Tens of thousands (50,000 according to the organisers, 34,000 said the police) of Belgians took to the streets of Brussels yesterday in a march they'd labelled "SHAME." A chance for some people to vent their anger and dismay at the country's ongoing political inertia. By all accounts, it passed in good spirits. There were some rather amusing placards too: "We want beer, frites and a government." Sadly, only two of those were possible. And my favourite: "Blah, blah, blah, act now." Exactly.
What was most impressive was that this march was put together on the back of a Facebook campaign by 5 young people which gathered momentum in the space of just a few weeks.
What was also noticeable from the coverage in today's press was the number of young people present. Many of them knew that their actions were perhaps "a little naive, and unlikely to change much...but they felt they had to do something." Many let it be known that what was happening was having a damaging effect on both communities, be it French or Flemish. Yesterday, they stood as one to condemn the politicians who have so tragically let them and their compatriots down. The leaders of most of the main political parties were also in attendance. I'm amazed they didn't get lynched.
With regards to a possible solution, a student of mine recently told me that he believes that Belgian will eventually become a federation, split along linguistic lines. He believes the model it will emulate will be Switzerland. The latter being formed of several self-governing cantons, with either German, French or Italian spoken in each. Switzerland as a nation state still exists, but within it are the autonmous cantons who seem to do fine by themselves. I guess the set up of America also provides some comparison.
This way, Belgium remains a country, with each canton doing as they wish. The only (major) stumbling block is of course what to do with Brussels: part of the Flanders canton (remember, it is in Flanders, but with over 80% of people being French, and not Dutch, speakers, or to form a new one altogether.
It was the first time I had heard such an idea. Sounds pretty plausible too.