Monday, October 02, 2006
Sing And Dance Against Intolerance
Belgium is running to the ballot box again next Sunday, for the local elections. So our letter box got stuffed with election adds the last couple of weeks. Despite having some interest in politics, I couldn’t tell you what the points of view of most of the Flemish parties are, except in general terms. The socialists want more jobs and better social welfare, the liberal democrats want less taxes and less government, the greens want more green and the nationalists want all of the above as long as they don’t have to share it with the French-speaking part of Belgium.
No, the really big question of these elections is whether the Flemish extremist party Vlaams Belang will rise in popularity or not. Vlaams Belang (which you can translate by Flemish interests but also by Flemish importance), formerly known as Vlaams Blok is a party that has grown out of the Flemish nationalist party Volksunie (People’s Union) when its founding fathers thought that that parties’ demands concerning the independence of Flanders were not radical enough. In the beginning the Vlaams Blok was mainly popular with people who gambled wrong during the Second World War and grew a moustache to copy the one the Führer had brought into fashion at the time. So the party was a marginal phenomenon until a number of young hotshots with equally wrong ideas but with a far better communication strategy took power. Their populist programme was remarkably simple and clear:
- Whatever the other parties say is wrong, they are morons and we know what’s best for the people and what the people want, which is exactly the opposite of what the other parties say.
- Moroccans and other Muslims are to blame for crime, insecurity and unemployment, and should be transported by military plane back to their country.
- French speaking people are to blame for being French speaking people, for not speaking Dutch, for speaking at all and for making holes in ‘our’ social security.
- Politicians of other parties are to blame for all the rest. Especially French speaking politicians, who love the king and queen too much and who secretly dominate the government in order to make more holes in social security and import Moroccans.
- Democracy is for wimps, because any idiot can see that we’re right.
As you can see it avoids any nuances that might make it difficult to understand, unlike the programmes of those other democratic parties (poufs!) They gave the Vlaams Blok a nice present too, by making sure that their stupid ideas could never be faced with reality. They were given the gift of perfect isolation in what’s known as the Cordon Sanitaire, so that the Vlaams Blok could grow without hinder and indulge in its role of the eternal underdog. They’re masters of populist communication and a number of law suits against the party and its subsidiaries concerning xenophobic behaviour gave them ever more votes, although they had to change their name into ‘Vlaams Belang’.
At the moment, Vlaams Belang can count on one third of the voters in Flanders and it’s become the largest party here. So keeping it out of power requires some political DIY-ing of the highest order. And now the 1000 € question is: will they gain absolute control of a number of municipalities or cities in Flanders? While the 500 € question is: will local delegates of other parties fall for their power and make a coalition with them?
Civil liberties are at stake here, so it’s no trivial matter. Although in such a scenario they will do their utmost to prove that they are a ‘decent’ party that know very well how to govern a city, thank you very much. At the local level, they can’t deport foreigners with suspicious dark tans, but they can make life harder for them. And for us too! I don’t want them to spend all our money on a police force that controls my every move, chase away companies and break down social and cultural infrastructure.
The fuel for this party are the feelings of insecurity and intolerance. Me! Me! Me! And not you! Things need to change to how I want them and right this minute!
So it was about time that those brave and good souls that still form the majority of the population here to make a stand. A bold but positive statement, to show that not all of us are racists or wining nincompoops. So stand we did, with 100.000 people in four cities in the whole of the country, in a great and free concert to celebrate tolerance. Even massive rain and hail showers couldn’t chase us!
And the extremists grumbled in their dark holes and prepared their dark plans…