Arts, Culture & Media

In Brussels, Belgium, a kitty is under siege

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 / Twitter

Brussels, Belgium, has been on lockdown the past few days.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

During the lockdown, Belgian police have asked locals to refrain from tweeting about any police activity. No tweeting, fine. But what about meowing?

In response to the police request, the world got a taste of the Belgian sense of humor as Belgians flooded twitter with mocking photos of cats.

“We Belgian people, we always love to take things not too seriously. And when there’s something happening, we always find time to make a joke about it,” says Willem de Graeve, who co-directs the Belgian Center for Comic Strips in Brussels.

Even the Belgian police force got in on the kitty action. They responded with a picture of a bowl of cat food, an offering of thanks to all the Belgian cats for their support during this lockdown.

Of course the police responded with a joke, says de Graeve. That’s very Belgian.

“We Belgian people, we don’t like that much authority. We are not a nation of super stars. We prefer that everybody is on the same level. It’s the same for police. Although they are there to control and to protect us, they still are human people just like everybody. The fact that they can find time in very serious situations for a joke tells a lot about our mentality,” says de Graeve.

Cartoons and comics are important in Belgian culture. This, says de Graeve, may be due in part to the fact that Belgium is a multilingual place.

“We are quite a complex country. We have three official languages: Dutch, French and German. Besides, in our history Belgium was almost all the time occupied by other nations. At one time there were Spaniards ruling here, then the Austrians, then the Dutch, then the French. Communications were always tough in our regions. Communications with images was so much more efficient than communications through text, communications through words,” says de Graeve.

Ultimately, humor has helped aleviate the tensions in the city he says. 

"It is reassuring that even now there is time for humor."