Fluid Society Note: The Dutch Housing War

Preface

Since corona and the liquidity of modern life are so intertwined, I found it necessary to start this separate diary which focuses more on the poignant effects of the current society, in which we often feel estranged from the objects and subjects that surround us. An inconceivable society wherein nothing seems to be constant and stable.

It tries to capture an individual view on the instability and uncertainty the technocratic neoliberalist profit tenet has led us to be, after the disintegration of metaphysics and religion, about a hundred years ago. Nietzsche -if I may paraphrase- remarked that the disentanglement of religion and metaphysical philosophy would be highly inadvisable. So where do we stand right now?

Today’s housing situation in the Netherlands might reveal to what extent stability is a plain imaginative delusion, and to what extent do we really need a physical home. Perhaps, using my individual psychological experience proves to demonstrate this phenomenon most precisely. This series of notes called ‘Fluid Society Notes’ will cover such contemporary challenges from an individual perspective.

The Crumbs of Accomodation

The Dutch housing war, as I would like to call it, has intensified once more. Currently we’re fighting for a space to live in Utrecht, which lies even closer to the housing frontline. Groningen could already be marked as one of the worst places for housing in the world, but Utrecht really steals the show.

As we scavenge through the leftover crumbs of Dutch accommodation, we witness the most mutilated, ugly and abhorrent dog shelters one could possibly imagine (and beyond), rented out for downright outrageous sums. We’ve seen apartments which were actually basements without daylight, located literally underneath more costly ones; daylight has become a privilege. Only oxygen is still for free.

In Groningen we begin to witness the destruction the devastating housing war is causing. In its outermost outskirts, many former family houses -initially built for those with a meagre income- have been divided into student houses. Meanwhile, many families in poverty are waiting perpetually for a reasonably priced home. It’s likely to be a result of social housing being sold on the relentless investor market. 

WI-FI Capsules

These odd, charmless student homes can easily be detected, for their only purpose is to serve as WIFI capsules. During corona times, all classes are held online. If Maslow would have lived nowadays, he might’ve placed WiFi at the bottom of his pyramid. Before all else.

But inasmuch as the WiFi in those places may be fast, it certainly doesn’t cheer up the street’s ambiance, nor does it anyhow add a sense of youthfulness to the hood. Rather a worrisome sense of apprehension for the incoming generation, who, by the way, barely show themselves. Their black curtains are closed all day and their premises look unmaintained. 

There is vermin all around and rusty (swap) bikes lay stacked onto each other. Food is ordered online so there is no need for these timid creatures to venture outside and risk encountering real human beings.

Conclusion; very unexpectedly, it turns out that corona, universities and the Dutch housing market are cooperating to fully realize E.M Forster’s dystopian world in his story The Machine Stops, where people live underground, surrounded by everything they could desire, except reality. 

Header image: Margot Polinder

© Stefan Hoekstra/The Social Writer, 2020. Unauthorized use/and or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full name and clear credit is given to Stefan Hoekstra and The Social Writer with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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