The Right To Housing, Not Vacation Homes

Sonali Kolhatkar – Photo: sonalikolhatkar.com

01-07-2024 ~ Can strict regulations on Airbnb solve the housing crisis? Probably not, but they’re a good start.

Americans have been on a vacation binge since the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns, traveling for leisure in record numbers, and generating a major boom for the tourism industry. The vacation rental company Airbnb in particular, built on the euphemistic-sounding idea of a “sharing economy,” is thriving. In the third quarter of 2023, the company posted its highest-ever profits on record.

But increasingly, cities are seeing rising rents, unaffordable home prices, and increased homelessness. Authorities are linking such housing-related crises in part to Airbnb, and are passing strict regulations.

I’ve rented several Airbnb homes over the 15 years since the company was founded. In the early years, staying in other people’s houses was a sort of subversive act of rebellion against corporate hotel chains. During the most terrifying pre-vaccine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, short-term home rentals felt significantly safer than hotels, amid fears of the deadly airborne virus spreading among unmasked crowds in elevators and hotel lobbies. The privacy, convenience, and lower cost often enabled tourists with tighter budgets to enjoy family vacations with members of their chosen pandemic pods.

But, while Airbnb rentals may offer some financial respite for low-budget vacationers, their counterparts in the neighborhoods they visit are often negatively impacted by higher-cost housing prices and rents. What’s more, Airbnb hosts are increasingly professional landlords—wealthy elites and corporate entities that scoop up large numbers of properties and turn big profits by renting them out to travelers.

Even individuals managing a single property are now encouraged to expand vacation rental management into a full-time business. “Becoming an Airbnb property manager can be a fulfilling career path—and you can also make a lot of money with it,” claimed one company specializing in training professional hosts. “It’s a relatively low-risk, low-investment venture that can turn out to be extremely lucrative.”

Indeed, just as companies like Uber were once touted as a way for working people with cars to earn a little extra spending cash, Airbnb offered the promise of supplementary income for those with an extra room or converted garage. Now, however, the market is being increasingly dominated by a small number of corporate “hosts” and professional property managers.

Airbnb homes are available all over the world but the United States is most deeply affected. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in late 2023, “[O]ur penetration in the United States is significantly higher than our penetration in many other countries. And we think there’s a huge amount of growth if we could just get Airbnb to even a fraction of the percentage of penetration that we have in the United States.” In other words, the U.S. is the model that Airbnb wants to replicate everywhere else in its quest for profits.

Stephanie Synclair is an appropriate symbol of what Airbnb has wrought in the U.S. The 41-year-old Black mom from Atlanta recently made the news for becoming a home-buyer, not in her own hometown, but in Sicily. In spite of the language and cultural barriers, Synclair purchased a home on the other side of the planet, in part because she found Sicilians to be warm and welcoming, but mostly because of the huge price difference. In spite of having a budget of $450,000—no small sum—Synclair had no luck buying a home in Atlanta, where properties are among the most overpriced in the nation. She now plans to retire in her $62,000 home in Palermo, Sicily.

Atlanta’s housing market is dominated by investors and cash-rich corporations who scoop up practically every home listed at $500,000 or less, many of which are then transformed into Airbnb listings for tourists. Precious Price, an Atlanta-based host, initially saw Airbnb as a pathway to building wealth, particularly for Black entrepreneurs like her who faced racial discrimination from the financial industry. But Price soon realized, according to a profile in the New York Times, that her rental property was part of the housing crisis that her beloved city was experiencing. She has since pivoted to long-term rentals aimed at residents rather than vacationers—an enterprise that is less profitable but more ethical.

Not only does Airbnb fuel housing crises in cities, it does so along racial lines. A 2017 study of New York City by the watchdog group Inside Airbnb concluded that the company’s model fuels racism in the housing market. Analyzing the demographics of rental hosts in the city, Inside Airbnb concluded, among other things, that “[a]cross all 72 predominantly Black New York City neighborhoods, Airbnb hosts are 5 times more likely to be white.” Further, “[t]he loss of housing and neighborhood disruption due to Airbnb is [six] times more likely to affect Black residents.” White New Yorkers have benefitted from renting out housing as hotels, while Black New Yorkers are disproportionately hurt.

To curb such inequities, New York City, which already had strict rules on the books about short-term rentals and subleases, passed a law in 2023 requiring Airbnb to ensure that hosts obtain permission to rent out housing. If it fails to do so, both the host and the company are hit with hefty fines.

The New York Times explained, “In order to collect fees associated with the short-term stays, Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and other companies must check that a host’s registration application has been approved.” And, “hosts who violate the rules could face fines of up to $5,000 for repeat offenders, and platforms could be fined up to $1,500 for transactions involving illegal rentals.”

It was an admission that the earlier set of rules was simply not being enforced—as we continue to see in cities like Los Angeles—where hosts flout rules with little consequence. But now, at least in New York City, the onus is on the company, as well as the hosts to comply.

While this means potentially higher hotel costs for out-of-town visitors, it could free up rentals for long-term residents. According to the Guardian, this may already be happening, just months after the law went into effect in September: “[T]he city’s rental costs are backing off from record highs, as the vacancy rate increases to a level not seen in three years—good news for folks looking to sign rental leases.”

While cheaper vacation stays are certainly desirable for those of us who love to travel, vacationing is a privilege in the U.S. More than a third of Americans, as per a 2023 survey, are unlikely to take a summer vacation. And of those, more than half say they simply can’t afford it. A 2019 Economic Policy Institute study pointed out that “Airbnb might, as claimed, suppress the growth of travel accommodation costs, but these costs are not a first-order problem for American families.” What is a first-order problem is affordable housing.

And, while regulating Airbnb will not mitigate all economic injustices facing Americans—such as suppressed wages and a lack of government-funded health care—it certainly will move the needle in the right direction.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

Author Bio: Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her most recent book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization.

Source: Independent Media Institute

Credit Line: This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Auke van der Berg – Ikki’s eiland. De horzel van het koninkrijk I. Het gesprek

Download hier het complete boek (PDF): Ikki’seiland: Het gesprek

Lees ook: http://ikkiseiland.com

Ikki stuurt en lacht en praat. Hij kent iedere steen, elke hobbel en alle bochten in de weg.
‘De Bonairiaan blaft graag. Hij is net als de hond. Die eet geen gras, maar als hij geiten gras ziet eten, blaft hij hard.’
Ikki lacht.
‘Begrijp je wat ik bedoel?’
Zijn rechterwijsvinger hangt even streng in de lucht.
‘Wij moeten niet afhankelijk zijn. Niet alleen de hand ophouden. Wat ga je doen als je iedere maand zomaar geld krijgt? Niets toch?’
Ikki schudt zijn hoofd. Hij vindt het maar niks dat een deel van de bevolking niet erg enthousiast aan haar toekomst knutselt.
‘Ik hou van mijn land. Ik wil dat het vooruitgaat. Dat wij zelf de baas zijn.’
Hij toetert. Hij doet het raampje open en groet de oude dame die op een rode plastic stoel onder een boom zit.
‘Mijn vroegere buurvrouw. Vorige week werd ze zomaar ziek. Heb ik haar ‘s ochtends om zes uur naar het ziekenhuis gebracht. Ze is tweeëntachtig. Na een paar uur kon ik haar weer ophalen. Was ze weer helemaal gezond. Een klein virusje dus. Begrijp je wat ik bedoel?’
‘Ik wil deze week graag een paar keer wat langer met je praten’, zeg ik, ‘gaan we het over alles hebben.’
‘Alles?’, vraagt Ikki, ‘ik weet niet alles.’
Hij schiet weer in de lach.
‘Maar ik weet wel hoe het moet, hoor.’
‘Dan ben je deze week voor een paar uur directeur van het eiland.’
‘Dat is goed.’
Ikki kijkt nu serieus.
‘Ik ga je veel vertellen. Over mijn eiland, over de mensen en de geschiedenis.’

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Elections In Taiwan: Does The Island Choose Further Confrontation With China?

Taiwan – Map: Wikimedia Commons

01-07-2024  ~ On January 13, the residents of Taiwan, an island off the coast of China, will go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament. These elections attract more international attention than one might expect for a country with only 24 million inhabitants. The outcome will have consequences for the evolution of the conflict between the United States and China, and consequently, possibly for world peace.

Two weeks before the elections, I spoke with Wu Rong-yuan, the chairman of the Labor Party of Taiwan, in the capital, Taipei. His party is contesting seats in three districts. Due to the first-past-the-post system, this is an uphill battle. Moreover, the Labor Party is marginalized due to its pro-reunification stance with China. To better understand this, I let the veteran of the labor struggle explain the history to me once again.

Taiwan lived under the dictatorship of the Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-shek’s party, until 1987. The roots of the Kuomintang are on the mainland of China, where they were in power until the victory of the socialist revolution in 1949. Even after the end of the dictatorship, the party continued to rule in Taiwan, officially still named the Republic of China, and initiated a process of democratization. Meanwhile, the main opposition coalesced around the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

For a long time, the island’s politics were a two-way contest between the Kuomintang and the DPP. Almost all other, much smaller, political forces sided with either the blue or the green coalition, corresponding to the respective colors of the two parties. While the Kuomintang sees the island as part of China, the DPP is unequivocally in favor of an independent Taiwan.

In 2000, the DPP came to power for the first time. After an eight-year hiatus, that happened again in 2016. They not only had the president, Tsai Ing-wen but also governed with a majority in the parliament. It is under Tsai that tensions with China increased further, fueled by the United States.

Wu explained to me that the economic positions of both parties are not significantly different. Both align themselves with the U.S. “Moreover, they also find common ground in anti-communism against the rulers in Beijing,” said Wu, “but while the Kuomintang claims that the residents of Taiwan and the mainland of China form one Chinese nation, separated by the sea and different ideologies, the DPP invented Taiwanese nationalism: Since they came to power 23 years ago, they managed to create a distinct Taiwanese identity out of nothing.”

This does not mean that all Taiwanese support the DPP’s course. On the contrary, the popularity of the ruling DPP has significantly declined. Normally, the opposition would win these upcoming elections hands down. The population is divided over the right stance toward China. The extension of military service from four to 12 months makes the looming military escalation suddenly very concrete. The energy crisis, on the other hand, symbolizes the country’s poor economic performance. The population is far from satisfied with the government’s policies.

A sure win for the Kuomintang, then? Not quite, because this time there is a third party that can convince a significant portion of the voters. The recently established Taiwan People’s Party presents itself as an alternative to the blue and green alliances, putting forward a credible candidate for the presidency, the former mayor of Taipei. It briefly seemed like this party would form a joint presidential ticket with the Kuomintang, but in November, they ultimately chose to run separately.

With a divided opposition, the DPP could still win the elections. The presidential candidates of the DPP and the Kuomintang are neck and neck in the polls. No one can predict who will win. However, the rise of a third party has an important consequence: Regardless of who wins the presidential elections, they will likely not have a majority in the parliament. This means compromises will have to be made.

According to Wu Rong-yuan, these are crucial elections for the relations between Taiwan and China. The Kuomintang advocates the status quo which means that both recognize there is one China but have different interpretations about what this means. The DPP wants to assert Taiwan’s status as an independent country and can count on U.S. support for that. “The confrontational policy of the U.S. makes the status quo impossible,” says Wu, “while the independence the DPP seeks, isolates us from the mainland and goes against the interests of the workers.”

Wu finally explains the vision of the Labor Party: “Reunification between Taiwan and China is the only path to peace and prosperity: ‘One country, two systems’ is a realistic formula.” On the question of whether this would be based on the arrangement with Hong Kong, the answer is negative: “China has clearly stated that Taiwan would have more autonomy, and there are good reasons for that: Hong Kong was a colony of Britain when it was transferred to China, while Taiwan has existed for decades as an autonomous economic and political entity.”

Although there seems to be little openness from the two traditional parties for now, the Labor Party hopes that there will be room for dialogue between Taipei and Beijing after the elections: “There is no model for reunification, and it is only through dialogue and exchange that we can find solutions.”

By Wim De Ceukelaire

Author Bio: This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Wim De Ceukelaire is a health and social justice activist and member of the global steering council of the People’s Health Movement. He is the co-author of the second edition of The Struggle for Health: Medicine and the Politics of Underdevelopment with David Sanders and Barbara Hutton.

Source: Globetrotter

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Lammert de Jong & Dirk Kruijt (eds). Extended Statehood in the Caribbean Paradoxes of quasi colonialism, local autonomy and extended statehood in the USA, French, Dutch and British Caribbean

Lammert de Jong & Dirk Kruijt (eds). – Extended Statehood in the Caribbean Paradoxes of quasi colonialism, local autonomy and extended statehood in the USA, French, Dutch and British Caribbean
Rozenberg Publishers 2005 – ISBN 90 5170 686 3

Het complete boek (PDF): 070211ExtendedStatehood

Zie voor RQ -online versie: https://rozenbergquarterly.com/extended-statehood-in-the-caribbean

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The Nuclear Energy Dilemma: Climate Savior Or Existential Threat?

Leslie Alan Horvitz – Photo: http://lesliehorvitz.com

01-05-2024 Nuclear power has promise and peril, posing many challenging questions for environmentalists.

With the planet teetering on the brink of climate disaster and the goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 rapidly slipping away, the need for alternatives to pollutive fossil fuels has never been more evident. Should nuclear power be one of those alternatives?

There are many thorny questions. Is nuclear power too dangerous? Is it too expensive? Does it present too much of a security risk? Is the problem of finding a safe way of storing nuclear waste too insurmountable? Is it unfair to kick a clear and present danger down the field to future generations? Is it scalable soon enough to make a meaningful difference in the battle against climate change? Is it a distraction from investing in safer sources of renewable energy?

These are questions that scientists, lawmakers, and pundits have been tackling for years. The argument remains frustratingly unresolved.

The persistent lack of clarity has divided environmentalists. Some say nuclear power is vital to the climate solution because it is a low-carbon energy source. Like wind and solar, it does not directly produce carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas fueling global warming.

Others argue that the dangers of nuclear energy—including meltdowns (a credible threat at Zaporizhzhia, a nuclear power plant in Ukraine—Europe’s largest—following its capture by Russian forces in 2022) and the lack of safe disposal of nuclear waste—are simply too grave. Still, others say there is no longer any time left to bring nuclear energy to scale to combat the climate threat effectively.

“The debate over whether we need nuclear power is very polarized,” says M.V. Ramana from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, who specializes in nuclear energy risk.

The World Nuclear Association is one of the foremost proponents of nuclear energy, supporting the global nuclear industry. Based in London, the group argues that nuclear energy is an efficient, effective, and safe solution to the climate crisis. “Nuclear power plants produce no greenhouse gas emissions during operation, and over the course of its life-cycle, nuclear produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per unit of electricity as wind, and one-third of the emissions per unit of electricity when compared with solar,” the organization states on its website.

Still, while the statistics sound promising, nuclear may be too late to make a difference, argues Mehdi Leman of Greenpeace International. “Nuclear power is not the way to a green and peaceful zero carbon future,” he writes. “According to scenarios from the World Nuclear Association and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (both nuclear lobby organizations), doubling the capacity of nuclear power worldwide in 2050 would only decrease greenhouse gas emissions by around 4 percent. But in order to do that, the world would need to bring 37 new large nuclear reactors to the grid every year from now [March 2022], year on year, until 2050.”

Leman also notes that nuclear reactors “are easy targets for malevolent acts,” from terrorism to acts of war, as Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine has illustrated.

Rise of Nuclear Power
As of November 2023, there are 440 nuclear reactors in 32 countries plus Taiwan. The United States has the most reactors, with 93 in operation as of August 2023, accounting for more than 30 percent of the world’s nuclear power generation. China is next in production with 13.5 percent, but its 55 reactors are less than France’s 56. The latter accounts for 13.3 percent of the total global power generation.

Nuclear power supplies more than eight times as much energy as it did in the 1970s. “The first grid-connected nuclear power plant began operations in the Soviet Union in 1954, and nuclear power reached one exajoule of global supply 19 years later. … (One exajoule is equivalent to 277 terawatt-hours—close to the electricity Mexico consumed in 2019),” according to Electricityinfo.org.

As of November 2023, nuclear power provides the world with approximately 10 percent of its energy needs. Nuclear power plants have a lifespan of up to 80 years.

Nuclear Power: Low-Carbon Energy Source
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), total global energy consumption is expected to rise by nearly 50 percent by 2050; this will make reducing carbon emissions much harder, if not impossible, without nuclear power.

Advocates further say that replacing fossil fuel-based energy with 100 percent renewables would need several scarce elements—from lithium to land space—making it next to impossible to supply the world with its future energy needs—while curtailing climate change’s worst effects. In addition, nuclear power is more reliable and consistent since it can provide a steady power supply for days—without wind, sun, or batteries.

“Shutting down nuclear power plants could be a big setback for climate goals,” writes Casey Crownhart, a climate reporter at MIT Technology Review.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry policy group, nuclear energy in the United States prevented more than 476 million metric tons of carbon emissions in 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy says that is the equivalent of taking more than 100 million automobiles off the road—and greater than all other clean energy sources combined.

“While Germany has made major progress on installing renewable energy like wind and solar, emissions from its electricity sector have been shockingly slow to fall,” Crownhart notes in an April 2023 article. “The country has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2045, but it missed its climate targets for both 2021 and 2022. To reach its 2030 targets, it may need to triple the pace of its emissions cuts.”

Public Opinion
Persuading the public to accept nuclear power is not easy—particularly with nuclear disasters like Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011 still resonating in the public consciousness. Nuclear power rates second only to coal in its unpopularity in the U.S.—with just 16 percent of Americans in favor of keeping existing nuclear plants and building new ones, according to Morning Consult PRO data from 2020.

The association of this energy source with nuclear weapons has led to people harboring a bias against nuclear power, argues Charles Oppenheimer, grandson of Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the military effort at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the atom bomb was developed during World War II. “We must get over our cognitive and political bias: Nuclear energy is necessary and safe, and not the same as nuclear weapons,” he wrote in Time magazine.

However, a 2023 Gallup poll found that 55 percent of American adults say they “strongly” or “somewhat” favor using nuclear energy. This polling data—showing a rise of four percentage points in support of nuclear from 2022—may be tied to Russia’s invasion and occupation of parts of Ukraine, which started in February 2022 and sparked a global disruption in oil and gas supplies.

It makes sense that public opinion toward nuclear energy is tied to the price of gas at the pump. “Throughout the course of Gallup’s trend, Americans have generally been more amenable to the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S. when oil prices have been high and less open to it when oil prices are low,” points out Megan Brenan, a research consultant at Gallup.

European nations are more open to nuclear power than the U.S.—but up to a point. In 2022, the European Parliament designated nuclear power as a source of green energy. In the European Union, nuclear power plants operating in 13 countries provide almost a quarter of global electricity, although electricity generation from EU nuclear plants fell by 20 percent between 2006 and 2011. (Germany decided to phase out nuclear energy in 2011.)

And while Germany shut down its three remaining nuclear reactors in April 2023, ending the nation’s nuclear era, which lasted more than 60 years, it isn’t the first European country to bring an end to nuclear energy: Denmark banned it in 1985, Italy closed all plants in 1990, and in 1999, the Austrian parliament unanimously passed a constitutional law on a “nuclear-free Austria.”

Even climate activist Greta Thunberg (who opposes nuclear power and spoke against the European Parliament’s “green energy” classification of nuclear) supports keeping nuclear power plants in Germany functional—if the alternative is coal.

But nuclear power still has a lot of ground to make up if it’s to become a factor in serving the energy needs of a post-fossil fuel era. In 2021, 95 nuclear plants went online in the previous 20 years, but another 98 have shut down, according to Deutsche Welle (DW). Take China out of the equation, and there are 50 fewer reactors operational in the last two decades, states the 2021 DW article.

“[D]oubling the capacity of nuclear power worldwide in 2050 would only decrease greenhouse gas emissions by around 4 percent,” writes Mehdi Leman. “But in order to do that, the world would need to bring 37 new large nuclear reactors to the grid every year from now, year on year, until 2050.”

As of November 2023, there are only about 60 new reactors under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. Doubling nuclear capacity (which would only lead to a minor decrease in carbon emissions) is unrealistic. In contrast, clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind have grown rapidly.

Proponents of nuclear power are pushing back. In a notable attempt to influence public opinion in its favor, Oliver Stone released a documentary in 2022 called “Nuclear Now,” in which the director asserts that opposition to nuclear power has become “glamorous, virtuous, and lucrative all at once.”

Well-publicized accidents at nuclear power plants such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have only reinforced the idea that nuclear power is too risky to be considered a reliable source of energy.

As Robert P. Crease, a chair of the department of philosophy at Stony Brook University, wrote in a June 2023 edition of Physics World, “No Oliver Stone movie would be complete without a conspiracy theory,” which in the case of “Nuclear Now,” sees the oil and coal companies as the villains because of their disputable claim that even low levels of radioactive emissions are dangerous.

Stone maintains that because climate change is an existential threat caused by fossil fuels, and given the world’s insatiable energy demands, nuclear power should be considered a safer and more essential alternative than its detractors assert.

“Stone’s movie forces us to think,” Crease argues, because humans can no longer sit back and “ponder and judge nuclear power from a smug and superior distance.” With his documentary, Crease adds that Stone has put “nuclear technology back on the table as a possible energy source.”

Land Use
How much land an energy-producing installation takes up is often overlooked, but its importance can’t be underestimated. Approximately 100,000 square miles of solar panels (an area greater than New England) or more than 800,000 square miles of onshore windmills (the size of Alaska plus California) would be required to meet the energy needs of the eastern United States, according to Armond Cohen of the Clean Air Task Force, writes Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a February 2023 article in the Atlantic.

By contrast, Cohen says, addressing the same energy needs with nuclear power would take a little more than 500 square miles (roughly equivalent to the size of Phoenix, Arizona).

“Nuclear power is the most land-efficient source, needing 27 times less land per unit of energy than coal and 34 times less than solar [photovoltaic],” writes Hannah Ritchie, a researcher at Our World in Data. But she also points out that “land use of renewable energy sources like wind farms can be co-used with other activities like farming.”

The Grid
One advantage of nuclear power, often overlooked by detractors, involves the grid—that is, connecting the power source to the electricity grid systems. Power plants, set up to provide electricity to consumers, can be converted to integrate nuclear power easily.

This isn’t the case with renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which would require the rewiring and transformation of the grid to supply electricity to consumers. This would entail an enormous investment and require zoning boards and regulators’ approval.

Despite these advantages, nuclear plants have recorded no more than 10 new grid connections a year in the last decade, states Leman in his 2022 article; in some years, it’s many fewer. Scaling that up to meet the demand for capacity in the U.S. is simply not possible, according to skeptics of nuclear power. Read more

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Remke Kruk & Sjef Houppermans (red.) – Een vis in een fles raki – Literatuur en Drank in verschillende culturen

Download hier het complete boek (PDF): Een vis in een fles Raki

Zie voor RQ -online versie: https://rozenbergquarterly.com/een-vis-in-een-fles-raki-literatuur-en-drank-in-verschillende-culturen-inhoudsopgave/

Uit de Inleiding:

Misschien is de belangrijkste trek die alcohol met literatuur gemeen heeft wel zijn sublieme vluchtigheid. Vederlichte extases voor wie een ogenblik aan de verveling van het bestaan wil ontkomen of strategische vervoering om de grenzen van de zwaartekracht te verkennen. Zelfs de zwartste romans uit de naturalistische koker gaan op de tenen lopen als het alcoholpercentage stijgt, en de verschrikkingen van het delirium tremens gaan meestal toch gepaard met zotte spotlachjes of dromen van een overkant. Inspiratie lijkt als twee druppels wodka op een roes en dichterlijke verzen spreken vaak een nostalgie naar het bacchantenleven uit. Het boek en de fles zijn zo een onlosmakelijk duo in schertsende dialoog of in vinnig twistgesprek.
Natuurlijk kent de relatie tussen de letteren en de etherische genoegens van de drank vele varianten, zowel wanneer men langs de lijnen van de geschiedenis kijkt als ook wanneer verschillende culturen nader beschouwd worden. De voorliggende verzameling van rond alcohol gesitueerde essays tracht deze menigvoud steekproefsgewijs in beeld te brengen waarbij trouwens ook de betrokkenheid van de auteur bij de drank kan variëren: van de nuchtere dronkenschap die Sem Dresden Montaigne toedichtte tot de ultieme helderheid van het laatste glas bij Malcolm Lowry.
Wanneer we even de alcohol als decorvulling buiten beschouwing laten (ook al is dan inderdaad het decor vlug overvol gelijk in de western waar we voorvoelen dat het eerste uitgeschonken glas in de bar onherroepelijk leidt tot een vuurgevecht waarbij alle flessen door de spiegelwand worden geprojecteerd), kunnen we een viertal mise en scènes onderkennen die samen de horizon van behoefte, vraag en verlangen afbakenen.

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