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Travelogue A7

May 13, 2014

On a later ramble, I unwittingly pursued something of the previously seen philosophical humor when I came across a clothing shop, just outside the city center. Blazoned across the door, the shop name read: “diff-Ferrand”. Peculiar as I am, I could not help but see an unwitting reference to “différance” and Derrida; indeed, the best Derrida homage is without a doubt the unwitting. Or perhaps the shop’s name is instead the bastard child of the Derridean concept and Jean-François Lyotard’s “différend”. Regardless, I thought to see in this shop what comes of years of studies in philosophy (induction into the philosophical wear guild)  or, in another vein, the only Derridean spawn remaining to the public sphere (cardigans).

Content to bring this ribbing to an end, I found myself a table at a sidewalk café and found another typically Brusselian experience confirmed for myself. After a series of no fewer than two incidents, I was now convinced that all barmen of Brussels are under standing orders to make a ten cent profit on every exchange. In this way, monetarily speaking, my dubbels became trippels and my trippels something more. What basis there is to be found for such an unjust arrangement is beyond me, although I chanced upon its symbolic expression somewhat later in an unintentional return to the Grand Place.

There, at the Grand Place’s eastern angle, I found a facade bedecked with allegory and sculpture. These were such as I might find on other buildings of its kind and stature, in this city or others, with one exception. Over Justice, depicted as always with blindfold and unwieldy sword, there lies a net or mesh, white string, empty holes. As I looked up at Justice and noticed that she alone had received this treatment, I naturally felt that she had herself been judged as the sole meriting this punishment. If this prejudice explained in some way the basis for the barmen’s orders to transgress informal contract, it explained in no way the basis for the punishment from which the transgression stems. As to that reason, I can only guess. In regards to the other allegories, Justice had judged in some overly just fashion. Perhaps to introduce some measure of hierarchy into the facade, the others had called for a vote and found Justice best suited for the bottom rung. Still differently, pigeons might show a greater predilection for defecating on Justice in particular, which then cast the netting in a new, though ineffective light. As I turned my back on Justice and Brussels, a final possibility came together in my mind’s eye, that of restraint in light of Justice’s tendency to hurtle forward from the pack all the while looking back and to crash to the uneven flagstones below.

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