When discussing society’s biggest questions I like to have a discussion with Ginette Bauwens, a figure of the activist scene in Brussels and well-spoken about any subject. She has the looks of a friendly grandmother but the vivacity and energy of a young activist that believes in the power of humans. She played an active role in the recent car free shift of the centre of Brussels but made sure it didn’t become a gentrified zone. She majored in philosophy and made the choice to work all her live half time so she could invest her time in local or global movements.
First when I asked her to give a short opinion about the bottom up imitatives organizing care related projects she responded: I only believe people can give care when it comes from love and friendship. All other forms need to be done by the government to be effective. I was really surprised by this ballsy argument so I invited over for a drink on the hottest day of the year (35°C!) and we had a tomato juice and a great conversation.
We dived immediately into the subject. Care is a government issue for her that isn’t at all taken care (pun intended) of. Why does the government give as much power to the pharmaceutical industry for example? Why can Nestlé become the number one partner of a government organization called ‘Kind En Gezin’ that helps parents of new-born through the first year? For her our role as activist and change makers is to put pressure on the government to make change on a big scale possible.
I explain her how local initiatives are bending the system like the open insulin, chemotherapy in Romania or ways that people are hacking neuroprosthetis. Even if she find them great initiative she is scared that it will not be scalable, for her if the government doesn’t follow, nothing will change on the long term. I ask her why even within this idea people are rather trying to find solutions themselves then going in the street and pressuring the government. It makes sense, she says, you have an illusion doing something more meaningful while starting a project, then putting pressure on a government where the reward will (maybe) be given after many years. Instant gratification is much more popular, and with bureaucratic complexification people are less temped to get into a long battle with the government.
But Ginette isn’t the person to only be sceptic and give critic towards ideas. She likes finding solutions. So before I explain her the principle of the workshop we talk a bit further on the big problems ahead. For her everything can be put into three categories: poverty, elderly care and work ethics. Poverty makes it impossible to take care of each other; it is a vicious circle that is difficult to get out of. Even with the best projects, people without money will not get towards it. Elderly care is also a big problem in European countries, care became profit and it is all about efficiency. Only a rearrangement about how we look at elderly care can get us out of this problem. Finally there is the way we look at work and how it makes us sick: burn out is one of the biggest epidemics of this century and involves pulls the whole family downwards. Not one political party is discussing these problems on a larger scale and that is problematic for her. The resources are there, but the unwillingness of changing is bigger. Politicians aren’t trained to be vectors of change; they are the ones that bring continuity. It’s the civilians that need to push the change and politics to implement it.
Dark times ahead? Maybe, but this discussion made me think more clearly about the workshop and what we need to take notice of when bringing care-project together. Like within the makers movement it is important to find a balance between corporate and counter culture partners, within care it is also important to have an open approach towards policy makers. Yes we are in a ruff path at the moment, and trust is at an all time low towards politicians. But therefor it is the moment to open our arms to welcome them towards new ways of organizing care. We need much more and easier collaboration between projects. We need especially that knowledge of the government to tackle complex problems with multiple partners. We need to take them by the hand and show them what there is possible within an open care system
The discussion I want to open towards the community is: Is involving the policy makers important, or will it be obsolete in the future? What kind of dialogue can care taking projects take towards it?