COLUMN: At times I’m ashamed to call myself Belgian

Belgians want their freedom back. A country that is in full vaccination swing seems to be slowly losing their patience with the coronavirus safety measures. This restlessness resulted in last Saturday’s Boum 2 festival in Brussel’s Ter Kamerbos park. People of all ages illegally gathered for the second edition in the capital where they partied as a sign of protest against the lack of freedom due to the coronavirus restrictions. Just a week before the reopening of the pubs, thousands assembled claiming that freedom and partying is a basic human right. It is during events like this I am ashamed to call myself Belgian. 

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has India suffocating under the scorching heat. A population of nearly 1.4 billion is facing the largest coronavirus outbreak yet. With nearly 400.000 new cases per day, access to hospitals is scarce, leaving thousands to die on the street. 

‘Terms like ‘social distancing’ are easily taken for granted’

Having lived in New Delhi for nearly eleven years myself, it is easy to imagine that a term like ‘social distancing’ is impossible to apply in a chaotic capital with a population of almost 22 million. Here in Belgium, such terms are often taken for granted while they should actually be seen as a privilege. This is my sixth year living in Belgium and I can admit that one easily becomes adjusted to the luxuries that almost seem like a given in a first world country.

Healthcare is one of these privileges we are lucky to have easy access to. The same goes for being able to follow safety measures such as washing our hands or staying indoors during a lockdown. Running water and having a roof above heads are self-evident for most Belgians whilst many Indians lack even these basic needs. 

I can understand that the situation in India seems unimportant to many Belgians because it does not have a direct impact on their lives. However, I do believe being aware of a suffering country like India provides an important perspective. Why aren’t people that live in a first world country like Belgium grateful for the privileges they have? Attendees of la Boum 2 were protesting for luxuries that do not coincide with what I see as basic human rights. I wish I could provide this spoiled crowd with a sense of open-mindedness that makes them realize how privileged they truly are. 

Text and illustration: ©Charlotte Ariën