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The social and cultural divide is worsening in our society. What to do to reabsorb it?

A carte blanche from Marc De Koker and Philippon Toussaint, co-presidents of the Prevention Council of the Brussels district.

The period we are going through has profoundly changed our daily lives. The measures taken have seriously undermined what makes us social and thinking beings: meetings, exchanges, sharing of emotions and thoughts, discoveries, emulation, the creation of links, openness to otherness. Social construction and living together have been put on hold. It is not without consequences.

Mental health pathologies are developed by adolescents who struggle to mobilize the tools they absolutely need to build themselves. These then saturate services that previously were already very heavily used.

The increase in domestic violence is causing congestion in centers welcoming victims and leaving many of them unreservedly.

A lack of space in accommodation services results in the establishment of increasingly long waiting lists.

Unprecedented inflation in the number of dropout students is leading schools to enlist the help of outside workers.

Entire families are struggling to gain access to social assistance, victims of the scarcity of accessible counters or the absence of social workers physically present. Obtaining an ordinary document from a municipal population service can now take up to two months. The same is true when it comes to obtaining an appointment within certain CPAS.

Computerized counters are becoming widespread. However, they are inaccessible to a population that does not master digital tools.

Often on the front line and faced with these issues, the various youth assistance services – whether or not they are mandated (AMO, SAJ, SPJ, etc.) -, grassroots associations, public social action centers , school branches, psycho-medico-social centers, educational teams, mental health services, etc. are all showing creativity and have put in place strategies intended to lessen the consequences of the restrictions on freedoms that we all fully experience. whip. Financial means have been allocated by the different levels of power, and others are in the process of being allocated. It is obviously happy, and innovative projects are flourishing in large numbers.

From the roots of evil long before

However, if the treatment of symptoms is an obvious necessity, it is insufficient. It would also be appropriate – and undoubtedly above all – to attack the roots of the evil. And it would be a fatal mistake to point to recent health measures as the causes of the afflictions that plague our living together. These were already present long before the onset of the pandemic. They have been amplified and thus made evident. They are the consequence of societal choices which structurally generate exclusion and disaffiliation. It would therefore be advisable to question our system in a global way in order to make possible its evolution towards building a more inclusive society.

Concretely, what to do? Flee like the plague the idea that our present has reshuffled the cards, and that the operating methods adopted in recent months are destined to become a new normal.

Where are the counters?

On February 12, the Belgian mediators and ombudsman demanded free access for all to a minimum internet connection, arguing that today teleworking has become widespread and that most administrative procedures require access to the web, described as “social necessity”. A solution to address the digital divide, really? What about families of foreign origin who do not speak any of our national languages? What about the illiterate or illiterate (one in ten adults in Belgium has difficulty reading and writing. This figure would rise to one in four among young people, even when the latter has attended our schools – read and write 2020). What about these teenagers that we see daily and who only master the playful aspect of IT through a multitude of network applications, being a thousand miles from apprehending any other function? What about elderly people reluctant to use the tool? What about the many computer bugs and whatnot? What about data security? And what about human contact? Contrary to this request, would it not have been better to plead for the reopening, as soon as possible, of all the counters closed in recent months, and the creation of a multitude of others, both in the public services? that private?

The placement of children is the last possible alternative in the event of a dangerous situation. It is a reality when the family is no longer able to guarantee a benevolent and safe environment. But it is also an admission of failure. The question to be asked is: by what process did the parents or relatives of these children lose their footing to the point of having become so unfit? Wouldn’t they have for many, throughout their life course, been confronted with social exclusion?

The precariousness / marginalization tandem seems indivisible, wouldn’t it then be the one that would favor the emergence of at least psychological violence? And wouldn’t it be this psychological violence which, over the months and then years, would cause some psychological disorders? It is a safe bet, without this being an absolute rule. Rather than focusing only on the treatment of patients (who must obviously be taken care of), wouldn’t it be more productive in the long term to reduce the social and cultural divide?

Part of our youth has lost all connection with their schooling. Madame Glatigny, Minister of Youth Aid, announces that “school re-enrollment” projects will be funded. The process of school disaffiliation, for the student who is the victim, strips the school of all legitimacy and therefore of all function. This complete loss of the meaning of schooling is a reality for many. The school is however the place of socialization par excellence. It is fundamental to give back to our young people the taste to frequent its corridors and its playgrounds before going to its classrooms. To make school a place of life again.

All those involved in prevention in the district of Brussels are worried about the evolution of the situation in the months and years to come if nothing is done to remedy the structural dysfunctions that plague our societal space. Their social diagnosis, written before the start of the pandemic, is undoubtedly a rich source of information that could shed light on a political reflection if by chance it was a question now that a possible exit from the crisis is envisioned.

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