Quo Vadis, Belgium?

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 31, 2007

I’ve been meaning to write a post on the political chaos in Belgium – but my absence on CT in the last weeks already revealed that I haven’t had a decent chunk of time yet. For those of you in countries where there hasn’t been any reporting – it’s day 82 after the federal elections, and the Flemish and Walloon parties are so bitterly opposed to each other’s demands, that commentators are talking aloud of “the end of Belgium” (which is not going to happen soon, since neither of them wants to give up Brussels – but there are signs that the crisis between the Dutch/Flemish-speaking and Francophone regions is deeper than it has been in decades).

And the more I thought about what I should write, the more it became clear that it’s a complicated issue to write about. One problem is that the interpretations of the political events differ dramatically between the Dutch-language and the Francophone Belgian press – truly as if they are from two different planets – so any (foreign) journalist/reader who masters only one of those two languages will almost inevitably get a distorted or one-sided pictured. Then there is the question whether, as a Flemish person, I can write sufficiently neutral about this. One of the many dimensions of the Belgian drama is the historical disrespect of Francophone Belgians for the Flemish, especially their language; and part of the interpretational differences is whether this is still the case today, and whether one should bother. I’ll keep my own views for another time, but one thing that I noted in international conversations is that it seems hard for most non-Flemish to appreciate why language can be such a big deal (“this francophone Belgian philosopher”:http://www.uclouvain.be/en-11688.html is the Great Exception, and he’s writing a book on linguistic justice). I don’t know what would work as good international comparisons, but in any case there are plenty of other national political sensitivities that are not always easy to understand for outsiders, and where one does need to have some minimal historical knowledge to appreciate present-day sensitivities.

So I will try to write a piece next week trying to explain, as neutrally as I can, the facts and background info; and, if I have some time left, I’ll give my views in another post. But now I first have to mark the essays of my Walloon students.

The End of MaxSpeak

by Kieran Healy on August 31, 2007

I missed this earlier this week. No more MaxSpeak as of September 3rd. Boo. Max’s posts felt like a very pure form of blogging: his prose style had a way of temporarily wiring you in to his thought process as it was happening. Not many people can convey that feeling well, either because there’s too much post-processing (and it all gets polished up) or there’s not enough (and its incomprehensible). Max hit the sweet-spot a lot more than most. The results weren’t pretty, but they were usually dynamic, direct and right on target more often than not. Soon, the interwebs will be just a bit more boring.