REVOLUTION!!!!

belgische-vlag-achtergronden-met-een-geschilderde-vlag-van-belgieThe Belgian government has been warned by the European Council that Belgium might end up, as first ever country in the European Union, under stricter financial control by the European authorities. Not even Greece nor Portugal have yet fallen under this procedure, so this should rightly be a great honor for Belgium. If the current situation stays unchanged the structural effort to ease the already huge deficit in Belgium would remain at 0.5 pct. in 2015 and 2016, while Europe demands a structural effort of at least 1.2 pct. The total amount of the Belgian State deficit is around 106 pct. of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Right at this moment the Belgian government is in conclave about alleviating the deficit, but it has not yet taken the first hurdle, since it has been quarreling for a full week about the amount needed to be saved by expense cuts and/or tax raises. Some political parties say they only need to find 1.2 billion euro, some claim it is closer to 2.2 billion, and others suggest it might be more.

'Do you mind if I join you, guys?'

The tax burden on Belgian citizens is the highest in the world, higher than in the Scandinavian countries which are known for their high taxes, but unfortunately the benefits for the Belgian population are meagre in comparison to those Scandinavian countries. One could expect higher taxes would yield higher benefits, but one look at the Belgian road system, at the funding of education, at the level of support for the elderly, at the crumbling system of health care, at the mess in the energy supply (Belgians pay way more for energy than the neighboring countries while green energy is sparse) will convince every observer of the bankruptcy of the system. One might ask what is done with all that money taken from its citizens?

More and more Belgians are leaving the country, just like I did, and logically the first ones to leave are those able to leave easily. Those are young graduates, highly educated citizens, retired people, and the ones who can afford it. Exactly those needed most by a country to keep its economy running at full speed. In 2013 the exodus of Belgian nationals exceeded the return of nationals to the country, for the first time in modern history since World War 2. But not the richest ones, not the one percent, they are eager to join Belgium whatever their nationality. They manage to arrange secret deals with politicians and tax authorities, called ‘rulings’, which greatly exempt them from taxes for fear they would flee the country. Just like the biggest companies – often multinationals – have secret rulings with the Belgian tax authorities. It is estimated that the total amount of money not earned by those rulings with the top 80 companies (but there are more with rulings) amounts to 16 billion euros each year. The total tax income generated by all companies in Belgium is no more than 14 billion euros. So more money is exempted than earned in this country.

EU-VC-Geld(It is a misconception to think that the one percent generate labor, and thus income for the masses. The usual logic is that rich people spend more, but in reality this spending is not unlimited. Do people that are 100 times richer than average own one hundred cars? Do they wear one hundred times more trousers than average? Do they eat a hundred times more than the average person? The drama of nowadays is that capital is not generating labor (and thus income for the masses) any more, but capital yields much more capital by not investing it in labor by building new factories or setting up new businesses. Thomas Piketty, a renown French professor (math and economics) who worked at MIT in Massachussets, clearly explains this fenomenon in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” in which he describes the growing economic inequality in the world. The book was a bestseller, especially amongst politicians. For his work Mr. Piketty was offered the highest French order, the ‘Légion d’Honneur’ in january 2015, but he rejected it because “it is not the government’s role to decide who is honourable”. A nice short video to watch is a TED Talks-presentation by Nick Hanauer, a billionaire himself, about job creation and economic inequality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBx2Y5HhplI)

So now Belgium, as many other Western countries, is on the brink of some pitchfork uprising of the masses. The people cannot take it any more. It is not about creating a communist society, a capitalistic system needs richer people and middel class people to function, but within limits. Added to this is an always present corruption at the highest political levels. Politicians ‘serve’ in one or another government, in Belgium they have a panoply of governments to choose from. Six, to be exact. Six independent governments with each their own powers and administrations, serving a total population 11.2 million people (2013). A bit bigger than New York’s population of 8.5 million in 2014, which is served by ONE city council… And let’s not forget the added opportunity for Belgian politicians to ‘retire’ to a highly paid job as member of the European Parliament.

60The corrupt system is sustained by the omni-present nepotism in Belgian politics. Many parliamentarians are sons, daughters or close family members of former high-level politicians, and often public tenders are given to family members. Political functions are commonly cumulated with representative functions and honorary functions in the private sector, like a seat on the board of directors of a multinational, which demands a once-a-year presence but a rich remuneration, and consequential conflicts of interest. Belgian politicians are equally eager to please foreign powers, for that might be their ticket to a powerful job after the expiration of their political career. The USA is a very rewarding country to please, it might yield a powerful job as secretary-general of NATO. There is also the example of former prime minister Yves Leterme whose removal from Belgian politics looked more like an escape, just to end up as deputy secretary-general of OECD in Paris, to hop over a few years later to the job of secretary-general of International IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) in Stockholm, Sweden. Not bad for a politician who has almost literally been thrown out by the population!mike-twohy-and-if-nepotism-exists-my-brothers-will-root-it-out-cartoon

A different problem is the current state of affairs concerning immigrants in Belgium. Due to decades of negligence and short-term electoral advantages politicians neglected the influx of illegal immigrants, and forebore to provide the legally present minorities with enough chances to integrate in Belgian society by providing jobs and by encouraging them to integrate. Brussels is rightly looked upon as the terrorist capital of the world. The most wanted terrorist in Europe, Mr. Salah Abdeslam, managed to hide out for Belgian security forces during more than four months hiding less than 300 meters from his parental home, while a part of the neighborhood was aware of his presence. This is the result of an alienated and even hostile generation of descendants of immigrants, mixed up with new extremist elements that managed to take a leisurely stroll inside the European capital under the radar of underpaid and understaffed security forces.

The threat by extremists in Belgium, evidenced by the dual bomb attacks in Brussels today 22nd March 2016, is a welcome distraction for Belgian politicians. The death toll, the sustained threat, the fears instilled by it in the hearts of the citizens, all these elements enable the politicians to hide their corruption and mismanagement in the past decades that led to this now. And to continue to pretend they are there to save us, and our salvation lies in their hands so we must trust them.

2016-01-05-1451989005-1518671-R1_RealRevolutionBut it is time for Belgian citizens to ask serious questions. Where is all our money going? Why is the yield on these outrageous taxes so low in comparison to other countries? Why is the Belgian government – or better: the Belgian governmentS – not able to protect its citizens with a normal degree of respect of privacy and liberty? Why is it deemed normal that families rule Belgian politics? Why is it an established Belgian political culture to ‘promote’ politicians towards high-power or highly remunerated private functions outside their political career? Why is there a dual system of taxes that is kept secret for the public, endorsed by the very people that were nominated by those same people to serve their interests? Why do politicians not have to answer before justice for the serious wrongs they did during their careers when taking decisions with grave impact, especially those where it is clear money was embezzled or the population was mislead on purpose? Why has Brussels become the world capital of terrorism? In spite of the massive amounts of our hard-earned money we have to pay each year to please the Belgian State.

So I might say: it is time for a revolution! Not a bloody revolution, please. But people all over Belgium should go out in the streets, sit down on the sidewalks and refuse to work, all businesses should close, the government should be made to resign, the parliament should be sent home. A new constitution should be written and voted. Not by politicians, and surely not by the 1 percent. That would again be a legal consolidation of the feudal rights of the few against the masses, in the same spirit as all constitutions in Europe were written in the 19th century by the 1 percent at the time to safeguard their privileges while maintaining an air of democracy to appease the population. But a new constitution written by and written for the masses. Where every one has the same rights independent of wealth, where nepotism is excluded, where politicians are held indefinitely accountable for their misleading and mismanagement, where freedom, peace and love for every one that respects our values should be the sole basis whereupon our society should be built.

 

Love ❤️, yann.

anonymous government has failed you

We take away your freedom just to protect it

ANY critical observer agrees that in the past years, especially since 9/11 2001, our individual freedom has greatly disappeared. Under the motto of “we do it to protect your freedom”, more and more laws have been enacted that conflict with the spirit of democracy, or are even undemocratic.

Mark Twain fool peopleThis has always been a wet dream of all secret and security agencies: to be able to follow each individual wherever he goes, and to know at every moment what that individual does, thinks and plans. Not much unlike the 1948 novel by George Orwell, ‘1984′. Secret agencies are known not to strictly follow the laws, sometimes secretly sanctioned by politicians for ‘the good of the country’. It is striking that secret laws are enacted and secret justice courts are instated without the knowledge of the general public nor its representatives, in the name of that same public with the so-called purpose of protecting the freedom of that same public.

Again, this is not a black-and-white story, I will not fall in line with Mr. Bush’s rethoric of “you are either with us or against us”, but the protection of our freedom against the threat of terrorism is a paradox. Politicians are the first to rant about our the freedom of our democracies that will prevail over all, but at the same time they are eager to dismantle that freedom.

edward snowden
Whistleblower Edward Snowden

Are we just fed an illusion of freedom? Are we willing to give away more freedom under the pretext it needs to be taken away just to protect us? Is this not the greatest victory of terrorism over our democracies? Keep in mind that our children, the generation born some 10 to 15 years ago, is the first ever generation that will never have known in real life what ‘privacy’ means. There is no more privacy. Everything you mail, everything you text via your cell phone, whomever you call via your phone, wherever you go, all this is known by the authorities.

Besides that major private companies now know more about you than your partner. Everything you do on internet, everything you buy in shops, everywhere you go thanks to the GPS in your smartphone. Certain shops even know which aisles you stroll in their shop, what products took more of your attention, because they can exactly monitor you by your unique smartphone signal. That way they can send you personalized spam and prompt you to buy these things. Never wondered why, after you visited some website of a window-selling company, you almost immediately get ads for windows in Facebook, on some other sites, in your mail?

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, second from right, is escorted to a waiting security vehicle outside of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Monday, July 15, 2013, after appearing for a hearing at his court martial. Lawyers for Manning, who leaked thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks, urged a judge Monday to dismiss a charge he aided the enemy, saying prosecutors failed to prove Manning intended for the information to fall into enemy hands. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Whistleblower Chelsea/Bradley Manning (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

So the end questions are: how much are you willing to part with freedom? Or do you want to give it completely up to get a feeling of security? Because all experts agree, no measures can ever safeguard us 100% against terrorist attacks. It happened before, and these attacks will happen again. And in the mean time the governments – and multinationals – know everything about you.

I would rather have them install a camera in my bathroom (my body is not much different than the other 3,5 billion men on earth), than to be able to follow my thoughts and passions. But that is just me.

“THE FURTHER A SOCIETY DRIFTS FROM TRUTH THE MORE IT WILL HATE THOSE WHO SPEAK IT” George Orwell (?) (1903-1950)

(Whistleblower = A person who tells the public what the government doesn’t want them to know)

 

Love ❤️, yann.

anonymous government has failed you

Terror…

These days are no very joyful days. The things that are happening in the world, coming out of Syria and Iraq, are worrying me and, I must admit, keeping me out of my sleep. Because the problem is complex.

5646ddfcc36188e1198b4602Saying IS/ISIL/Daesh does not worry me would be a profound lie. They keep me preoccupied. Where is our world going to? But at the same time, the reactions of our ‘leaders’ also worry me. The emphasis is solely on ‘war’. War generates hate. I do not believe in an all-encompassing solution just by waging war. Nor do I believe that war is avoidable. It is just that fighting and killing in itself will not resolve the problems.

What also worries me is the position of peaceful and righteous Muslims throughout the world. The terrorist acts by IS/ISIL/Daesh are a curse for them, as the latter pretend to do this in the name of Allah. That way, they effectively stir up anti-Islam feelings in the West and create a divide, where only more extremism can grow.

paris-attacks-bataclan-eagles-of-death-metal-sign-nov-2015-billboard-650
Bataclan (Paris) – Eagles of Death Metal

Where I live I am surrounded by Muslims. I do feel very safe, thank you. They are generous, peaceful, helpful, compassionate people. They are very poor but even then I regularly get presents from them. Vegetables, prepared food, gifts.. With no other reason than me living and being here even though they know I am an atheist.

But still I am a bit angry at Muslims. They have been quiet for too long. They have allowed that the voice of the extremists, who make up just a tiny figure of their numbers (or – I dare say – are not even real Muslims), is reverberating throughout the world while they kept silent. Or fairly silent. Rarely they sent out a united and strong message to the world that they dissociated themselves from extremist views, that those terrorists are no real believers in Allah. That would lessen the fear for Islam in the West. That would counter the cries of the ever stronger right extremists. That would send a signal to the own Muslim youth that terrorism is not tolerated in Islam.

Poop
An Egyptian feminist artist defecating and menstruating on an IS/ISIL/Daesh flag

Some people argue that Muslims should not defend their religion and explicitly have to differentiate them in the public’s eye from jihadi’s, just like Christians do not have to defend their religion and differentiate themselves from the KKK and so-called Christian extremists. That would be true in an ideal world, but ours isn’t. They have the perception against them, there is a fear of Islam embedded in the West since the cruel crusades ordered by despotic Popes, and now there is the ever growing right extremist lobby just wanting to spread violence and hate like we knew in the forties.

I had many heated discussions with Muslim friends in the past years about their passivity. Sure, they should not be the ones to apologize for the actions of lunatics and misguided extremists who abuse the name of Allah for their own crooked goals. But they should have made clear to the world, already many years ago, including to their own offspring, that their religion has nothing to do with hate and bloodshed. So Muslims of the world: unite!

ashley dyball reece harding
Australians Ashley Dyball (left) and Reece Harding (KIA) fighting with YPG

In the past years I have read many stories of Western people, even untrained, joining the ranks of the Kurds and other anti-IS militia to fight the extremists. I have to concede that I always had an admiration for them. Last week I saw a documentary about the parents of Ashley Dyball, an Australian youngster of 23, trying to bring back home their son who went to Syria to join YPG (Kurdish freedom fighters) in their fight against IS/ISIL/Daesh. He blankly refused, as he felt his purpose in life was helping the Kurds. And I have to admit that in the past months, the thought of joining YPG – whatever the consequences as to danger, life or death, and possible judicial persecution when back in the EU – has come up more than once in my thoughts.

picasso-massacre-in-korea-1951
Picasso (1951)

The US know their recent history where they have been defeated both in Afghanistan and Iraq, opposed to what they like to tell to the world. Ex president Mr. Bush jr. is the one that waged a war based on phony and concocted ‘intelligence reports’ of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq just to bolster his ego and show his dad he was not the looser his dad took him for. The result was a power-vacuum created in that region by the valliant Mr. Bush jr. where IS/ISIS/Daesh had no trouble in establishing its base.

European leaders are running around like beheaded chicken, they know something has to be done but without guidance from their American ‘friends’ they are divided and running off in different directions. And the only message they manage to get out to their citizens is one of war, hate and retaliation, without trying to remedy the causes at the same time and thus allowing this situation to eternalize.

charlie-hebdo-shooting-tribute-illustrators-cartoonists-28
Cartoon after Charlie Hebdo shooting (Januari 2015)

Meanwhile, I am safe here. I do worry about my family and friends in Belgium and all over the world. Considering Belgians have to pay more than half their salaries in income taxes to the State, plus all other taxes this amounts to 2/3rds of their salaries going to their politicians, I guess they get the politicians they wanted and fully deserve them. And again, all this makes me happy to be out here nice and quietly.

Take care!

Love ❤️, Yann.

Das Vierte Reich?

das vierte reich
THE FOURTH EMPIRE

I know it is not very politically correct to ventilate these kind of thoughts, but I must admit that I already have these thoughts since many years… I do not resent nor condemn the current generation of Germans as being responsible for the things their country did in the past, even if I do know that even now, these days, many older homes in Germany, especially in the South, have pictures of the Führer hanging on the wall as was told to me by a former girlfriend who is an ambulant nurse for elder people in the German South country.

5reihs
“One empire – one people – one Euro”

But since ten years or so I have a fantasy that the ‘old German class’ of Aryans were about to reach their goal without bloodshed by forming and dominating the European Union. I admit it started as a far-fetched fantasy, but these days I get the worrying feeling this fantasy of mine is not just a bad dream but slowly becoming a horrifying reality.

What to say about a country that caused so many deaths, that staged two consecutive wars just because they thought it was their birthright to do so, which exterminated so many innocent people, amongst them a great deal of children, just because for them they were of the wrong race, the wrong religion, or just ‘different’, knowing that country never had to pay back its debts by causing so much harm and suffering? Germany never paid a dime in war reparations to the countries and people they harmed for their own misplaced glory.

Modified poster of Merkel’s election campaign: “My empire Europe”

And now this same country is the country that hammers on the condition that Greece fully has to pay back its debts. For the German leaders this is a sine qua non for Greece to stay member of the Eurozone. Admittedly Greece incurred those debts by mismanagement, by corruption, by a deficient administrative system. So much of the misery is provoked by the former political leaders of Greece.

But the common people of Greece are more innocent for the past policies of their politicians than the hordes of Germans before and during the Second World War who were jumping up and down to raise their right arm in the Hitler-salute as high as they could. The Greek political system did not lead to war, nor did it cause people to be gassed for their race, religion nor ideas. And still the Greek people have to suffer more for the mess their politicians made than the nazis suffered for the holocaust and deaths they caused.

MerkelnazieuroWhere is the logic? Where is the humility of a country with a horrifying past like Germany? Why is Germany so adamant in making the Greek people suffer? What is their hidden agenda? I might sound like getting paranoia, but seen from a distance, this ethical discrepancy does not seem acceptable any more if you look into the recent European history.

I do not believe our leaders are serving us, the common people any more. I do not believe politicians worry about us, the common people any more. I do not believe justice is unbiassed towards us, the common people any more. I do believe we need a peaceful revolution in our countries, where laws should be rewritten to restore equality, where politicians should be accountable for their words and deeds, and where freedom is a basic right that is respected.

angela merkelnAnd Germany? Maybe they should start paying the Greek debt they are so keen to insist on. The debts Greece made with our financial institutions who wanted to cash-in big gains, but were bailed out by our governments by the taxpayers – OUR – money so the banks could get richer.

anonymous government has failed youWe are Anonymous

We are legion

We do not forgive

We do not forget.

Expect us.

Love ❤️, yann.

Thank you Greece!

819298_1280x720Now the votes have been cast, and the Greek people clearly have rebuffed the austerity measures imposed on them by the troika, the dust of the avalanche caused by this purest form of democracy is slowly settling. European politicians are running around like headless chickens trying to pretend nothing major has happened, and many have changed their discourse 180° opposed to what they declared in the days before the Greek referendum.

“…and when you grow up, Angela, destroy Europe!” – A. Hitler embracing Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany.

Now more and more governments of the European Union say major debt relief should be a possibility for Greece, except for Germany’s conservative powers, led by Angela Merkel. This is very remarkable, knowing that the “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) of post-war Germany only happened because of the total debt relief given to Germany after the war.

Looking a bit further in the past we can establish that Germany never paid a dime of reparations to any country after their defeat in WW I. In fact, the severe and exorbitant demands of the victorious nations in the Treaty of Versailles were a direct reason for the rise of Hitler and the break out of the second world war.

Angela Merkel personifying Adolf Hitler, the way more and more Europeans see her

So we can conclude Germany never paid back its debts, not a single dime of it, but are now the ones imposing stringent measures on Greece and are the ones refusing any debt relief for Greece. German conservative politicians are the ones that are threatening the unity of the European Union, and are leading this Union into economic recession. Maybe Germany should be the country to leave the EU?

I have always been a strong advocate for the idea of a unified Europe, where borders cease to exist, where people are treated on an equal basis, where the people’s voice is the single strongest power in the Union. But politicians have hijacked this idea for their own greed, advancing the interests of corporations and financial institutions to the detriment of its inhabitants. All they proudly have to show us are realizations in the same order of magnitude as: “look at us, we managed to standardize the cellular phone chargers!”. Now, instead of having a drawer filled with different models of phone chargers, we have a full drawer with the same phone chargers, while the 1% get richer, and the normal people get poorer every day.

Mark Twain fool peopleTo Germany: today is at last payday. To Europe: NO THANK YOU anymore!

Love ❤️, yann

 

Greece: please vote NO!

Poster calling people to vote “NO” in the upcoming referendum on July 5th 2015

Whenever we watch, read or hear the news these days it is impossible not to see, read or hear something about Greece, the oldest democracy in the world. I do not want to find an explanation for the current Greek crisis, but there are some things I see, just as everybody can see them. And they are not very positive. Certainly not for the Greek people.

Poverty is at an unimaginable high, youth unemployment is soaring with more than 60% (!), and those taking the hardest hits are the elderly, the young people, the simple families, the workers. That makes me wonder what our politicians are all bickering about, when millions of children, women and men slide down towards total poverty at a hallucinating rate. Whatever your political conviction, if you have a heart you cannot ignore what is happening right now inside the European Union.

Mr. Dijsselbloem – Chairman of the Eurogroup. Yet another socialist politician who realized his real friends are corporations and their money.

Politicians of both sides, the Greek government on one side, the ‘Troïka’ (European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) on the other, are hitting the public with bolder and bolder statements, it looks more like a contest between mountain gorilla’s about the supremacy over the flock. And lots of what is told is just Ballyhoo to get us on their side, never mind the truth. Because the truth still is that millions of Europeans are suffering right now because of our politicians ineptitude to find a human solution for this crisis.

The ECB and EU are fast to point out they already spent billions and billions on the Greek economy. What the public is not aware of is that indeed, the ECB invested millions in the Greek economy, but it never benefited for more than 90% of these vast sums to invest in its economy. It starts to become a tiring and boring story, but the winners are again our banks. How come? Well, in the past the banks bought bonds from the Greek State, and as the Greek rating was low, the interest margins were very high. Now Greece is heading towards a total collapse, the EU and ECB decided to buy back these bonds from the banks who wanted to make nice – but risky – profits in the recent past.

soup kitchen in Athens
Solidarity soup kitchens are a normal appearance in Greece’s cities nowadays.

In short: our financial institutions wanted to earn good money by buying risky bonds, and when the risks of a collapse of Greece became too high, Europe bought these bonds from the banks (don’t worry, they got a nice deal) with our money, that we paid as taxpayers throughout Europe. So now our banks got out of the danger zone – yes, exactly those we spent billions on in a not-so-distant past because of the junk-bonds in their portfolio – and again our money we worked for was abused to buy these bonds. Stating that the ECB invested all those billions in the Greek economy is thus far from the truth. AND now the Greek people have to pay back these bonds to the ECB, bonds the financial institutions bought in the first place as risk-capital to make nice profits.

It is true, Greece has a long history of corruption, where taxes were often not collected, Greece has a humongous bureaucracy incomparable with any other European country, and there are so many more problems to be addressed without delay. But imposing higher taxes on pensions and increasing the TVA, just as the Troika demands, victimizes those who are in need today and strikes them with poverty. This is not in any way acceptable for me, as an European, and as a human being.

anonymous government has failed youOur politicians should stop their strategic and tactical games, interfering with the democratic process of a country where the people chose the government they wanted, and do what they are paid and chosen for: to help the ones in need, to solve the growing problems and to serve the people of Europe. But I guess this is not figuring on their agenda since they joined politics.

Love ❤️, yann.

 

p.s.: for those wanting some more detailed info, below is a list of recent quotes of renown economists and political analysts about the Greek crisis.

Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel laureate in economics): “I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences. It is startling that the Troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not learned”.

Martin Guzman (Columbia University): “The disparity between what the Troika thought would happen and what has emerged has been striking — and not because Greece didn’t do what it was supposed to do, but because it did, and the models were very, ver flawed”.

Peter Morici (University of Maryland): “Neither Germany’s finance minister, nor any other European government or competent private institution, has tabled a credible analysis demonstrating how more austerity and labor-market reforms (read more layoffs and wage cuts) will instigate growth and not result in even bigger losses for bondholders down the road. Another round of austerity would only further pummel the Greek economy, and impose economic deprivation that European leaders should be ashamed to engineer.”

Vicky Pryce (chief economic advisor at the Centre for Economics and Business Research): “The rescue that took place in the banking sector was really more of a rescue of northern European financial institutions that had exposed themselves to Greece. The concern about this particular debt is that all it did is it transferred this large burden to the Greeks.”

Paul Krugman (Nobel laureate in economics): “The Troika clearly did a reverse Corleone — they made Tsipras an offer he can’t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don’t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.”

Mark Weisbrot (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research): “The confrontation between the new Greek government and the European authorities is the first time since the Great Recession that voters have successfully been able to challenge the Troika’s previously unaccountable power. Their policies have been widely unpopular in Europe, but this is the first government that is really forcing them to change. So European authorities continue to take steps to undermine the Greek economy and government, hoping to get rid of the government and get a new one that will do what they want”

Larry Summers (former US Treasury Secretary): “Greece is a failed state in waiting. Greeks have imposed more austerity on themselves than any industrialized country has suffered since the Depression.”

Flag_of_Greece

Looking back

The fair in Popovo (BG) at the beginning of June

It is now a bit more than a year since I started living here in Bulgaria, after having left Belgium a bit discouraged. Or maybe also a bit disgusted by that country and its citizens. The acidification of society, the corruption of politics, the almost non-existent justice (except for the rich), the disproportional taxes.. All these factors, and then some, made me decide to leave that country and look for peace and rest in a corner of the European Union. Not that politicians are not corrupt here, but at least I don’t have to spend more than half of my income sponsoring their secret schemes anymore.

But today I started asking myself if this was a good decision I made, if Bulgaria really gave me what I expected from it. And I think I can say I’m still happy with my decision. Of course nothing is black or white, but adding everything together I found what I was looking for. Some things I really do miss, some I really don’t. Maybe the big difference with other people is that I never really grew up in Belgium, nor have I lived long in the same country nor region. I moved over 20 times in my life, and most of the moves were to completely different regions or countries, sometimes separated by hundreds of miles. So I didn’t grow those roots most people seem to have, nor do I have an allegiance to death with any country, despite having served the Belgian armed forces dutifully during seven years of my life.

Waterfall along the eco-trail near Emen (BG)

Bulgaria has been very welcoming for me. In the beginning I was surrounded by wrong people, luring expats into their money-making maffia-practices, but once I managed to get rid of those people I got submerged in the Bulgarian culture. Most credits should be given to Emo, my neighbour who offered his services as builder once I threw out the whole maffia-gang. As we grew closer by working together, we became friends and he became my window on Bulgaria. Of course there is also Yoana, the woman who works on the administrative side for expats who hire her for her outstanding services, and whom I also befriended. Someone like her is invaluable in a country which not only speaks a difficult language, but also writes in a different alphabet.

Since the very first day the language has been the biggest obstacle to surmount, and it still is hampering my efforts to build an extensive social life here. People mastering the English (or French, German, Spanish) language are rare over here, but maybe that is an advantage pushing me to learn the language faster. Now I manage to express my wants, but I’m still a long way of being able to have an intimate conversation about feelings, and that makes me sometimes a bit sad as this is the main (and only I guess) way to really connect with people. After a long search I found someone to teach me Bulgarian (and does speak the English language well), but it is not an easy language to learn.

My neighbor playing on my guitar in front of my trailer :)
My neighbor playing guitar.

What provides me the most happiness is the peace and the silence. No cars racing by, no planes flying overhead, no trains thundering by. Just the sounds of people walking on the street, the voices of people sitting on a bench beside the wall at the gate of my property under the shade of a big tree, the animals grazing around between the houses, the occasional cart with horse passing by, and sometimes the Bulgarian or Turkish music from a stereo a few houses away when the people are happy. Of course there is a car passing my house once in a while, but no more than 4 on a busy day, and in the season there is an old Russian biplane with a star engine making a deep growling noise maneuvering over the village to spray the crops in the huge fields, but this sound is rather welcoming as it is rather seldom. Nature over here is uplifting for me, and the notion I can go anywhere, without fences, private properties or prohibited areas and knowing that whomever I shall meet will be friendly and hospitable is heartwarming. On the premise I can make myself understandable of course ?

Slowly I start to attune to the rhythm of nature, and though I never had green fingers, I start to work in my garden more often, reaping the fruits trees and plants freely offer me. I prune trees and vines as if I was a semi-pro, and harvest the strawberries and cherries that are waiting to be picked this month. These I cook and then dry the jam-like substance in my dehydrator to preserve the abundant quantities for later on in the year. I try to keep on schedule for once the cherries and strawberries are gone the raspberries, apples, pears, plums, apricots, grapes and peaches will grow ripe and then I fear I will have to work day and night to process the vast quantities nature freely offers me.

A very old cemetery.. (BG)

My decision to buy a motorcycle with off-road capabilities was a good one. It enables me to recon the area, and reach places I never would have visited with my car. Just driving around in a car with no specific goal, turning around when something catches my attention, engaging a dirt road trough the fields and woods, is no thing I would have done, but the motorcycle lets me do all that when I drive around at leisure with no specific goal other than enjoying myself and discovering new places. My motorcycle reinforces my feeling of uninhibited freedom this country offers me.

The downside is I did not manage to convince my family and friends to move over here ?. So I do miss them, and being able to see them from time to time via FaceTime or Skype is reassuring. And of course I travel to Belgium regularly, as the people I do love with all of my heart are living there. Often someone drops by on a visit, and the last weeks my neighbor and his son-in-law were busy rebuilding my guesthouse next to my house. That will eliminate the need to shelter my guests in my trailer, as luxurious as it is, but a house feels more comfortable and cosy. Once ready it will have its own toilet and shower, a little kitchen and a living room. And the two houses are connected via the half-basement which functions as my huge living room, so even on cold or rainy days there is no need to go outside to meet. Due to the thick walls in sandstone and clay the temperatures are reasonable indoors during the hot summers. Down in the half-basement the temperature is always pleasing: warm in winter, fresh during summer. That is why I made it my living room, with a soon-to-be built rocket mass heater for heating the house in the cold winter days.

Storks are omnipresent (BG)

Most of all I miss my partner. She is a courageous and superb woman, often having to handle the problems she encounters by herself due to my frequent absence. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty. And of course lots of people do not understand the symbiosis between us, as we are not living the ‘standard’ life a couple is supposed to live by general standards. But we are happy, and we manage, and there is no ‘standard’ way a couple should behave, it is all about agreement between two people. Some have an open marriage, some have a conservative relationship, some live apart together, some cannot spend a minute without each other.. Whatever works and makes these two people happy, and it is no one else’s business. But I do miss her ? And we often travel to see each other. She likes it here, and I try to like it in Belgium.

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Church in a little monastery near Veliko Tarnovo (BG)

Little by little I get to know more and more local people, I get invited to parties and celebrations, and so my horizon is expanding and I get immersed in the Bulgarian culture. I have no doubts about staying here, just the evolution of civilization worries me a bit, and I fear it will catch up with the Bulgarian countryside in a few decades. But I might not be in this world any more by then, so there is no reason to worry about that yet. And if it happens and starts to bother me, I just might move on to a further place.

Love ❤️, yann.

Vote for the one percent!

ss-110919-class-warfare-04.ss_fullAny casual observer can make some irrefutable conclusions about the evolution of the distribution of wealth on earth. Over the past decades the rich grew richer, and the poor grew poorer. An Oxfam International report dating from beginning 2014 (“Working for the few”) states that one percent of the world’s population owns half of the wealth available in the world. The 85 richest people in the world own as much as the 3,5 billion poorest. Eighty-five people! You could fill a bus with them..

What lots of people don’t realize is that the constitution was not made to protect them. When new ‘democracies’ were formed, the new constitutions and laws were just a means to regulate and legalize the wrongful systems of the past. Americans grow up with the myth of a bunch of wise and altruistic Founding Fathers writing a new constitution, where the rights and liberties of all were guaranteed by the State. Few Americans made some basic research about who those Founding Fathers really were. Without exceptions they were lawyers, big landowners, rich industrials or leading politicians. No ‘normal’ citizens, representative for the majority of the population, were present nor consulted during the writing of the American Constitution.

The Founding Fathers of the U.S. Constitution

The second myth is the assumption that the Constitution was written for all, giving everybody equal rights. Some elementary knowledge of the history of the United States shows us this is far from truth. In the earliest days only white Caucasian males who could prove property ownership received a vote. Gradually, between 1792 an 1856, the property qualifications for white men were abolished, as each individual State could establish its own voting rights. Only in 1869 the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. But still on gender..

women's rightsWomen’ suffrage was only established by the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (!). A right where many feminists in those days were opposed to, for they rightfully pointed out that voting rights for their men had done little to improve their living conditions. So they said women’s suffrage was pointless and the energy of the feminist movement was better used to achieve other goals towards gender equality.

What happened in the United States was exactly what happened in other democracies, e.g. in Europe, at a slower or faster pace. It can be irrefutably proven that constitutions and laws were originally written by the one percent, for the one percent. All they needed to achieve was the protection of their rights, their wealth, their properties and their legacies.

With the proceeding of time, and with growing pressure of the 99%, laws were introduced protecting more and more of their rights. But all it meant was a building of slowly established rights for those 99% on a foundation made of privileges for the 1%. While some allowances were granted, the one percent made sure nothing would threaten their rights, wealth, properties or legacies.

Sign outside of jungle hut reads: Jones, Jones and Jones Practitioners in Jungle law.In Belgium politicians found an ingenious system to protect themselves and their benefactors: they made a jungle out of the constitution, the laws, the amendments, the directives, etc.. No one has enough time and intellectual power to find a path trough this maze made on purpose. For lower citizens, the laws are very clear. They are sentenced with no fuss. For those with money and influence, they can afford shrewd lawyers who find without exception judicial errors made by the court and investigators. These judicial errors were not made on purpose, but just because the judges and investigators – whom we perceive as being specialists in their field of work – cannot be knowledgeable of all contradictions and finer details included in the different laws and amendments. And so again the rich walk, while the less-than-rich pay for their crimes.

social-spending-cuts-cartoonDuring the last three decades we have seen a steady growth of taxes imposed on Belgian citizens, whatever the ruling parties present in the government. Despite the Belgian taxes being notorious for being the highest in the world (if you take into account personal taxes, municipal taxes, business taxes, VAT, excise duties, surcharges, etc..) The reasons the politicians give sound like an old vinyl record hanging and repeating itself: “the former government left us with a mess”, “we need to heighten taxes otherwise many people will lose their jobs”, “extra taxes need to be imposed to safeguard our pension funds”, etc.. And the citizens rant and rave, but in the end they obediently pay their taxes.

6a0120a69a468c970c019b01f9f2d7970dMeanwhile more and more schemes perpetrated by politicians and government officials are exposed. Multinationals were exempted from taxes and rich people secretly got special low tax rates, all in a ‘legal’ manner. In critical violation with article 10 of the Belgian Constitution that states that every citizen is equal for the law. The exemptions of taxes ‘legally’ granted for the 60 biggest companies in Belgium (there are many more, but for this example only the 60 biggest are taken into account) amount to a sum greater than the total revenues for the State by taxing the remaining businesses. In most cases these ones are small to medium companies, often family businesses. Yet again the not-so-rich pay while the rich get away with it.

The endless bickering between North and South Belgium fueled by politicians

How do politicians achieve the conservation of the rights for the one percent? The trick is as old as humanity, and Philippus II of Macedonia (4th century BC) is often quoted: “divide et impera”, or divide and conquer. Population groups are set up against each other. Left against right, natives against immigrants, workers against independents, black against white, Christians against Muslims, etcetera. If everything is too peaceful politicians stir the pot and subtly point out to citizens the possible ‘threat’ of others to their acquired privileges. Meanwhile the politicians sit together as good friends in their back rooms outside the eye of the public, drinking champagne and smoking cigars while splitting the gains between them. For the worries that divide their followers are no obstacle to them to do some friendly business between them.

Will something ever change? I don’t know. The only solution I see is a peaceful revolution. I emphasize the word ‘peaceful’ for I am opposed to violence, and violence is no solution for the problems the people face and causes more harm than good. First it would be a good thing if people set their differences aside, and deny the politicians their tested ways to drive a wedge between them. Secondarily it would be a good signal, and it could even be a devastating signal, if voters refused to show up at the ballot stations in great numbers. Belgium knows, as one of the few ‘democratic’ countries in the world, compulsory voting. During the last elections in 2014 almost 20% of the voters did not show up, a fact held back by politicians and media from the general public. If those numbers would grow over 50%, I do not think that any politician can call himself a true representative of the people any more. And the funds for the political parties would dwindle, for every vote a political party gets yields 1,75€ party financing by the State.

IAmNotWinningWeAreChangingTheRulesBut I fear that people will continue to bicker between themselves over trivial issues, leaving politicians in power to make laws that suit them, thus extending their power and the protection of their wealth against the masses. That was the main cause for my decision to leave Belgium: to deny the State my share of taxes, which ‘took’ about two thirds of my income away to fill the black hole of the Belgian national debt and helped to fund the privileges of the 1%. And on top of it the lethargy of the Belgian population to end those unfair (and unnecessary) practises, whatever reasons politicians are keen to give to defend their State-backed theft of its own citizens, disillusioned me.

I would like to end this post with a quote by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (USA), who said, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both”.

Love, Yann ❤️

The European Union

The European flag…

Iceland announced on the 12th of March 2015 that the country renounced its candidacy for membership of the European Union, for they believe membership would not be in the best interest of the country. I can imagine more governments of countries  already being member of the EU looking enviously at this, as for members there is no ready procedure to step out of this union, and many countries don’t give the impression to be wholeheartedly inside the EU.

What started as an idealistic dream has turned into a monster. If only Hitler would have known, he could have ruled all of Europe without shedding a single drop of blood. Honestly I believe we would have been off far worse in that case, but now it is not paradise either.

Corruption is omnipresent, as usual when politicians have the power. Europe did not grow up as a safe and peaceful haven for its inhabitants, where their rights are protected and the weakest are helped out of the depths of their misery. Europe became the safe haven for the rich and the multinationals, as a result of the classic story of laws made by the one percent for the one percent. The people’s only purpose is to generate taxes, and these should be maximized by every means. “The State is an institution of theft where at large tax is just a system where politicians and bureaucrats steal money from their citizens to squander it in the most disgraceful manner” (Mary Rothbart).

Sheep, goats and cows freely grazing in our village. ©yannbastiaans

As Godfrey Bloom (former member European Parliament for the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage – a party which I do not support for they are too extremist in my opinion, but a clock that doesn’t work shows the right time twice a day) said during a speech in the European Parliament during a debate about tax evasion by EU citizens, “the politicians sit here pontificating about halting tax evasion by its citizens, while everybody knows that the biggest tax evaders are the members of the European Parliament.” If you’re in need of a good laugh just watch his intervention on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOrnTfJOjpU . But he had a point.

While people are still starving of hunger and cold inside the EU, people’s rights (gay people, transgenders, the Roma, etc..) are trodden upon in different countries, the rich are allowed to evade their taxes, multinationals are officially exempted of taxes in many European countries, our parliamentarians proudly announce they have voted a new law for the phone chargers all using the same connector. Well, instead of having 7 different chargers in my drawer at home, I will now have 7 identical ones. What a progress we made! ?

The previous example sounds like a joke, but sadly it is no joke. If I wrote a book instead of a blog I could numerous ridiculous examples – enough to fill a whole chapter – of the work of our European parliament. They allocated for themselves tax exemptions not available to any other European citizen, and they move every month back and forth from Brussels to Strasbourg because countries deem their ‘honor’ and ‘prestige’ to be of more value than the many millions of taxpayers’ money wasted to move the whole circus every month from one country to another.

Hungry (by char-coal)

Here in Bulgaria I wanted to start a private project, funded by my money. Since I learnt that some two years ago a shepherd froze to death under a bridge during winter, while an old lonely woman starved at home for lack of food (and warmth), both here in the small village where I live, I vowed that this would not happen again. So I contacted the mayor to ask him if he could assign me a spacious room in the municipality building where many rooms are unused. I wanted to install a wood stove and buy wood to heat that room. I would find some women in the village willing to cook soup every day, and the small bakery would deliver bread. Every day soup and bread would be distributed to all people wanting to spend a few hours together in a warm place during a few hours. That would not be a solution but much more I cannot achieve on my own. In addition I would support a local business (the bakery), and a few women would have an income during the winter months making soup. Everybody would be a winner in the equation. The mayor was very interested, and got even more interested when I told him that I did not seek publicity so he could make it look like the municipality was running the project, and with elections coming shortly that would have been a victory at the ballot for him. But then came his question who was going to supply the food? Local women? That was officially unacceptable! Due to European laws, all food served to citizens, even when donated, has to be prepared in a kitchen approved by the health ministry for hygienic standards. So the municipality could not take part in such a program, unless I bought the soup at an officially approved kitchen. My conclusion is: the EU rather sees its citizens die of hunger and cold, than run the risk of having a food poisoning due to neglected hygienic standards in the kitchen of those women who also use it cook their daily food for their families. Can anybody explain this to me?

The countryside with no fences, where flocks freely graze ©yannbastiaans

Again, in Bulgaria: fences are rare over here. Not in the cities and villages, where every house has a fence or wall to protect their vegetable garden from the free grazing cows, horses, sheep and goats.  But once outside the conglomeration, there are no fences. There is no barbed wire. Land owners and farmers do not protect their property just for the sake of “this is mine”. Everybody is free to go wherever he wants. My astonishment was great when I drove around the countryside with my motorcycle, exploring the region. I almost fell from my bike when I saw a big plot of lush green grass, contrasting with the surrounding open fields that are dryer and traditionally used by the shepherd to let their flocks graze at leisure. I took a closer look and saw there were a bunch of cows grazing in that green field, and that field was fenced off by barbed wire. In the distance I discerned a white panel, and I drove over to read what was written on it. It said: “project of the European Union”. So some barbed wire manufacturer, probably Bekaert, persuaded a few politicians that it would be good for Bulgaria if that country were pushed by the EU to a more ‘civilized’ way of farming by sponsoring barbed wire? Now at least they can get rid of all those shepherds, the jobs of 6 shepherds can be taken over by less than one fulltime job, which really is an advancement in a region that suffers an unemployment rate of around 40%.

Europe also messes with the traditional life of its citizens. Income is very low here in Bulgaria. Most people have their own vegetable garden and keep their own animals, like poultry and goats. The vegetables are processed and stored in jars in the basement to survive winter, and the animals are slaughtered when the need for meat arises. Conform to European directives the killing of animals on private property by individuals is no longer allowed, but should be performed in an official abattoir. Beside the observation there are almost no butcheries in the countryside and thus people are confronted with a transport problem, this will cost so much to the locals here who already have the greatest difficulties surviving on their low wages. Any European parliamentarians left with some minimal touch with reality?

The distant mountains near Kotel (BG)
The Bulgarian countryside, free access for all. ©yannbastiaans

Over the years I slowly lost my faith in the European Union, where I was one of the first and foremost defenders of the European idea at the very beginning. Now I am just disillusioned and disgusted at what the politicians have done with that ideal.

Love, Yann ❤️