Friday, February 18, 2011

Fri 18 February - And that my friends is a 'New World Record.'

Or is it. Today, as being reported all over the media, Belgium officially overtook Iraq as the country that has spent the longest period of time without a government. The press reports that Iraq's previous record of 249 days has now been beaten. But, some sources believe that the actual record is some 40 days off, at 289 days. As the BBC reports:

"Although it took 249 days before Iraq achieved an outline agreement on a government, approval was not forthcoming for another 40 days, and some have questioned whether Belgium has yet broken the dubious record."

To be honest, does it really matter? 249 days, 289 days, 2,889 days. This motley crew seem no nearer to forming a government than they were just after the general election on 13 June. Either way, Belgians decided to mark this momentous occasion by staging a series of 'celebratory' events. Several outdoor parties were held throughout the country, free chips and beer were offered, and dozens of students in Ghent kept to their promise by stripping to their underwear.

What is it with people and their need to take off their clothes in public? I put it down to peoples' desire to go back to man's roots. Removing the shackles of modernity from their backs, feeling free from the stresses of life. Something like that, anyway.

As much as I admire their very British approach to adversity, (i.e. reduce everything to humour, and just have a good laugh at yourself), I'm not sure I 100% approve. What's happening in this country is such a scandal that I get angry just writing about it. Many foreign observers have asked, quite naturally, how the hell does Belgium still function?

Well, the endless layers of bureaucracy help. They act as a buffer and allow life to continue as it always has done. It would probably take a generation to finally penetrate every sphere of federal, regional and communal government.

I used to believe that the breakup of Belgium was an inevitability. It was going to happen, maybe not now, but at some point. But, now I think I'm coming round to the view that it's its incompetent politicians and its country's baffling infrastructure that will keep this country together. In short, it'd be just too much hard work to split up.

And even if somebody, somewhere, were to start arguing that 289 days is in fact the proper world record, Belgians would probably just see this date as an excuse to have another party.

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