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August 22, 2008


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Aww. Thanks, Noel.

I won't have any time at all in Brussels, alas -- evening flight in + morning flight out = a night at the airport Crowne Plaza. I'll have just enough time to get something to eat, check e-mail and crash if I want eight hours. (And oh, do I want eight hours.)

Burundi: I've found that some new places -- okay, most -- make me want to write about them. But there are exceptions. Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for instance... I didn't blog much about that, and I think it was because it depressed and saddened me. What happened there was so awful that even thirty years later, it's still part of daily life. (Like, there's a whole generation of people walking around -- everyone born between the middle 1970s and the early 1980s -- that is /really short/. Once you realize this, you can't stop seeing it.)

But who knows? We'll see soon enough.

Anyway, thanks again!

Doug M.

Didn't have time to check the Royal Museum of Central Africa, or King Leopold's equestrian statue?

It's sort of ironic how the failure to admit the Armenian genocide is always cited as a negative factor preventing the Turkish entry to the European Union... and at the same time, most of the central facilities of the European Union are located in a country that has also, until very recently, failed to admit its own genocidal past, and very often denied it outright.


J. J.

Statue, yes, museum, no. We were on a whirlwind trip across northwestern Europe, with one day-trip to and one prolonged stopover in Brussels.

Is the museum worth it? I have to admit that it wasn't even on the radar screen.

It isn't typical, I know, but the only must-see things we went to in Brussels were the various European Union buildings.

All else was gravy, and both my wife and I generally prefer to see the ordinary workaday parts of cities and towns rather than the attractions. Not that we'd planned to in Brussels; we just had several hours to kill and decided to walk around south Brussels at random rather than check out the central sites for the second time.

At some point I'm going to have to make an E.U. post on AFOE. There is a simple (and, of course, oversimplified) way of thinking about the organization that I have found to be quite powerful in understanding what it does and how it effects business and political life across the continent.

Well, when you have a limited time in your disposal, the Museum probably isn't worth a visit.

To continue with the analogy; I suppose that you remember the post that Douglas made about the Armenian genocide museum. He mentioned that the exhibits suffered from the overt repetition of the same theme "The Genocide DID SO HAPPEN, damn it!"

The Central African Museum in Brussels is of the exactly opposite kind. More than a few people have pointed out that the Museum deliberately avoids confronting the issues raised by the "Heart of Darkness" or "Red Rubber". The almost total _absence_ of the well-known dark sides of the Congo Free State has astounded many people who have visited the Museum.

But, then again, as the website of the Museum correctly and honestly informs people:

"Here colonial history is regarded from a purely Belgian point of view. Thus, on the gallery's walls, only the names of the Belgians who died on Congolese soil are commemorated. There is no reference to Congolese dead."

(N.B., our local museum recently ran an exhibition on the 90th anniversary of the Civil War and the Battle of Tampere. Both sides were commemorated. That's healthy.)


J. J.

I myself also love the place as much as you love it yourself. There were memories in the place that cannot be replaced by something.

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