I’m visiting the European Parliament this week (which is actually formally my place of work). There is no shortage of humor and absurdity in the daily work here.
There is a Swedish word called hemmablind. Literally, it means home-blind, and it means that you’ve internalized the system so far that you’ve become unaware of your own absurdities.
How’s this for examples:
- A fine champagne reception to sympathize with the homeless of Brussels.
- A three-course French lunch to discuss the growing obesity problem.
The hierarchy is strong and everpresent. Immediately on entering, you are sorted into one of three groups: One, the Members [of the European Parliament], who have a special lane with a special blue carpet where they don’t show a badge or anything like that but just say “bonjour” and wave to the guards. Two, their assistants and civil servants, who have handy side entrances where they flash their badges for automated gates which let them in. Three, everybody else (lobbyists and other people who don’t work here but just want attention) who need to pass an airport-grade security check. This sorting into the fine, the useful and the nasty happens right inside the front doors, and you have badge colors that match your degree of nobility. White badges are the nasty nobodies. I have a green badge (non-Brussels assistant). The finest of them all, the Members, are above needing to show or display badges at all.
I can’t take photos of the security area, unfortunately, so my description will have to do.
Telling anecdote: when we were exiting Parliament yesterday, our party leader (Anna Troberg) happened to walk towards the wrong lane while exiting Parliament, and almost stepped on the blue carpet under the lane sign “Members Only”. Fortunately, two (!) otherwise unstimulated guards had already moved to stop her from using that lane, and instead politely hinted at the next lane to the left, without carpet.
It should be noted that the four of us — the two guards, Anna and me — where the only one in that area at that moment. It was not like there was a line or something.
When I came to work today, I was met with large obstacles looking like anti-tank barriers, bound together with large swaths of barbed wire, that surrounded the building. Police were standing watch. Not just your ordinary anti-riot stuff, this was bordering on military. I flashed my badge and they let me in. The following conversation followed:
— Excusez-moi, qu’est-ce que se passe ici?
— Une manifestation de l’agriculture.
— Ah, je comprend. Bonne chance.
For those who want it summarized into plain English:
— What’s up?
For the more serious business, I’m currently in a roundtable discussion on human rights on the net, and will write a later post to summarize this discussion and a panel yesterday about the nonsense of copyright monopoly enforcement measures.
There’s a lot of good stuff happening here, too. Sometimes it’s just more rewarding to tell stories about the funny things instead.
UPDATE: Now with more photos.