A Summer Culture Shock with Moroccon Belgians
Indian Summer Afternoons... sometimes they prove to be loaded with a dangerously powerful energy.And a clash of cultures can suddenly pop up. (1520 words)
One of my favorite things to do is using my hands. In cutting with a knife or an axe for instance. I was thought these essential skills by a diligent old uncle (Jef Aerts) and mom (Maria Ida Barbara Theresia) when seven, eight years old. Since autumn (Fall) this year, I have taken up the habit of making "potages" (French), vegetable soups. I am the happiest men in town, when I receive a slice of a big pumpkin from a friend. I like to combine with Pastinaak (a primeval white carrot, with sweet but pronounced, slightly spicy taste, a veggie that I ate a lot when a toddler, thus fitting into the category "Home History Food"); with onions; carrot; red beetroot (I have a Russian or at least slavic root, and the Russians I can forgive a lot for having developed the "Borshtsh" soup).
Or... is the reason of the new found inner peace in my heart rather rooted in the special circumstance that yesterday I had 'the joy' of a fresh heavy, loud, street Confrontation with some men of Moroccon origin? I found proof that some of them are sticking to their Berber roots and morals.... in a way that I would not agree to, if given the chance.
I introduced a couple of young kids to Fellow. A girl with long curly raven dark hair had asked: “Does he bite?”. “Can I caress your dog, sir?”. “He only bites his food” had been my answer, "you can caress the animal". The oldest girl showed courage in tenderness, enjoyed the stroking of the animal, and encouraged her younger sister, visibly a bit shy and afraid, to do the same. I have cured quiet a few kids of Moroccon, Congolese, Nigerian... descend from their being afraid of “Man's best friend” over the years. While I was making pictures of the fiery tree tops of the Ahorn and Lime trees in our Neighborhood, I had let loose the dog, at the request of the ten year old. While running, after being inside for seven hours or so, Fellow did something unusual: he went farther away from me. The sisters made sure to stay close to the animal, and soon I followed the three of them. My dog was heading home, a few hundred yards further at the square. There was not much danger in that, not much traffic going on. I caught up with the oldest girl, and in the run going after Fellow I talked to her and I playfully slapped the butt of the child.
While on the square, I shouted in a loud voice “Fellllooooowww!!”. I nodded a greet to one or two of the Flemish Moroccon young men that were sitting near the fries shop, like they often do to chat, smoke, or have a meal. A good habit taken over from the subtropic motherland. Both men nodded back. I live here since eleven years, and we have come a long way, the immigrant youngsters and I. Stefaan is a well known name by now. Not a minute after arriving at my home and leaching Fellow in again, I was attacked verbally and starting physically by a boy I have witnessed growing up. I never knew his name, he is about eightteen now. He came to stand very close and shouted reproaches. “How could you do that?”. “You 'd better do this kind of thing with your own children!”. I stood and looked back in a pair of night dark exited eyes that seemed to have no white left in them. I understood I had to argue, to confront an angry, poor Spirit. A spirit that became visible in this man's face. He tried to engage in a fight, touched my chest provocatively. I was dressed in costume vest referring to the German-Austrian Hunting tradition in the Alps, with buttons made of deer antler. I wore a fancy posh tie with butterflies in dark blue and scarlet silk, a white shirt with long sleeves. This civil dress must have made a certain impression. But not enough to be well. I felt I must shout.
“Why do you shout at me like that?”. “Keep your hands off me!!” And when it became clear to me what exactly was the source of this sudden fiece outburst of anger and indignation, I tried to bring understanding, and I said in a loud voice: "Dat is een Cultuurverschil!!" (We have a difference in Culture here!").
I decided to go away to run an errand at the other side of the wood corridor, and to leave the field to the angry young man. He seemed to protest a claim on this area indeed... The youngster tried to order me around, to make me leave. When I walked on the road along the pavement, a man of similar culture and family roots with very short hair, a clever face, wearing dark trousers and sweater, came flanking me and Fellow. I read two emotions at least on his face: subdued heavy tension, awe, and the wish to have a fight!...
I understood the best thing was to do was maybe to use the same register of communication as the young man. I shouted, facing the middle of the square, nobody in particular: "Laat mij!!" (Leave me!). By that time, a third person joined the confrontation. A young man I know by name, some twenty five years old. He thereupon entered in a respectful, shout out public debate. “Is dat een cultuurverschil?!”. “A cultural Difference!?”. “Vind je dat normaal?” “Do you think [What you did] is normal?!”. My brain was evidently under the highest tension, but it functioned. I decided to speak in simple but central and crystal phrases, to “answer "the ennemy” in a controlled, non violent way.
"IK ben normaal!!" it sounded over the road. (“I am the one who is normal here!”)... In the end, none of the guys touched me, they let me go away, fundamentally not being eager to sly no one, I suppose...
The last shout was: “Do you consider Paedophilia to be normal then!?”... How to answer such prejudiced thinking? I kept silent. The distance with the angry fellows grew with every step and every breath I took.
At two hundred yards, I met Dirk who was airing his white retriever. He is a professional therapist, a fine and cultivated man in his sixties. I took the occasion to put the events off my chest. He listened and understood. He confirmed: "These people have other values and opinions. It is impossible to engage in a talk. The case is hopeless...”
The talking to a friend did me well. I continued into the hills and payed a visit to a wise man, a scholar that lives like a monk in a comfortable hut house in the meadows and copse. He too offered his listening ear, and his comrade understanding.
In the evening, an hour after sunset, after going shopping for feasty food, I walked back home. There was no trace left of the pitch tension of the afternoon in the square. When in the appartment, I even heared pleasant bursts of laughter coming from the corner of the Regent Square, where the young lads come to talk and yiest most evenings. I realized once more that these folks are not bad at heart. Not into revenge, not into physical agression or any kind of mean retaliation. This is Leuven, my hometown. Life is moderate here. No cosmopolitan degrees of poverty nor desperation and the subsequent forms of agression and criminality...
Then again, it became clear, after my daringly kind behavior, that some of the boys here seem to stick more to rural idea's about life and social interaction (and "pedophily") typical of the Moroccon desert mountain area's where the ancesters come from. Perhaps unknowingly, they are not completely ready to be a Belgian and a Louvain dweller at heart.
Indian Summer Afternoons... they are sometimes loaded with a powerful wonder energy.
In all honesty and with a hint of surprise and satisfaction too, I was finding out a lesson here too. That is: the best way to help these immigrant folks to come to understand Deep Truths about living together in a Host Area, where “the Aboriginals” have different views on certaiin essential Life Values, is just the following. Respectfully shout the thruts out in the public domain. we must make clear a couple of things with vigor. That we do not hate them, & not want to cause harm. Secondly, that we believe in your own values and in the deeper meaning of our behavior. I mean that. These people test you out, but when you are able to shout your conviction out (loudly) in the village square, they seem ready to consider your point of view. Perhaps one can win their respect in showing this kind of bravery.
Life on Earth! Such a Discovery Journey. Where would we be, if we did not love it with desperate devotion?