What to make of 2012? Well, if you listen to economists, journalists, media people, even bloggers, we’re in for a tough time. Last year, comparatively, was a piece of cake. Not if you were one of the people thrown out of work, or losing your home. But 2012, ‘they’ seem to think, will be when the cuckoos come home to roost – at least in the wonderful kingdom of euroland: yes, the doom merchants had cheerful messages for 2012. But does it have a self-fulfiling prophecy? It will be bad if enough people make it bad.
And from the city which sees itself as the birthplace of the euro, the centre of euro-pie, this doom-laden talk is contrarian. It conflicts with daily perceived reality in Maastricht. Forget the first-paragraph clichés. Thousands of eager shoppers – or at least potential shoppers – throng the streets, filling the shops. And Christmas has gone. What do all these people have? Optimism.
Things are not going to be as bad as ‘they’ say. Things will get better. Maybe we have to pay a bit more for our pensions, a bit more in our taxes, but at least the shoppers have money left over for shopping, for keeping people in work, for giving the cafés enough business so they keep employing the waitresses and waiters. And the tourists will keep coming, rain or shine, and spending their euros too.
Yes, it’s an optimistic city, maybe a bit self-centred, and ambitious. It considers itself at least the equal of nearby Liège and Aachen, cities two to three times as large. (Liège and Aachen, needless to say, have a different perception.) Maastricht draws maps with itself at the centre and the two larger neighbours at the edge. Yes, it is centred, self-centred, and hence eccentric.
Eccentric, because it seems oblivious to the ups and downs, more downs, that are happening all around. But let’s turn it around. Let’s make eccentricity a virtue.
Ec-centric: out of the centre? Seeing what is not at the centre. Looking after what is not at the centre. An eccentric city will look after those who become the ‘have-nots’ or who are the ‘never-hads’. Eccentric communities look after those around the edges, those who risk disappearing from sight. Eccentric streets look after those who fall victim to the bad times. Eccentric neighbours look after the people next door when the shit hits the fan. Eccentric individuals will look after all other individuals who are not so fortunate to live in an eccentric society.
Yes, an eccentric individual can start simply by increasing donations to good causes by 5.55 percent. And the really well-endowed eccentric ones can do much more. Look at the ec around your centre. Eccentricity is the necessity for 2012.
Why 5.55%? I’m just eccentric. I could have chosen 11.11% for such a ‘Karnaval’ city, but that would be too eccentric. Hence the half: 5.55%. Go on.