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e-politik.de - Home  Brennpunkt  Europa   Das Europa der Menschen - Living Bridges-Dossier   Europe and the World - Das Europa der Menschen

Autor Luca Pupulin, Italy

Europe´s World

Autor :  e-politik.de Gastautor
E-mail: redaktion@e-politik.de
Artikel vom: 28.08.2000

Europe and the World... the title of this edition of Crossroads already implies some sort of division between two complementary entities, maybe comparable (but in a much crueller way) to British perceptions of Britain and Europe.

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 world.

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 chicha, which 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


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