he flyer boldly (but rightly) announces: “H.C. against U.S. imperialism”; this is a translation of the explanation on the back:
“This concert is a benefit for the ‘Stichting Michaël De Witte’ and all profits will go directly to that ‘foundation’.
The foundation was established in remembrance of the young Flemish doctor Michaël De Witte who died in El Salvador February 8th, 1987. It’s first goal is to publish a book about the life of Michaël based on this own writings and testimonials from friends. The second goal of the ‘Stichting’ is the continuation and expansion of Michaël’s life-work, by offering financial and material help to doctors and medical staff who, just as Michaël, want to commit themselves in the Third World, to build a fairer society for the common people.
Michaël graduated as a doctor in 1982. Because he saw that there are more doctors than necessary in Belgium, he decided to move to a country with a desperate shortage of doctors. He chose El Salvador because the population there had entered the resistance against a regime of murders and exploiters. For years the people tried to defend their rights but the landlords, the army and the death-squads reacted with a reign of terror and murdered anyone who dared to raise their voice. Therefore the people were forced to chose for armed resistance, as the only opportunity to end their poverty and exploitation (not unlike the A.N.C. in South-Africa).
In the meantime, the resistance has been able to liberate a quarter of the territory, thanks to the massive support of the poor peasant-population. In these liberated areas, the resistance fully works on the just redistribution of the land and resources. It’s in those areas that Michaël worked as a doctor. He treated the local population for free, set up hospitals, trained doctors and nurses, learned people about better hygiene and a lot more. He also operated wounded resistance-fighters. Because of the continuous danger, it was a hard life but Michaël got a lot of work done, saved dozens of lives. He was very popular with the poor peasant-population.
On February 8th 1987, Michaël was fatally hit by mortar-shelling of the Salvadorian army. The army no longer dares to penetrate in the occupied territories because it’s afraid of the resistance. Therefore it fires from miles away and bombards from the air, thereby hitting civilians as well as the resistance-fighters. The army particularly aims at the hospitals to discourage the population. Michaël became the victim of that.
The only reason because the resistance hasn’t succeeded to expel the powers-that-be yet, is because the U.S. pumps millions of dollars in El Salvador, that they look upon as their backyard. The U.S. makes big money of the people of El Salvador and wants it to stay this way. They also won’t doubt about sending in troops to El Salvador if necessary and then it will probably turn into a new Vietnam. Just as with Vietnam, we have to denounce this kind of U.S. politics and help the people who resist this. Michaël was one of them but many are ready to follow him. And they certainly deserve our support.
By donating 1.000 BeF [€ 25], one can become supporting member of the ‘Stichting Michaël De Witte’. You will be notified about all initiatives of the foundation and get the book about Michaël for free.”
[read also: Michaël De Witte Stichting (info Tilt! #5)]
It’s terrible to have to admit but I don’t have any memories about the benefit-concert for the ‘Michaël De Witte Foundation’ itself. During that era I attended minimum one concert each weekend, sometimes even two to three, and I’m not able to distinguish them all that well (except the really memorable ones).
What I dó indeed remember, is that Smurfpunx were always very open to ‘political’ activities, e.g. also that benefit-gig for the ‘Foundation’. I could certainly appreciate this solidarity!
I can also ad that the ‘Foundation’ is still active. A few years ago, for example, the diaries of Michaël [Brob: Felix’ brother] have been translated to Spanish, because there are also many Salvadorans who wanted to read it. There was an official launch of that book in San Salvador. In 2007 the ‘Foundation’ remembered the 20th anniversary of Michaël’s death with a speakers’ evening in Gent: the place was too small because 300 people showed up. In 2012 the ‘Foundation’ will probably commemorate the 25th anniversary.
People might also know that the F.M.L.N., the resistance-movement that Michaël worked for, finally won the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2009 and is now in power. That probably doesn’t mean El Salvador has become a paradise on earth but there have been a bunch of progressive reforms in favour of the poor. It also means that Michaël’s sacrifice and that of ten-thousands of other Salvadorans wasn’t completely meaningless.
Felix De Witte
‘Neuroot’ had recorded their LP Plead Insanity (out on Hageland recs) a few months before this. After the gig their van appeared broken-down: a defect clutch-cable. Since there were no repairers willing to help, so late at night, Marcel Stol and his buddies (guitarist Ed, singer Wouter & drummer Ben) couldn’t get back to Arnhem yet and had to stay over in Aalst. Normally Netwerk was closed for everybody; it had been a policy of the people running it, not to let anyone sleep there (because of fire-safety) but this time there was no other solution. Don’t know anymore which of the other Smurfpunx spent the night with them?
Did ‘Fear Of God’ turn up? While setting up the ‘Ripcord’/’Napalm Death’ tour I had gotten in touch with ‘Fear Of God’s guitarist Reto ‘Tschösi’ Kühne & bassist Dave Philips. Erich Keller (who did Megawimp zine & ran the label Off The Disk recs) was the singer of this Swiss grindcore band…
We (‘Fear Of God’) wanted to play this gig badly, being the ‘Neuroot’ fans we were. If I remember correctly, we had arranged everything, including a bus and a driver (none us could drive) but the guy let us down just a day before departure. Too bad – and here’s the apology, 22 years later. :-)
Erich ‘Megawimp’ Keller
I did the babysit for ‘Neuroot’. Maybe there were other Smurfpunx but I don’t remember who. One thing that I fondly recall is Marcel – you had to see him: a tough bloke with a rough voice and covered with tattoos – suddenly waking up growling, with a greasy provincial Holland accent: “Hé, ferdomme jô… Fandââch is me moekie jâârich!” (“WTF! Today’s my mommy’s birthday!”) :-) L.O.L.
‘Fear of God’ did not turn up. They cancelled the day of the concert, which we found very amateuristic. The band was supposed to come over to Belgium from Switzerland for one gig, which was not realistic at the then ongoing rates; but that they should have known earlier. Why this booking then? In fact, this gig had initially been set up at the initiative of Leen and Natasja. But for one or another reason they could not handle it any more and Mokka, Brob and myself took over (we also made it a benefit for the said Foundation). But some arrangements the initial organizers had made were shoddy at best.
Personally, I liked to support political causes that did something concrete, like this Foundation. [Brob: Indeed! More than music, right!?] The F.M.L.N. elected in power recently… That reminds how much the world has changed! Back then, there was still something as the German Democratic Republic, the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia. The Sandinistas were still in power in Nicaragua (well, their leader Daniel Ortega got re-elected as president again in 2006 but is a far cry of what he used to be). Today’s Latin left-wing icon, Hugo Chavèz and his Bolivarian revolution were still far-off and there were no Al-Qaeda and Taliban as the new incarnation of evil yet. Ironically, an icon of the salon-left now sits in the Oval Office.
The band-member with the tattoos remembering his mom’s birthday is Wouter, the singer…
Marcel Stol (bassplayer ‘Neuroot’)
We got a crate of Sloeber [quite strong Belgian beer] that we gladly drunk during that night. And we removed the curtains of the windows ‘cause there were no blankets. Indeed it wasn’t Marcel but Wouter (the singer) ’s mother who had her birthday… Marcel doesn’t have any tattoos nor a deep voice…
Ed van Dalen (guitarist ‘Neuroot’)
All you punx; I’m not dead yet! Here’s some of the few memories I still have. ‘Neuroot’ were good friends off mine. I remember this one clearly ‘cause my best friend was their driver and an old co-squater from Winterswijk & Nijmegen. Edje, the singer, was very upset because everybody was sitting down on the ground and after the first song he was cursing so loud, like “What’s this place, this is like fucking Woodstock!… It worked though…
<<Benefit for the ‘Stichting Michaël De Witte’. The Swiss ‘Fear Of God’ was meant to perform but their driver got ill so ‘Violent Mosquitos’ got to play. And they did that hard, fast and with a dash of chaos. The audience reacted rather lame though. A pity. Then came ‘Bambix’ who, just as the ‘V.M.’, are recording a single. 3 girls, nice melodies and good vocals. Nice band. ‘D.O.L.’ sound a lot stronger, with some metal-influences. Great band but it does tend to get a bit humdrum after a while. However, there was some ‘dancing’ going now. ‘Neuroot’ was a surprise to me. The first time I saw them and they go for it. Very heavy music, with the vocals sounding like a thundercloud.>>
‘Thaw’ #3 (’88; Dutch fanzine)