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Amsterdam’s Plan to Resettle “Antisocial Tenants” in Containment Camps Set to Begin This Month

Eberhard Van der Laan. (Photo: Open Days - European Week of Cities and Regions / Flickr)

Amsterdam is famous for liberal policies such as those that help it attract tourists who want to buy sex and smoke pot in coffee shops, but now it has announced an illiberal social containment and human disposability scheme to house what the Dutch are calling “antisocial tenants.” The plan is to warehouse live bodies – or an ever-mounting population of surplus labor – in converted shipping containers.

San Francisco approved something similar in September of this distressful year of 2012 in what the city described as an attempt to house workers and the poor. Officials who passed revisions to the building code claim that, whereas the average rent in June was $2,734, the “micro spaces” would capture a market price of $1,200-$1,500. San Francisco’s new building code now allows for spaces as small as 220 square feet to be built and occupied under the auspices of supplying “affordable housing.”

For as much as $1,500, one can currently live in the “Paris of the West Coast” containment cell – in the same city where four billionaires out of the 94 in California reside and where the 1 percent have profited from skyrocketing housing costs for years.

In Amsterdam the Situation Is Even Graver

To the unsuspecting eye, Amsterdam appears like a libertarian Disneyland. The Labor party mayor recently gave the government’s promise that the city would tolerate marijuana sales at pot-selling coffee shops even after the passage of a new law tightening down on drug tourism and the popular prostitution spots continue to attract customers and garnish lavish social attention. Yet scratch and sniff the social libertarian Disney landscape and the “new Amsterdam” reveals its stench.

The significant news now is that official plans to dispatch “nuisance neighbors” to “scum villages” made from shipping containers are poised to take effect.

Labor Mayor Eberhard van der Laan, who approved of the public plan, told The Guardian that his new £810,000 policy to confront what the Dutch officials are also calling “antisocial behavior” is being effected to protect victims of social abuse and homophobia from harassment.

Bartho Boer, spokesperson for the mayor, never really defined the new doublespeak terms “anti-social behavior” or “nuisance neighbors” for The Guardian, but he did specify that the new containment camps, or what have been referred to as “villages” by the corporate media, are not for “the regular nuisance between two neighbors where one has the stereo too loud on Saturday night” but for “people who are extremely violent and intimidating and in a clear situation where a victim is being repeatedly harassed.”

Victims of increased austerity who are pilloried as guilty of causing what the Dutch are calling “extreme havoc” are to be evicted from their current homes and placed in the new temporary containment units. The Dutch authorities announced that containment homes will be isolated outside residential areas and located in industrial-zoned segments of the city.

In an effort to rationalize the isolationist containment policy of human disposability, Boer and others are engaging in word-smithing with an extraordinary fervor. In reality, these containment camps are nothing short of modern day concentration camps to be filled with what has been now been identified by the capitalist class and elites as human detritus.

The Amsterdam government says they anticipate moving around ten families a year into the program, which is scheduled to start in January of 2013.

The Guardian quoted Boer on the government’s preferred moniker for the shipping-containers-cum-housing: “We call it a living container,” he said.

Evidencing the carceral spirit of the punitive new law housing “antisocial tenants” in containers with showers and kitchens, a spokesman for the mayor told The Telegraph: “The aim is not to reward people who behave badly with a new five-room home with a south-facing garden. This is supposed to be a deterrent.”

People housed in the containers will also be able to meet with doctors, social workers and parole officers, according to The Guardian. The containment units will, of course, require beefed-up security, and thus can be expected to be heavily policed.

Always consistent with his respect for disarming rhetoric, Boer balks at the term “scum villages”, preferring to call them “scum houses.” That is, according to The Guardian, “because we don’t want to put more than one of these families in the same area.”

This isn’t the first time the Dutch tried such policies. The country has a history of such procedures. In the 19th century, so-called “troublemakers” were moved to special villages in Drenthe and Overijssel according to

Boer, however, dismisses history by insisting the rancid policy is essential and that the administration has learned from its mistakes, promising not to repeat them. All of this is supposed to be designed to comfort the mainstream Dutch public who like to think of themselves as socially liberal. Even more importantly, it helps build an ideological architecture that works to assure that the warehousing of surplus labor is done with efficiency, rapidity and calibration both for the present and for a dystopic future.

Currently, there are several small-scale trial projects of a similar nature already in progress in the Netherlands, including a location near Amsterdam where ten shipping container homes have been set up for persistent offenders, according to RT.

In the Orwellian world that is unfolding throughout Western civilization, Boer as quoted in The Guardian sums up the new turnkey totalitarianism embraced by the Dutch and no doubt soon to be emulated by other so-called liberal democracies: “They are taken care of so the whole situation is not going to repeat at the new house they are in.”

The whole grand plan for handling an increasing disposable population is the “soft totalitarianism” of tyrants. But in a society where buying and selling is the basis of all that is considered human liberty, perhaps we cannot rule out that more and more people will attain the status of surplus labor, unable to find work, housing, or satisfy basic needs, and will then be consigned to “scum villages” or “containment camps.”

The question for those of us not yet consigned to containment camps is what, if anything, we will do about their creation.

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