Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wacky Euro-News, Plus Oaths

Belgium's state television channel, presumably having nothing better to do, aired an extended fake broadcast Wednesday night reporting that Dutch-speaking Flanders had seceded from the nation. Apparently they mocked up footage of the royal family fleeing Brussels and everything.

Needlessly playing up national cultural tensions seems like an abuse of government funding, but fortunately, since this is Belgium, nothing much is coming of it. There is a such thing as a Flemish separatist movement, however, which I was intrigued to learn:
“For many decades, the free-market oriented Flemings have been subsidizing Socialist-dominated Wallonia,” Frank Vanhecke, the president of the [Vlaams Belang] party, has written on its pro-secessionist web site. “The Belgian Constitution gives the Francophones 50 percent of political power and a veto over major issues, which makes the French-speakers act as if they are the majority. The Flemings have had enough.”
Best to take the sentiment seriously: one thing you don't want to reckon with is a mass movement of Flemings. Once they get started, boy, they'd sooner go over a cliff than give up what they're looking for.

I think people from Flanders should be called "Flanderes-es," Homer Simpson style.

At work I've recently had to do a lot of "diskwork," which is the preliminary stage of manuscript cleanup that mostly involves stripping formatting out of Word documents. You end up with a very cursory read of the manuscript, but you can generally pick up on whether something is interesting or not. The one I was doing a couple of days ago had to do with the history of judicial systems, and included this colorful artifact — a Norman oath from twelfth-century England, sworn by witnesses on religious relics:
"Know ye by the faith and belief that you have in Lord Jesus Christ, and that you received in baptism, and upon these relics . . . that if you have lied or concealed the truth in this matter, your souls will be damned in perpetuity, and your bodies will be exposed to shameful abuses in a gaping Hell."
I think we should dust this off and start using it in courthouses and at inaugurations. I mean, as long as we've got a meaningless, Christian-specific swearing-in process, it may as well be as awesome as possible.

In a pinch this could also substitute for other tired phraseology, such as "I understand and agree to abide by the terms and conditions" and "I pronounce you man and wife."

Also interesting is the earlier (like tenth-century) Norman "trial by battle" system for resolving knights' disputes, in which each party would designate several witnesses and a single "champion." The losing witnesses would be guilty of bearing false witness, but the losing champion would be a bit worse off than that.

Hey, it's a flawed system, but you've just got to let it work and abide by the results.

2 Comments:

Blogger Nate said...

I'm impressed you didn't pull the trigger on using a "Stupid Flanders" type Homer reference as a title, rather than just calling it out in the middle of the post.

I'm pretty sure I heard a piece on NPR a couple weeks ago about how one of the big Flemish nationalist parties has adopted some pretty virulent anti-immigration positions (not uncommon among nationalist European parties these days) along with the separatist thing. I may have just slandered a bunch of non-Francophone Belgians though.

12/14/2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

Flemish style Belgian beers are some of the most sophisticated in the entire world, easily. They can do whatever they want, so far as I'm concerned, so long as they don't stop brewing.

12/16/2006 10:14 PM  

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