They’re a sensitive lot, the Belgians. For years they were part of the Low Countries, a stigma that obviously left its mark. Then the loss of the Congo in a poker game. And when your country is composed of Walloons and Flemish, and your most famous film star is Jean-Claude Van Damme, well, of course, you get tired of the jokes.
And so the capital of a nation that claims “mussels with fries” as a national dish has decided to make the issuing of insults a crime:
“Any form of insult is from now on punishable, whether it be racist, homophobic or otherwise,” a spokesman quoted Socialist mayor Freddy Thielemans as saying.
Brussels, home to the EU and many top international institutions, is known for its family-friendly and cultivated lifestyle but the mayor wants to crack down on the everyday unpleasantness found in any big city.
To do so, officials came to an agreement with judicial authorities to impose fines of between 75 and 250 euros for insults, petty theft and rough jostling where no physical harm is caused. …
The issue was highlighted in a recent film by Belgian director Sofie Peeters who recorded in secret the everyday insults and exchanges she ran into on the streets of the city.
Sure she wasn’t walking the halls of the European Parliament?
Well, I guess I won’t be visiting Brussels any time soon. Not that it was high on my list of places to visit before I die. (In fact, it falls right between Khartoum and Chernobyl.) And not that I’m given to insulting people in public. At least not in a voice loud enough to be heard. And most of my insults are meaningless to the average pedestrian. I mean if someone called you a closet Paulician, even to your face, would you know to be insulted?
Thank goodness they haven’t tried anything like this here in the States. Sure, it would probably balance every city and state budget in the nation, but political speech would suffer, as would theological disputations. If you can’t call someone a semipelagian with Nestorian tendencies or the illegitimate son of a modalist, what is the point, I ask you?