Belgian Waffling

After my most recent trip to Brussels, I found myself extremely frustrated with articles I had read in the newspapers, conversations with my family and friends.. all revolving around what really does look like a country on the verge of breaking up.

It almost sounds like a relationship doesn’t it? Yes this old married couple called Belgium, more specifically Wallons and Flemish, seem to have reached a tipping point and will soon divorce. And like so many marriages gone wrong, the craziest part will be to negotiate who gets what and how.

But nevermind the analogy, Belgium is in a terrible funk that people in different parts of the world can probably never understand and even I, a frequent visitor to the country and someone who reads every bit I can on the topic, am still baffled.

Naturally a discussion of history is in order, to understand what happened in the past that resulted in the things we see today. Who took what from whom, who killed whom, and who deserves what, somehow, as a result. Like any European region there are plenty of wars, cultural differences, economic booms and busts, and yes … even a dash of colonialism.

But I’m not going to try to summarize the history right now.

For now all I have to say and I hope the world will take notice soon, is that there is a lovely country called Belgium, where people live a very admirable quality of life and have come a long way in terms of achievements as a nation. (look at their dominance of tennis!) But these same people are whispering about each other indoors. Their political parties spread untruths and revise history for the sole purpose of drawing on people’s anger and poor judgment. Everyone is convinced they’re being used, duped, or mistreated in some way. They fail to understand people who have been their neighbors and fellow citizens for many generations.

For all the achievements of the Flemish and all the achievements of the Wallons, in my eyes, the inability to stay together as a country or simply to view your neighbors as equals tells me that neither culture is as courageous or creative as I thought.