5.28.2010

Your Country is Fucked: Belgium

National Motto: Don't Forget About Us!!!



Welkom in België (or, for the 40% who speak French, Bienvenue en Belgique), Welcome to Belgium; the land that Europe forgot, and that Americans couldn't point out on a map (although, in fairness, that doesn't say very much, since you'd be hard pressed to find an American who can name the states and their approximate location in his/her own country). To be honest, its location is a bit obscure, nestled on the West-Northwest North Sea coast between France, Germany and the Netherlands: It's really the taint of Western Europe.




If Europe were a frat boy, this would be the Belgian Money Shot...




Belgium is the living, breathing embodiment of American stereotypes of Europe. Seriously, we think of Europe as France, Britain and Germany (if we ever think of the continent at all), and the other nations are just "All Others". Belgium fits an ideal, Platonic exemplar of Euro-otherness: obscure topography; tiny (the size of Maryland); linguistically diverse (two official languages, with a smattering of German thrown in); abandoned monasteries; burned out castles; a Monarchy; lush farmland; densely populated city centers and, dear god, is it flat (highest altitude above sea level is 564 meters). Yes, Belgium has it all!



This is Belgium....





  And this is Belgium....




And this is Belgium...





 And this is Belgium.




Belgium is, like many North Sea nations, a constitutional Monarchy, complete with an heredity head of state, and a national assembly.  But, it wasn't always so stable and peaceful.  At one point in time, Belgium was full of hostile Gallic tribes, notable the Belgae, and the region was called Belgica by the Romans. But, the Romans (thanks Caesar!) conquered all of the Flemish tribes, and the Dutch/Germanic Walloons slowly started moving in from the West and North, culminating in the 5th Century assimilation of the region by Frankish kings (Thanks Charlemagne!). Thereafter, the region was roughly thought of as part of Frankia (when it was thought of at all...most of the big guns were a bit North in Frisia).




See those red lines in the Gallic Empire? Those were  borders, but then became the demarcations of Roman Roads. Guess how the Roads got there? Julius-Fucking-Caesar, that's how...





What came next for the Belgians was roughly a full thousand years of uninterrupted vassal-status. For a millenia (from the 843 Treaty of Verdun until the 1830 Independence), Belgium was divided, united, divided again, and absorbed by various European Overlords: The Franks, the Carolignians, the Holy Roman Empire, Frankia, the Hapsburgs, the French, the Dutch ad nauseum. But in 1830, Belgium bravely said "fuck this", and formed their own current form of government (mainly because no one felt it was worth the trip to crush the Belgians and remind them of their national serfdom).  
 

Actually, that's not true, the Brits actually dissolved the UK-Netherlands, and Belgium skulked off to form a country. It was a different age in Europe then; the Industrial revolution was in full swing, and folks that had been at war for thousands of years decided that it might be better to trade goods than take prisoners. Besides, with about 40 miles of coastline, a flooded coastal plain, and grey, downcast weather, no one really wanted Belgium; occupying it meant that someone would have to live there...Better it be the poor Belgians.





Rarely cited by history textbooks, the First Franco-Nederland War of Apathy erupted when France demanded that the Dutch occupy Belgium. To the outside world, this was a generous offer of treaty; to the knowledgeable observer, it was the biggest "Fuck You" since Martin Luther committed Onanism on the Wittenburg cornerstone...



 
Despite the majestic ruins and idyllic European countryside, Belgium is very much a modern nation. But, that modernity comes at a cost...a substantial one that places it at the whim of Arab oil, and truly fucks Belgium. See, Belgium has absolutely no natural resources whatsoever to sustain its economic engine. This nation of 10 million is the 114th smallest country on the planet, and the 98th least populated. However, 10 million Belgians trying to keep up in the EC/EU economies imports a shitload of oil and gas. Belgium is the 14th largest importer of oil, and the 36th largest importer of natural gas...on the planet. The country's main exports, if you can even call them exports are the excellent beet/sugar root crops, the world-renowned beers (especially Lambics), the phenomenal chocolates, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.




 Seriously, Belgium, you can have this one back....




Worse, 75% of the economy is service driven, and despite a quarter of the land being arable and sustainable, only 2% of the workforce is agricultural. Worse, the population is aging quickly, and public debt is a full 100% of GDP... Hmmm....older workforce, young unemployed heavily indebted, service jobs: where have we seen that before?








With austerity measures on the horizon, the economy being service-driven, an aging workforce, a palpable brain drain of talented young workers, and the pending demise of the pan-European economies, Belgium is facing a fiscal calamity. With its debt, it can't spend its way out of the recession. With a tiny army, and no international hostilities, it can't even take the American route: bomb brown people and let unemployed kids go overseas/get paid slave wages. In fact, the only positive thing going right now is the film In Bruges, which showcases the nation's sleepy beauty, and the fact that the EU has its headquarters in Brussels. All-in-all, not a positive prescription for long-term health.

Sorry Belgium, your country is fucked.




At least your women are a veritable buffet of hues and hotness...you'll always have that.




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