We Are a Hospitable People

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, John, Joanna and Nigel,
chers compatriotes, mesdames, messieurs, we are a hospitable people.
This is written in blood in the books that tell of our past.
We are a hospitable people.
We are a helpful people.
The man in the house on the hill leaps out of bed at the first knock on the door in the night.
He will switch on the light and lay a fire.
He will feed the hungry, refresh the thirsty, care for the wounded.
He will do what he can to ease his fellow man’s suffering.
He will do what he can!
He has been taught to do so.
His parents impressed this upon him,
as their parents impressed it upon them,
having learnt it from their parents, and so on and so on…
We have ever been a hospitable and helpful people.
But if they loom up out of the desert in their hordes to settle here in our oasis, if
they cross the great waters in their rickety ships to pitch their tents here on our
shores, if, like Icarus, they start to sew on wings and flap them wildly about,
to fly up towards our sun…
Then we should not stand silently looking on!
No god demands our downfall!
We have moved forward step by step for millions of years,
step by step we have left the apes behind us.
For millions of years we have been born and have died,
we have fought and struggled for the place where we now stand.
We shall never leave this place!
We shall not allow ourselves to be forced out!
It is not our fault that others appear incapable of shaking off the ape!
They must realise one thing,

From Larf in Work (Werk, 2000)
By Josse de Pauw
Translated by Gregory Ball

First published in The Low Countries, 2001