New Civilization News: We're not in Kansas    
 We're not in Kansas21 comments
picture 24 Feb 2004 @ 18:09, by Flemming Funch

Just another of our little ongoing discoveries of how daily life in Toulouse, France is different from life in Los Angeles.

The day before yesterday some fliers were handed out on the block, inviting us to an open house Friday in a building in the neighborhood, which apparently is a former factory that is going to be a center for an artist's collective called Mix'Art Myrys. They want to meet their future neighbors and shake hands and see who we are and hear if there's any issues we have with anything. How very nice. It is actually quite a common thing here that when there's some kind of new semi-public project of any magnitude there will be public hearings and all the stakeholders are invited to participate and voice what they think, etc.

But now, yesterday night, we get another set of fliers in our mailbox about the same thing. This time from the Mairie, the mayor's office. Handed out by what obviously was some public office workers. They included a statement from the mayor that he was very surprised that Mix'Art Myrys had decided to move into that old factory, as he had advised them against it, and he was very much against the idea, even though he thinks that alternative cultural activities should generally be supported. And it included contact information for calling telling the Mairie if we really don't want these guys to move in.

But the killer is then the added information that apparently this is some kind of squatter group. They had previously illegally moved into nothing less than the old Prefecture, a key government building, and stayed there for three years, running their artist collective and having exhibitions, etc. And they apparently don't have any kind of authorization to move into this new building. Meaning, they don't own it, even though they're in some kind of talks with the owner, and it isn't zoned for this use, and the Mayor doesn't really want our quiet neighborhood to be subject to the activities that this group apparently is known for. Which I'm not quite clear on what is, as the website is kind of cryptic, but it includes theater for kids at least.

Now, if this were the United States, and some sort of large anarchic art group was making moves to take over an abandoned factory without permission, and they'd even done it before - we'd be talking tanks and tear gas, and some dead bodies would be quite likely. Instead we get a letter from the mayor pleading with us, the local citizens, to support his case and voice our opinion. Which apparently is what decides things. And everybody, the government officials and the anarcho art squatters, are apparently very intent on having an open public dialog with everybody, having everybody over for tea and cookies, to sway them with good arguments.

I suppose we'll go and see what actually happens.


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21 comments

24 Feb 2004 @ 21:57 by Jon Husband @24.87.28.174 : Living in Dialogue
Mais c'est cool ! Les branchees et l'etablissement, en dialogue, tous les deux, avec la communaute. What a civilized way to conduct things. Oh, how I wish I lived there, sometimes.

BTW, I am planning a trip to western Europe in May/June, ostensibly to visit bloggers I have gotten to know. Remember that verre de vin rouge que tu m'as offert ?  



25 Feb 2004 @ 01:51 by ming : Dialogue
Oui, c'est magnifique avec une culture qui valorise le dialogue public et qu'il est simplement "comme il faut".

I will start stocking up on the red vine. You will be very welcome here, and it would be great to hang out. Or, if somehow Toulouse turned out to be too out of the way, be sure to keep me posted on where you'll be. But Toulouse is quite easy to get to, particularly from London or Paris.  



25 Feb 2004 @ 07:32 by jmarc : tanks and tear gas for squatting
Don't you think that's a bit of a misrepresentation of my country? Please provide specific examples of tanks and tear gas for squatting that don't go back to Hoover's time?  


25 Feb 2004 @ 09:25 by ming : Tear gas
Oh, I'm not trying to put down your country, which to a large degree is mine too. Maybe its current government, but not the place itself, or the people. I'm mostly giving my subjective experience of differences in different places, and of patterns in thinking and behaving. Which is certainly not black and white.

I don't think squatting by activist groups is even much of a routine practice in the U.S. In part because I expect that it will just be considered law breaking and a police matter, and cut short very quickly. As opposed to here, or in Denmark, where squatters might actually be allowed to stay for years in a place they illegally take over. Witness the Christiania community in prime real estate in central Copenhagen, which has been there for around 30 years. I just consider that unfathomable to happen in the U.S.

I don't have any squatter stories from the U.S. But I can think of a number of situations where an individual, a family, or a community of people had some kind of alternative approach to how they wanted to live, and it was treated as just a normal matter of breaking the law, rather than as something to have a dialogue about. Up to the magnitude of the Waco incident. The U.S. approach seems to be to try to bring in enough people and firepower to handle the matter conclusively and unilaterally in the government's favor, and if some people get killed along the way, that's just what happens, and it is considered their own fault.

It seems to me that the general strategy in the U.S. is to not negotiate in any way with law breakers, but to escalate the amount of force used to the level deemed necessary, however far that goes. So, if you move voluntarily, nothing much happens. If you don't, sooner or later we're talking the National Guard and tanks. Whereas, in most European countries, government authorities are quite likely to back off before it gets to violence, at least if we're talking about some kind of social or activist group and not just a simple crime. I'm not even saying that one is better or worse than the other, as it depends on the exact situation. Although, in general, I do tend to prefer open dialogue over swat teams.  



25 Feb 2004 @ 12:44 by Chris Hagglund @65.95.160.81 : government stepping on people
Also, dont forget the killing of Tom Crosslin, marijuana activist, by the feds at the rainbow farm in Michigan. It happened right before Sept 11, so most people dont know about it. May he rest in peace. (some more info here: [link])  


25 Feb 2004 @ 13:09 by jmarc : thanks for the clarification
certain acts by the government are horrendous, no doubt. Just felt your statement was a little to much of a broad brush. I can think of a few, ruby ridge, waco, elian gonzlez, where things were taken way to far. I'd also wager that similar things may happen in europe,no?  


25 Feb 2004 @ 19:25 by Jon Husband @24.87.28.174 : Eastward ho ! ... to Europe
Well, actually I would really like to visit Toulouse again - that area of France is one of my favourites. But I am wanting to be a little bit planful .. I want to visit Euan Semple and Andy Borrows in the UK, and spend a few days in Amsterdam, and visit Berlin, and also it would be great to visit George Dafermos in Greece, and, and, and....

Screw it - maybe I'll just stay in Europe - tho' my gal is very tolerant, she may not dig that so much.  



26 Feb 2004 @ 08:23 by ming : Go East young man
Yeah, so many good people to see. Anyway, great you're coming to these parts. If it won't be Toulouse, let me know your plan, and I might well join you in one of these other nice places.  


1 Mar 2004 @ 17:06 by eric @62.134.76.30 : europe is not the usa
No jmarc,
those things dont happen in europe!  



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