Español . English

Caring for the City: Reclaim the Commons - 17th ZEMOS98 Festival

19.03.2015 by ZEMOS98

Four years have passed since the protest wave of 2011 captivated Europe. Far from subsiding, the tremors are spreading beyond the Southern countries. From the peripheral neighbourhoods of Istanbul to the housing estates in London, and the formerly industrial districts of Warsaw, ordinary citizens are coming together, as communities, to defend common goods and counter the inertia of their increasingly distant local governments.

Feeling the rumbling beneath their feet, the establishment entrenches itself in its control towers, spewing messages, images and a discourse that reproduces a single, forceful idea: that History cannot be changed. Despite the efforts of a complicit mainstream media, counter narratives emerge. Rumours spread and become contagious, gripping and activating muscles and minds. This is how the possibility of the 99% begins to take form, to organise itself, leaving the plazas to look over the city as a whole and ask: How will we care for the public spaces abandoned by these same institutions that are so worried with preserving their power? How can we turn our villages and cities into places where we live and breathe wellbeing? And so civil society walks on, stepping from question to question.

This conflict between cultural hegemony and autonomy is at the heart of European history, of all Histories. We were taught that our desires could only be personal and our aspirations, individual. We were even led to believe that beauty, virtue and fortune were properties of the exceptional and not of the common. As if our only possible refuge were the construction of a private identity, individual and differentiated from the rest, shaped by Trending Topics and software updates.

Borders were built with these dominant values, separating us not only from «The Others» but from the resources we once shared. Inequality grows exponentially, as new enclosures proliferate beyond the realm of material resources and into that of basic needs and human rights, like housing, health care, culture and education. The trick to legitimising this enclosure of our very lives is as simple and perverse as the capitalist mythology of success: there are not enough resources for everyone, but some are allowed more access than others. The best. The winners. The triumphant. Usually, the men.

Today, in post-2011 Europe communities are using all the tools at their disposal to challenge the establishment by forming their own democratic institutions, creating networks for decentralised production, cultivating civil disobedience and the construction of autonomous imagery that is critical of the system itself. This restructuring relies on the social recognition of our bodies as vulnerable in order to guarantee that the life we are rewriting is not a bare one, without attributes, history, culture or politics. The time has come to reclaim the commons so that we can guarantee that our cities and villages are cared for. To dare to ask that most subversive and political of questions: Who decides how our lives must be?

make a comment


  • Please, stay on topic, be respectful with you and the others, take care about spelling and grammar. Comments can be moderated because of SPAM reasons, but we reserve the right to not publish any violent or offensive content.