Belgium in Brief: Can nuance save us from nationalism?

Belgium in Brief: Can nuance save us from nationalism?
Credit: Belga

These days, "democracy" often gets a bad rep. Its detractors reduce the term to an occasional duty (mandatory in Belgium) that inevitably doesn't produce the hoped-for result and has laid the foundation of some of this century's most disastrous political designs.

This intentionally simplistic conception allows critics of all colours to paint themselves as cheated by the system and fuels calls for alternative measures. In Belgium this might mean saying "to hell" with compatriots over the language divide and stir the appetite for regional separatism.

In a bid to push back against his Flemish rivals, Alexander De Croo made an appeal for nuance in a lecture on Tuesday evening. He insisted on the need to champion complexity rather than distrust it, arguing for the "hundreds of thousands of opinions" that democracy responds to.

Belgium is often smeared for having a surplus of diplomacy, where the diversity of demands at the national negotiating table impedes progress and dilutes decisions with reams of concessions. Whilst there's no doubt that Belgium's bureaucracy could be streamlined in some instances, the Prime Minister made a strong case for the breadth of views concentrated in the country being our greatest asset – even ahead of cycling or the nation's sense of humour.

De Croo countered that it is in fact nationalism that should be discussed more, notably its failures that have lured voters towards the "mass destruction of wealth". He highlighted the legacies of recent populist projects that took a turn for the worse, pronouncing them "ruinous" blunders that aren't castigated enough.

Whilst the PM put forward a compelling case to a hall of attendant university students (I was unable to find whether the premier's schedule left time for his points to be challenged afterwards), entreaties to complexity are harder to sell in the wider public sphere where straightforward slogans dominate the discourse.

Can voters still be won with nuance or are we doomed to recognise the ruins of nationalism too late? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. 'Ruins of nationalism' are not talked about enough, says Belgian PM

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