Coming Home

August 25th — actually just trying to cope with the hassle and bussle of leaving home, moving to another site. Anyway, coming home at about 7 in the morning, I cannot walk into the street where I still live, police stropping me and saying I have to enter from the other side — he briefly looks pass the van that is blocking the entrance. I turn around and a scary idea comes to my mind: of course, the house opposite of VAM 9. I walk and feel anger coming up: my dearest neighbors being threatened, part of what was at some stage my property being “under fire”. I arrive at the other end, facing a little army. The one of the police force asking me —  I say I am living there. He allows me to pass, to enter the zone where the weapons are still only firing symbolically, though provoking violence. And the anger is changing in some way: I feel that I am to just in another war zone — I am feeling at the very same time how helpless I am: war against against young people. Since I am living in VAM they were flying a flag: dégagé. The peaceful occupation of a previously empty house. I look across the street, see the face of the young woman standing at the gate, peaceful … – the rest is interpretation: disillusioned, frustrated, disappointed … — will she, will the lads from across the street remain as peaceful as they had been all the time? I talked occasionally to some of them, had been invited to their parties: nice folks: “We just want to work and study, and for that we need a place to live … — that is all.” — Nothing about fractious attitudes, so often seen in the seemingly peaceful surrounding of an Italian middle-class area, peaceful with the various nunneries around, people, being good and doing good and of course all being honest …

This is the future Europe, and Italy is part of it, offers to its youth. It is that future about which I talked during the conference against war in Berlin last year – as follow-up a book had been published. It is that future of which unemployment, homelessness and migration are just different sides. It shows that we all are still and increasingly Greeks. And it is a future that is in this way dangerously creating a tinderbox.
had been the slogan — and when Kaethe Kollwitz dedicated her poster in 1924 to the youth gathering in Germany, it had been not least a statement against these forms of war mongering.
And it had been always clear that burying a person (and here) does not equal getting rid of a system.

Austerity

Austerity policies (for some more general considerations on austerity see here)  in Belgium are not new – and a 2013 study by Oxfam about

THE TRUE COST OF AUSTERITY AND INEQUALITY

may provide a glimpse at the problem. And it clearly shows the tensions that are not least caused by the European Union policies. So, it is no wonder that we find no measures against countries as Hungary where we find an ongoing battle about the attempts of the Orban-Government to criminalise homelessness and the homeless – relative success stories, informing us that the

Hungary Supreme Court Allows Homeless Back on Streets

are surely overshadowed by the fact that the same policy is now pursued by different means, as according to the same source now

The bill allows district local councils to rule certain areas as prohibited for the homeless. [1]

Of course, it still is a success, not least as we have to recognise in this context that

Civil Rights Groups Rally against Ban of Homeless from Public Areas

But, coming back to Belgium, there is more to it:

In short we may speak of a “convergence” of policies in Europe against homelessness as policies against the homeless.

Noteworthy is that austerity policies in Belgium are increasingly virulent.

In consequence not least of this Belgio-European political course we find that the scale of poverty increased tremendously recently, doubling in just four years.

But that is not all – these dramatic cuts in personal lives are going hand in hand with the redefinition of public spaces and the responsibility of private.

If EUrope really wants to claim its roots in ancient traditions (which is surely dangerous in some respect, e.g. if we think about the abduction of Europe by Zeus)[2]/[3] there would be good reason to revisit for instance Cicero’s work stating in paragraph 22 of the first book of De Officciis

Sed quoniam, ut praeclare scriptum est a Platone, non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici, atque, ut placet Stoicis, quae in terris gignantur, ad usum hominum omnia creari, homines autem hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se aliis alii prodesse possent, in hoc naturam debemus ducem sequi, communes utilitates in medium adferre, mutatione officiorum, dando accipiendo, tum artibus, tum opera, tum facultatibus devincire hominum inter homines societatem.

Steven Hill argues that

Europe … was founded on a feudal and Catholic value system which believed that the exercise of privilege by the wealthy came with wider social obligations beyond mere charity. Typical of this view, St. Augustine in the 5th century AD declared, “He who uses his wealth badly possesses it wrongfully.”

But even in Northern American law we find, according to Gregory S. Alexander the notion

that American property law, both on the private and public sides, includes a social-obligation norm, but that this norm has never been explicitly recognized as such nor systemically developed

Sure, engaging in this debate would open a wide field – Aquinas, for instance can be interpreted in both ways, as supporter of equality and inequality alike, as advocate of accumulation and modesty. And there would also be the need to discuss the “translation” of ancient traditions (not only of Christianity but also of Islam and all the others) into “modernity”.

In any case, the reality is rather simple: the public, the common, the general interest had been redefined by these European institutions – and they are further redefined – giving the power away to private bodies that are now building their fortresses within the fortress.

Looking at this fortress then, here the recent excessively violent form, it remains to be discussed if it is in line with Article 1 – Protection of property of the Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [4]

Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.

Sure, looking at the formulation of this passage from the protocol shows the entire dilemma: lawful is what is said by the law and the law says what the lawmakers say.

There can only be one conclusion then: we need a law made by the people and not for the people …. – and of course, for this we need the public spaces.

Otherwise, there are too many ways of people being killed – and some are slower than this, but not less brute.

 

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[1] Hmmmm …: I opened the Wall Street Journal website for several times now and there is always the same ad coming up: “Discover your Perfect Home”

[2] see Maria Mies: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Peter Herrmann (Ed.): Challenges for a Global Welfare System: Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.; 1999: 153-171; here: 160 f.

[3]            see in this context also the reflections SURELY PROVOCATIVE – THE STAGING OF ‘RUSALKA’ and EUROPE ANCIENT AND PRESENT

[4] as amended by Protocol No. 11 (Paris, 20.III.1952 – according to the provisions of Protocol No. 11 (ETS No. 155), as of its entry into force, on 1 November 1998)

forgotten rights

Well, toilets are not the most favorite topics: we all use them, but we usually do not talk about them.
Did I say we all use them? Actually I received the other day a mail, linking me to a website with the heading
An amazing and alarming figure. Much has been done, but a lot remains to be done, indeed.
But looking at what is actually done is not less alarming: the use of “public” toilets is increasingly also absorbed in the stream of privatisation, i.e. you have to pay in train stations etc.; last year I used such facilities in a coffeeshop (one if not the one of the most widespread places not only in Germany) and read something like:
I am cleaning this toilet without being paid by the owner. I appreciate your donation.
Yes, I remember the word donation had been used and that the lady had not been paid by the owner.
All this, by the way, gets an additional slant if we think that more and more people in the so-called developed countries are homeless – for them this kind of privatisation is another obstacle in their life.
And there is another additional remark that may usefully be made: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are supporting the UN-initative: the 19th November now being World Toilet Day. Do something good and talk about it … – why not: don’t do any harm initially, then there is not so much reason for doing good to repair the damage.