Elections: followup

My somewhat emotional message from earlier this week got some response from Dag, who, let's say, does not seem to share my ideas about flemish separatism.

First, Dag, yes, I agree that the flemish Greens could do much better. The fact that the walloon greens are, in fact, doing so much better than the flemish ones is part of why I believe I live in the wrong part of Belgium; it's not just these elections. I'm not saying I don't understand why they happened, but that doesn't make me feel better about it.

I'm also not saying that there are no issues in Belgium, nor that more autonomy for Flanders can't possibly be the solution for at least some of them. There are cases where doing something at the regional level will make more sense than doing it at the federal level.

What bothers me, however, is the fact that parties such as the N-VA seem to think that everything can be solved by more authonomy, and that an ultimate goal of chopping up this already too small country into a yet even smaller one is desirable. To me, it is not, and that's what my post tried to express.

To give just a bit of background: My mother grew up in Kuringen, a small town near Hasselt, while my father grew up in Ekeren. After they married, they went to live in the province of Antwerp (in Ekeren eventually, after a short stint in Mortsel). My father's twin brother moved to Wijgmaal near Leuven after his marriage, while my mother's oldest sister married a guy from West-Vlaanderen and moved there. As a result, I have aunts and uncles in all flemish provinces (apart from East-Flanders), which gives me a somewhat unique perspective on the differences that exist within Flanders.

People sometimes say that there are monetary flows between Flanders and Wallonia, and that therefore we should split up, since that would allow a higher budget for Flanders. I say that there are such differences between Flemish provinces, too; should we therefore boot out some of those provinces as well?

People sometimes say that there are cultural differences between Flanders and Wallonia, and that therefore there is no link between the two. I say that there are cultural differences between Flemish provinces too; should we therefore boot out some of those provinces? As a very stupid example of this one: in Limburg, it is traditional for guests to give a standing ovation to the bride and groom when they first enter the location where the dinner is going to be held. No such tradition exists anywhere else in Flanders. There are more such differences, however.

People sometimes say that Flanders and Wallonia do not speak the same language. Arguably the best argument in favor of separatism, I would still challenge you to put a person from Limburg in front of someone from West-Flanders, and have them talk to eachother. It's going to be similarly hard for them to understand eachother as it is for them to understand someone from Wallonia.

Anyway, I'll not further bore my readers with Belgian politics. But I'm still unhappy about the election's results.

Differences in Flanders


Your situation is not that unique. My mother comes from East-Flanders. My father from Limburg. I was raised in Limburg, worked as a student in West-Flanders. Moved to Brabant 10 years ago. Now live for over 4 years in East-Flanders. Have worked for years in Brussels, Antwerp and West-Flanders. And I have direct family not only spread out in all provinces in Flanders, but even in Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. I truly hope this is not a pissing contest :-D

And while you can state that there are cultural differences or even language differences between provinces (I would even say between neighboring villages). We have more than one thing in common in the whole of Flanders. We have the same media, the same political parties, the same language, ... And while someone talking dialect in West Flanders may not be understood by someone from Limburg (I am blessed to not have too many problems in that area) at least most of the people can converse in Dutch properly. Which is not true for the whole of our country.

You bring up all sorts of reasons for splitting up the country that I do not agree with and I hope you are not trying to put these words in my mouth. Still if you look at Flanders and Wallonia you can only conclude that we are already separated for many decades. Something that isn't happening on the Flemish level and why should it. Flanders is not bipolar and as such there is no polarisation force.

Also remember that our country is not truly bilingual (which was a Flemish proposal) because the French-speaking citizens didn't want any Dutch facilities in Wallonia. So you cannot simply state that the people in Flanders are responsible for disbanding the country, there is a big (I would even say bigger) responsibility from the French-speaking politicians. Remember Bye-bye Belgium ? The French public broadcasting scaring people months before elections on national TV ? Or look at the French facilities in some municipals, it was an honest way of helping French-speaking citizens feel at home in Flanders. And that backfired pretty hard when it is now being used as a right to hang on to or even redraw borders.

Much like you give a hand and they take the whole arm. If we want to get anything done in this country we need to discuss responsibilities and that is exactly what politicians fail to do. So go blame your politicians for these election results, don't blame the people that vote. If you want to change how people vote, change leadership.

Comment by Dag Wieers (dag@wieers.com) Thu Jun 11 04:42:10 2009
Re: Differences in Flanders

You have a point in saying that french-speaking citizens didn't want any Dutch facilities in Wallonia... but that doesn't mean they were right back then. And so, Dutch-speaking or Frenh-speaking Belgians that still do not want bilingual facilities are no more right nor open-minded today than they were 10, 20 or 50 years ago.. Blame them all or blame none.

To me, Wouter seems to be arguing that they are more important questions and solutions than separatism or more regional authonomy to solve Belgium's problems (and thus Flanders' and Wallonia's). I don't really see the point in arguing who were the first, the worst or the stupidiest separatists : This is not what wouters is talking about and these are questions for kindergarden fights, not for politics.

And then... should any country with bipolar cultural differences split ?

Comment by Lapinlove404 Thu Jun 11 12:59:32 2009
Re: Differences in Flanders

And then we're back where we started. If there are better solutions than more confederalism or autonomy, then why haven't they worked up until now ?

And why doesn't it work when even people are asking for more autonomy ? You would think that the "danger" of more autonomy would have made a difference to make sure everyone works together, but sadly the economical situation and the dependence of social welfare have precedence over any common sense solutions. There are good reasons why it doesn't work.

If you come up with any important questions and their solutions and show me that it works, you may have a point. But it looks real dim because apparently politicians are unable to do anything. So if I have to choose what we have now and more autonomy, I choose more autonomy because I do believe it will make a difference on the level where people make decisions. The federal level fails to work, while the regional level does.

BTW I never said that the county was bipolar in cultural differences. It's bipolar in its decision-making and execution. I don't see what culture has to do with that.

Comment by Dag Wieers (dag@wieers.com) Sat Jun 13 17:21:06 2009