Belgium - 'Clinical Death', really?
I’ve had a hard time adjusting to life in Belgium. It was so hard that most of the time I felt like running away. I don’t know why because I did not have any preconceived ideas about Belgium.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. I thought that Belgium would be very similar to Netherlands. A little bit too structured and stern for me. So I was kind of expecting a cultural shock. There was a shock but not the one I expected.
Actually it is a very complicated country. Did you notice I did not use ‘was’?
Before we left, I bought a Flemish manual. I even started working on it, not for too long though.
We found a house in a French speaking area, not because it was French speaking but because it was easier for me to live close to the heart of Brussels. From our home, we are a few minutes away from the historical heart of Brussels, museums, etc.
Ten years ago, it didn’t take long to realize that I would not need to take Flemish lessons. I have to admit that I’ve never met people as gifted with foreign languages than the Belgians from Flemish origins. The oldest ones usually speak Flemish, French and English. The younger ones have decided not to study French. But they speak English beautifully.
After a few years, Belgians around us started becoming more radical. It was really strange to live among two communities that started showing strong dislike over each other... turning to hatred year after year, making life miserable in Belgium, really miserable sometimes.
At first, we kind of joked about it because in France, when you live in Paris with a strong southern accent, people tend to make fun of you. If you live in Paris and buy a house in Brittany or anywhere else with strong cultural traditions, you sometimes hear niceties like: ‘Parigot, tête de veau.’ It’s such a sweet compliment I won’t even try to translate it.
We are French. We were always planning on coming back to France (we still are). And we have a very distinctive non-Belgian accent so our life wasn’t too hard in-between the two communities. Which did not mean we were accepted. Sometimes, it became kind of ugly... But I won’t dwell about this today. Maybe I never will after all.
Because yesterday, Belgium was declared clinically dead by its own politicians.
Since it’s coma we are talking about, there still is hope. I watch ‘Dr House’ so I know that coma can be reversible.
The problem is that Belgians no longer believe they are living in the same country. And it’s gone to the point that there is no Belgium any longer.
Well, it’s still lying on its hospital bed under respiratory help. But nobody knows which part can be saved or even if some part can still be saved. There doesn’t seem to be any will to survive left in either part. I mean survival as a country as a whole.
A while ago I wrote a blog about a train accident in Belgium where I tried to explain the way Belgium functions. It’s a little bit difficult to understand for French people. It’s very easy for my Indian friend, I know.
I don’t know why but everything seemed to get out of control very quickly, in the last couple of years. Nationalism reared its ugly head in Flanders when far right parties won a lot of votes (and seats) in the last elections.
Belgium has been surviving without a real government for quite a long time now. Who knows about it? Who cares about it? I mean, in Europe of course. Not many people, I’m sure.
Barely surviving though until yesterday when Bart de Wever, the Flemish nationalist leader called off last minute negociations with the French-speaking part in order to form a government.
'Clinical death' was announced by Eric Van Rompuy who is a (Christian Democrat) deputy in the Flemish Parliament and brother to the President of the European Council (which comprises the European heads of states or governement).
Will it be followed by euthanasia, legal in Belgium by the way? Which will be the partition of Belgium, of course.
When Elio di Rupo (head of the Socialist French-Speaking Wallonia) decided a couple of weeks ago to quit ‘bargaining’ with Bart de Wever over forming a government, he did so wishing the partition would happen peacefully and without bloodshed. Cool.
So for those of you who don't know Belgium, there is Flanders and Wallonia and Brussels. There is also Limburg where a very small minority of German speaking people live. But nobody worries about Limburg.
Everybody worries about Brussels. It is the capital of Europe, very international, French speaking (85%) to boot. But it is also the capital of Flanders... inlead in Flanders. And Flanders is very intent on keeping it this way and on turning it very Flemish, of course.
There were talks of using Brussels like some kind of Washington, D.C. for Europe. Quite impossible, said Flanders.
Why do European countries remain silent? Because there is always the danger of intrusion of foreign countries in a domestic problem.
Europe will probably have to find a new capital. Luxemburg or France would love that, I’m sure. I’ve been told Netherlands has already shown some interest in becoming the new host to the European Commissions and Councils.
Tonight, the future of Belgium looks rather bleak.
In France, we have the most awful way of talking about cancer. We don’t talk about it. That’s it. Its ‘official’ and very hypocritical name is ‘long illness’.
Belgium is dying of a ‘long sickness’. It’s dying from very invasive cancerous cells. Some of them go back to the Middle Ages. It took a long, long time and it’s really strange for a country 180 years old.
No bloodshed, please. Try to switch Belgium off quietly if there really is no hope left.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*