Friday, February 18, 2011

Belgium: World's Longest Political Crisis Doesn't Even Make the Paper

I was astonished today to learn that Belgium is undergoing the longest political crisis in history - even more than the nearly year-long period in which Iraq didn't have a government.

The more astonishing thing? This is the first I'm hearing about it!

Despite the fact that Belgium is struggling to form a coalition government - and some Flemish factions are even muttering about secession, this crisis hasn't appeared in a leading story anywhere in the American media (as far as I know.)

This surprises me, because we've all been excitedly reporting on the political upheavals in Algeria and Egypt, while a first world nation has been cruising along without anybody at the helm for almost a year now!

Not only that, but this meandering monarchy is home to the headquarters of the European Union, no less (and since we were talking about undemocratic ruling authorities, you can't get away without mentioning the EU.)

French-speaking Franz Coquidor and Dutch-speaking Leon Zoetebier bicycle in opposite directions, symbolizing the major problem in Belgium politics - two opposing halves of the same nation both vying for more autonomy in government.

I'm not sure WHY America deigns Belgium to be such a political irrelevance. Perhaps it's because they haven't got tanks driving through throngs of protesters, or the fact that nobody in Belgium has taken it upon themselves to sexually assault a CNN reporter yet.

Instead, protesters are refusing to shave and handing out free chips (and that's just not worthy of column inches in the Wall Street Journal.) Some students even stripped naked (and that's just not allowed in the columns of the Wall Street Journal.)

Belgium's most famous resident, Tintin, was an early opponent of journalistic impartiality, and has already toppled governments in Eastern Europe and South America. He'll have fun in his hometown!

Actually, my theory is slightly less cynical than that.

The fact is, Belgium's a disgustingly civilized place, and even in the midst of a political crisis, seems to be sailing along quite happily.

Countries like Egypt, on the other hand, recently exchanged a dictatorship for an interim military junta (I'm not exactly sure WHY we're cheering so heartily about it on Facebook) and will doubtless do what every other Middle Eastern country seems to when offered the bounty of free and fair elections: Vote in an autonomous, fundamentalist regime that turns out to be worse than the fat freeloader they just dethroned.

So really, by comparison, Belgium's political problems are small potatoes (French fried, dipped in mayo.) What's more, being attached to neither oil, nor the Middle Eastern balance of power, nobody in America could care less about them.


Tom said...

I've been following this for several years now.

That being said, is there any reason to care, aside from trivia interest? I mean, I can't think of any product I buy that's made in Belgium - but even if there was, it doesn't seem like the crisis is effecting that in any way.

The country might split up - but if it does, it will likely be relatively peaceful, with little more than riots - and in mainland Europe, riots are a dime a dozen.

The middle east is more important, since there is an important commodity we buy there, and there are a lot of people there who want to kill us.

Roland Hulme said...

Tom, don't lie. You get your lace doilies specially imported from Bruges. I know. I read it on Wikileaks. ;-)

You're absolutely right - that goddamn Belgians can't even have a secession without it being civilized!

As long as this doesn't affect the production of Leffe or Tintin merchandise, I shall remain unaffected.

J.M. Waters said...

Who knew? With the flow of waffles remaining unaffected, I have not given even a passing thought to the going-ons in Belgium.

On a serious note, it is just one more example of how dramatically the world is changing. Damn you Hulme! Now I am forced to keep (at least passing) tabs on another area in the world. I will admit, however, that Belgium will probably only be on my monthly "check-in" list until something dramatic happens.

Intriguing post my friend. Keep it up!