Sunday, April 29, 2012

Update: Ralph Boes and My Busy Little Life

Hello all!

Oh, the irony. I step out of the machine only to bring the machine with me, an unwanted habit I am forced to maintain. Work has rather piled up of late, and since I ply new trade with new software to learn alongside its skills, I have had time for nothing but earning money--almost. As a newbie freelance translater, I have decided to make hay while the sun shines, and am doing well at it for the moment. This explains the paucity of posting in recent weeks. I still plan to cover how a guaranteed income might be financed, and will look at three alternatives as soon as I can.

On Friday evening (27th April), I made time to attend a meeting of the Citizens' Initiative Guaranteed Income Group, a ragtag bunch of hopefuls struggling against the steady current of stodgy and ignorant mainstream opinion. As a ragtag hopeful myself, I felt quite at home among them, though the intricacies of holding meetings in strict accordance with the German state's multifaceted requirements left me cold. They have a wierd voting procedure with arcane German terminology I have yet to learn.

Anyway, Ralph Boes was there informing his troops on the latest. He is still receiving Hartz IV income, still contravening all Hartz IV laws, still asking to be sanctioned, still full of fire and passion. His letter demanding to know why he has not been sanctioned remains unanswered. The group's next move on the Hartz IV front will be to set up a website listing sanctioned Hartz IV people who have died from the ravages of life on the streets. There are dead. In a real sense, being booted out of society because you can't find work (900,000 "customers" were sanctioned in 2011) is a slow genocide. As I pointed out in earlier posts on this topic, all applicants (defined as "customers" because the employment bureaus are in fact limited companies, they are not government agencies) are forced to sign an incorporation agreement before all else. If they do not, they are sanctioned. If you have children to feed, you sign away your rights, rather tear your family apart.

This model is attracting attention across Europe. It is a scandal, and I greatly admire Ralph Boes for his courage and determination. His reason for demanding sanctioning is so that he can starve in public. I was deeply moved to think this most humane of humans would put himself through that agony for others. He would starve in as public a way as possible, weighing himself every day on a scales in the street, communicate as often as possible with whichever newpaper expressed interest (interest is definitely growing), and thus draw attention to this hideous situation. It is utterly immoral to punish people, threaten them with death, kill them, simply because our economic power and other creativity has rendered the majority of human labour redundant. Murderers and paedophiles are treated better; at least they get home and board.

So watch out, fellow humans! This model is coming to a nation near you soon, and it takes people of Ralph Boes' courage and humanity to even begin to fight it. The state is a system born of an ethic which no longer applies. But it is a system with enormous self-sustaining momentum; it will grind all before it to dust and never think it is doing anything wrong. It is a machine evolved for growth and uniformity; inlexible, class- and welath-based hierarchies; anonymous violence and stubborn intolerance. And yes, the so-called Market is an embdeed part of its whirring machinery.

I hope to have more time for blogging after mid-May. Until then...

13 comments:

Debra said...

Although Boes sounds like a fiery passionate man, I am definitely not sure that being behind bars as a pedophile qualifies as better treatment.
There is... FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT for the people on the streets, and a chance of putting neurons to work to improve one's lot, at least.
There is lots to say about the idea that we could perceive some form of... equivalence between the situation of the ones being punished behind bars, and the ones out of work...
By the way... what irony that Germany is once again going this route which heavily contributed to churning out one Adolf Hitler who became... well, we know what he became after HE managed to "work" his way out of the homeless situation...
Good luck in translation.

Alex said...

Perhaps Debra is right. What need has one for food, family and home as long as one can leave the room and look for employment?

Toby said...

Hi Debbie, hi Alex,

indeed Alex, freedom of movement (which is not free, since going into hotels, or restaurants, or shops, or other people's homes, is out of the question) is hardly a plus at minus twenty degrees centigrade and the streets are thick in ice. German winters are hard. Prison is warm. And has food. As for neurons, that is not easy either, since by the time you have been thus evicted from society's safety net, self-esteem is a very long way away, as are things like libraries, or like minds. There are books and libraries in prison though. Not to say that prison would be an easy life, far from it, but life on the streets as a beggar is worse.

Otherwise, translation is still going well. I both dread and look forward to the next lull!

Debra said...

Well, I can tell that you guy's reading is not mine.
I just finished the book called "Why do we have to punish people ?", and I suggest that before we confidently declare that prison is warm, and that people are fed in it, WE CONSULT THEM..the prisoners.
I am not sure that they would have OUR point of view on the question. Many of them. Most of them ?
Nothing like being behind bars to make you appreciate freedom of movement, right ? As simple as being able to get up and walk out of the room ? Not having to ask somebody for EVERYTHING you get ? (Until the point where you have kept some poor sod in prison for so long that he no longer has any... WILL to do anything BUT sit and pass the time behind bars, and is definitely afraid of the outside. It happens...in psychiatric hospitals too. Even... in our homes ?)
Our incredible confidence and complacency about what THEY want mystifies me.
But we are extremely confident that WE know what THEY want, and have been for long enough to set up two social "security" systems that ended up.. PUNITIVE.
The one the Churches set up for "charity", and the one the Republic has set up for public assistance.
You guys keep... BELIEVING that YOU know what is best for your neighbor, and that being warm and fed under a roof is what HE wants MORE than anything else..
Personally, I would rather listen to my neighbor than evangelize him, or FOR him.
At least, try. And believe that it takes all kinds to make up a vibrant world.
Maybe your prisons in Germany are nicer than ours in France ? Or the hell holes in the U.S. ?
I still bet that they are not... HOTELS, though.
The well fed, warm, homeful, law abiding man who works for a living would never tolerate that..
And since HE is sovereign, right ? our prisons are not set to improve soon.
Our entire system is hell bent on turning US into rootless nomads. And is doing rather well at it, too.
I spent some time observing homeless people. They are very different. (Aren't we all ?) They come from all sorts of situations. Some, not most, manage to claw their way out of precarity.
The supercilious, arrogant comment here (not you, Toby) nettles me.
Because people are not victims. If you treat them as pure victims, you deprive them of all incentive to cultivate their own personal.. WILL to change their situation, at the same time as you deprive them of dignity in your and their eyes. You encourage them to sit down, wait for a handout, while dumping on themselves and the rest of the world.
I have seen some victims... who definitely hang on to the victim status for dear life. What/who would they be without it ?
And the vicious circle continues.

Toby said...

Of course prisons are not hotels, and very few would choose one as a way of life. Yet the freedom of movement you described in your first comment is not free in the sense of Rousseau; there's no romance in it. Some 'choose' it, and fair enough, but some are forced into it, and that is wrong.

The victim position is complex, especially in modern society which is now too big to understand. We don't live in intimate communities, so people get very lost in all sorts of different, unhelpful roles, victim being one of them. My strong sense is that we just don't know how to value ourselves in the face of automation and the end of perpetual growth. This is an enormous cultural and societal challenge whose outcome is far from clear. Even the smallest sense of which direction we are about to embark on is missing. In that tension we have things like Hartz IV and millions of Germans (and other humans) becoming ever more deeply lost in the mists.

Telling people what they should want is wrong, I agree, and failure is as unavoidable as success, but we have a system which overrewards and overpunishes, thereby producing far too much misery and depression, in prisons and on streets alike.

Debra said...

I am not sure that Rousseau said what we rather romantically credit him with saying...
Rousseau definitely believes in the sovereignty of the social body, and OUR individualism would have totally mystified him.
The further we go towards bringing the evangelical model here on earth, the more the freedom horizon keeps receding into the distance.
Is it only... the ELITES who are capable of understanding why this will always be so ?

Alex said...

Apologies for nettling you Debra. A couple of years spent in companionship with English public schoolboys has left me with something of a knack for antagonising garden variety conservative cod-philosophy dressed pretty language.

By the way Toby - on your recommendation last year I bought Franz Hörmann's book and translated it to English for myself. However, I did it by hand and with only a year's experience of German so I was wondering if you knew of a better attempt somewhere in the ether?

I've been lending my copy to interested friends but I'm afraid it may not be an honest interpretation.

Debra said...

HA, Alex, I recognize you from somewhere out in the left field of blogoland... I think.
Apologies accepted.
I am not a bobo, as we say here. Too marginal for that...
This morning I commented to the woman I walk with once a week that I definitely disapprove of what the English language is becoming : a computer program.
She said... she doesn't read for style but for content.
That is some of the most insididious Cartesian dualism I've heard for a while, and it is doxa in American culture that you can separate the two.
About as much as you can separate.. mind and body, I say.
Who wants to sound like a computer program, or an accounting sheet ?
Not I...

Toby said...

True, Debbie, but I was talking of our romantic view of Rousseau's work. And you may well be right about the patrician 'elite' breaking eggs to make omelettes and losing no sleep over it, while the rest of us get tangled up in all sorts of half-baked moralising. As for language becoming a computer program, isn't that an assertion that style is indeed disappearing, and only content remains? We are all still deeply entangled in dualism, try as we might to rise above it, (if that is the right metaphor!).


Alex, I don't think Das Ende Des Geldes has been translated into English yet. However, Franz Hoermann is on Facebook. He speaks English well enough, certainly reads it well. Pop him a friend request and ask if there are any translation plans in the pipe line.

http://www.facebook.com/franz.hoermann1960

Debra said...

No, Toby, the computer program remark is a comment about style AND content.
About the Babelian attempt to destroy metaphor "in profit" of "transparency" and a uniform, absolute, objective "meaning" common to all of us.
An attempt to create language which is not ambiguous or equivocal, which is all on one unique plane.

Alex said...

I hadn't even thought to ask Hormann himself! Thanks Toby.

Perhaps I should type my own attempts and see what he thinks?

Debra - I feel saddened to hear that there really are people who choose "content over style" in English on every occasion. I think I'm right in thinking you're quite the fan of Shakespeare?

Toby said...

I see, Debbie, and agree with you. Fitting everything into perfectly appropriate boxes while refusing to notice how life keeps on spilling out all over the place, wilfully analog despite our best binary efforts. Yes, I wonder how bad the spring-back from this inbalance will prove to be.


Who knows, Alex. I suspect the publisher would have its own trusted translators. I trod that path with Franz Hoermann a while back, translated long passages of his book here at Econosophy, and he okayed them. I'd do more, only paid translation has become far more important as I redesign my and my family's life for the rapidly oncoming and very different future.

Debra said...

Right on, Alex.
I am a big fan of William, who was a surrogate father to me.
From William I got an education in economics, philosophy, esthetics, poetry, history, politics.
And loved every not dry and dusty minute of it.
Still do... I think I will read "Hamlet" this summer and meditate on it. It is a play I do not know as well as some others.