Tears and silence; an overwhelming sense of solidarity. And restraint. Belgium began its second day of mourning on Wednesday 23 March with impressive dignity. Curiously, the feeling across the kingdom that day was somehow stronger than on the actual day of the bloody attacks that had so shaken Brussels. In fact, there was the distinct impression that the country was in a state of shock on Tuesday, paralysed by the terrorists’ savage violence. On Wednesday, by contrast, people were beginning to give the victims names, faces and stories.

This human dimension reminds us of our own fragility and tugs at our natural compassion. It is what we call mourning. While it officially lasted until Thursday evening, we will need much longer to tend to the country’s wounds. But to do this, we need two qualities: composure and clarity.

Composure means listening to reason: avoiding caricatures, conflations and populism. Because it is clear we now are facing two dangers: external and internal caricatures. Foreign television channels confusing Molenbeek and Maelbeek and transforming Belgium into some ravaged wasteland do have any constructive contribution, no more than the assorted band of French ‘experts’ who have never set foot in Brussels. “Who has an unblemished record when it comes to terrorism?” asks Jean-Claude Junker in an interview with this newspaper. “Let us not start criticising Belgium, I do not share this disdain.”

Clarity, by contrast, means saying things that have been left unsaid. Given what has happened, no questions should be left unanswered. It is, in fact, vital for our democracy. We need to pose questions about the enquiry, our intelligence services, the trajectory of Belgium-born terrorists, and about what Salah Abdeslam knew or did not know (it hardly needs saying that this terrorist, now under lock and key, holds a wealth of material for a number of different inquiries).

We need questions, but also a real process of introspection; above all regarding the last forty years of Belgian politics. Regarding security, integration, co-habitation, our clear permissiveness in certain areas, our hands-off approach in others, a definite lack of vision on the project of globalisation that is (or should be) ours. If this debate is denied, or restricted to the ideological clash between those who think everything is fine and the populists proposing simplistic solutions, we will not get very far.

This is what is at stake in the coming days, weeks and months: our capacity to name our problems in order to tackle them rather than avoid them, our willingness to develop a clear societal project for the country. If we can draw any lesson from what has been happening in France since November, it is to avoid the trap of slipping into national discord, political feuds, true/false debates that become fiascos – as we have seen in Hollande’s proposal to revoke French nationality for convicted terrorists. Instead, let us concentrate on the essential issues at hand.

This would be the best tribute to the victims of the attacks.