I dread the day in which our children will talk
about going on holiday in the World...
I guess the use of 'and' is a smart one. Referring to Europe and
the World a generation of Europeans have been able to use the excuse of
blindness in order to avoid any need of facing a cruel reality (Europe
screwing the world - and not giving a toss about it) or some inevitable
responsibility (Europe in the World). Unfortunately the use of such
a neutral term is inevitable; the white man's burden talk is no
longer politically correct.
Europe and the World implies that Europe is a micro-cosmos in
itself, within which one can find an identity and a vision - so important
in these times of `despair' for the disillusioned generation-x.
Europe provides people with a vision (slogan?), even if they are not too
clear what it's all about. Europe becomes a cliché and the
Hence the Euro-yuppie stressing the beauty of intercultural exchange:
`Oh, I met so many French people during my stay in St Tropez...'
Or the backpacker whose surreal memories of a voyage to Nepal equate
to their last trip in Glastonbury: `I met so many people there...'
(French, Germans, Italians, English, etc.).
The European can live in a surreal world. But how about the Colombian
campesino who is uprooted from his land by some European multinational?
Which Europe is that? Which World is he in?
Our politicians legitimise their lack of vision to the collapse of ideology,
the need to find a new path in a cleavage-less society. Rubbish! The cleavages
exist, M. Chirac and Herr Schroder, and it's not in Rambouillet that you'll
be able to hide your incompetence under the ever-so-nice vest of the European
Union. Ask the Colombian campesino about cleavages and try and convince
him about Europe and the World.
Today being European equates to exclusiveness. If that's the case I'll
admit being ashamed of my origins. But things will have to change. The
anger of the suburbs of main European cities will have to be tackled eventually.
I worked in a street-child centre in Bolivia last summer and I did feel
ashamed of my origins. Strange how people still look up to you when you
are European, despite their economy having been turned upside down by some
flawed IMF resolutions. The following is an extract of something that I
had written earlier about my stay there:
Public awareness of street children has existed for decades, kept awake
by the recurrent news of child-abuse in countries such as Brazil or India.
What is less known to the public is that in recent years the problem has
been spreading to new places at a frightening pace, fostered by the consequences
of economic recession, political change, civil unrest, epidemics and natural
disasters. These difficulties have forced many children to leave their
families and find a new life on the streets, characterised by theft, begging,
prostitution, unprotected labour and drug trafficking and abuse. Many of
them had to leave the countryside, where the land has recently become hostile,
being either too infertile because of environmental changes or too dangerous
due to civil unrest. Families are no longer able to feed their numerous
children and send them to the city in the hope of extra income and the
certainty of having one less mouth to feed. Others arrive on the street
because of abuse by or death of their parents. This is often due to precarious
economic situations and lack of employment, a spiral of poverty leading
to an increase in alcohol consumption and household violence.
All this can be noticed in Bolivia. The recent increase in Bolivia's
street-children population (a phenomenon unknown just ten years ago) has
been mainly focused in the country's three biggest cities: La Paz, Santa
Cruz and Cochabamba. Cochabamba, which totals about 800 000 inhabitants,
has a population of street-children estimated between 1500 and 2000, ranging
between new-borns to about 20 years of age. The children are situated in
a number of locations. In a square by the market (Cochabamba has the largest
market in Bolivia) are about 500 of them who survive through stealing and
are under great threat from the police and the local market sellers. Others
live in the old river basin and, unlike their glue-sniffing counterparts
in the market, are more prone to consumption of alcoholics, marijuana and
cocaine derivatives. The rest either rent rooms in groups (subsidised through
criminal activities) or are in jail, despite the illegality of minors'
detention in Bolivian law. All are addicted to cheap substances, ranging
from industrial glue (known as clefa), to alcoholic beverages (the
most popular of which is the very intoxicating local
is normally mixed with pure alcohol), petrol and gasoline (sniffed), cocaine
derivatives and marijuana. They also tend to all have a criminal background
of theft, public disorder, assault and, in some (but too many) cases, homicide.
To help the children, a number of charities have been founded, mainly
relying on foreign aid as a source of income. One of these is Casa Micaela
(the place where I volunteered), a government project which is co-financed
by the state and the Church.
Casa Micaela aims at providing shelter
for couples of street-adolescents, with a particular priority given to
those who have children. Casa Micaela hosts about 15 couples of
street adolescents (numbers varying because of the frequent returns to
the streets) as well as a few needy others. The project aims at providing
a homely environment to the guests. This includes detoxicating them from
extended substance abuse and giving the babies a stimulating environment
in which to grow up free from the daily torture of the road - the focus
of activity for the younger ones (from 0-3 years of age) being the nursery.
Such simple aims are extremely difficult to achieve; the project is a very
young one (it started in Spring 1999) and has very limited human and financial
resources. Moreover street-life and manners as well as substances still
prove to be very strongly rooted in the children and adolescents. That
means a regular return to drug consumption and to the street, a constant
and frightening mistreatment of the babies by their parents and a general
difficulty in learning.
The saddest thing of all is that we are reading about this comfortably
in front of our computers. After all, they are only children...
Autor: Luca Pupulin, Italy