DAY 163: The barbarians – We shall not be moved!

February 15th, 2016 § 0 comments

No one had expected it quite so soon. I described, two posts back if I’m right, the bulldozing of a mosque, a church, and a sizeable section of the Calais jungle. This made many refugees homeless; it would have been much worse if the charitable organizations hadn’t done the police’s work for them by physically moving tents and shelters out of the area to be cleared.

There was a bitter argument among volunteers about this complicity with the authorities. It hardly seems relevant now, since the Prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais isn’t going to leave it there. According to ‘Solidarité Laïque’, the prefect announced about noon on Friday 12th that the whole of the southern half of the ‘jungle’ would be demolished within a week. I was trying to write that day’s lecture (on Islamic mathematics), and it suffered inevitably; I was sending frantic messages when I should have been preparing, and I kept forgetting names and dates.

As to the effect of the proposed demolitions: ‘Solidarité Laïque’ says up to 2000 people will be concerned; but it could easily be more. And, fresh from their victory in demolishing the church and mosque, the authorities propose to bulldoze the newly opened school, the ‘Ecole Laïque du Chemin des Dunes’.. Here, blowing in the wind next to Zimako, Virginie Tinberghien who runs the school is making her impassioned speech,

1225861852_6084a2366b59a9ff01b083254587f187_1764047169_B977849914Z.1_20160214163932_000_G9B66NLK4.1-0I visited the school last Tuesday: it had Just had a ceremonial (re)opening and the wholly volunteer staff of ten were working full-time to teach French, English art and other useful skills to about 20 children and 20 adults. For whom the official education system could fund no place at all. It seems clear that the current régime has a complete contempt for education – or, what’s worse, doesn’t feel that refugees deserve it. Virginie Tiberghien, who was teaching in an earlier camp whose school was destroyed, and wrote to the President at the time saying that: ‘to destroy a school is to destroy humanity’, met up with the Nigerian refugee Zimako and built a new school

12744432_10201120996784674_7068647445179197873_nVirginie, Zimako and friend

together with him last summer on the Chemin des Dunes in the jungle. The school is a model of what you can do with no outside help – staffed by about ten volunteers, built by Zimako’s team, teaching adults and children seven days a week.

In the next few days we’ll certainly see how far the state are prepared to go in destroying the culture of the jungle, in ‘destroying humanity’. I’ve sketched parts of this argument elsewhere, and it’s not my own – I got the idea from Tom Radcliffe, who’s been a long-term resident. However: it seems clear that in the nine months that the jungle has been in existence (and remember that it’s tripled in size), it has become a diverse and organized community of some 7000 people, with ‘national’ areas (Syrian, Kurdish, Afghan, Eritrean, Sudanese,….). Each of these has its own cafés, social centres, shops and so on; while there are wider social facilities such as the women’s and children’s centre and the women’s therapy centre. The whole is serviced – but in no sense organized – by the 200 or more volunteers of L’Auberge – of whom I’ve written more than once. Last week I stayed at the youth hostel (yes, readers! at the age of 77, but they didn’t refuse me, and I was comfortable). It was packed – it can never in its life have done so much business in February; and every one of its guests was a volunteer.

This, readers, I want to persuade you, is the future city. Yes, indeed, we want all the refugees out of the (dirty, insanitary, sometimes dangerous) jungle, and into safe homes and warm beds with their families. But can we keep this spirit of community which you get in the jungle, at the warehouse, but rarely in the cities of England or indeed France? I can see why the state wishes to destroy it since (although it functions with a simple money economy) it is not a slave to our culture of national borders, warfare and defence.

If (as some at least of us hope) we can bring this culture home, and prevent its destruction at the hands of the barbarian state, then we shall indeed have a chance of building Jerusalem among these dark satanic mills!…

In the meanwhile, as I say in my heading: we shall not be moved!

I wanted to post a Dari poem (since I had my first lessons in Dari last week). The Internet tells me that Jalal-e-din Rumi wrote in Dari, where I thought he wrote in Farsi; but I’ve been told they’re pretty similar. So here’s a piece by him:

Sometimes I forget completely
what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad
energy everywhere. My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

Divide up my forgetfulness to any number,
it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow,
are they a part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don’t come near me
out of curiosity, or sympathy.

It seems curiously modern: and also relevant to the life of Calais.


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