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Wednesday, 01 February 2012 07:09

Humanise the crisis!

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Today, I woke up to the news that my mother's company is shutting down. She is a nurse, and for the last six years, she has been working for a little company that makes medical examinations in construction companies. When these started to go downhill in 2008, it was clear that my mother's company wouldn't survive long. I therefore expected the news. But it arrived on the day that the EU is holding a summit to solve the crisis a few streets away from my internship office in Brussels.

Yesterday, I was considering walking by the area out of curiosity. "What do these summits look like?" But after talking to my mum today, I wanted to walk by as an active citizen. Those that are in charge of getting us out of the hole are just 10 minutes away from me, and I have the possibility of making my voice heard. God knows I don't want to miss that. So I thought of carrying a sign with the sentence: "MY MOTHER LOST HER JOB TODAY. PLEASE REMEMBER HER AND THE OTHER 23 MILLION UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE." No yelling, no whistling, not a single form of violence or even ironic passive-aggression. Just a polite reminder of the real reason why the leaders are meeting today.

I decided not to prepare my sign in advance, just in case the police stopped me on my way there. Who knows, I am not an expert at demonstrating anyway. I was excited about the idea of someone reading my line and feeling moved. My naive imagination even got excited by the thought that some journalist would be interested in our story.

How are we supposed to reduce the so-called democratic deficit, and how are we going to succeed at creating the long-awaited active citizenship if we can't achieve the most basic form of communication?

But in the middle of this excitement, I arrived in Rue Juste Lipse, and found myself in front of the typical Brussels wire fence. "Where is your badge, mademoiselle?" the policeman asked. "I don't have one." I was crestfallen. "Only EU employees are allowed," he said, "the entire area is closed." I felt stupid. Plain stupid. I turned around and stupidly dropped some tears of frustration. But I kept walking to the other side of Rond Point Schuman, where all the journalists are and where I thought I would have more of a chance. Same old story. And total failure.

The feeling of frustration was immense. My dad, whom I called to give vent to my disappointment, said it was completely normal that they wouldn't allow people in. And maybe he is right. But as an incurably naive young European, I just wanted to be a face from the street in the middle of the bureaucratic greyness. Not even inside the building, just outside! Holding a sentence that would make something go 'click' in someone's mind. I thought that the fortress which surrounded the summit couldn't be more symbolic of the distance between the leaders and the people. One might argue that there are other ways to channel requests, and that is true, but the street should be open for spontaneous peaceful expression. How are we supposed to reduce the so-called democratic deficit, and how are we going to succeed at creating the long-awaited active citizenship if we can't even achieve the most basic form of communication?

Just three days ago, before asking myself this question, I was reading about the new number of unemployed people in Spain. 5.3 million. 22.85% of the population. 39% of young people. And, according to this El País article, one in two under age. It was the first time in my life that numbers gave me goosebumps. On that very day, I told a friend how frustrating it was to see such a tragedy simplified in cold numbers. I miss seeing the names and stories behind the statistics. I wish the tragedy was treated as such, and that those in families or countries that are doing well, would understand those that are not doing so well. Today, on the day that my family became part of the statistics, I just wanted to be one of the faces that could humanise the crisis.

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 February 2012 07:11

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