The first quote has been translated by me into English from German, though the text is orginally French. I was handed it by Ralph Boes at a meeting of the Citizen's Initiative Guaranteed Income movement a few weeks ago. The movement hands out copies of this declaration to German employment agency workers, with a red rose, in an expression of solidarity with them, and as part of their long battle to spread the word on guaranteed income.
Declaration on professional and human ethics from Sud ANPE (employment agency union in France)Above all, it is our duty to help job seekers find jobs, and that is what job seekers expect from us. But there is simply not enough work for all. Neither an increasing number of interviews, nor constant demands to visit the agency can create jobs, but both increase the risk that job seekers are forced, harassed and punished.We, the employees of ANPE, declare that we in no way want to harm others already suffering from the loss of their job and income.We refuse to ostracise them, and will enact no further sanctions without prior consideration of the moral and human consequences.We present job opportunities, we do not force them. We will not shove job seekers into state-conceived pigeon holes. We will not threaten them with sanctions.We further refuse to be confronted by job seekers’ anger, to be a social police reliant on suppression, so that we might act as public advisors fulfilling the role of finding work for others.Neither job seekers nor employees of ANPE are responsible for the condition of the job market or the increasing casualization of labour. We declare our solidarity with the job seekers.We refuse to produce any more false figures, unfair job offers and meaningless interviews, and will instruct our employees to help users of our service in full respect of their human rights.
The second piece is Günther Grass poem published only this week, as translated by me. I hope it speaks for itself:
Europe’s ShameAs it slides into chaos on Market reproof
you recede from the land which loaned you life.What you thought found which your soul long sought,
is now undone and taxed to junk.A land bleeds in the stocks, naked as a debtor,
to whom you once spoke warmly of your debt.Land condemned to poverty, its riches endow
manicured museums: your tended prize.They who marched with weapon force on this island-blessed land
carried like uniform Hölderlin* in their backpacks.Barely tolerated land, whose leaders
you once tolerated as allies.Land without rights strangled by the hand
of dogmatic power tightening and tightening the leash.To spite you Antigone wears black, as nationwide
sorrow robes a people whose guest you were.But beyond this land, the lineage of Croesus has it all
stored, golden and glittering, in your vaults.Drink, damn you, drink! cry the commissar’s claques.
But Socrates, enraged, hands back the brim-full cup.The gods will curse as a choir the stuff of your soul,
as your will strains to possess their throne.Soulless, you will waste away without the land
whose soul breathed you to life, Europa.
*Hölderlin (1770-1843), German poet, best known for his novel "Hyperion", which is set in Greece and lauds Greek civilisation.
The third is from an open letter from Quebec where the broadest cross section of society is protesting against the government's raising university fees by 80%. I'm very late to this story, but then I'm no news hound!
News coverage of Quebec almost always focuses on division: English vs. French; Quebec-born vs. immigrant; etc. This is the narrative that has shaped how people see us as a province, whether or not it is fair. But this is not what I feel right now when I walk down the street. At 8pm, I rush out of the house with a saucepan and a ladle, and as I walk to meet my fellow protesters, I hear people emerge from their balconies and the music starts. If you do not live here, I wish I could properly convey to you what it feels like; the above video is a start. It is magic. It starts quietly, a suggestion here and there, and it builds. Everybody on the street begins to smile. I get there, and we all—young and old, children and students and couples and retirees and workers and weird misfits and dogs and, well, neighbours—we all grin the widest grins you have ever seen while dancing around and making as much noise as possible. We are almost ecstatic with the joy of letting loose like this, of voicing our resistance to a government that seeks to silence us, and of being together like this.And finally to Germany, where an unemployed man is being forced by the state to sell a coin collection (German) it took him over twenty years to gather, before he qualifies for benefits.
The job centre granted him Unemployment Benefit II for half a year as a loan, using the coin collection as justification for this measure. The building engineer, however, demanded Hartz IV in addition and sued, arguing sale of the coins would be uneconomical. The amount of money it took to collect the coins, some 27,000€, would only be covered by a forced sale to about 35 or 40%.This brutal greed on the part of the state, a state congenitally blind to the subtleties of human existence, blind too to its own inhumanity, terrifies me, precisely as it is meant to do. The bravery of those risking the state's ire have my deepest respect and awe. They give me the strength I need not to collapse in on myself, to carry on believing in us, in humanity, in love. From the open letter:
An expert from the job center values the collection at 21,750€, more than double the amount of assets allowed those seeking to claim Hartz IV benefits.
I come home from these protests euphoric. The first night I returned, I sat down on my couch and I burst into tears, as the act of resisting, loudly, with my neighbours, so joyfully, had released so much tension that I had been carrying around with me, fearing our government, fearing arrest, fearing for the future. I felt lighter. Every night, I exchange stories with friends online and find out what happened in their neighbourhoods. These are the kinds of things we say to each other: “if I loved my city any more right now, my heart would burst.” We use the word “love” a whole lot. We feel empowered. We feel connected. We feel like we are going to win.We feel like we are going to win. But the road is hard, and there is much tragedy awaiting us ahead. I leave you with an earnest request to watch "Fierce Light - When Spirit Meets Action" (97 mins) from Velcrow Ripper, the Canadian behind "The Revolution is Love." I cried openly more than once wathcing Fierce Light. These are intense and frightening times, and yet my heart tells me, and I want to believe, we are coming together. We are becoming one people.