. At the opening the respondents who had been involved with the Expo in 1958 in different capacities, - a volunteer interpreter, a butcher boy demonstrating how to cut meet, visitors, hostesses... and their contemporary shadows - were present and seemed extremely pleased with the end result. Since it is also scientific futures research, the sum comes out way above the individual statements. In fact the documentary is presented as research material for a colleague futurist who will hopefully look at this material in 2058. Images of the future is the guiding principle. 50 years ago optimism reigned, with just a few critical voices: The war was over, technology would improve life for everyone. Now, since the dreams of 50 years ago had at the same time not been fulfilled (there still isn't a base on the moon and there is still hunger and disease in the world) and had developed much faster than anticipated, people's images for the futures of 2058 are a bit grim. Most think that their grandchildren will have a harder life than they had. This was packaged in a fast, professional and warm view with lots of beautiful, nostalgic images from 1958. Remember: All our experiences are in the past and all our decisions are about the future. Well done!
Meeting great minds who have made it their life’s work to understand the complexities of this world and then share their insight with the rest of the world is an amazing gift. The diverse group of like-minded listeners was warm and energized. The energy had entered the room when Tariq Ali entered and with the years of practice of being a public speaker put everybody at ease and answered their queries. His speech was delivered as a one and a half hour story, followed by at least half an hour of answering questions. We were treated to a big sweep through history showing that the current prejudice that Islam is fundamentalist and violent is not borne out by the past. Centuries ago in Spain, southern Italy and Sicily the three religions coexisted and Arab, Moorish or Islam thought was the most influential before the Reyos Catolicos. Being culturally mainstream didn’t lead to trying to convert others but the Catholics and Jews took over part of the culture since it was the height of civilization. So how come that Westerners now see Islam as the ultimate danger and see women who wear the habib as potential terrorists? Mainly because we forgot our history and the fact that violent anarchists have always thrown bombs in our society. Bombs that started World War II, bombs by Orangists that boosted the numbers of the IRA, acts that lead to the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of our trouble today started with Martin Luther when Christianity split in Catholicism and Protestantism and when the inquisition was invented… The other are we, are us: we are all humans with the same grooves in our soul. The problem is not religion and its differences but culture and the demand to become part of society culturally homogenized. Vive la difference and a good meal shared in friendship.
Imagine an old rotund Jewish man - flowing white beard, black helmet, of course the traditional white shirt and long black coat. Then sturdy boots and a laughing kind ruby face - All this on a sleek Italian Vespa sporting a gray plastic lidded crate for his shopping. I smile and say: Waw this looks cool! So he musters me with a masters eye and says: You are pretty cool yourself...
At site of the garage of the old Minerva cars, two brothers rebuild and refurbished the grease room into a restaurant. Not just any restaurant but the best in town according to the publisher of Archipel who invited me for a nice meal there. The old grease pit is left intact, covered with thick glass and lit from within. Everything, just as the old cars, exudes class and quality. Now get me right, not snobbery. The waiters speak in dialect, know their customer's taste and are unobtrusive yet will chat, suggest and seduce to take what is really good and extremely fresh that day. The publisher, Mel and I were treated to nice creuse oysters, Asparagus à la Flamande and a light desert of lemon sherbet with a dash of vodka. My friends have good taste.
Today I copy an e-mail from a friend in Arizona. I have stood with her in peaceful vigils along route 66. K's experience in her words: Recently I attended a support rally in Prescott, AZ. for John McCain. I carried a sign with a war torn child from Iraq and an Anti-War sign from Moveon.org. Local police told me that I had a right to be singularly in the crowd and close to the stage. I was within 15-20 feet of the stage where Mr. McCain was to speak. There were 3 Navy/Army men in front of me, I went up to them and with every fiber of my being and told then that I loved them and what they were doing for our country and that I support THEM 100%, just not this war based on lies that we are currently involved in. They thanked me for my gratitude and me belief in Democracy. It has been proven without a doubt that this is a bogus war and completely unjust. Not worth losing another soldier (4,320 & counting) or more Iraqi civilian's, CNN reports that over 650,00 Iraqis or more than 500 people a day are dying for a lie, that is innocent woman, children and men dying in a far worse regime than Saddam Hussein's. Right away I began to experience hostility from McCain supporters. I was promptly approached by McCain's security force and asked to leave the immediate surroundings. I told them that I had already spoken with the local police and had a Democratic right to be where I was. I was then informed that it was disrespectful to be in the area I occupied and once again was asked to leave. When McCain appeared on stage and I held my signs up, I was promptly surrounded by at least three men physically pushing me and blocking my signs with theirs. Then the crowd of supporters turned fairly hostile, I was called a communist bitch and told to get the fuck out of there. Then the sign of the war torn child was ripped from my hands, and I felt myself being physically pushed through the crowd while threats and fowl comments were hurled at me. My sign protesting the war was literally ripped from my hands and I was pushed physically out of his perfect little sphere of influence. That means that people who were expressing their democratic freedoms were actually not being allowed to to do so…. Only perfect crowd-pleasing supporters were allowed within this sphere of influence that our so-called democratic media would be reporting on. So do we live in a democratic society? I think not, the word empire come closer to mind. Namaste"
A picture is often more eloquent or at least more colorful than all my words. A lot of goodwill was generated at the demonstrations: Members of the European Parliament were there to show their support for this non-violent struggle, common citizens from Europe stood side by side with the Tibetans. The lady in the picture is Yangdutso Yangkartsang, president of the Tibetans in Belgium. Lets all work for a peaceful solution and stop buying cheap Chinese mass produced goods. An autonomous Tibet could be a start of a future with respect for culture and tradition, freedom and peace.
A demonstration at lunch break. The Tibetan refugees with flags and bandannas saying 'Stop the killings' are voices for meaningful negotiations between their democratically chosen government from Dharamsala that follows the peaceful program set out by H.H. the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader, and the Chinese government, about correct autonomy for Tibet. Secondly the want full access to Tibet for international journalists. Thirdly unhindered medical assistance of the Red Cross and Medicins sans Frontières to those wounded, without pressure to report wounded activists to the police. Now if a person arrives at the hospial, he or she is send to jail if the wounds look as if they came from a demonstration. Obviously all those that are held prisoner since the 10th of March should be released. It is an absolute necessity to send international Fact Finding Committees to go to Tibet. Freedom of speech should be restaured so that Chinese state owned news agencies with their ethnically biased inflammatory newscasts on Tibet are not the only news people get.
In many countries Tibetan refugees cannot be regularized because not having a Chinese passport they have no official document proving who hey are... The demonstration was colorful and peaceful although I wonder how long the young Tibetans are willing to follow the non-violent path.
The earth's population grows every year with 75.000.000 people. How are we going to feed them? Where will we find the water for drinking, for hygiene and agriculture? How will we educate them and keep them healthy? Will they have access to land? The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development said: We have to be prepared for the worse case scenario. For the price of one and a half day of warfare in Iraq, smallholders and family farms in Africa could be helped to feed millions...