New poverty

‘You can’t arrange something like that with a referendum’, ‘the stayers campaigned poorly’, or ‘politics made it their own’ – reasons for the result of the British EU referendum. What I notice above all is a new class struggle. Between those who have enough skills and tools to cope with life and those who lack them. And it seems to me that the question remains how non-violent this new class struggle, also on this side of the sea and the other side of the ocean, will be.

It first dawned on me on the day of the Ukraine referendum. ‘What are you going to vote for next?’ I asked the plumber. But the plumber didn’t vote at all. ‘They won’t listen’, ‘all those Eastern Europeans are packing our jobs’ and so on.

Does the plumber have no food, no house, nowhere to go if he gets sick? Far from. His wet and dry are quite well regulated. But that’s not where the poverty that makes him throw his ass against the crib. What bothers him unconsciously: he no longer recognizes a life compass in anything or anyone.

One commenter says, ‘I don’t get it. We’ve never had it so good in the west.’ But that prosperity is precisely the problem.

“They are strong legs that can carry the wealth.” Precisely because the plumber lacks so little materially, he begins to experience inwardly an extremely unpleasant lack of… he wouldn’t know what. Undefined dissatisfaction.

Whence, why, to what end, who am I, what must I, what do I want, why this life? – they are not questions that concern us only when we formulate them in so many words. They always live, in everyone’s gut. The better educated have their mouths, their pens to deal with it. If they don’t already know the answer, they’ll figure it out. And that puts you at ease, whether it’s true or not. In any case, there is a conceptual construction that offers something to hold on to. But the ability to find a safe shelter in imaginary structures is by no means given to everyone. The immense problem of the plumber and of so many with him: the total lack of instruments, guides, handles, points of view with which to approach essential questions. And so their dissatisfaction bubbles and bubbles and bubbles until a suitable occasion presents itself to boil over.

Even now the ‘new poor’ usually keep it civilized by ‘just’ not voting. Or by being against the EU. Or for Wilders. But I’m afraid we shouldn’t be surprised if all that bubbling in all those guts starts looking for other outlets more often.

This is not going to solve Brussels, and neither will The Hague.

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