Help! They Are Swimming - And Speaking French!

by Pool Builders on 09-24-2012 in Articles

Local elections are coming up soon in Belgium. As always local elections have turned into quasi-national elections and in Belgium this means the continued existence of the country is called into question once more.

According to a recent poll commissioned by various Belgian newspapers and broadcasters the N-VA remains the largest party in Flanders. With 36.7% of voters in Flanders expressing their intention to vote for Bart De Wever's Flemish ultra-nationalist party and a further 11.1% of votes intended for Vlaams Belang (the Flemish neo-fascists), nearly 50% of the Flemish population favours separatist parties.

Traditional Flemish parties such as the Christian Democrats (CD&V), the Liberals (Open VLD) and the Socialists (SP-A) together would collect only just above 38% of the Flemish vote.

Ultra-nationalism and separatism have firmly taken root in Flemish politics. Whereas the ridiculously convoluted intricacies of the Belgian political system often give the impression of a complex situation, it acts as a very handy fog screen behind which the nationalists can hide and blur the argument in order to seem less virulently selfish and, ultimately, fascist.

Because despite all these technicalities, the nationalist rhetoric boils down to the following:

- "Eigen volk eerst!" (Our people first!) - Flanders is financially better off and no longer wants to share with people who do not speak their language or are from different backgrounds. Solidarity has irrevocably left the house.

- "We were there first!" - Flemish nationalists tie ethnic nationalism to territorial nationalism and hence claim territory in the name of the Flemish people who were "there" first at the expense of other cultures. A quasi-sacred quality is sought in the nation and in the popular memories it evokes and requires the establishment of a mass, public culture based on common values and traditions of the population.

- "Fear of the other" - Flemish nationalists are scared of people who are not like them and ultimately fear that their "nation" and culture are not resilient enough to handle outside influences from other cultures. Xenophobia bears the hallmarks of a weak culture constructed on a myth.

The following are just a few examples of how Flemish nationalism is actively discriminating against other people:

- The Flemish "Wooncode" requests that persons seeking public or social housing, in Flanders, prove their knowledge in Dutch. They will otherwise be turned down.

- The Flemish are calling on all French-speaking inhabitants of Flemish towns and cities to integrate, including those people who have lived their entire lives in mainly French-speaking municipalities. The NVA insists for French speaking Belgians that live on Flemish territory to prove their "level of integration". If found insufficient, they should be obliged to take Flemish classes and courses fostering greater integration.

- In Overijse, close to Brussels, a slogan hangs above the swimming pool with the words "ik zwem, jij zwemt, wij zwemmen, in het Nederlands" (I swim, you swim, we swim, in Dutch). This is a variation on the ubiquitous "ik speel, jij speelt, wij spelen, in het Nederlands" (I play, you play, we play, in Dutch), an initiative of the province of Flemish Brabant that saw the distribution of 350 banners to decorate playgrounds encouraging kids to speak Dutch. 32 municipalities rushed to acquire such banners.

- The Flemish sports association, Bloso, controlled by the Flemish government, runs sports activities and camps. But Bloso also says that children who do not speak or understand Flemish can be sent home without a refund.

- A rather legalistic technical issue has resulted in the Flemish refusal to appoint three French mayors democratically elected on the outskirts of Brussels for non-compliance with the use of languages.

- In some towns the public libraries are required to be provided with 80% of books in Dutch, although French-speaking citizens make up the majority.

- In yet other places in Flanders, inhabitants are obliged to know the Dutch language to be able to acquire a property or land.

- Convocation letters to invite citizens to vote can only be sent out in Dutch even in municipalities where the majority of citizens are French speaking.

The list continues, but perhaps the label "non-violent fascism" is not out of place to describe the evolution of Flemish politics. And if polls are anything to go by, the upcoming local elections are only going to make matters worse. After all, it is a well-known fact that scared people are very dangerous when in group.

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