Text: Žikica Milošević
Four languages, three communities, three regions. Four languages? Wait, shouldn’t we say “three languages”? Dutch, French and German? Yes but there is Walloon language, a kind of French dialect, but recognised sometimes as a separate idiom. It is a cordial and bitter rivalry between Flanders and Wallonia, with neutral Brussels in the middle. Which epitomises it all.
Belgium got a-not-very-nice-comment from Nigel Farrage lately, which summarises all the painful complexes of Belgium. It was something like “Belgium? You are not much of a nation, aren’t you?”. It echoed particularly painful in the hearts of those Belgians who feel proud of their joint homeland, but resonated quite cheerfully in the Flemish or Walloon separatists. Indeed, this federal monarchy is struggling to form a federal government sometimes for months, which reflects the deep shift and gap between the two major communities, French (or Walloon sepaking) Wallonians and Dutch (or Flemish) speaking Flemish people. Germans left aside, it is a burning problem in Belgium, which is, in a way, a Bosnia in miniature. Of course, they in Belgium have some more peaceful mechanisms to resolve the misunderstandings.
Since Belgium is formed in 1815 to be neutral and to cure the bitter fights between the neighbours, it seemed like a pretty good solution. But it was before the Era of National States in 1848. Ever since the mere existence of multinational states has been challenghed. But Belgium is doing fine. Many others bi-natiional states od plurinatiuonal states like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and USSR have been distroyed, some of them passed through terrible times, like Bosnia or Cyprus, and Belgium is doing quite fine. It however does not change both the deep clinging to Brussels as common binational region, “a future city-state” like Washington DC if Belgium doesn’t make it and to commeon mentality that parts Belgians from all three language groups from their lanuguage compatriots.
And truly, like “Britain and America are two nations divided by same language”, Wallonia and flanders have much more in common than they are willing to admit. The Belgian spirit is more than a Mannequin Piss. A boy pissing in the fountain could be a symbol of Belgian spirit of mocking all the superpowers, but also, their love for calm life, comic books that conquered all the world with their subtlety, and their enjoyment in simple things like calm nature, chocolate, beer and family surpassed the values of their flamboyant neighbours. Really, now if you travel from Belgium to Aachen, Maastricht or Luxembourg, you will see much more people in the streets, but the Belgian charms lies in timid smiles of girls passing by, their fierce fught for independence, their love for comedy in secrecy, their introversion, their love for their history and the sense of self-irony and introspection. If a times when many people shout their minds aloud, it is a treasure. And it is good to have a sober, introvert, yet reasonable and very inside-smiling capital of our continent.