With distribution of our first edition of the year now in full-swing, a few words on what inspired it, and how it hopes to inspire you to rise up.
In a recent show on France Culture I stumbled upon by sheer accident, the host was moderating a debate about the return of self-management, that is the idea that people, non-profits and small organisms were (finally) taking it upon themselves to fill the gap where government (big and small), corporations and, to a certain extent, even NGOs had failed them. It was a timely coincidence I thought to myself, as the edition we had been working on for the past two months or so was precisely touching upon the same issue, albeit in a slightly more people-orientated manner. Indeed, as I wrote in these very pages in our November-December 2016 edition, “we as a magazine need to take more of a firm and focused stand on crucial issues such as education, urban planning, the plight of minorities and the support of the cultural sector.” And oh my days do I believe we started the year delivering on that promise. Take our interview with Architecture Workroom’s Roeland Dudal, whose recent exhibition at Bozar, A good city has industry, argues for more manufacturing capacities to be returned to urban centres. Or our first-hand with Bambi Ceuppens, a doctor in anthropology who fights for a more accurate representation of Belgium’s colonising past in Congo. Top of the list though, at least in my view, is our series of interviews with what we’ve dubbed change- makers. Conducted by Dorien, these seven profiles go to the heart of our commitment to shine a more focused light on the people doing their bit for certain crucial aspects of society, be it in their relentless work in assisting recently-arrived under-aged refugee minors, or in their resolve in bringing health care to the homeless, or in their tireless missions to provide basic educational needs for all, even the more disenfranchised. Labelling them inspiring would be an understatement. Calling them warriors would, maybe, start doing them justice.
We’re not claiming to hold the solution, nor are we dispensing any lessons or taking the moral high ground. We’re just sick and tired of seeing articles being liked, shared or commented upon whilst we sit in the warmth and comfort of our own home, wondering how it the hell it got to this.
And it is in this spirit that, together with my partner Meli, we’ve started doing our own bit too. Approximately 180 refugees – we’re talking entire families, single mothers and, more worrying still, unaccompanied minors – “live” in Brussels’ Gare du Nord, nervously awaiting to get an answer on the status of their asylum applications. In the meantime, these people – who’ve had to escape treacherous conditions back home only to be treated as lesser beings in countries that claim to be developed, by elected officials more concerned with scoring political points than fulfilling their civic duties (I see you Theo Francken) – struggle to survive, waiting on some official’s recognition, or not, of their plight. They’re here, in our capital, “living” not on the generosity of the government we’ve brought to power but, rather, on people who refuse to stand idle. What does that mean? Well, for our small household, it’s translated into calling upon our friends, families as well as professional and social media contacts to donate any bit of household goods they can spare (sleeping bags, blankets, beanies, scarves, gloves, socks and shoes) and bringing it straight to the people in need at Gare du Nord. We’re not claiming to hold the solution, nor are we dispensing any lessons or taking the moral high ground. We’re just sick and tired of seeing articles being liked, shared or commented upon whilst we sit in the warmth and comfort of our own home, wondering how it the hell it got to this. This is NOT the society we want our son Otis to grow up in, and like my close friend Benoit recently told me, it’s time to lead by doing. Hope the edition you’re about to see in the streets nationwide inspires you to do the same.