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A Conversation with Pam Peeters, Belgian National

Who got out by the skin of her teeth last week
by Antonia Shoumatoff
Fri Mar 25th, 2016

The dean of my college received my "Sustainable Steward" award at the opening event for Educational Leadership 

Pamela Peeters, an environmental economist who we have interviewed in the past in this paper, was in Brussels for the “Sustainability Week” conference that she had organized at several places in Belgium. Upon completion of the program she was told she could only leave on Tuesday morning, the day the airport was bombed, but she decided to leave a day earlier.  We had a conversation with her at her home in Sharon, CT about the situation.

“I could easily have been been killed.  I was in my home country to preach about the new green economy that we need to build in order to safeguard the living conditions of future generations to come.  It was ‘through the eye of the needle’ as they say that I got out. I was told I could only leave on Tuesday and I refused and left on Monday. Otherwise I would have been in the same departing hall as the suicide bomber at the airport at 8:00 am as flights to the USA leave a bit after 10:00am. It is good to be stubborn sometimes, and now it seems that it saved my life. I will never ignore my intuition again!  I am counting my blessings and my heartfelt thoughts go out to the victims and their families of this cowardly attack. The battle is only starting by the way -- can we please have some serious leadership -- as it is lacking,” she told us in and e-mail describing her close call.

Ms. Peeters, who is an economist and has lectured internationally on sustainable policies, has a lot to say about what she sees as the causes of the problems in Belgium and Europe.  

“In the 1960’s and ‘70’s we had a profitable mining and steel industry in Belgium and immigrants flocked here for work, including many from Muslim countries.  Belgium later on subsidized their housing and even their mosques.  Now it looks like they have subsidized a Trojan Horse.  

It is time for Belgium to stop being naïve.  They are afraid of appearing racist but the fact that terrorists could blow up the airport and the newly-renovated Maelbeek subway station shows that the "integration" security system is not working.  One of the brothers who was involved with the terror attack in Paris, was a minor drug dealer who lived in subsidized housing across from the town hall in Molenbeek.  

We have given out over 650 Million Euros in subsidies (buildings, staff, schools) in Belgium for religious support in 2008. This includes support to Islam. I have yet to retrieve the number for 2015. I do wonder however why in a country, where there is a separation of State and Church, we do not let these communities fund their own religious viewpoints. Tax revenues should not be used for this. You give out subsidies and the people who you give them to then blow you up, what is wrong with this picture? At this moment, both Ministers Jambon (Minister of Security and Interior Affairs) and Minister Koen Geens ( Minister of Justice) offered their resignations but our Prime Minister has refused to accept them. 

There were mentions in the media of politicians shaking hands with people coming back from Syria, some of whom were radicalized.  There is a story in the Economist today about showering the muslims who come back from Syria in poor areas of Belgium with kindness, including giving their relatives subsidized housing. This to me seems controversial. Do people who do good deeds get the same treatment? 

On top of that, the police had a tip about the hide-out of one of the collaborators to the Paris attacks and did nothing about it.  It’s time for Belgium to stop the naïveté and start understanding the true level of evil they are dealing with. You cannot create a sustainable society if you give treats to the evil elements and hope for Bambi to resurrect. It just won’t happen.

But I also strongly believe that this crisis is creating opportunities for Belgians, and Europeans. It is an opportunity to start developing a different strategy and to start thinking differently.  Europe has offered three billion Euros to Turkey to curb the refugee crisis. There is an agenda that is being played out that is part of an old paradigm. We have to start realizing that for this crisis to shift, we need to embrace a new way of thinking.  Let’s be honest, this is a war for resources.  The Middle East has been destabilized because of a war for resources and the situation is only going to get worse.  Continuing to invest in oil and subsidizing non-renewables is not going to be the solution. Fighting this situation with big warfare is also a old paradigm way to manage evil.  These ISIS thugs are selling oil to pay for their operations and we know who is buying it.  If you want to end terrorism, you have to cut their finances.  

What is also unsettling is that the bad elements are getting more attention than the good elements of this situation. The media should not show footage of beheadings, training camps and parades that the members of ISIS are spreading. That is simply propaganda for the cowards to feel empowered. Instead, show what is left of them after they blew themselves up, talk about the victims, show the economic costs of their actions and so on ….  

We can’t blame one country.  It’s the whole system that seems to support the wrong turns of our society and now … the rotten apple has spread and we need extreme leadership and extreme measures.  The citizenship of Europe has been paying for a failing system and right now terrorism is getting first place, not regular tax-paying citizens, or loss of export, the decline of shoppers or tourists changing their destinations to safer grounds. 

That Maelbeek subway station was gorgeous and had just been renovated.  I rode that train line twice on my birthday on March 18th.  Four days later it got destroyed and people perished. The question is, who is going to pay to rebuild it?  

It’s time for Europe to have balls.  The terrorists are planning on killing more people and when they return from training in Syria, they get a hand-shake and a camera moment with a Mayor from a Brussels commune? I wasn’t even aware of that prior to reading the Economist this morning.   

The entire paradigm of our economic system needs to change. It should not just be about winning or losing.  It is about the sustainable development of 7 billion people who are increasingly going to be competing and fighting for the limited resources available on this planet.  And the only thing that unites us is the protection of those resources and the sound management of our planet.  

People need to understand that the politicians are not going to save them.  This is not a terrorist crisis, this is a human crisis.  Right now we are favoring things over people. What is wrong with that picture?

We asked Ms. Peeters when she will be returning to Belgium.  

“Not next week.  I am going to kiss the ground of Sharon Connecticut and give thanks for being alive.  I was in that airport just a day before it was blown up.  Now it is time for us all to pick up the arms of education and speak out. That is the only tool we have to bring consciousness to people, so they know wrong for right.”

More on Pamela Peeters  here.