Any action is more complicated when one lives in a constantly changing situation in a remote, poorly served area, unaware of the world which barely knows of your existence except when you have the misfortune to disturb it. In order to assert their rights, people must know what they are. They must know how to defend themselves, or find others to defend them, and they must know how to express themselves. Asserting these rights means not only knowing that they are responsible for their own and their family’s future, but also being able to exercise that responsibility. They must recognise their rightful place in the human community. We have seen that all of this is impossible for the people of the Fourth World who live in a state of dependence, vulnerability and humiliation, that forces them to abandon any rights which they could claim if they were prepared to humiliate themselves even further
Consider the father whose wife had died and who, against all odds, fought to raise his child himself. His status as a worker was unrecognised, because he did thankless jobs which were often illegal and always of short duration, and he did not receive any family benefits because he did not declare himself as unemployed. However the social worker came to see him and tried to resolve the situation. But he replied, “I don’t need anybody, I can get by on my own, I don’t want to have to thank anyone!”
We, ourselves, were unable to understand his refusal to take the necessary steps to secure his rights. However, we could have understood the humiliation which this dependence on social workers and unemployment services represented for him. We should have recognised and admired this last desperate appeal for dignity and recognition of his right to be a free man. “Better hunger than shame…”
In all of these areas where members of the Fourth World lack full possession of universally recognised human rights, the result is a sense of shame which reinforces their exclusion, casting them even further into poverty and ignorance. The deprivation of a person’s rights places them in a world where they are unable to cope, where he is unable to connect with others or count on anyone else. It leads to permanent insecurity and fear.
Faced with this fear, some react with violence, others by shutting themselves away and giving up. Like the family, which, at the end of a long series of misfortunes, saw the social services intervene to remove all of their children except the three youngest. From that point on, the courtyard was barricaded. When people called, the mother answered from behind the gates, refusing to open them. When she had to go out, she locked her children inside, even the eldest, who was eight and who, when temporarily back home, was not even allowed to go to school. The family withdrew from the world, completing the process of exclusion which they had always been made to suffer. This attitude inevitably led to a police raid, the knocking down of the gates, a forced entry a forced entry and the removal of the remaining children into state care.
As we have said, others react with violence, some turn to drink and, thus, the chasm of incomprehension and rejection widens. The surrounding population in turn takes fright and responds by increasing the distance between themselves and those they have already rejected. Thus, the vicious circle of no rights and exclusion is established.