mercoledì, maggio 13, 2009

In which I give vent to my subscription to the "Dumb Belgian" stereotype

1. So remember when I stumbled into a hipster apartment full of hipsters who reminded me of hipsters back home?

2. And remember how I feel quite strongly about the humanity of great apes?

Well,

1. In retrospect, it was not a nice thing to say about the hipsters back home, and

2. Living in Belgium is helping me address the opposite side of the coin: that if I say great apes are a kind of human, I am being inaccurate; instead I must say humans are a kind of great ape.

We'll still be pushing on with the organic food collective, because the F-word feels strongly about eating organic, and I feel strongly about food being more delicious when it's been grown close to the point of consumption. But after the last meeting, I've decided I'm going to have to take a zoological approach to the collective if I'm not going to lose my shit. I've never seen so much ham-fisted, half-witted idiocy cluttering a room as that collection of 25 Belgians talking at once, but I manage to see them as overdecorated chimpanzees it'll be funny instead of infuriating.

I've never attended a meeting involving so many repetitions of key points that had already been adequately and repetitively explained in detail (and remember my French is far from perfect) and never seen so many faces remaining vacant and slack-jawed in incomprehension for so long, or at least not since we studied Heidegger in undergrad at the end of fourth year when everybody's brain had already packed up and moved on to how they were going to pay off their student loans armed with nothing but a humanities degree and a drug habit.

It's hard to pick out a gem for you from the collection of sparkling intellectual turds mined during the meeting, but here's the one that still seems to be striking me the most. There are two kinds of organic buying collective operating in Belgium. One kind: you pay upfront at the beginning of the year and get a mystery box delivered to you every fortnight containing whatever's in season from your farmers, or whatever looked good at the organic wholesaler's that week. Let's call it a contract arrangement. The other kind: you get a list every fortnight of what's available, choose what you want, submit it, and pay for what you've chosen when you pick it up a few days later. A pay-as-you-go arrangement. Are you with me so far? Are you managing to follow the fucking complexities of two of the fucking simplest concepts in the motherfucking economic firmament?

The most recent meeting of our collective was the third. From the first, it's been clear that with the supplier we've chosen we'll be using the pay-as-you-go concept. Halfway through the meeting, when the chairwoman (re)explained the fortnightly rotating task of repacking bulk deliveries from the farmer into bins containing each family's order, it finally dawned on one of the attendees - who had attended the two previous meetings, which had included exhaustive descriptions of how the pay-as-you-go collective worked, including a two-hour presentation from one of the men who had set up the first such pay-as-you-go collective in the city - that we were going to use the pay-as-you-go method.

She wasn't happy about it. She had managed to spend, by my calculations, eight hours of discussions of the pay-as-you-go collective, including the 90 minutes immediately preceding her realization, convinced that she was participating in the birth of a contract collective. And once she realized her error, we had to hear about it. The entire meeting had to stop for a few minutes while this woman expounded on why she wanted to be in a contract collective, and not a pay-as-you-go collective, but oh well, she guessed the would participate in our pay-as-you-go collective anyways, having already committed the time. It was awesome.

The meeting was full of incidents like that, incidents of egregious stupidity that could only be ascribed to mental deficiencies or a very real effort by many of the participants to actively tune out what was being said and what had been said, in detail and at length, over many hours. It was really remarkable. After two hours they were still going strong but the F-word and I had to leave because he was getting pissed off - he works in a Belgian school, and he said it was the same shit-headedness he saw at his staff meetings every month - and I was going a little bit red in the face because it was so fucking hilarious. When we got out of the building and a safe distance down the street I let loose with a serious case of the giggles, that lasted 10, 15 minutes.

Anyways. You know how it's all funny and retarded when Americans get upset about anything that looks like socialism, and are all, like, "it's horrible, we're turning into Sweden," when it should be obvious to the meanest of intelligences that they should be so fucking lucky as to turn into Sweden, where the tax rate is quite reasonable by developed-world standards, the political system accountable, and the social services first-class? It is funny and retarded. I even suspect that once you add up federal and state and local and sales taxes, the Swedish taxation burden doesn't really massively outstrip the Yankee taxation burden, but still the Swedes manage to have a functioning and supportive state instead of an inefficient, free-for-all, insecure fandango that couldn't function without the presence of an unregulated labouring underclass.

But I think I understand why so many of them are able to retain such a funny and retarded belief now. I suspect that at some point in the post-WWII period, some poor Yankee assholes were forced to spend a big block of time in Belgium trying to have productive meetings with Belgians, and made a not-unreasonable connection between the utter intellectual helplessness and incompetence of their interlocutors and the Belgian welfare state. They went home and they spread the frightening word: the Belgian welfare state enables uninterruptedly baffled people to live uninstitutionalized lives. Which since then, through a game of right-wing media Chinese whispers, has turned into socialism is like zombies. Fair enough. Bigger misunderstandings have been innocent.

2 commenti:

Baywatch ha detto...

was wondering how yr co-op foray was doing. a hilarious recounting.

and re american fear of socialism, you may have just nailed the root cause there.

nice closing nod to gossipology (see, it's in yr blood!)

Dread Pirate Jessica ha detto...

Unnnnhgh . . . communist zombies.