Thursday, June 24, 2010

Belgian Politics for outsiders: Intro.

Belgium is rather like three people sporting a donkey costume made for two.  For those on the outside, there is the single form of a donkey.  For those on the inside, the reality is more like three people struggling, sweating, complaining about each other, and arguing over who should be the "ass of the ass" while the donkey outwardly appears to twitch, stumble drunkenly, verge on collapse, and generally go nowhere.

Here is my view from the inside.  You may think that Belgium is a country, and officially you'd be right, but actually you are fairly wrong.  Belgium, on the inside is Flanders (the northern half of the country where Dutch is spoken,) Wallonia (the southern half of the country where French is the dominant lanugage,) and Brussels (the small region sitting roughly in the centre.  Brussels is where all the moving and shaking happens, and is the 'political capital of Europe'.  Brussels doesn't really care for Wallonia or Flanders, and though it speaks mostly French, it is surrounded by Flemish territory.)  All this makes for some pretty interesting grudge-matches, and political instability.  It is just the tip of the iceberg.

I've been trying to learn more about it all; how it works here.  Wikipedia describes the political system in Belgium as "complex".  This is right, but I think that really this may be polite wiki-speak for "wickedly kafkaesque".  I know that when things here get really "complex", my words tend to be of little service in capturing or conveying my experience.  I figured that maybe I'd be better off expressing myself pictorially for these occasions, so you may be seeing more visuals around here in the future.  Of course being personal, they may not be entirely informed or accurate.  If I'm missing something crucial to my understanding, please feel free to let me in on it.  My knotted brain may thank you.

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