Gooooood Morning Democracy…

Our esteemed green hero, Bart Staes, held on firmly to his seat in the European Parliament, last week. Some had predicted his re-election to be very unlikely, so Bart was in quite a good mood, Sunday night. And of course, when a politician finds himself in a good mood, our national television always has its secret weapons ready: Tim Pauwels and Siegfried Bracke.

This time, Pauwels was selected for this delicate mission. He had knotted his bow-tie in the most irritating way he could have possibly discovered, and his shirt flashed, “turtle-faced quizmaster”. How anybody ever managed to even think Tim Pauwels was capable of serious political journalism still stuns me. Alright, so the fellow looks like he could be served as seafood. That still doesn’t mean he understands the fundamentals of the European constitution.

Anyway, Pauwels approaches Staes, and starts the conversation by remarking how incredibly happy Staes looks. It flashed through my mind that anyone who had just been elected into the highest representative organ of the European Union might possible display some signs of light emotional pleasure. But the first rule of journalism dictates never to take anything for granted, so Pauwels rightly probed for Staes’ mental state.

It turned out to be Pauwels’ only non-simplistic question. A climax was reached when he asked Staes if the Greens could be included in a coalition in the local government. The 30-million dollar question (as the Americans would call it), the matter of hundreds of hours of painstaking debate and a few truckloads of coffee, all crammed into one short sentence.
Staes put on a more grumpy face. “Mister Pauwels, forming a government is a serious matter. Which means it needs to be treated in a serious way. One doesn’t take such decisions on election night with a microphone thrust up one’s nostrils.”

Ha! Take that, Pauwels. As right as Staes was, as sad is the current situation. Politics has become a sort of a game show. Quiz masters like Pauwels ask the participants to enter their odds and award points for enlightened points of view. Debates are simply an excuse for politicians to showcase their toothpaste smiles, and put on angry faces simply to attract some applause.
Ah, how it brings me to strong nostalgia for the times past.
Times when politicians wore stylish bow-ties, and had names like Charles or Winston (or in Belgium: Paul-Henry or Achille…). In the 50’s and 60’s, a reporter was well-educated, and knew as much about politics as the person he was questioning. He wasn’t nursing a spoilt audience into a series of laughs based on the color of a politician’s hair. And he certainly didn’t ask simplistic questions like, “How are you planning to fill the hole in the ozone layer?”

In the 60’s, Pauwels would’ve been the crappy doctor in some sitcom about a bunch of upper-class Brits in Harlem. He would’ve been strapped to a wooden board wearing a blindfold, and some circus performer would have thrown a bunch of knives around his lobster-shaped head. But he most certainly would not have been allowed anywhere near any politician.

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