A new generation of landless in the ‘developed’ world.

It is becoming unbearable for Greek people to maintain the ownership of their houses or to inherit the property of their families due to a dramatic increase of new taxes. Consequently, a new generation of landless, and in the worst cases homeless, is being nurtured in Greece and across Europe.

Today, Freegan Kolektiva is introducing two very different cases of ‘land grabbing’ (a process of land and capital concentration in the context of neoliberal globalization [3]) in two consecutive postings.

We consider these cases as ‘blueprints’ of present human conditions. Land grabbing enables the patrons of this economic system to expand and penetrate every aspect of life on Earth. The accumulation of power to few, guised as ‘development’ and driven by the dominance of the private (corporations) over the public, has been forming a system that is increasingly radical and totalitarian.

European North & European South

One thing that stroke me during my years of studying in the Netherlands was the fact that Dutch people, despite living in the most advanced economy with very high salaries, often do not own their own houses. There are multiple reasons for that, including that the high demand for land, given that Netherlands is a dense-populated country, consequently has raised the value of land. There are also reasons like high modernization, cultural perspectives etc.

In contrast, Greek society displays traits of traditional values where ownership over one’s own house is probably the highest priority concerning livelihoods. Moreover, land and houses have sentimental values, being passed on from generation to generation. Ancestral lands are forms of family and cultural heritage.

There are manifold differences between Central/Northern Europe and the European South even if we are all parts of the same entity: European Union. These differences are social, cultural and economic, not to forget the geographic and environmental ones. Concerning the issue of house and land ownership 70% of the Greeks own their house while only 40% of the Germans do so, even if their better off economically [1].

Modernity, its nobles and the new hordes of landless

In the advanced economies a considerable amount of the family earnings are circulated in the form of rent, a process which ‘stimulates’ the economic system. The evident here is worrisome: there is a funnel effect that forces a considerable amount of population to become landless, and live on rent (if they can). While new forms of poverty are rampant in Greece at the moment, a lot of people are going to be thrown on the streets.

But still in Greece 70% of the people own their house. How is it possible to change this? Well, we need to look at the 13 (!!!) new taxations that have been enforced over the last two years that in many ways make it unaffordable for a Greek citizen to maintain, buy, pass on or inherit his house [1,2].

Moreover, the value of land and houses are constantly rising, while at the same time the income of people (pensions, salaries, subventions, benefits) is trimmed substantially. In parallel, according to the new bill that is very likely to be introduced, the Greek government will enable the payment with citizens’ assets (not only money) when people try to acquit the unbearable new taxations [4].

In this way people’s assets are going to be transferred to the Greek state. That happens in times when Greece is selling most of the national wealth to foreign companies. National assets are being sold from all sectors of the economy (infrastructure, communications, energy, transport etc.) at a dramatic pace to foreign investors (privatization) [5]. These transfers are conducted at lowest cost, since all national companies are grossly devaluated. That means that TransNational companies acquire the wealth of Greece at the lowest cost for their own benefit.

Now, in the West it is an accepted norm not to own your house. It is not a necessity anymore, since the people are becoming more mobile and a fixed house is often seen as an obstacle; renting is more convenient. The new generations in the ‘developed’ West have little sense of place, community or generally a sense of belonging (individualism & placelessness). It is also inescapable that after graduating from the university people are working for a corporation (usually transnational). These forms of employment and mobility render ownership superfluous.

In this way, people are less independent to master their own life the way they want it. They are also becoming more vulnerable to socio-economic pressures while the social connectivity is to a great extend severed. They do not have their own place or community to turn to in times of hardship. This form of advanced economy is less attached to the place, thus more volatile.

Horizontal Resistance

These new regulations are not neutral; they are charged with a lot of frustration, disappointment and not unexpectedly the might trigger new rounds of turmoil. People are not going to easily give away their properties, they are going to resist. People need to form new bonds of solidarity to organize resistance to maintain or regain control over their resources, in this case land.

This emerging situation is not an egalitarian abolishment of property for the good of humanity; it is essentially a transfer of property rights from the people (primarily the poor) to the rich elite. The new generation of landless is likely to live in a post-materialist feudal irony.

Sources:

[1] BlackMediterraneanPirate(2012). Οι Νέοι Τσιφλικάδες, οι Νέοι Κολίγοι και η Ανταγωνιστικότητα: η επερχόμενη κολιγοποίηση των Ελλήνων πολιτών στο όνομα της “πληρωμής του δημόσιου χρέους” & της “αποφυγής της κρατικής χρεωκοπίας”. Retrieved on the 13th of January 2012 from:  wp.me/pPn6Y-cfU

[2] Kouti Pandoras (2012). Eπιστροφή στην εποχή των τσιφλικάδων. Retrieved on the 13th of January 2012 from: http://www.koutipandoras.gr/?p=14094

[3] Borras SM, Franco JC, Cristobal K and Spoor M (2011). Land grabbing in Latin America and the Caribbean viewed from a broader international perspective. 14 November 2011, FAO Regional Office , Santiago de Chile.

[4] Μανωλαράκη Ε (2012). Εξόφληση τώρα και σε… είδος.  Retrieved on the 13th of January 2012 from: http://www.koutipandoras.gr/?p=13919

[5] Γελαντάλι Μ (2012). Πουλήστε τώρα και όσο όσο ένε οι Βρυξέλλες. Retrieved on the 13th of January 2012 from: http://www.koutipandoras.gr/?p=8908

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