Think Tank Poverty #28 – My suffering is political!

With the participation of Jonathan Carrier, Stéfane Duval, Nazha L., N., Ann-Jo Neyrynck and David Trembla, expert witnesses, Bénédicte Hendrick, collaborator in the office of the Brussels Minister for Social Action and Health Alain Maron, Christine Mahy of Réseau Wallon de Lutte contre la Pauvreté and Martin Wagener of UCL.

The daily life of destitute people is filled with enormous suffering. It takes many forms, some of them quite predictable, and is often regarded as normal, as belonging to the ‘logic’ of poverty. Even if we don’t admit it to ourselves, we consciously or subconsciously expect poor people to suffer. Perhaps this even underlies our perception of them as belonging to the ‘good poor’ or the ‘bad poor’.

Poor people have ample evidence that a policy of suffering exists, that it targets them, that it is applied deliberately, and that it shapes the measures taken to ‘manage destitution’ today. They experience it in social services, day centres, public social action centres (CPAS/OCMW), medical services, related administrations, accommodation centres, associations and charity organisations, in short, in every social instrument that is supposed to help ‘fight poverty’. Though not being systematic, the ‘daily sadism’ of these social instruments allows this policy of suffering to repeat itself every day and at each annoying incident.

Opposing and protesting against this unnecessary production of suffering is thus also a political gesture. To make it heard and treat it as a commonplace issue that must be addressed is part of the same struggle. We should also ask ourselves: what suffering are we talking about? What are the everyday sufferings that social services and homelessness charities impose on those whom they are supposed to defend and accompany? And if you are one of their ‘social workers’, how should you perceive that you are relaying this policy of suffering? And what political and social reasons have made you part of this chain?

In short, can we hear people say: ‘My suffering is more political than personal (physical, psychological, mental, relational, etc.)’ without questioning the methodology of social work?


Wednesday 22 January 2020 from 12:00 to 14:00

At DoucheFLUX, rue des Vétérinaires/Veeartsen Straat 84, 1070 Brussels

Please enrol by sending an email to Serena Alba. Sandwiches will be provided free of charge.