BRUSSELS — The Belgian government is using a viral marketing campaign to acclimate its citizen youth to the painful realities of life in an increasingly insecure European Union. The message, broadcast in the official languages of Dutch, French, and German, is designed reach Belgians under the age of 18 with the idea that, “No, it doesn’t get better.”
The dispiriting tone would seem out of place in many places but is, perhaps, fitting for a country with record-breaking levels of bankruptcy and the highest suicide rate in Western Europe.
Elio Di Rupo, the country’s prime minister, described the campaign as a “variant of Dan Savage’s ‘It Gets Better Project’ without all the candy coating liable to whip up false hope.”
Savage’s wildly popular brainchild has given rise to over 50,000 user-created videos—many from celebrities—seeking to reassure young people facing harassment. The Belgian analog, in contrast, features dour bureaucrats listing off the country’s many ails.
One video presents a nondescript Belgian man who says, “Growing up, sure: some of our European neighbors would make fun of us for coating our fries in mayonnaise and meat sauce, but my parents worked hard to ensure an economically sound future I could be proud of.”
“Unfortunately,” the spokesman continues, “some EU member states have since gone and frittered away our prosperity, while others muscled their way in and tried dictating our national policy. I wish I could say it’s going to get better, but all I can bring myself to do is eat chocolate and drink beer.”
Belgium’s ruling Socialist party is currently weighing how best to handle youths unwilling or unable to “stomach the bleak reality” highlighted in the videos. One proposal would expand the right of euthanasia, which is currently available to Belgians over the age of 18, to children albeit with parental consent.
Although a handful of European nations—and Oregon in the United States—allow for some form of euthanasia, the bill, if passed, would make Belgium the first to grant young children the right to ask for their own deaths.
The Christian Democratic Flemish party plans to challenge the expansion in the European Court of Human Rights as it collects signatures to kill the video campaign.
Former U.S. Senator John Kerry supported similar legislation before being elevated to President Obama’s cabinet. Since that time, he has waffled, indicating that “children will continue to be the future of America.”