Aljazeera. 25 Feb 2016. 20:26 GMT                                                                                             Greece.

‘Refugees attempt suicide by hanging from tree in Greece’

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… What?

Three days ago two young men, refugees, wanted to commit suicide in the center of Athens.

Mental health issues were assumed, but scrapped.

‘They probably wanted to show their objection to the fact that they cannot leave [Greece].’ (A police spokesperson to Al Jazeera (2016))

 

What happened here? And why is this happening?

As widely known ‘the refugee crisis’ – for those who want to use the buzz word – or the absolute fail of the European Union – for those who simply want to be honest – has been going on for quite a bit. Certainly, there always have been a lot of tensions, but now the situation got to a new level.

To brief those non-Europeans amongst us: The EU’s migration policy dates back to a time, when the geographic setting of the EU was a complete different one. The EU agreed that the state in which territory a refugee would enter first, would have to deal with the administrative proceedings. If the person would try to pursue his or her journey, he or she would be pushed back to that country (Dublin Regulation).

However, the EU changed. Now the boarders are extended and there is a number of countries that don’t have an EU boarder, thus, it would be simply impossible that they would ever ‘have to deal’ with refugees. Nevertheless, this regulation kept in place for a long time, until 2011 (!), when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that refugees could not be sent back to Greece, because the conditions faced by asylum seekers in Greece amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. Hence, it would impinge international and EU law to push these people back to Greece, so to say, if they would hold onto the EU migration policy.

That’s where this whole discussion about the ‘distribution of refugees’ roots – What should be done with these people that come? Where should they go? Who is responsible for them? While there was no answer found, people continued to come. Border controls started to be reinforced. Measures taken, some of them highly debatable. And only a few days ago my dear home country Austria imposed ‘refugee quota’. Yes. Now it is only a limited number of refugees a day that are able to enter the country and claim asylum. And of course. Every country on the Balkan route reacted. Boarders are getting shut down. – No-one wants to be the country in which all the refugees get stuck. So now it’s again up to the countries on the EU boarder to deal with the situation: Hello Greece.

And this is where we’re standing today. This is the point when two men wanted to hang themselves in one of the central squares in Athens.

 

We talked about Agamben and his ideas of homo sacer and bare life a few weeks ago, and the situation in Europe at the moment just cries for an exploration through his eyes: People – with diverse background and experiences, with millions of personal stories and reasons for their journey, with families they might have lost, kids or parents they might have left back home – are getting reduced when entering this other European society: Suddenly they are just refugees. People that fall under this word, are being pushed from one country to another, while none seems to feel responsible or care. And this very word, refugee, seems to justify the way they are treated: in a way it detaches these people from their humans qualities. This word implies that they might or might not have the right to stay in the country. It implies that they could be send back to places in which they’re not save. It implies that they do not have rights, that they are just reliant on mercy. In effect, it implies that the state in which they currently reside is able to possess over their lives: To decide what they owe; where they go; what they do; if they live.

But not enough that they lost control over their participation in society and are stripped of their rights, the word refugee and how it is used in day to day media, disconnected the word from the actual people: The word refugee is not associated with personal feelings or humanitarian concerns, but politics. It is a word that distincts people with certain criteria from others, allowing us to do to them what we would never do to us, thus, it is an essential component of the process of the reduction to bare life. Silently, through this discourse, people that actually just need help, got constructed to a burden; a threat. Slowly, they were taken their human qualities. Step by step, they got reduced to a thing, bare life, with no rights, being at the mercy to be pushed back to countries in which they could not survive.

 

When I read about these two young men that wanted to hang themselves in Athens, Agamben and his notion of bare life immediately appeared in my head. These two young men, ready to take their own lives, did not face mental health issues. They were not confused. They resisted. Stripped of all their rights. Having to rely on gratitude in order to survive. Being pushed back and forth with no place left to go to. Being reduced to bare life, as the only thing left in their possession. And through this possession they resisted – they used it. They didn’t let the state, the discourse, the media occupy their body. They used this very only thing that they had left, and brought it back into politics.

Their body. Their decision to decide on their own over their death. Not to wait for the state to decide over what will happen to them or their visions for the future. They took their own decision. And with this decision, they revealed to what they have been reduced, resisting against this very same fact. On the one side, it is so cruelly powerful. But on the other side, I question myself: Will it have an impact? It certainly triggers something in me. Something that needs to get out. A scream. A resistance. A rupture?

Is the possibility of creating a rupture the real power in what Agamben understands as biopolitics? Is the very fact that through this act, I get so emotionally involved, wanting to scream and resist as well, the power that I seek to understand here?

 

I clearly cannot claim that what I wrote here is in any way representative for what these two young men have been through or wanted to achieve. All information I’ve got is through the very same media and discourse that I complain against in this post. This is simply an attempt from my side, to try to understand.

 

Bibliography:

Agamben, G. (1998) ‘Homo sacer’, in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Part Two. Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press, 71 – 115.

Aljazeera (2016), ‘Refugees attempt suicide by hanging from tree in Greece’, available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/refugees-attempt-suicide-hanging-tree-greece-160225191001445.html

M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece, Application no. 30696/09, Council of Europe: European Court of Human Rights, 21 January 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d39bc7f2.html

Wrestling with the prefigurative

I am not a blogger (in fact, this is my first one), and have no creative spin (at the current moment….) but the notion of preconfigurative politics swirls in my head and I hope to continue the dialogue as I wrestle with this notion. Our readings and discussions this week make me consider giving a new sense of validity to an old notion I had once believed in strongly, but grew to be all but entirely disenchanted by. Can the inextricable link between means and end really be the struggle – is this truly a simultaneous challenge of power while constructing a new reality (van de Sande, 2013; Maeckelbergh, 2011)? Could the hippies I idolized as a young person have gotten something right?

In my late teens and early 20s, I was enamored with the social justice movements of 1960s America – the civil rights movement, women’s rights movement – these were symbols of the people taking power, creating a more just world. As a child of the 80s and 90s, I yearned for an opportunity to have an impact. The hippie movement, Grateful Dead lots and Rainbow family became my ideals – though my physical distance in Alaska left little room for participation, my naïve viewpoint saw these as the embodiment of living the values associated with the social change movements.   I found myself drawn to searching for this sense of community where the means and the ends overlapped. Create and live the change we want to see and it could happen – the values spreading eventually far enough to turn over the inequities of the world (especially if you threw a few protests in there). I yearned for a VW van, sat around with friends and talked about the evils of corporations and how to live in more sustainable communities. My intentions, even then, were never satisfied by the simple act of my personal livelihood there, but saw it as integrally connected to a wider picture of social change. I believed in the possibility created by a simplistic version of a prefigurative state.

Anthropological studies and my experiences at a private, liberal arts college in the mid-West of the US shook this belief. I began to interact more with these communities – going to the Phish lots, engaging with intentional communities on campus, seeing pockets of humanity too closely clustered in their own belief systems – while simultaneously learning to understand the depth and power of social construct (ie invisible power, hidden power). The complexity of injustice seemed far too complex for such simplistic answers How could these gatherings of (almost) entirely white, middle class, educated and liberal anti-structuralists really have an impact. Did they “get” the world and true struggle? I came to discredit such notions, generally rightly so, I believe (a point for another discussion), but at the same time maybe I threw the baby out with the bathwater.

Reading and discussing van de Sande (2013) and Maeckelbergh (2011), I am swayed by the nature of creating a new sort of horizontal democracy, experimenting with new ways of interacting with power structures as a potentially critical step along the process of change. Can the inextricable link between means and end really be the struggle – is this truly a simultaneous challenge of power while constructing a new reality? Could the hippies I idolized as a young person have gotten something right? How else can we possible break out of the historical cycle of activism, revolution, which recreates the power structures in the same image of what it has replaced (albeit with improvements made to livelihood, voice and participation in some instances along the way)? Vision and imagination are critical for change; we can not create something we can not see. The old methods have been tried for centuries, patterns are familiar.  Spaces of prefigurative politics allow for this vision to be developed, room to exists for experimentation of totally new ways of working with power, to see if there might in fact be a better way.

At the same time, there is something I find very problematic in purely prefigurative politics, which we certainly have discussed at length. The tendency for it to become an insular bubble is strong. It is easy to continue to preach to the choir; despite the striving and recognition of diversity, there is something homogeneous in what draws people to participate in most of these spaces (arguably, with a purely subjective position, more so in movements such as Occupy than in a revolutionary space such as Tahrir Square). Such tendencies can ignore and wash over the most difficult negotiations of horizontality/power sharing/equity that exists when vastly diver communities/perspectives/values meld. And I firmly believe that it is in the greatest difference of perspectives that truly horizontal systems must meet.

But, what if a prefigurative space could represent some stage of limonality? There seems to me to be some significant areas of overlap within these two concepts, which combined heightens my own sense of optimism on the possibility to rectify the quandary I am finding in my consideration of prefigurative spaces. Limonality: the threshold, the space where rules and social norms are suspended, where a sense of identity and self is challenged and reconstructed (Alves, 1993). Prefigurative: a space of experimentation, redesigning conformity and socially accepted norms, a space of liberation, where a sense of identity is constructed. If it can be construed as a space of limonality, then one would then be able to more directly consider what happens on the other side of the threshold, the post-liminal space. What happens when the creations of prefigurative experimentation and living emerge to confront the world more directly with new knowledge, confidence and a restructured identity? Could this be the stage of transformative change (Reeler, 2007) , the crisis point, the place where values are challenged; all forms of power – visible, hidden and invisible(Gaventa, 2006), power over, power with and power within (VeneKlesan and MIconfronted; the “natural” and assumed societal constructions and norms questioned? And what if on the other side of that, could be emergent change (Reeler, 2007), where learnings from the space of limonality grow organically to form new norms?

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These questions start to give me considerations that allow me to return to the space of my youth. Prefigurative space, the means to see “successful” impact beyond set outcomes, where instead value is found in spaces which seek to live the change deeply, I believe have a place. But simultaneously, outcomes do matter – the lives lost, the people living crushed by capitalist systems, imprisoned, shot, tortured – all continuing while these spaces experiment. Simultaneously, the acknowledgement that power’s inevitable impact on human interaction exists and different ways of interacting with it must be found through new frameworks also seems indespensible to long-term, rooted change. So, could prefiguration be a state of limonality in the change process, the transformative rupture which allows more widespread change to emerge?

Those are my rambling thoughts at the moment, which I hope at least might get some conversations started here, as we begin to wrestle with these “unruly” concepts. Can’t wait for what is next to throw in the mix!

 

BIbliography

Alves, J. (1993). “Transgressions and Transformations: Initiation Rites among Urban Portuguese Boys.” American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 95, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 894-928.

Gaventa, J. (2006). ‘Finding the Spaces for Change: A Power Analysis, Power: Exploring Power for Change’, IDS Bulletin, Volume 37 No. 6, pp 23-33.

Maeckelbergh, M. (2011) “Doing is Believing: Prefiguration as Strategic Practice in the Alterglobalization Movement.” Social Movement Studies, 10:01, 1-20

Reeler, D. (2007). A Threefold Theory of Social Change. Community Development Resource Association [Online]. Available at: http://www.cdra.org.za/threefold-theory-of-social-change.html. [Accessed 5 January, 2016].

Rowlands, J. (1997) ‘Power and empowerment’, in Questioning Empowerment: Working with Women in Honduras, Chapter 2. Oxford: Oxfam, pp. 9-27.

Van de Sande, M. (2013). “The Prefigurative Politics of Tahrir Square – An Alternative Perspective on the 2011 Revolutions.” Res Pulbica, 19: 223-239. Available online at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11158-013-9215-9

 

Howling soliloquy


Thorns of an evening set on Osaka chimes
And sultry moon climbs gingerly on its ladder
Hazy smoke drools like detached hairs 
And flutters around vacant halls of night
To web a name for those revolutions repelled
To brace those stars dissolved in black holes
Of whispering nightingales
Squealing and murmuring in their shredded nests
 
Closed silences assembles in their veins
A world of epics, a world of misled fascinations
Lovers of centuries kiss closet of parched lips
To bemuse jittery spreads of grass
In gowns of clamoring disbelief
On that river of dreams lonesome foot prints reside
A passive creeps of sovereignty conspires
In hall marks of a whistle with endless seasons ahead
 
Scandavian winds hustle onto oriental remains
Chains of Africana sands ramble in submission
When ecliptic journeys culminate
Alchemist mold those sand Gods into gold
Stories of those that remain un-owned, unsold
Shoved in many storms
They remain as insignificant as ever
Sculptures that are bread stand as montages
Illuminate shadows of cryptic gardens
With children singing quivering anthems
And slaves swelling their arms to bind falling pebbles
Harmonic beats play onto those dry roses
Pools of black water dance as a witness
To flutes of obscure messages
In harem of unholiness
 
She reels onto the sewing machine
Pinning those needles to bind those fragile veins
Moths wrestle and jostle aimlessly
To brace trickling weeps of that fountain
That continually eludes elusive cries confined in
Contours of those empty and screeching eyes
 
Howling creatures sip on to that blood
From swollen corpse capped under arches of frozen loaf
That taste so sweet yet revives no pleasure
Oh this bitter saccharine, these stains of liquor
Who exist as a carpenter in the delusional mind?
Who turn this over flowing stimulus?
Into non chantlant dissonance
 
Leopards of my soul
Ramble away to befriend
Shooting stars of erupted plains
Up rooted scars of silted pains
On those terraces beats disintegrate
Of those wands, of those reconciliations
 
 
Nothing exist to commemorate this time
Nothing salvages to be attained as reprieve
Eyes of that imbecile meander in unsure blocks
Mascot of sophist plays on with those empty cards
Melancholic Operas of fat ladies tirelessly linger on
Toxic waste and filth of countless tragedies
Like baggage full of contradicting symmetries
 
 
Crusaders collide and discord
Stained armors exhaust in countless brawls
Cries growl and bruise
Who be my victim, who be my cause
Of father lost, of sons unborn to be
Wombs disowned, virgins drown away
In dark rallies, with generations in blitz
Privilege callously swept,
Only disposition of those glassed residuals I happen to gather
 
Falling empires abridged in cumbersome denials
Another soul dies in this claimless autumn
Field gets numb in their remorse
As pipes of marijuana exhales out of limbs of china gate
Winds quash and disperse onto those evangel skies
Clouds mumble and form sketches of funny men
Yellow fire flies roam restlessly along narrow alleys
With gobbling tears into enlarged eyes,
With savoring heart without a resonance to voice
 
In bedsides comforts linger those naked maidens
Their piercing nipples stretched by dragons
Their flabby bellies blooded with poison
Bearing sanctuary to instable men
With shaved heads and whiskers of Cheshire
Their bare bodies and over filling tummies laced with decorated abrasions
Within those blatant chambers lay those witches
Weaving their spells in piles of snakes
With sheepish disguise
With broom that skirts away on to skies of hell
 
 
Glitches of Paparazzi  steady on with their combs
Shinning hair and pointed noses in disorientation
Phenomena muddled and probabilities remain over burdened
Scholars of faith cushion their blind switches
Poised on their desks
With handcuffs folded
Kneeling down at instances
To see legs crossed
Skirts unfolding those pinkish bones
Of fragile dolls
Of nimble blonds
Manuscripts cluttered every where
And ink ails on historical deceptions
 
In brittle summers of sapping heat
Farmers encamp in shades of rust
Sowing those barren lands
With leaves of wriggling lizards
Sweat filled onto their foreheads
Wounds they carry have no vents
Nature witness countless deaths
In those rudimentary lives
Carriages of fates tumble and wilt
 
Whistle of morsel seems drenched in sands
Bridges of ailing prophets disintegrate in thickening rain
Those angles of God hover on whitish wings
Like sparrows only summoning their silences
Collaring dreams perspired
Amplitude of some past live
In gullibility of its own realization
 
Heaps of desires clutter in startling metros
Scurrying away bare footed
Crowds I see are like wriggling earth worms
Coached in black suits and glossy ties
Yet scattered and dispossessed by any admiration
 
Shattered windows, disbeliefs of centuries
Chariots floating in timeless miseries
Clocks tick away on to newer domiciles
In minor windows with heaps of discontentment
Like a lullaby of some forgotten nights
Of mothers, of sister our refuges to be
In arms of those, childhoods once sucked spaces
 
Eyes unfulfilled, lives deprived
Well do I care to exist
A mayhem which so soothingly evolves
Disarranges of these suns
Those that haven't blinked for a million years
Victims dance in many extravaganzas
Like stage littered with many blots
Voices clenched with many dissolves
Disappointments greeted with clogged doors
A cycle that continues
In wavering fire with fluttering locks
As another star nose dives into hollow of centuries
 
At an age of 5, I had scarlet dreams
Dreams which I envy now
Miracles flowed through my imaginations
Sands formed such alluring fragrances
 
 
Well those tears I may heal
Because pain has journeyed many years
Well those shadows I may shred
Because darkness has now a light of its own
Those swings may not delude these minds
Because mind has been deduced so many times
 
Meadows of my sunrise
Oh that fragile, feeble desire floating on the waves of no return
Sprawling seas and sea gulls threshing their legs
On these salty floors
Shores besieges me company
My fragments crawl like withered yet blinking fuses
Foot marks so uncanny
I may conquer threshold of so many desires
Only to extinguish all I had for love of non existence