An Enemy of the People in Oslo

by Rimini Protokoll



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Name: Johanna Engen
Age: 64
District: Gamle Oslo
I live on my own in a one- bedroom apartment.

For the last 2 years I have been the head of the board at the Welfare-alliance, which is a part of the EAPN (European Anti Poverty Network). I am a member of the executive committee here. I am also on social benefit which means I can work up to 1G. I have worked in the restaurant-service, the shops – service-jobs in general.

I belong to the hobby photographs, the data-card experts, the Facebook people, the poor, the outgoing, the ones taking part of society, the theatre lovers, the ones who turn silly and giggly after two glasses of cognac, the ones on disability benefits, the ones who have bought many books in the Marita store, the ones who will tattoo the Vålerenga-logo when they turn 74, the ones who define themselves on the far left, but I do not belong to the ones with lots of money, the homophobic, the anti-islamists, the ones who throw the garbage bag out of the window, the dieters, the ones watching sports on TV or the flower-arrangers.

I live in Oslo because I don’t understand that it is possible to live other places. Oslo is my city, my turf. And I support Vålenga. I think like this: You can change your flat and your husband but you can never change your football-team. I love Oslo with all it can offer; the melting-pot of cultures, the language, the colours and the music. I have lived 18 years in Gamle Oslo – this is a district with horrible problems. Slum. Poverty. But it is also a district that is colorful and beautiful. We have the tube, the 37-buss, the 20-buss and the 60-buss. You can walk through the old city and down to the new bridges. Walk over to Aker Brygge. All the parks – the foreigners call Oslo the city of green. We constantly hear that the Oslo-people are cold and hard – that people don’t believe that Oslo is the city with the big heart. But I think we showed everyone something else with the “March of roses” during the Breivik-trial. This city is a divided city – the border starts at Akerselva. West of the river you don’t have the same problems as east of the river. The politicians need to think about alternatives – how to spread everything more; not all psychiatri and asylum-houses should be placed on the east side –the west also needs it. It would be good for them.

Ibsen is one of the great, and I look upon him as the greatest. He understood life. I don’t think you are strong alone. Nobody is strong alone – its together we get the strength. The times I have been standing alone I have never felt strong. The times I was the most alone I didn't dare to tell anyone – I felt weak. The times I asked for help I gained strength. The same that happened to the Stockmann-family in the play is happening all over Europe at the moment.

The day I decided to be honest about my poverty - that I can’t afford to go to the cafes or the cinema. The day I decided to admit that I stood in the food-queue at the Poverty House: That changed my life. The persons I were afraid of losing got even closer.

For the performances I am leaving from Tøyen station and take the tube. If the weather is nice, and I have enough time I will be walking. Down Åkebergveien, past the prison, and then over Grønland and up Karl Johan. I will take my camera with me.