Consumerism maximises exploitation. We live in a society that too often fosters an exaggerated and uncontrolled consumerism to satisfy the important, if not exclusive, goal of maximising profits in order to satisfy the appetite of shareholders, be they corporations, large capital investors or even individuals attracted by speculative returns. Unfortunately, this leads to an increasing exploitation of the weakest and those individuals living in societies that are mobilised to satisfy this appetite for consumption. Moreover, in these kind of societies, worker protection barely exists, if at all, fuelling continued pressure on worker protection in consumer societies. The weakest are thus caught between the increased pressure to consume on the one hand and the drastic reduction of rights and protection on the other. We should all stand together for solidarity-based development. We are convinced that the time has come to ensure a development that is consistent with the values of solidarity, the founding value of our societies, by mobilising or initiating the battle of democratic forces (associations, trade unions and political actors). The Association Culture against Camorra, since its creation, has decided to place solidarity at the centre of its activities.
Consequently, it fights against all forms of organised crime, which all too often operates within an ‘apparent’ legality and has, by now, permeated all decision-making levels. Furthermore, Culture against Camorra aims to foster synergies between structures that are rooted in the same values, from the production of goods and services to their marketing and consumption or use. We strive to support products that have a ‘history’. In this perspective, Culture against Camorra proposes: on the one hand, to support the creation of centres for the collection and distribution of products ‘that have a history’; and, on the other hand, to create and support the opening of multicultural and intercultural conviviality places to encourage a different way of consumption, starting from the discovery of the richness of the participants’ culture and gastronomic roots. Particular attention will be paid to the mobilisation and participation of young people. This new initiative could be tested in Belgium and, on the basis of its results, such conviviality centres could be developed in other locations and in other EU Member States. A conviviality centre will be defined as a permanent space for the presentation and, if necessary, distribution of products that have a ‘history’. “Products with a history’ are for example:
- products from enterprises confiscated from organised crime;
- products produced by workers’ cooperatives that have taken over an enterprise ‘abandoned’ by its owners
- products from groups of small local producers who work according to ethical principles of solidarity.
These ‘products that have a history’ tell us that it is possible:
- to produce quality products while setting prices that grant everyone, including the weakest, the access to this quality;
- to allow producers to work with dignity in a way that respects their customers and the society in which they live, and in particular by valuing local traditions and knowledge;
- to enable some producers to overcome the barriers they face in entering the market (for example, when they produce in areas where organised crime is rife, or in areas where traditional distributors are dominant);
- to innovate in the way of distributing production, also using advanced technological tools but respecting the dignity of the consumer, including the weakest. Conviviality centres will therefore be ‘alternative’ spaces where ‘nutritious’ consumer products, innovative or alternative production techniques, cultural activities of all kinds (books, films, visual arts, music…) can be exchanged, everything that gives concrete content to the desire for conviviality, to the need to ‘live together’. In this perspective, a conviviality centre is a space where production, consumption, culture, discussion and struggle converge.
Organisations able to develop commercial aspects of these initiatives – while committing to respect and integrate products’ eco-sustainability and ethics into their activities – will gradually be associated.
Generally speaking , a conviviality centre is supposed to be located in an easily accessible area and have enough space (between 60 and 100 square metres) to ensure products’ distribution activities, meetings, debates and tasting activities and, more simply, conviviality.
cooperation with facilities sharing the same ethical concept of solidarity, particularly with cultural facilities, ie., theatres, would be eased. Such places of intercultural conviviality are likely to interest and inspire the younger generations, who could discover the richness of their own culture and of the other cultures they have experienced.
The youngest generations’ ‘sensitivity’ for gastronomy turns out to be the main driver for the creation of these conviviality centres.
How should we get ready to do the same in Brussels? In the first phase, the project could be shaped as a non-profit association, based on the voluntary work of associate members.
Depending on how the initiative develops, the project’s scope could be extended to the hiring of external staff. Direct financial support could be provided by:
- exhibitors of the products on sale;
- sales of the products;
- voluntary contributions;
- income from the café and organised activities, ie., evenings dedicated to products storytelling;
- support campaigns.
The aim is to ensure the long-term economic sustainability of these conviviality centres. All together we will be able to show that it is POSSIBLE to Produce differently, Buy differently, Live differently.