I will not try to
talk so much about the ones that feel safe inside the limitations that
they create or sustain, but I will tell you about some that are
fighting against these imposed restrictions…about the ones that are
generating freedom through the things that they are doing as well as
through the message that they are spreading in the world….
Our encounters were more or less accidental as we were more or less conscious of the fact that we were building bridges across borders for other people to trespass them easily in search of spaces that will allow them to be what/where they want to be… In this process we all lost a lot of things…some were important and some were harming us, some we can regain and some are gone forever. But as the world is rapidly changing there is no sense in looking back as it is more important to see what you can find on the way…what you can change…what you become…and what you fight for!
Owning a home with no silver spoon
I’m drinking champaigne like a big tycoon…
Martin and Simona woke me by sticking a cold beer under my face. Shortly after that their dog jumped on me and this was the sign that announced my first day on the luxurious beaches of Saint Tropez. This is no place for backpackers to go to, but still no one declared that that is illegal so far. In between the 5 stars hotels, restaurants, private beaches and fancy yachts that are populated by some of the richest people of the planet, there is a small beach with cactuses where a bunch of people from all over Europe, together with their dogs met and decided to spend a week together sharing time, space and material goods.
Simona is from The Czech Republic and Martin from France, but they live in Granada/ Spain. They met 4 years ago and since then they’ve been together all over Europe. They don’t speak a common language but use words from 4 different languages at the same time, which for the ones that happen to be around them is a real challenge in trying to understand something. They don’t have their own house and think that they don’t need one as half a years they spend traveling and the other half in Granada where they temporarily live in different squats. They don’t need a job, they don’t care about rules and they don’t look, act or speak like most people do.
They are aware of the fact that they are different from the others and they like to make fun of the rich tourist in Saint Tropez by shouting slogans that implore for mercy while begging for money on the street. The disgusted faces of the pedestrians are their favorite reason for laughing while sticking them with their butterfly net for collecting all the coins for beer and cigarettes. Later they come back on the beach and everyone gives some money for buying provisions. After the finances are being calculated, someone is selected for going shopping and carrying the bottles of beer back to the beach.
Igor is tuning his pocket radio and everyone is listening to some music and news in Ukrainian (a language that no one except for him understands) while drinking imported beer and chatting on all possible topics. Pablo is painting on cardboard pieces that he is trying to sell to the tourists every day considering that this is his job to provide the world with authentic underground art. Still, he barely earns some money for living but he got used to this lifestyle and is always anxious to talk to people about the coridas and the flamenco dances in his home country that he left years ago when he realized that the idea of home only ties people to a territory and restricts their freedom. At the moment, him and Igor, together with some others squatted a basement in an abandoned warehouse in Saint Tropez and are thinking to keep it for the whole summer.
In the evening we all go out in town and the dogs are watching our bags on the beach. We stare at the parties on the luxurious yachts and in people’s plates at the fancy terraces…as we are encountering a new world that we will never have access to “because we don’t want to”, Martin says. The fireworks on the dark sky, the smell of perfume and good food, the music and water breeze create an image of an unreal dimension. A reality that each one of us perceives differently as we are walking on the same ground of one of the most luxurious places in Europe.
We walk, laugh, talk and dance until late in the night, when on our way back to the beach we collect some leftovers from restaurants and bakery shops, which are usually enough to feed everyone until the next evening. In this way we are eating what all the big tycoons in Saint Tropez eat, we are swimming in the same sea as they do and we are becoming part of the city atmosphere. We are enjoying glamour in our own way as long as we realized that there are no real borders between rich and poor, between people and places, seas or beaches. In our arbitrarily created group we were all the same in the eyes of the rich tycoons as they were all the same to us. But nevertheless we were all different as we were coming from all over Europe, with different colors, backgrounds and future goals. And by our accidental presence in Saint Tropez, by our bizarre look and behavior, by our ways of integrating and excluding ourselves from this official “paradise city” we challenged the idea of a space that belongs to only one social class as we were always free to be as free as we could be!
where are you going?
do you know where you could be going?
Ana is smart enough to face all possible challenges, strong and active enough to change things for the better, beautiful enough to contest all beauty standards, tall enough to have an overview of the whole world and determined enough to break all the illegitimate rules that society imposes to people. Her way of being is in opposition to the official values of society as her fight focuses mostly on destroying all these values and making people more aware of the fact that in essence they are free to live just as they want to live….
She was born in one of the countries of the former Soviet Block, which is in itself a great challenge for an activist. Her freedom of movement is restricted by visa regulations and she needs to invest a lot of energy, time and money in order to be able to travel in other parts of Europe. She could write novels about her struggle to get fake invitation letters from friends who live in the west, about the stories that she has to invent for the interviews in the embassy, about the plastic smile that she has to show in these official contexts and about all the other tricks that an eastern European has to use for being allowed to travel outside the borders of its own country.
Her freedom of movement is essential to her work as she created strong networks of sharing information and collaboration with people from different countries in Europe. She believes that in order to change something for the better you have to be able to get an idea about the situation in different parts of the world…to think global and to act local. But the global regulations say that if you are an eastern European you are not really allowed to find yourself in the west for one reason or another and you are not allowed to dream that you can think global. You can only think local and act in conformity with the given rules and values that your society created for you. The westerners are allowed to visit you, but this is not reciprocal…and don’t even think of contesting the given situation. Well…Ana does just that.
She got used to the embassy ‘saga’ and to investments that she has to make in order to travel to “Fortress Europe”. And she travels more than most people do, living in between East and West, in a global universe. Recently she moved to the West as she married a friend from a western country in order to have the possibility to get a residence for 2 years. Her gesture seems typical, but it contests national (deserted her country) and religious values (she married a woman). But who cares about these rules and with what right are they imposed to people?
“As an individual I need to be listened to when I have something to say. And I say that I don’t like the limitations that society imposes to people, the values that it generates and sticks them through people’s throats. I don’t like it and I will try to change it by everything that I do…And this is because people have to learn that they can create their own values and they can choose to live how and where they want to. No one has the right to tell me how I should be, where to stay, what to think and how to act.”, Ana says.
She doesn’t know what will happen in the future but she believed that freedom is the most important human right. And everything she did for herself was directed to a larger dimension mostly because everything that she does is for other people through the power of the example as well as through the strength of resistance and fight. In this fight she is never alone as she is surrounded by more and more people that have similar beliefs and hopes that another world is possible. Her freedom of movement is still restricted by official rules and regulations, but her capacity to trespass all frontiers as well as her power to fight are unlimited and unrestricted.
And if I don’t see that I’m strong then I won’t be…
The examples of people who dispute the concept of physical and symbolical borders can go on and on. We find them in our everyday lives and sometimes we lose them by not taking the time to think about them. Other times we just think that they are just a big joke representing an utopian symbolical fight that has already been lost before we found out about it.
We might not have the same goals in life and we might not have the same visions about change. But we have the right to decide for ourselves and we have to be aware of the fact that there is no justice and legitimacy in the control and domination which is imputed towards us by a system that in essence we were suppose to create. The large systems usually act independently of people’s desires and needs, generating platforms of illegitimate values, rules and regulations that are building walls between people spread all over the world.
Physical and Symbolical borders create exploitation, oppression, prejudice, wars, poverty and sufferance for the people that are being caught inside the fences. We all have to understand that the symbolical violence which is directed towards us by the illegitimate systems that are the basis of most societies, is much more powerful and dangerous than the physical violence. And by everything that we do, we have to resist it and fight against it because in the end “until we are all free we are all imprisoned”.
Pictures by Petra Kraemer (Hamburg)