Monday, February 21, 2011

Britain and Belgium

Last week I was having especially an unpleasant exchange of words with a Briton who was hurling the usual insults against Belgium, 'not a real country', 'base of the EU', 'hypocrits' and sooner Belgium dissolved to nothing the better for him. This really makes me very angry, both because I am not 100% behind EU and it makes no sense to me for those who agree on this to cut each other down and also because I expect the British would be better than that, to insult and wish the demise of the Belgians. Truthfully, there have been tensions between the British and Belgians for a long time but in general the two countries have, in their modern history, always been friends. From the choosing of King Leopold I the kingdoms of Belgium and Great Britain have had the same Royal Family (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha before they changed in the war to "of Belgium" and "Windsor") and during the Great War the British, claimed at least, to be getting involved in order to defend against the invasion of Belgium, a noble way of standing up for the rights of small countries against the aggression of the more powerful countries.

How different it is today from that time when so many in Britain considered it a matter of honor to defend and support Belgium now to have so many cheering on the possible death of the kingdom across the water. It seems also that the British could look at their own situation and know better than to triumph in the misfortune of Belgium because they seem in so many ways to be going down the same destructive path that has Belgium. Consider the sitution: They Belgium is not a "proper country" because the people are divided and speak different languages. But people in Britain used to speak different languages before English was forced on everyone just as French used to be the one official language for Belgium. In fact they had more much than two with some speaks English, Cornish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and then in Ireland. Today there are more efforts to revive these regional languages so that is making Britain less a proper country? Maybe they dismiss language and say it is about the divisions political. But again they really have more than one government in Britain today. Most of Ireland broke away and is a republic now. The part that did not is "autonomous" with his own government. Scotland now has a parliament of its own and even Wales has its own local government though they have been part of England since hundreds of years.

Just today another Englishman tells me that I must not have understanding of the British government because English still have lots of power in Scotland. Maybe so, but they claimed at least they had no knowledge or control of the Scotland law courts from releasing a convicted terrorist back to Libya and no matter what powers these assemblies have it is obvious, is it not, that the trend lately in Britain, just like it was in Belgium decades past, is being towards division and disunity rather than greater unity. Just like Flemish nationalists want to end Belgium by having independent Flanders the British also have the Scottish National Party that wants to end United Kingdom by having an independent Scotland. It is obvious the situation is not so serious as in Belgium but everything points to the same direction and I would think anyone could see this and Britons who love their United Kingdom would be somewhat concerned for this and not exulting in the problems of the Belgians knowing that there is no reason the same cannot happen to them. Already the British Empire is fallen away and the country has turned more to Europe, more to EU and depend for themselves on allies rather than acting independently in matters economic and military.

I am not total supporter of EU and I do not want to see Great Britain breaking up into pieces either but I am sometimes angered into saying things I later regret because some of them do want that for my country. And why? How did Belgium offend? We did not invent EU and we had no more greater voice in building it or running it than any other country. I hope Britons will stop the insults and consider that they could someday be in the same position and rather than start fights with the Belgians be accepting of any sympathetic to the situation and wanting both countries to survive and prosper.


  1. Some Flemish nationalists make a special point of appealing to a British audience, producing literature in English, for example, something which almost no other Belgian group seems to do (unfortunately). I sometimes wonder if all this supposedly pro-British stance is an effort to erase, from the minds of people across the Channel, the fact that Flemish nationalists often collaborated with the Germans, in both world wars.

  2. I'm also shocked that someone would make nasty comments about your country like that, to your face. Did this person know you were Belgian?

  3. I think everyone knows my nationality, especially since the problems now started I wear on my sleeve my national support. Usually I am telling Americans for thinking I'm French. This case I inserted myself in the discussion when some students were repeating from a politician insulting Belgium and I could not resist coming to the defense.

  4. I stumbled on your blog and I very much enjoy reading your posts! A Belgian citizen living abroad, I am married to a Brit - 36 years in fact - and both of us retained our citizenship.
    As the proud grand daughter of a WWI veteran 0f 4 years in the trenches (Croix de Feu recipient)I cannot conceive being anything else but a Belgian. I am proud to be one!
    Britons usually pick on the French...but good for you!
    Like you I like to establish that I am Belgian, not German, not French...
    Many thanks for bringing me a little home colour! I will continue to follow!

  5. Merci, thank you! My grandfather was also veteran but of World War II, great-grandfather of World War I. My parents are Fleming and Walon so how can I take sides? I am only Belgian also. The sacrifice of those in the world wars to save the country cannot be disposed of over political feuds. Over here the smaller countries get not much attention but people hear me speak and say "Hey, Frenchie!" and I must shout back, "Not Frenchie! Belgie!"

    I am glad in your family there is affection between Britain and Belgium. I wish for more.
    God Save the Queen! Vive l'roi!

  6. Let me tell you a little secret...My paternal Grand Father,another Veteran, specified that at his table no politics or religion were to be discussed...An observance we still hand on to this day but I must admit there has been some heated conversations (in the family room)none the less...We try to remember everyone was equal in the trenches then, how can we be any less tolerant today?
    After all, l'Union fait la Force!
    Bonsoir and All the best,

  7. We had no such rule but we had no disagreements on these things. I'm not very political or very religious, on politics I'm practical, favor what works oppose what does not. My parents are more religious than mean but their 'team' is my 'team' also so there are really no disagreements. We all agree we want the country to survive and that is the big issue today. If I were at home I would probably have alot of arguments with other people though.

  8. Hello again! Perhaps the rule I mentioned came about when after centuries of Belgian citizens only (Limbourg) my family suddenly included (within 2 following generations) 1 Yank, 1 from Luxembourg, 1 Dutch, 1 Muslim, 1 Christian Maronite and 1 Brit. Politics and Religion were best kept to the minimum.
    I am very proud of my country and I never thought for a moment to be anything else than Belgian.
    I agree the Country should remain United! That is what truly matters and I chuckle at your last statement! If I was home, so would I!
    Like my Corgi, I never back down!
    All the best and keep up the posts! I would miss it very much!

  9. Thank you, I try to continue. And you have a corgi -as British as the Queen. Maybe you need to adopt for your husband a Belgian dog! Also the mixture would make a difference to avoid certain subjects, my family has none of that other than one aunt who was originally German (yikes!). Politics all pretty the same and all the same religion, officially anyway. The only troubles was when an outsider say something rude about Flemish or Walon and my parents get upset with them, You insulting my wife? My husband? Half my children? No such talk! Now when I ask about things they just think everyone is going crazy and all the politicians are wicked. Simple.

  10. Much obliged for the answer! And I totally agree with your parents! I would also push up my sleeves and give "them" a taste of my opinion or a "chataigne"!
    A Berger Malinois sounds wonderful!
    By the by, your post regarding Leopold II was very interesting! My Grandfather sat on his lap as a small child and never failed to hail him as a great King!
    You have triggered some memories I tell you...