Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tues 7 Sept - The "Divide" up close and personal

Evidence of the political divide in Belgium translating itself into the behaviour of the ordinary man and woman on the street can be found in a lengthy and animated conversation I had today with a French-speaking Belgian. Because of everything's that's gone on, and because of the attitude of Flemish politicians, he now refuses to set foot in Flanders. In fact, he told me that he hasn't visited the region for more than a year.

And it's not just him, but many of his colleagues, and friends and family, who have made a similar decision and are staging their very own mini-boycott of the north. If he wants to go to the beach, he travels to France. Various reasons were offered for this, notably the refusal of staff in restaurants and caf├ęs to respond to him when he's spoken in French. He says he does actually speak a little Dutch and makes the effort when he can, but his Dutch isn't good enough to get into anything beyond pleasantries or ordering food. So, when he wants to ask for something else, naturally, he switches to French.

Throughout this conversation I felt slightly amazed to be hearing what I did. Someone with a real genuine dislike of anything Flemish-related. Hard to tell how widespread this view is, especially when recent reports say things to the contrary and point to supposedly decent relations between the two communities. Crazy, just crazy, but not particularly surprising either. When you hear stories like this, you really do end up despising politicians. Some make a living out of pitting one group against the other, and then sit back and watch whilst their grand vision unfurls in front of their eyes.

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