After many talks, debates, articles and opinions, we urgently need to agree on one thing: the current Flemish government is making radical cuts in the social and cultural sphere based on a dangerous ideology. The attack on culture and the arts should function as a wake-up call to join a broader struggle, against the climate of fear and violence that the current government is producing. We need to develop a long-term vision and strategy to deal with these drastic changes and to understand how we, as cultural workers, can reinforce the broader struggle we are part of. On the streets, on social media and amongst ourselves, we are shouting the word ‘solidarity’, as a promise to others and as a demand to ourselves. But a mere shout is not enough. We need to act upon this solidarity. In order to receive it, we first have to give it.
How do we make this solidarity more concrete? How can we turn solidarity into action? We believe that we should not only gather in front of the Flemish parliament when the culture commission is in session, desperately hoping to protect artists’ already minimal livelihoods. We should do more than that. We should gather where-ever the future we fear is already someone else’s daily present. Where-ever constructs such as borders, profit and identity leave violent marks on people’s lives. Artists are not a political instrument to “showcase the greatness that Flanders bears within itself”.
Therefore, on the 28th of November a group of cultural workers brought together by State of the Arts went to Bilzen. We assembled there at the same time as when the culture commission came together, accompanied by the silent and loud protests inside and outside the Flemish Parliament in Brussels.
In Bilzen a planned asylum centre was burnt down to cheers and applause, without the Minister of Culture – who also happens to be the minister-president – publicly condemning it. We will gather there to demand an official denunciation of this violent attack on what is the symbol of our common human dignity.
We went to Bilzen to reflect and discuss about how this violent act is the consequence of the increasingly racist and exclusive discourse of some politicians. We went to find out how we, together, can resist this. We went to Bilzen to address what our priorities are. We have gathered in Bilzen to express our solidarity with local organisations that are engaged in the struggle against the current ideology of social exclusion.
We went to Bilzen and we will go to other places. To encourage and strengthen each other. Because the centre and social struggles are not only located in Brussels; they are everywhere. Against racism and protective nationalism. With the climate movement. With the unions in their resistance against the cuts in the public sector. With old and new social movements. With Hart boven Hard. With the flex workers living in increasingly precarious conditions. With everyone who is subjected to structural violence day in day out.