Civic Commitment

La Voz de Galicia – August 2, 2019 →

Cristina PatoI can imagine the neighbors’ meeting when they decided to purchase all the beer in the village. I can imagine the options they considered in order to protect themselves from what was coming their way, as well as the ideas they discussed, until they concluded that emptying all supermarkets of beer was the best way to boycott the Neonazi festival that was to be be celebrated in their town of Ostritz in eastern Germany. In the previous year, the neighbors had developed a peaceful counter-program, but perhaps the idea had not worked as well as they had hoped, and that’s why they decided to try to stop the violence in this new way. In fact, Dresden’s administrative tribunal had already prohibited the sale of alcohol at such a festival, but neighbors had gone above and beyond, and did what they could so that not a single beer could be found in the whole town. This was a civilian commitment fulfilled by a city of 2,400 inhabitants.

The municipality of Toén, in Ourense, has a few more inhabitants than the municipality of Ostritz. There, on a priviledged height, are the remains of what one day had been the psichiatric hospital. This architectural complex, raised in the middle of the twentieth century as a leper colony, ended up being a hospital for public health’s forgotten child—mental health. The sanatorium was in use during four decades, closed in 2012, and was then completely abandoned. SERGAS, or Galician Health Services, withdrew and “returned” the lands given by proprietors in the 40s, and so began the process of deciding who would be responsible for this facility. In the meantime, vandals of all social classes and all generations began destroying the buildings “just because”, and the scavengers even tapped into the fuel deposit. Yes, civic commitment is something that we as a society need to cultivate, but what is the commitment of the institution that abandons it?

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