Cervantes’ Don Quixote is often used as a metaphor of the idealistic campaigner on a quest against the impossible. Quixotic is defined as being romantic, visionary and impractical all in one go. Individual quests against whatever is taken to be as the ordinary, accepted norm could also be described as quixotic. Take the idea in some Maltese minds that the country cannot go on relying on a two party system. Take the attempts at breaking out of the MLPN mould. Quixotic. Quixotism can be taken to extremes and certan aims can be seen as being more impractical than others – take Harry’s five seats in Parliament for example. Sure, the romance, the vision is admirable and probably shared by many. The difficulty of the task he hopes to accomplish might be the very thing that stops people from putting themselves four-square behind him.
Les Enfants de Don Quichotte is an organisation that is in the news in France at the moment. They have taken up the cause of the so-called SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) – the homeless. What this quixotic band has done is install tents in major cities in France. The aim was one tent for every sans-abri and they intended to leave them there in the open until lodgement was found for each SDF. The sight of rows upon rows of tents along the Seine in Paris and in major squares in France served as an eye-opener to the people and the government. The public had been invited to spend at least one night out in a tent and get an idea of what it is like to sleep out in the cold.
On the 8th January, the French government announced new measures concerning the SDF. This Plan of Action includes the commitment that “any person currently received in an Emergency Hosting Centre will be offered (in accordance to his means) a permanent solution, in a public social zone, in a private conventional park, in a Centre for Hosting and Social Reinsertion, in a Centre for Request for Asylum, in a house of retreat or in a Hosting Centre for Stabilisation.” These measures were the first concrete steps taken by the government as a direct consequence of the concrete action of the Enfants de Don Quichotte.
Private action in order to get the authorities moving will always be seen in some quarters as Quixotic. They will always find others who dismiss their actions as “idealistic”, “romantic” or otherwise. Some would say that it takes courage to take on the status quo. I tend to disagree. Once you have the ideal and the will to achieve the rest will follow. It’s not just about blogging. It’s about carving back a place for the person in a society that has left too much in the hands of a political elite that seems to have lost itself somewhere along the way.
* This post may also be read at www.espresso.com.mt