The two horrible crimes involving abuse and murder of infants have another thing in common: both tragedies happened in Wallonia. Now, while Flanders is definitely not free from crime and children disappear here too, never to be found again, I'd wager the sheer horror of the 1996/2006 dramas could only be produced in Wallonia. Why would that be?
In the 19th century Wallonia, the southern part of Belgium, was a key focal point in the European Industrial Revolution. It was in Seraing near Liège, in the Meuse valley, that the Englishman John Cockerill in 1817 established his steel factories, which in time would produce not only sheeted metal but also sophisticated products such as textile machinery, steam engines, locomotives, railways, ironclad gunboats for Russia and mail boats for the Dover(UK)-Ostend trajectory. An interesting synergy occurred when the new steel technologies met the age-old weaponmaking facilities in the Meuse valley, especially those at Herstal, just northwest of Liège, and the result was the Fabrique Nationale (FN), which would primarily produce infantry weapons, although from the poster you can see that in the very beginning FN also made cycles and automobiles. By the mid-19th century, Wallonia not only had very important textile and steel factories, it also had the raw materials to keep them running. Huge coal mining facilities emerged in much of Wallonia, but primarily in the west, around the old cities of Mons (the "Borinage") and Charleroi. So important was coal for this latter region that it became known as "Le Pays Noir" - the Black Country.
It is not surprising that in an area where armies of workers laid the foundations of Belgium as an industrial nation, syndicalism soon emerged. No doubt were its goals at that time noble, and its influence necessary, for the living circumstances of factory and mining personnel were more often than not appalling. But in the first half of the twentieth century, these unions grew into organizations which weighed increasingly, through their mother party and through their ability to paralyze the country with strikes, onto polticial decisionmaking.
As the twentieth century progressed, the influence of Wallonia as a key contributor to the Belgian GDP quickly waned. In both world wars the industry was either dismantled by the Germans or made to work for the German war machine, in which case it became a legitimate target for the Allied bombing campaign. The post WWII era saw a Flanders eager to catch up (it had been primarily an agricultural contributor until then) which was not burdenened by old habits, and without powerful unions able to impose their rules to politicans and captains of industry alike. By the sixties, Flanders was in full swing and Wallonia nearly constantly paralyzed by strikes, which resulted from massive layoffs in increasingly obsolete heavy industry and exhausted coal mines.
What remained strong however in Wallonia was the socialist party PS (Parti Socialiste), which originated in 1885 as the Parti Ouvrier Belge, or P.O.B., and its affiliated union, nowadays called the FGTB. And over a period of fifty years, since the end of WWII, these two organizations would increasingly entrench themselves in Belgian politics, buying votes for either welfare benefits or useless jobs in a state apparatus becoming increasingly heavier. Without doubt one can say that the Wallonian Parti Socialiste created its own electorate, promising lifelong state support in exchange for an endorsement on election day. And it worked: to Americans this may sound insane, but in certain areas of Wallonia there is a substantial phenomenon of generational unemployment! In the cities of Tournai and Charleroi, important swaths of unemployed have fathers as well as grandfathers who were unemployed too all their life! Indeed, Belgian law does not impose time restrictons on unemployment benefits, which means that if you do not bother to find a job you can keep receiving your monthly unemployment check perpetually. Responsible for this state of affairs is the Parti Socialiste, which acts as a near-Communist party, with local chieftains performing the roles of party bosses even in the remotest villages. You will understand that in Wallonia notions such as free market mechanisms, stimulating entrepreneurship, limited government etc. sound like they come from another planet. The state here is top-heavy, with 40% of the "active" population either "working" in the government, the province, the Région Wallonne, the town councils, the courts etc... Moreover, since the public sector is so strong, the right connections are very important, and as a result many private companies, especially the ones involved in infrastructural works, find themselves in a state of permanent government dependency to the extent that it is often not clear anymore whether they are still truly "private" companies. You may ask then how it is possible that Wallonia is able to finance a overgenerous social security system and a top-heavy government apparatus. The answer is simple: Flanders is financing both. Statistically, every last one of the 6 million Flemings, from the newborns to the centenarians, is paying on average 2,000 EUR (some 2,500 US$) yearly to keep the Wallonian Titanic afloat. It took them a very long time, but finally some Walloons acknowledging this one-way money drain have started to debate it publicly. Among them the respected Senator Alain Destexhe, and the Liège-based Professor Pierre Pestieau. Naturally, upon their revelations, both gentlemen got the whole ruling class over them, and for saying that without the (Flemish) transfers Wallonian taxes would even have to be raised 20% the latter was nearly crucified.
Another bad result is the decline of labor ethics. While in industrious Flanders one is still stigmatized for being lax, in Wallonia it has developed into a lifestyle. Once I went to a client, who was an employee of the Wallonian Regional Government, for preparatory work for a quotation. It was early September. I noticed that she had a small bandage around one of her wrist, obviously nothing serious. When I asked her when she would like to have the work done she answered I could come anytime before the end of the year, because her "injury" entitled her to stay at home, with a full wage, till December! With a workforce consisting of people like my client the state apparatus can hardly be expected to be efficient, and indeed, a plethora of examples is on hand to prove it. For instance, in Wallonia it takes five postmen to do the job which in Flanders is done by three - and then we are not even talking about the absenteism among postmen, which for Wallonian ones is at 12,49 %, while it stands at 7.04% for their Flemish colleagues. Or I could point to the Wallonian education system (Belgium is a federal state where both Flanders and Wallonia have regional governments responsibel for, a.o., education). Wallonia, pop. 3.6 million, has three (THREE) Ministers of Education! One for 6-12 year olds, one for "high school" and one for universities. If you don't believe me, check out this pdf-document about Madame Françoise Dupuis, the minister responsible for "Enseignement supérieur"! Are Wallonian schools, colleges and universities better then because of their three ministers? Nope. It's underperforming and lags far behind the Flemish school system, which ranks among the world's finest.
Perhaps the most frightening result of this all is not what one can seen in graphs, like the staggering unemployment numbers (around 20%, almost three times the number in Flanders). It can be seen in the people themselves. Make a population dependent from a state allowance for a sufficiently long time, and what do you get? Mollusks. People without any real sense of pride, confidence or self-esteem. Years ago I passed an evening and night at a cozy Ardennes lodge, Cap au Vert, of which the owners were a Flemish couple (quite a lot of the succesful Ardennes mansions are actually run by "immigrant" Flemings). The owner, Mr. G., told me about the hopeless apathy of all the people in the neighborhood, and the amazing number of people from nearby villages who were entitled to a variety of welfare checks, be it pensions, veteran allowances, unemployment or incapacity benefits and so on. As an illustration of how bad socialist rule had affected people's self-esteem, he told me that once, upon explaining the finesses of Cap au Verts bookkeeping to a local girl he meant to hire, she desparately answered him "that she wasn't able to do stuff like that".
Now that we have seen what socialism does for healthy labor ethics, what about morality? Politicians are supposed to lead by example, and that goes for morals too. Well, power corrupts, and if anno 2006 you have a Parti Socialiste which has been in power for almost a century - either in the federal or in the regional government - chances are it is not exactly a beacon of ethical governance anymore. Socialists may pretend they defend the rights of the poor oppressed workers, but in Wallonia the socialist strongmen defended only their own rights. A brief summary of all the scandals in which the PS became involved would quickly take up several large DowneastBlog posts, but suffice to say that we have seen everything: fraud, embezzlement, political murder, gross incompetence, theft, prostitution, you name it. Not for nothing, the Parti Socialiste is known as "the Party of 1,000,000 scandals", and as I'm writing these very lines, for the umpteenth time a gigantic scandal concerning misused funds for social housing projects has just unfolded, which was so bad that, unbelievably enough, for once it did force a very important PS personage to resign: the Wallonian Minister-President, Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe. But sidelining a despot like that for a short while won't bring decent politics back. What you have in Wallonia is that people have seen for decades that corruption is the norm, so how on earth can you expect them to live up to the minimally required ethical standard necessary for every succesful society?
The decline in morality was enhanced by the Parti Socialiste's open hostility towards the Church. Say about Christianity and the Church what you want, but the crux of the matter is that you don't have to believe in God to acknowledge that there is a lot of sanity in, say, the Ten Commandments. Even agnostics from Kant (To have religion, the concept of God is not required.) to Hayek (who "saw the importance of elaborating ideals for the sake of their guidance") or atheists like Derrida understood the merits of a Christian education. In Belgium, but especially in Wallonia, the socialists have always tried to undermine the Church's influence. If you look how omnipresent the PS is in the life of the average Wallonian, one could say not without justification that the PS has to a large extent effectively replaced God. But instead of basically sound morals, it offers nothing but a hedonist catalog where the motto is that everything must either be allowed or at least debatable, and the basic question for the citizen "how to get money without having to work for it".
Last spring the big topic for Belgian tabloids was Flemish top VLD (liberal) politican Rik Daems dumping his college sweetheart for 37-year old blonde vamp and Parti Socialiste MP Sophie Pécriaux, who recently became mother of their child. When the news came out, the first to congratulate the lovers was... Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, "très content pour le nouveau couple", who said that the affair "was a victory for love". When I heard about the news, which made it to the Beeb and The Times, I was thinking it was rather a victory for Rik's Dik, and otherwise I was wondering how Mrs. Daems was receiving the joyful news. But then I'm a boring archconservative nitwit. Btw, did I tell you that Miss Pécriaux is from a PS-stronghold where unemployment is 40%? Anyway, you get my drift. Mr. van Cauwenberge's elation at the breakup of Rik Daems' marriage is entirely in line with the Parti Socialiste's neverending efforts to destroy the concept of a Family consisting of a married father and mother and a bunch of kids. Hooray, another family down! And alas, it was also the Parti Socialiste which was able, thanks to the perverse mechanisms of Belgian politics, to force gay marriage trough Flemish throats, even though polls showed that a majority of Flemings was opposed to it. As a last token of where the glorious socialist morality can lead to, in Liège - tiens, that's the city the two murdered kids were from - well, in Liège the city is trying hard to get federal funding (an euphemism for confiscating Flemish tax money) for its latest pet project, controlled distribution of heroin to addicts who can't be cured anymore (from Le Soir : February 11, 2006 edition, page 8):
The dossier is getting fleshed out. Willy Demeyer, mayor of Liège (PS) is elated: "his" project of controlled distribution of heroin under medical supervision has obtained the support of (federal) Minister of Justice Laurette Onkelinckx (PS) and Minister of Public Health Rudi Demotte (PS), on visit in the "Fiery City" (Lièges nickname - MFBB). He has equally been able to convince the procureur général of Liège, Cédric Visart de Bocarmé.
The project is taking into account a budget of 20,000 EUR per addict (that's some 23,000 US$), but at least the Parti Socialiste is reaching out to those poor victims of a cruel, capitalist society.
To cut a long story short, this is where socialism leads to. Semifree, dependent, frightened, incompetent and ultimately unhappy citizens - of which, inevitably, a number loses all morality. This society, the Parti Socialiste State, was the breeding pool where monsters like Marc Dutroux were able to continue their ghastly affairs for years on end - on a state allowance. In Belgium, and especially in Wallonia, there is one step left on this Road to Serfdom. And that's abolition of democratic principles. That's shutting those who are of different opinion up. Like Dr. Daniel Féret, leader of the Front National, a party which, despite its many flaws, is not afraid to pinpoint the diseases racking Wallonia. Mr. Féret recently had his civil rights suspended for 10 years on a ridiculous charge of racism. A nice consequence (for the PS) is that in this way he is unable to run in the upcoming municipal elections. I was talking about Friedrich Hayek. Hayek "warned that state control of the economy was incompatible with personal and political freedom and that statism set in motion a process whereby "the worst get on top." Hayek not only showed that socialism is incompatible with liberty, he showed that it is incompatible with rationality, with prosperity, with civilization itself.
If Europe, and indeed the whole western world, wants to get out of its current grave crisis, it has to dig socialism. Not in the manner socialists are trying to dig their opponents, with intimidation, severe verdicts by partisan judges, stripping of legal status. Never can we, rightwingers, allow ourselves to stoop to the level of socialists. No, we haver to get rid of socialism by rediscovering, and emphasizing, our roots. By remembering what made us great. By honouring our Great and Proud Traditions. Freedom. Duty. Honour. Honest and Hard Labour. Family Values. Our Judeo-Christian Heritage. The Love for Science, not only because it gave us so many useful technical tools, but also because it made us understand our universe. The Pursuit of Happiness. If we succeed to offer our children a perspective to these qualities lost, once proud hallmarks of Western Culture, instead of the meaningless nonsense offered by insane multiculturalism as propagated by the Leftist Church, then we have a sound chance to get out of this crisis.