Justice, beyond borders

Some thoughts on this years theme from a participant from 2012

After learning about this year’s “boundaries, borders and beyond” theme through the winter meeting minutes, I took some time to reflect on it and write down some thoughts and ideas that might further a discussion on how to fleshen out the theme and make it more concrete.

I think if one goes deeper into the theme philosophically, the real problem isn’t as much borders as such, but closed borders, borders that are not fluid. Where people live together there will always be borders one way or another – think of communities with different world views – and in a way respecting borders is as important as overcoming them.

Both migration to Europe and Europe’s reaction of closing its borders are largely attributable to the global economic system, neoliberalism that furthers rather than reduces global -and also internal- inequality. This global economic inequality could be a major subtheme for this year’s tour.

I’d like to bring in the notion of justice, beyond borders. Starting from the moral premisse that all men are born free and equal, justice has to deal with liberty and equality. Reconciling liberty and equality has always been tough in real life politics and political systems usually give priority to one or the other. (Neo)liberalism stresses liberty, communism stresses equality. A system truly reconciling liberty and equality we have yet to experience on a big scale. (Some said after the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of communism that this was the end of history, that from now on capitalism was the only viable and possible system – but in truth we never have experienced true socialism on a large scale, only state communism). I believe on a small scale biketour is exactly about that, reconciling liberty and equality, through a sense of community. Community in the biketour sense (i.e. in the sense of sharing and working together, with respect for individual differences and preferences) could be another major subtheme.

To further a system that reconciles liberty and equality, I myself strongly believe in the idea of a global basic income, giving everybody at least the minimum required to live in dignity. It’s a concept one can easily link to a revival of the idea of common ownership of earth’s resources, the commons. Global basic income questions the market, and while not completely abolishing it and the concept of money, at least promotes the common good as a strong counterpoint to the market. It also questions excessive private property and in that way states and borders (since one important function of modern states is to protect property rights).
As a positive and ongoing action during the biketour we could support an initiative on the European level, the European Citizens’ Initiative for an Unconditional Basic Income (basicincome2013.eu). Since the Lisbon Treaty EU citizens can bring their own proposals to the agenda of the European Commission and Parliament, on the condition that they gather 1 million signatures. For this basic income initiative the end date is January 2014.

The unconditionality of a basic income would make it possible for people to choose whether or not they want to go on participating in the dominant economic system, and in that sense is quite revolutionary. Currently the initiative has gathered no more than 30.000 signatures, so raising awareness is more than necessary to get to a million.

Since biketour has always been a pan-European project, it also seems very important to stress solidarity within the EU, which is very much under threat in contemporary policies, where more and more the Northern countries (Germany on top) are looking down upon the South as lazy, in need of punishment, instead of trying to find a solution for the crisis emphasizing solidarity. I believe what we need now is to fight for a social Europe, and not just fight against Europe. In fact, the most dangerous threats for solidarity and even democracy now in Europe come from democratically chosen separatist parties, parties that emphasize self-government with the only goal of protecting their riches from poorer regions or minority groups.

The European situation is very complex and I’d hope we’d not go simply anti-Europe, but thoroughly question European policy. One of the main problems of that policy is that the EU is still largely based on economic liberties, without a matching social policy. We could emphasize the need for European solidarity.

Sloganwise, I’ve been thinking of “Justice beyond borders” for awhile now, and haven’t been able to come up with something that better captures a positive attitude towards dealing with borders. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound as catchy as last year’s “Cycling towards degrowth”.

That’s it for “my two cents”. I hope these thoughts, ideas, considerations might fuel a broader discussion on how to concretely shape the “borders, boundaries and beyond” theme.

If you would like to translate this post – please send the translation to info@ecotopiabiketour.net

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