Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ils sont foux c'est Belgiques

I thought about calling this post "Red Neck of Democracy III" but decided that might be confusing. Nonetheless this sorry European example reinforces the lessons I tried to enunciate following the US election.

1 Freedom of thought means freedom for the thought we hate

2 Democracy means counting alike the votes of the wise, the ordinary or the foolish; the liberal, the conservative or the fascist and votes for the good, the evil or the merely human.

3 It is the liberal's duty to confront evil counsels in the marketplace of ideas, to fight ignorance with knowledge, folly with wisdom and darkness with enlightenment. It is neither our duty nor acceptable for us to use the tools of repression against our opponents however hateful their views may seem.

Belgium does not seem to have learnt these lessons. The right-wing Vlaams Blok party standing on a dual policy of racist xenophobia and Flemish independence was convicted of "racism" and the sentence is now before the appeal court.
The countries of Europe have good reason to fear a repeat of the 1930's and their paranoia at the emergence of "ultra-right" parties is understandable. But this issue demands a cool, considered response. To respond from fear or panic is to invite the very disaster feared.

Let those who think it proper to initiate violence against the National Front, coerce or punish those who do not share their private agenda or to ban a political party they dislike reflect on this (San Diego Union Tribune)

The party's share of the popular vote in elections has gone from under 10 percent in 1999 to 24.1 percent last June. A poll released in September pegged the party as the most popular in Flanders for the first time.


8 Comments:

Blogger Uroskin said...

As a former Belgique (as you call them) myself, I'd put in my 2 eurocents.
All the other parties in the Flemish parliament agreed quite a long time ago to throw up a "cordon sanitaire" around the Vlaams Blok, i.e. refuse to go into a governing coalition with them, whatever it takes. Then some misguided 'democrats' took the VB to court on the basis that it was a racist and xenophobic party. The VB is now remaking itself (including a new name and manifesto change) to make itself more palatable, in legal terms - in practice and policy-wise there is very little difference and it will remain the anti-immigration, anti-liberal, anti-gay party it has always been. Trying to ban a party in court (or by political oppression) usually backfires and the tumour just keeps on growing on the Belgian political body. The court case is now recognised as a tactical blunder. Engaging and defeating racists/homophobes can be done by undermining their arguments and policies.

9 November 2004 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Greyshade said...

Hans
Sorry if I got the name wrong. I was trying for what Obelix would have called them in honour of my favourite Belgian author. Unfortunately I only have "Asterix in Belgium" in English. As for the folly of the incident itself I certainly accept that "there but for the grace of God goes NZ".

10 November 2004 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Uroskin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10 November 2004 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Uroskin said...

The more correct French phrase would be (as per Obelix): "Ils sont fous les Belges" - but hey, just let that inner Frenchman come out!
BTW I had to correct Holden Republic's French too ("L'etat, c'est nous"). It's soooo difficult to be French these days what with the danger of being bombed by the Americans

10 November 2004 at 11:11 AM  
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