justPeople – For the World
The wind gently sways the trees and evokes the voices of displaced people in the nature reserve Heumensoord near Nijmegen. A huge gap remains there now as if nothing significant has happened. However, Heumensoord is definitely not a blank spot in our collective mental map.
In 2015 a refugee camp was built in the middle of the forest. It was the largest emergency shelter in the Netherlands in decades. As the same time it brought about a massive network of support in Nijmegen and surroundings, mostly through informal and deregulated social organization, based upon humane urgency, interaction, volunteers and social media.
Our justPeople collective came together in this context, out of solidarity and mutual support. We are a dynamic group of international, young people who feel concerned with their living environment, in any geographic, social, informational and psychological sense.
In the following we wish to make a statement, as a response to the recent Dutch national elections, the developments of recent years, but even more so as a message to the future.
Our responsibility as humans is to counter the fragmentation of society in general, and especially segregation and racialization of refugees and migrants. We stand for solidarity and mutual aid, intercultural dialogue and respect. We stand for equality, regardless of gender or color. We do not wish to comfort ourselves through solutions that temporarily soothe us at the cost of those in need. We need our collective experiences in creating a sustainable future for us all. We are part of that, we are the future and the wind of change.
About a month ago, March 15 2017, the latest national elections of parliament took place in the Netherlands. Through Europe, the Dutch elections seem to be celebrated as a victory over far right fascist rhetoric.
We feel statements made in such messages are far reaching and misleading, especially when displayed on an idealistic and progressive social platform. As a matter of fact, Geert Wilders’ party did win five seats, gaining 33% over the previous term. It’s perhaps a message of hope to some, a relief in comparison to the widespread fearful anticipation for worse, but we feel the sense of relief overrules the sense of urgency towards developments in recent years. It overrules the need for (self)empowerment. It overrules the silent acceptation of racist references, which have been increasingly dominating discourses in recent years, and are slowly slipped into lines of argumentations. It overrules the silent outcry of those in need who often have no voice and are silenced the moment cameras are absent. It overrules the state of the earth. Any such sense of relief soothes us with blind caps for the bigger processes in the world, persistently at the cost of others. This does not only apply to politics of migration, but rather to nearly all urgent themes of our current world: climate, education, information, health, injustice, suppression, slavery, etc.
We understand that the 2017 elections could have turned out somewhat worse. We understand there have been positive signs in the elections, such as the big turnout in general and by young people, and the relatively progressive voice of the newer generations. The green parties have increased substantially in size.
Yet it is important to make very clear that we have a long way to go. People are being suppressed, marginalized, manipulated and dehumanized from in- and outside of Dutch borders, consequential and regardless of Dutch or European policies. We are fed hate of the other, and try to use that to fix our own identity in place. A diluting and masking mechanism, considering that an identity is a process, rather than something static.
Policies made in recent years, such as those which have been dubiously called the ‘refugee deals’ with Turkey, Libya, Mali, Niger, have come from the same people who have now again won the 2017 Dutch elections. The deal that was made has always been controversial to some, but is also officially being contested more and more by large organizations such as Oxfam Novib & Stichting Vluchteling (link to article in Dutch). and academics throughout Europe because of its inhumane geopolitical game at the costs of those in dire need.
Currently the UN estimates, there are about 140 million people displaced in the world by the effects of climate change. They estimate this amount could increase to up to 300 million people in 2050. While our society is making noise to exclude migrants, the CO2 emissions in the Netherlands in 2016 by companies and industry have been the highest ever measured (link to Dutch article). Both policies and the neoliberal market are failing us and our world’s reality, and have been doing so for several decades already.
All the more reason to consider a new reality. A reality in which all kinds of people will be everywhere. A complex reality. A reality in which we urgently need to embrace necessary changes, a reality in which denial and separation are the disease, while collaboration and interaction are the cure. A reality forecast by inclusive initiatives and fathomable examples and development, where differences can be used to find similarities, and in which (social) development is a form of courage and perseverance. Migrants have always been treated as a security threat, it’s time to change this discourse into an inclusive, responsible and most importantly a self-critical notion. We need to look ahead and be brave and open towards a vulnerable future.
We also understand that the voice of many, in some cases represented by those voting for segregating and fear-dominant leadership, has been silent for years. We understand that the general discontent of people is a reason to vote for a fearful call for change, a reference to the familiar folk in a time where sense of direction is lacking. Changes are fast and decisions are made uninformed or undemocratic. We understand the sense of fear. We understand the impact of global decision making, mirroring a sense of powerlessness and shortsighted versions of diverse and complex realities. This sense of fear comes from a fear of losing the security of the livelihood of many.
But we cannot justify creating a common enemy. In the Netherlands, the euphemism of “participation society” has created a framework, where all our social networks and social safety nets are slowly taken away by use of the name of ‘efficiency’, guided by economic models and economically dominated rhetoric. We see it in the education system, housing possibilities, and in the health care system.
The housing market in the Netherlands has become increasingly privatized by neoliberal politics, which now results in refugees in need of new homes being portrayed as a direct competitor to the less wealthy people in the Netherlands. Fear is channeled into anger towards migrants, fueled by frantic media and politicians. justPeople opposes this. We channel the insecurity of the future into action; action to change our livelihoods into an inclusive society. Towards a society that we would like to live in, based on solidarity and mutual aid. We can come together, repair bikes together, share tea and knowledge.
We are not stating that we can fully change the world. As a matter of fact, collective development can only be carried on through personal experience, which is a matter of falling and rising within surroundings of reflectors. However, in all relative privilege we have, we can indeed create a good example, facilitate those reflectors to strive forward and use our means, networks and creativity for pragmatic development. These are similar means to the ones our parents used to create the social roots we do have.
We can make the world a better place only by taking initiative. On the streets, in social centers, in community shelters, in living rooms with friends and family, a better future is made. We cannot look up the hierarchically defined ladder, only to be disappointed time after time and give up, directing our frustration towards others near us, or anonymously depicted strangers who we project our own deficits on.
A better world starts with you and your network, no matter the results of any election. As it has always been, women’s rights, rights for people of color, rights for the LGTBI-Q community and rights for marginalized groups in general have been gained on streets, in social environments, and in reflection of experiences of those in need. We believe a common cause can be found in many of the issues in the world of today; we are all in need. Solutions are often not a one-size-fits-all, which is why solidarity and creativity are virtues that go through and beyond politics.
It takes courage to raise your voice and direct a clear “no” to racism, or any form of segregation. To direct a clear “yes” to inclusive solidarity initiatives and supportive communities.
We still have a long way to go and many lessons to be learned, but we look into the future with positive energy.
Do you feel inspired to make the Netherlands a better place for us all, despite the politicians in The Hague? Do you want to channel today’s insecurity into tomorrow’s better world? Check our projects where we build the future we want, without racism, without sexism, without racialization, with love, with solidarity and most importantly with positive energy.