Aaron Timms of The Sydney Morning Herald loves Belgium. In a column this week, Mr. Timms writes
“Belgium long ago abandoned all hope of being a presence on the world stage and gave itself over to the pleasures of alcohol, chocolate, sex and seafood. To this day, it remains a nation untouched by nutrition. These are ideas worth fighting for. In its almost total lack of ambition, in its unrelenting sense of existential dread, in its drunkenness and in its gluttony, Belgium is the most inspiring of nations. If the Belgians have tired of being Belgian, it is up to us to take their place. If Belgium will not be Belgium, it is up to Australia to be Belgium.”
Though Mr. Timms’ article is a parody, he is far closer to the truth than many of the other articles which the international press published recently. In 1998 a group of leftist Belgian intellectuals and artists wrote the pamphlet “Lets Stop Nationalistic Foolishness” in which they express their adherence to Belgium. They love Belgium for exactly the same reasons as Mr. Timms, but, unlike the latter, they are serious. They cherish the Belgian flag, they wrote, “because the latter does not represent anything.” They added that Belgium, precisely because it has no national consciousness, is “an antidote against nationalism” much needed by the postmodern world.
The Belgian historian Louis Vos (who sympathizes with this view) remarks, “a non-ideological postmodernism has become the predominant fashion in international life, more eager to deconstruct national identity than to make a contribution to it. Some go so far as to deny that the ‘invented’ concept of national identity and community refers to anything real.”
The postmodernist nihilists claim that Belgium’s lack of identity constitutes a supreme morality. An identity is nothing to be proud of, they wrote in their pamphlet, but Belgium is something to be proud of exactly because it is nothing. These nihilists cherish only two flags, those of Belgium and of the EU, because these stand for nothing. They hate the flags of Flanders, Britain, France, America and other countries which stand for something.
Yesterday, the same group of intellectuals and artists, who do not believe in anything, started a petition in favour of Belgium. The petition, called “Red de solidariteit” (Save the solidarity), argues that Flanders, the Dutch-speaking free-market oriented northern half of Belgium, has a moral duty to keep paying for Wallonia, the French-speaking Socialist-oriented southern half, and that hence Belgium should continue to exist. The petition is being actively supported by the powerful Belgian trade unions and by Belgian state radio and television and has already been signed by university professors, sportsmen, and various artists (writers, singers, actors,…) and other government-subsidized “famous Belgians.”
The text of the “Save the Solidarity” petition reads:
We are Flemings, Brusselers or Walloons, we are Belgians and world citizens. We do not want to erect new walls between people, between regions and countries. We do not want to replace the solidarity principle by competition and egotism. Who gains when people are incited against each other?
Everything we have in Belgium today is the common work of Flemings, Brussels people and Walloons. The solidarity between the richer and the poorer citizens and between the richer and the poorer regions are the pillars of our society.
We demand decent wages for everyone who does the same job, no matter which language we speak. We demand that all compatriots have the same rights to healthy and safe living and working conditions, no matter where our factory or office is located. We demand that everyone who loses his job is entitled to the same assistance and help, no matter in which region we live. We demand that every child in this country gets the same chances, no matter in which region it is born. We demand that all the elderly have the same right to a decent pension, no matter whether they live in Flanders, Brussels or Wallonia. In short, we demand solidarity and no splitting up [of the country].
The text of this petition is a clear illustration that there is no core to Belgium. The country is but a redistribution mechanism from “the richer” to “the poorer.” The richer are richer only because they work harder. The solidarity which the poorer demand is not voluntary, but based on extortion. No wonder, so many Flemings have had enough of it.
Solidarity in Belgium is (and has always been) a one-way affair, with the Flemings at the contributing and the Walloons at the receiving end. Indeed, the current crisis in Belgium results from the fact that the Flemings want the right to decide what happens to their money, while Walloon politicians veto any reform of the generous Belgian welfare system.
Meanwhile the entire Belgian establishment, including the Catholic Church, is coming to the rescue of Belgium. “In our time we have to learn to live together with different opinions. In my opinion dividing Belgium would be an impoverishment and a wrong signal for Europe,” Monsignor Roger Vangheluwe, the Catholic Bishop of Bruges (the diocese covering the province of West Flanders), said yesterday. Exactly 101 years ago, in September 1906, his predecessor, Mgr Gustave Waffelaerts, the Bishop of Bruges, opposed Dutch-language higher education for his Dutch-language flock, admonishing them that it is “unchristian and against the Catholic principles to aim for a Dutch-language university.”
Today, it is considered immoral for Flemings to want to decide themselves who will benefit from the fruit of their labour.
Yesterday, the Flemish and Walloon political leaders resumed their negotiations to form a new government. Rumour has it that the Flemish politicians will soon give in and agree with the Walloons to establish a cabinet. Apparently they have been convinced of the necessity to save Belgium. “Everyone can be bought. Everyone has his price, and you will be surprised how low it is,” a friend, a British politician, recently told me when we were discussing the Belgian crisis. If this is true, Belgium will continue to drag on until the next elections in 2009, when the Flemish electorate will be able to repeat to the authorities in Brussels that they have had enough of the drunkenness and the gluttony, which nihilists have the audacity to call “solidarity.”
On the current crisis in Belgium, see also:
McKinsey CEO Calls for End of Belgium, Resigns, 13 December 2005
King Warns for Dissolution of Belgium, 1 February 2006
The Influence of the Immigrant Vote on Belgian Politics, 26 June 2007
EU: The Model is Collapsing. Brussels Calls upon King for Help, 18 August 2007
After Belgium: Will Flanders and the Netherlands Reunite? 23 August 2007
Could Sarkozy Solve Belgium’s Crisis? 3 September 2007
Even Flemish Muslims Want to Separate from the Walloons, 6 September 2007
Crisis in Belgium: If Flanders Secedes Wallonia Disintegrates, 9 September 2007
After Belgium: Europe’s New Map, 13 September 2007
Thrembling Thrones in Brussels, 18 September 2007
Background articles explaining Belgium:
The Dark Roots of the EU, 5 December 2005
Nations Under Construction: Defining Artificial States, 13 June 2006
Why Is the Vlaams Belang So Popular? 13 February 2007
Belgium, the EU’s Destiny. The End of Nothingness, 25 August 2007
Why Belgium Is an Artificial State. And the United Kingdom, Switzerland (and Even Austria-Hungary) Are Not, 27 August 2007