Treating people respectfully as human beings the way forward

We require a revived, authentic engagement with each other as human beings. Thus recognising our differences and focusing on what unites us. No insidious witch-hunt or blaming the victim. Forgetting this simple idea and we risk sinking ever deeper into the multiple crises that afflict Europe and the world stage at large.


Refugees are not the problem. Click here for more on this topic. The way we treat children should be a measure of how developed and sophisticated our values actually are. The post-Jungle fiasco underlines how wrong we repeatedly get it.

DiEM25 remains committed to the humanisation of the European polity. The Enlightened city research agenda sees humanisation as a necessary component of progressive urban and regional renewal at the core of a revitalized Europe.

The overall aim of the ENLIGHTEN project is to generate novel approaches to achieve spatial justice and territorial cohesion through progressive regeneration in Europe of the 21st century. Through transnational migration and increased mobility on a planetary scale, more people now belong simultaneously to two or more societies than at any time in human history. Ensuring that people of diverse cultures and heritages can live together in spaces of tolerance, with fair access to resources and life chances, presents a formidable and growing challenge for policy-makers at all levels.

Academic and policy literatures are replete with studies of social justice and the right to the city, despite a great deal of attention to “ghettos” or “banlieues” in France, too little is known about how to manage and mitigate spatial injustices across European urban and regional space. The absence of studies that fully integrate questions of religious identity, adherence and relation with secular identities in urban politics and governance are a major oversight.

To advance this agenda our ambitious project centres on the notion of the “enlightened city”, conceived as interrelations between postsecularity, radical difference and sustainability. The distinctive empirical focus is on progressive postsecular politics of hope, spatial justice and urban regeneration within a regional context. The project consists of a partnership representing 10 countries, with eight universities and two carefully selected non-profit organizations. We understand postsecularity as the recognition that modern societies once considered fully secular have entered into a process of accommodating and managing diverse value systems and inequalities including people of faith and no-faith. This development is particularly visible in urban and regional Europe.

3 thoughts on “Treating people respectfully as human beings the way forward”

  1. Dear Justin
    I think this approach risks falling into what I have called the ‘Why can’t we all get on?’ agenda. We need to be clearer about the nature of capitalist states and how they generate social divisions. I agree that we should all be kind to one another but in practice we are kind to some people and not to others. We don’t solve this problem of the human condition by simply asserting that we should be kind to those others as well.


  2. I would certainly not like to give the impression that we should “just be nice to people” and the world’s problems under capitalist social relations would vanish as if by magic.

    No. My point refers more to the difference between the inhumanity and injustice of bureaucratic institutions alongside the innate ability of people to pull together and support each other in the face of deep adversity (see the post “Our crisis is a crisis of care”). On this basis the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor falls apart. And with it many of the assumptions that underpin deeply punitive neoliberal restructuring of welfare as well as the decline of employment opportunities for many people. It must be added I feel we have increasingly lost a sense of belonging, what was once romantically called “community”. Neoliberalization has fostered a pernicious form of individualism that has matured somewhat and I would wager has had it’s day. But people and social groups are still sometimes wedded to the “ideals” of that individualism at the very time the need to reach out and reconnect to others is stronger than ever. It is something along these lines that I am referring to when thinking about the depth of kindness at the root of the human condition.

    My thoughts are not that far away from George Monbiot’s (see “Without the power of kindness, our society will fall apart“, The Guardian, 02 November 2016) who has toured up and down the UK exploring initiatives that help tackle loneliness and mental health issues. Values that we can all understand by virtue of what binds and reconnects us. Because we all share them. Humanization starts here. Not imposing top down and phoney directives to be “nice” to this or that person. But about searching deep inside us for what is already there.

    The Enlightened City research agenda seeks to critically examine what we might mean by “humanization” in urban and regional Europe of the 21st century.

  3. The subtitle to Monbiot’s piece reads “When we are vulnerable and estranged from each other we can be easily manipulated by demagogues, as can be seen in the US and Europe”. The critical questions posed by the Enlightened City agenda apply just as much to politics across the moat in the run up to the next Presidential election as they do on the crisis ridden European continent.

    The burning of the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss. on Tuesday, with “Vote Trump” scrawled on the side of the charred building (click here for a piece in the NY Times) reminds us how racially polarised the election is and will be. Clinton cannot take African-American votes for granted. She needs to get into the communities and engage with people to convince of her authenticity. It is probably too late now.

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