O Tempora, O Mores! (November, 2007)

American Renaissance, November 2007

Bye, Bye, Belgium?

Belgium is an artificial country, created by the British in 1831 to act as a buffer between France and Germany. Sixty percent of the population are Dutch-speaking Flemings who live in Flanders in the north of the country. French-speaking Walloons are concentrated in the southern region of Wallonia.

The two populations do not always get along. In June, Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme won the general election. The Belgian parliamentary system requires that both regions approve all governments, but Wallonia refused. A majority of members of the Wallonian parliament believe Mr. Leterme is a Flemish nationalist who will put Flemish interests first. Belgium has therefore been officially without a government for nearly five months, and there is speculation the country could break up along ethnic lines.

Flanders is the most productive part of the country, producing some 70 percent of GNP, and the Flemings are tired of supporting the poorer, socialist-leaning Walloons. The largest party in Belgium in the ardently nationalist Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), which wants independence for Flanders. The Belgian and European establishments—Brussels is home to the anti-national European Union—are unremittingly hostile to the Vlaams Belang, and its predecessor party the Vlaams Blok (VB), and have harassed it for years.

One tactic of the national government has been to grant foreigners, primarily Muslims, the right to vote in local elections. Immigrants vote against the VB, keeping it from becoming the majority party in major Flemish cities. A recent poll found that 43 percent of Flemings want independence.

It was against this backdrop of ethnic division, government crisis, and tension over immigration that the Vlaams Belang proposed a march through Brussels on September 11 to commemorate the attacks on Washington and New York and to protest the “Islamization” of Europe. The Socialist mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, banned the march for fear it would upset Muslims.

Two hundred protestors defied the ban, and marched along with VB leaders Frank Vanhecke and Filip Dewinter. The riot police, who outnumbered the protestors, quickly moved in and made arrests—all caught on videotape. Columnist Diana West of the Washington Times described what she saw on the tape:

“We see black-clad Belgian policemen brutalizing a man in a light-colored suit and tie. His hands are cuffed behind his back, his right elbow is clasped in what is known as an arm-bar hold, and he is being subjected to a genital hold—a vicious grip that, a retired cop friend of mine tells me, would get any American policeman thrown off the force.”

The man was party chairman Frank Vanhecke. In Patrick Buchanan’s view, this would be like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell being beaten by police for leading a protest on Capitol Hill. Top party spokesman Filip Dewinter was also roughed up and bundled into a paddy wagon. The brutality of the Belgian police did not bring any international condemnation. Indeed, the president of the Council of Europe issued a statement defending the arrests: “The freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are indeed preconditions for democracy, but they should not be regarded as a license to offend.” [BBC News, Arrests at Brussels Islam Protest, Sept. 11, 2007. Patrick Buchanan, Is Belgium Breaking Up?, Creators Syndicate, Sept. 28, 2007.]

This spring, AR staff heard Mr. Vanhecke and Mr. Dewinter give an inspiring talk in Arlington, Virginia. They are fine men, deeply concerned with the welfare of their country, and if this is the way Belgium treats patriots, the sooner it ceases to exist the better.

Swiss Turn Violent

Last month we reported on the uproar over the Swiss People’s Party’s (SVP in German) campaign for the October 21 parliamentary elections, in which the SVP is using a poster of white sheep kicking out a black sheep. “The poster is disgusting, unacceptable,” says no less a person than the president of Switzerland, Micheline Calmy-Rey: “It stigmatizes others and plays on the fear factor and in that sense it’s dangerous. The campaign does not correspond to Switzerland’s multicultural openness to the world.” Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin says the SVPs tactics, and devotion to its parliamentary leader, Justice Minister Cristoph Blocher, remind him of Mussolini and the fascists.

The left should be careful with the term “fascist.” On October 6, the SVP was to hold a march and rally in the Swiss capital, Bern. As more than 10,000 supporters arrived at Federal Square, outside the Parliament, they were met by several hundred leftwing protestors. The protestors blocked the SVP march and ransacked the stage on which Mr. Blocher and others were to speak. Protestors threw bricks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails at police, who then used water cannons and tear gas to break up the crowd. More than 20 police officers were injured, and dozens of protestors were arrested. Bern police admitted they had been unprepared for the guerilla-type tactics used by the anti-SVP rioters, who also looted several jewelry and watch stores. Police Chief Stephan Huegli called the riot “a black day for Swiss democracy and freedom of speech.”

Mr. Blocher, addressing his supporters after they had regrouped, said that “this day will go down in Swiss history.” Defense Minister Samuel Schmid, who, like Mr. Blocher is a member of the seven-member Federal Council that serves as the Swiss executive, denounced the violence, saying it was not in keeping with Switzerland’s “democratic traditions and values.”

The SVP became the largest party in the Swiss Parliament in 2004, when it won nearly 27 percent of the vote. Before the riot, the SVP was on track to win at least a similar victory. Because political violence is so alien to Switzerland, observers say the SVP is likely to gain even more support. [Pre-election Rally Marred by Violence, SwissInfo, Oct. 6, 2007. Elaine Sciolino, Far-right Swiss Party Divides Nation on Immigrant Issue, International Herald-Tribune, Oct. 7, 2007. Ian Traynor, Switzerland Reeling as Radicals Create Havoc at Rightwing Political Rally, Guardian (London), Oct. 8, 2007.]

Foreigners in Italy

According to recent data from Istat, the Italian government statistics bureau, the number of foreigners in Italy has been increasing by about 10 percent a year, and now stands at three million—5 percent of the population. One of every 10 babies born in Italy now has foreign-born parents. The largest groups of foreigners are Albanians (376,000), followed by Moroccans (343,000), Romanians (342,000), and Chinese (145,000). Italy still has a smaller proportion of immigrants than Germany (8.8 percent), and Britain (6.2 percent). In the US, more than 11 percent of the population is foreign-born.

Foreigners in Italy have established a political party, the New Italians Immigrants’ Party. “Now that the ‘New Italians’ have reached three million, politicians cannot continue to ignore their needs,” says Mustapha Mansouri, the party’s leader, who is originally from Morocco. “We’re asking for legal residents to enjoy political rights. They pay taxes and contribute to the country’s wealth.” A recent poll found that 60 percent of foreigners living in Italy said they thought voting rights would help them feel more integrated and “less foreign.”

The city of Rome lets immigrants elect representatives to the city council but they have only an advisory role. In 2005, Italy’s Council of State, its highest court, rejected a move by the city of Genoa to let immigrants vote in municipal elections, saying only the national government had the power to extend voting rights. [Italy Now has Three Million Foreigners, ANSA (Italian News Agency), Oct. 2, 2007.]

The Color of Corruption

After two years of FBI investigations, the federal government has brought bribery and kickback charges against 16 people in Dallas in connection with construction of city-funded low-income housing. Among the people charged are some of the city’s most prominent blacks, including state Rep. Terri Hodge, former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, and a former City Council member. Mr. Hill was considered the front-runner for mayor until word got out about the investigation. Only four of the defendants are white. All are land developers, and none is an elected official.

Dallas is only 25 percent black, and some people think the investigation must have targeted blacks. Dallas County’s District Attorney, Craig Watkins, who is black, says that “people just have the general sense of the city being unfair to people of color.” Some blacks have even said the investigation was a deliberate attempt to destroy the black leadership. US Attorney Richard Roper and the FBI strongly deny this, pointing out there was no sting operation. Investigators simply removed incriminating documents from City Hall and followed the paper trail.

John Wiley Price, the Dallas County Commissioner, who is also black, takes a realistic view. “Unfortunately, all the actors who were in a position to make a decision . . . were black,” he says. [Paul J. Weber, Dallas Indictment Raises Race Issues, AP, October 3, 2007.]

Rewriting History

Trevor Phillips, a black Briton of Guyanese origin, has made a career of being a professional minority. For years, as chairman of Britain’s Commission on Race Relations, he bellowed about “institutional racism.” He has a new perch now, as head of something called the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, but the rhetoric is the same. Immigration to Britain has become a permanent fixture, he says, and the British must get used to the country becoming less white. “There’s no going back,” he says.

Mr. Phillips recognizes that many of the new Britons do not share traditional British culture, and are not interested in assimilating. His solution? “I think we have to rewrite, redevelop, our national story so that it is inclusive. And what I mean by that in practice is this: not that we have to re-write what we are but sometimes we have to go back into the tapestry and insert some threads that were lost. . . . And if there is a practical thing, I would say it is that we need to revisit some parts of that national heritage, to rewrite some parts of that national story to tell the whole story.

One part that needs rewriting is the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, one of the defining events in British history. For centuries, Britons believed the Royal Navy and a helpful storm prevented Catholic Spain from invading Protestant Britain, but they got it wrong. Mr. Phillips explains: “When we talk about the Armada it’s only now that we are beginning to realize that part of it is Muslims. It was the Turks who saved us, because they held up the Armada at the request of Elizabeth I. Now let’s rewrite that story, let’s use our heritage to rewrite that story so it is truly inclusive.” [Brian Wheeler, British History ‘Needs Rewrite,’ BBC News, Sept. 25, 2007.]

Beaner’s No More

Fifteen years ago, Bob Fish and his partner were sitting at his kitchen table trying to come up with a name for the coffee-shop company they planned to start. They settled on “Beaner’s,” which was supposed to make people think of coffee beans. Beaner’s has since grown steadily, with 77 stores in nine states, mostly in the Midwest and Southeast, and the company expects $30 million in sales this year. But as Beaner’s began to move into areas with large numbers of Hispanics, it began to worry about its name. “Beaner,” short for “bean-eater,” is a common derogatory term for Mexicans. While the company has never been sued or asked to change its name, says Mr. Fish, “we decided we’d always be answering those questions.” He adds: “You remember the saying from the playground, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ Well, that’s not really true. Names do hurt. What we realized is we had a name that unintentionally hurt people.”

The company will spend more than $1 million to replace signs and other items with the company’s new name, “Biggby’s.” [Jeremy W. Steele, Beaner’s to Drop Name Some See as Derogatory, Lansing State Journal, Sept. 15, 2007.]

White Wilderness

Bunyan Bryant, a black man who camps during the summer on the shores of Lake Huron, is used to being the only non-white. “I seldom see other African Americans or even other minorities camping. . . . [I]t doesn’t happen.”

Few non-whites go to national and state parks. Even un Arizona, where whites are soon to become a minority, the US Forest Service found that 88 percent of the people visiting the state’s six national forests were white.

Why don’t non-whites enjoy the Great Outdoors? Some people say the problem is money: Poor blacks can’t afford to go camping. Others says it is cultural. Marta Maldonado, a sociologist at Iowa State University, says the concept of “wilderness” is a western European idea, not one necessarily shared by non-whites. The chief of the US Forest Service, Dale Bosworth, says the “face of conservation has traditionally been rural and white.” Bunyan Bryant, the black camper, believes that for many blacks, descended from share croppers, camping might remind them of farm life and poverty. Alan Spears, associate director of cultural diversity programs at the National Parks Conservation Association, is black, and therefore perhaps speaks with more authority. “It’s all couched under a larger fear that maybe, with some of these public lands, you’re going to run into white supremacists in camouflage clothing running seven-man assault drills or something like that,” he says.

Park administrators are determined to get more non-whites into the woods, partly because they are worried about funding. Blacks and Hispanics care more about welfare than forests. As their numbers and political power increase, their interests will take an increasing share of government budgets, leaving less money for wilderness protection. [Michael Hill, Minorities Not Taking Part in Wilderness Activities, Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 11, 2005.]

‘Racists’ Make Policy

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox is hawking a new book, Revolution of Hope, written in English because he says he wants to make Americans understand the Mexican point of view on immigration. In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Fox took President Bush to task for making excuses about why there could not be an amnesty: “There was always a reason for why it couldn’t be done. ‘It is not possible because of the elections.’ He couldn’t touch the topic because this election is very important, or because security was more important. So, when are they going to finally address it? It needs to be resolved.”

Mr. Fox think the US should not have a secure border: “To be so repressive isn’t democratic or free . . . to be putting up fences, chasing Mexicans, that isn’t right. The US needs better answers than repression, weapons and violence.” And why aren’t things going his way? “The xenophobics, the racists, those who feel they are a superior race . . . they are deciding the future of this nation.” [Diego A. Santos, Ex-Mexico Prez: Racists Stop Immigration, AP, Oct. 8, 2007.]

The Wallet-Drop Test

Paul Kinsella is a 35-year-old web page designer who spent a month in 2006 dropping 100 wallets around the town of Belleville, Illinois, to see who would keep them and who would mail them back to the address inside. The wallets contained $2.10 in cash and a fake but realistic-looking gift certificate for $50. Mr. Kinsella filmed every wallet drop, and noted the age, sex, and race of the people who picked them up.

His results were no surprise. As the charts below show, old people were more honest than young people, women were more honest than men, and whites were more honest than blacks. The age, sex, and race differences were consistent, no matter how the characteristics were mixed. For examples, 95 percent of the white women were honest while only 65 percent of the black women were. Sixty-five percent of the white men were honest, while only 44 percent of the back men were. Young black people were the most dishonest. Not even half—just 40 percent—returned the wallets, while 62 percent of young whites returned the wallets.

Wallet Drop

Mr. Kinsella’s samples were small, and statisticians might quibble over the validity of his findings, but larger samples would probably produce similar results. Details of Mr. Kinsella’s experiment and further results are available at www.WalletTest.com.

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