Revitalizing the communes through encouragement and strengthening of the citizens – Published on Current Concerns, by Dr phil Henriette Hanke Güttinger, historian and psychologist, April 2, 2012.
… As far as I know, France with its 65 million inhabitants has a total of 36,500 communes with an average population of 1,700, which are a manageable number and not an anonymous mass. France is the European country with the largest number of small communes. This is of enormous advantage, because it can get the people involved optimally. It is a condition that has to be reactivated and asserted. In addition, these communes have been enjoying considerable autonomy since 1884.
As I have heard there have not been any systematic communal reforms in France for over 200 years. This basic state forms have thus a long tradition and grant the people support and identity.
Where is the problem and where is the solution?
- Under American hegemony, along with the establishment and consolidation of the EU, initiative and political participation in terms of thinking things through on the part of the citizens was no longer desired. The consequences are pervasive. Until the 1960s a lively communal life, supported by the initiative of each individual, had been prevailing. It was followed by an EU policy, characterized by steamrolling conformity by means of nonsensical laws and regulations. The countries with their communes had to depend on these rigid requirements, because money was only granted for very specific projects. This resulted in a tunnel vision aimed at realizing only those projects for which money was given. Thus the EU reiterates the policy of centrally planned economy, for which the former Soviet Union was denounced by the so-called free West in the strongest terms.
- With its subsidy policy, the EU has generated a sense of dependency among its citizens and has tried to stifle individual initiative. One may assume that the EU wants to prevent the participation of its citizens, because it fears for its own loss of power. This can result in an attitude in our people to hopefully look up and wait, instead of using our own minds and think: What do we have, what do we need, what can we build by means of our own skills? Have our ancestors not created all this spiritual substance and political culture, science and technology in order to establish the foundation of our civilization and Western Christian culture?
- Anything that keeps a commune together and enables the living together, from water supply to forestry, from waste management and nature conservation to the regulation of social affairs – everything is working very well without a route-one approach from Brussels. On the contrary, the EU brings everything to a halt and paralyzes life.
Let us take a look at how communal life develops:
- It emerges from joint action, through the joint development of possible solutions to common challenges. Growing together and becoming stronger results in a sense of belonging, a sense of responsibility for the whole. This also increases the confidence in everybody’s own power. Individuals become friends and comrades who like to cooperate, and our sons and daughters, our students and young people like to prepare their own future in a joint effort with us. This is the one and only cure for the feelings of helplessness and resignation. And it has been like that since time immemorial, worldwide, because it corresponds with the social nature of man.
- Just to give you one small example of a community from the Cevennes. More than 100 years ago, the inhabitants there established a “Club Cévenol” which campaigns for the preservation of the traditional Cevennes culture and nature. The people there have always defied the harsh natural conditions with great tenacity and impressive ingenuity. I quote from Current Concerns: “To irrigate a small meadow of 20 m width, a one kilometer-long water-channel was cut into the rocks from a source […]. In many other places, chestnut trees were planted and maintained whose fruits were used to produce flour among other things. Or beautiful terraces, called ‘faisses’, were set up there in order to wrest grain from the soil.”
- Just as they defied the natural conditions, they defy the threats of today: With a fine sense for genuine nature protection the “Cévenois” revealed the true agenda of the EU and they are now fighting back, aware, against the robbery of their uniquely developed cultural and religious identity and history by a new Charter for the National Park of the Cevennes.
- Here is another example how community life can be established: Citizens from a German commune got together to establish a food service and a transportation service for older people. In an Austrian municipality, the municipal council purchased three vehicles for the villagers to borrow them when they needed transportation. In another commune, it is the major concern of the mayor to ensure that the village does not suffer from urban sprawl. He knows the importance of a village center, which provides the people with a chance to meet. In an Italian municipality a resident looks after older people who are ill and gives them their required syringe to spare them the arduous journey to the city.
- These examples can be found wherever people live together. They show how everyone can do something along the lines of the common good by his or her own initiative and capability, without having to wait for things being controlled or maintained ‘from above’. These are suggestions ‘from below’, not ‘from above’. Next to an individual’s healthy sense of self-importance for the benefit of all, the certainty develops that every task in life can be handled in a joint effort.
- As Swiss citizens we do not ask ourselves what the state can do for the citizens; we say, “We are the state.” And so we are of course part of the responsibility that goes with it.
- With the revitalization of the communes we also have to raise the question: Where is the basic knowledge still to be found, where does it require refreshment? Where does it require encouragement, the impetus to action? In order to make the forces augment and the people remember that their contribution is crucial!
- This is true even for our children in the family and later at school. Especially the young ones should be involved in the everyday tasks of the community as well as in everyday family life: think things through and help. It is astonishing how many skills are shown or developed, what efforts are taken when we take our youth as young ‘citoyens’1, guide them and give them responsibility. In this way, something that has been proven in the past is passed on and secured for future generations. A hand-in-hand work of all generations in the community is the basis for a revitalization of our communes. All generations in the community are needed in this process.
The co-operative: a sustainable solution:
- In the context of a revitalization of communes the importance of cooperatives must be mentioned – and emphasized accordingly.
- In the field of self-help and mutual aid France possesses a true wealth: names such as Charles Fourier, Philippe Joseph Benjamin Buchez, Charles Gide, Louis Blanc may be mentioned here. (See Faust, “Geschichte der Genossenschaftsbewegung”). They have all contributed to utilize the idea of self-responsibility, self-help and self-government for the common problems we are facing in the economic and social areas. In the appendix you will find some references.
- Every one of us has the noble task to participate in this delicate work. The contribution of each individual counts.
- Man is not a grain of sand, but he is a citizen of this planet. This is our effective counterweight to the EU. If this idea begins to revive in many places and in many countries in Europe, the EU will be a simple rubber duck: as soon as the plug is pulled out, the air evades by itself and the whole puppet collapses.
(full text and Appendix with references).
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