Featured image of post The irony of Squatters in Spain
Featured image of post The irony of Squatters in Spain

The irony of Squatters in Spain

Do you think you would recognize a squatter if you see one?

Squatters may look different from us. Nowadays, they are almost a separate species because of the way they live. They’ve developed in different ways and we can observe such adaptations in their behaviour. They deal with uncertainty much better than us. That is evolution playing its hand. They don’t bother with any expensive insurance that secures their future simply because they cannot afford it. Instead, they live day by day, enjoying little things like food and water. But they have not yet developed far enough so they still have to deal with the primary need for shelter.

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”
— Christian Nestell Bovee

I recently discovered that people outside of Spain know plenty about the squatters problem we have. The subject came up in a few discussions with international friends, and certainly, my conversation partners were undoubtedly up-to-date about the matter thanks to the news.

I grew concerned when they told me about the horrific experiences big real state businesses have. My friends were considering buying a house and ended up rejecting the idea because of squatters! The fact that they cannot move to Spain because finding a job there that pays for a mortgage is nearly impossible had nothing to do with their last-minute decision to back down.

Squatters are an unpleasant inconvenience for those who own so much property that they leave it abandoned for years. I can imagine how horrible it must feel when you go to refurbish that old apartment that you left empty for five years while waiting for the prices to come up; and suddenly you find out that a homeless family, for lack of decent social housing, has been creating their home there. What despair!

Most people don’t want to be rich. They just want to accumulate more than enough to survive a few centuries in case something goes wrong and our strong social net unexpectedly gets a hole.

The whole issue with squatters only adds up to this unsettling feeling. We depart from a fearful and anxious deck to be guided by a compass that shows us how scary the world can be if we don’t take precautions to the very last detail. And when it comes to housing all alarms go off. Who wouldn’t do anything to avoid losing the right to an entire business of dignified roofs over a lazy squatter specimen?

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.”
— W. Clement Stone

Most people are aware of this fact. When you are afraid the best thing to calm your preoccupations is to do something about it. If you don’t take precautions you might end up regretting not having taken them. If there is something juicier in life than a sense of safety that is looking smart.

And so the house security and insurance companies know. They knock on your door right after the morning news or while you are scrolling down your phone (your personal electronic prophet of doom). Nevertheless, you’ve seen quite a few of their ads on TV. In magazines too. On your social media feed, possibly. I would bet the radio, too. “Are you going on vacation? You might not have a house when you get back!”

In the beginning, you might think they are overreacting but after a few months with the same message getting into your grey matter you eventually accept that if such ads exist, there must be a good reason for it. As far as you know, there are definitely no scams on TV. And when they finally cross your door for a quick informative chat in which they exaggerate and fabricate even more frightening stories customised for your particular taste, your fragile inner grandma starts to take them seriously.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

That’s why the media gives so much attention to squatters, because they worry about the people and their deepest feelings. They’ve never had a private agenda in which their goal is to sell as much spot advertising and teleshopping as possible. Of course, not!

But you know, they are fallible, so they invent stories in which old ladies went out shopping and came back to a squatted house missing the detail that in that case, we are not even talking about squattering but about forced entry and that is handled right away by the police without any questions asked. They innocently forget that in order to consider a house occupation as squatted it has to be previously unoccupied and no one must live there (including second residences).

They don’t say either that the big majority of the squatted houses are owned by banks and real state investment fund businesses because if they do, they risk having to mention that those banks were rescued with public money during the 2008 crisis without any positive repercussions to the already struggling population. They kept the money and then took those apartments that cost heavily to the common house seekers and sold them for cheap money to real state investment funds like Blackstone or Blackrock. They could not mention the names of their dear friends next to such a scandal.

It is much better for the news business to create demand for your advertising clients than informing about any kind of real crisis going on. Especially if those crises have a close relationship with the bad management of political parties that fund your precious business. You don’t want hundreds of exploited journalists losing their jobs because you happened to be an honest chief editor? Do you?

“Life is what passes by while you worry about the squatters that might enter a flat you don’t own during the holidays you cannot afford.”
— graffiti in the streets of Madrid

So that’s the situation in Spain, people are incredibly busy fretting about an insignificant chance of getting their house squatted while their healthcare system is becoming remodelled, innocent rappers are still in uncomfortable institutional hotels for singing a badly written song and the Spanish Royal Family keeps adding games and crimes to their personal diaries with the blessing of the justice system. And then they say the Spanish are lazy! We are frenetic worriers!

You might see this as an endemic issue of a passional country. An issue that affects one of the so-called “PIGS” (aka Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) because badly-managed economies tend to see consequences down the line like citizens turning into a totally new species that lives excellently well in uncertainty. But I warn you just like an insurance company does. This is a systemic issue that we all eventually have to face.

“People do not occupy for the sake of it, people want to pay rent, they want to pay for their electricity, their water, they want to live quietly. Occupying is living in a state of permanent alarm, not knowing when they are going to come to evict you, not knowing when a group of paramilitaries will come to your house to threaten you. It really is not a comfortable situation as some people want to show, it is quite the opposite.”
— Lucía Delgado (spokesperson for the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages)

If we read deeper into the “squatters problem” we get to some minor social issues, much less interesting to the common people than a few usurped houses. As a reporter, you must always choose the most relevant topics for your readers (as is the case of the squatters) but if you have some empty corner in your paper you can actually fill it up with quite some sensationalist headlines:

  • Residential exclusion or how you get rejected as a tenant because of your heritage, nationality or sexual condition!
  • Unavailable dwellings or how big capitals are hoarding all housing so we all become renters!
  • Abusive rent prizes and the odyssey to find a decent house that doesn’t burn three-quarters of a single person’s salary!
  • Evictions: the last trend on cruelty directed to both adults and powerless children!
  • Gentrification and how we kick destitute people out of their poor neighbourhoods so we can have a Pumpkin Late a few miles away!

But you and I know that all these topics are for people who like to complain all day long and haven’t yet met the art of positive thinking. The future awaits us and we should not waste our time with empty discussions about how 8 billion people are going to survive on an angry piece of rock that is shaking its parasites out. The answer to that is easy. We simply need some order and we can create our perfect sustainable society.

We have plenty of science-fiction manuals that explain in detail how to snatch willpower from people and create a society where we hear no complaints, only the screams of the suicidal as they fall. But how do we get there starting from the society we already have? How do we achieve this future?

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell

First, we avoid aiming any efforts toward improving the social housing stock which gives us the opportunity to increase prizes at will. At this point, we have to remain strong because some people will demand regulation. We do not want such a thing since this would constrain our ability to financially abuse both tenants and buyers.

If we manage to control the situation we will have the perfect setting to extend the length of the average mortgage up to at least 30 years and that way we can charge insane ever-increasing interests. During this period of inflation, we must not raise salaries as this would allow citizens to keep up with their payments and therefore they would not fail to settle their debts.

After a few years of struggle, we get quite an advanced position to negotiate. People will be way over the edge, unable to pay their mortgages and with hunger knocking at their doors. Levels of poverty might raise filling the streets with the stinking sights of human misery, but it’s also time for the good news: Let the eviction games begin!

Now, here we have two sides of the same coin. On one hand, great capitalists can buy real estate very cheaply. Actually, banks get to keep thousands of houses and the already-paid interest for money they loaned but never really had! On the other hand, not so bright, you get people protesting on the streets, public shelters are crowded, and worst of all, squatters enter empty unused buildings and pretend to refurbish them to later use them as their primary and only residence. Outrageous, isn’t it?

Be patient! Bear in mind, this is the toughest time for a greedy investor to build a boring and joyless society. It is hard to confront the fact that after sitting for hours in fancy restaurants listening to empty conversations over a 200€ bottle of wine while bribing the correct politician, we still have to witness how a homeless Amazon worker dares to challenge the system and find a home for his or her family throwing all our efforts out of the window.

Fortunately, this only happens in less than 0,5% of the total housing stock, and we are constantly backed up by the authorities with all the exaggerated violence that might be required. In general, people accept their fate and their tantrums don’t bother us that much. So even though it’s a painful headache, is worth our time.

With these easy steps, each day we get closer to a utopia that suits only a few. The trick is to make sure we are one of them. Perhaps you haven’t been born into a rich family but you can always build a tech company in your parent’s garage, if they have one, and have unusual and revolutionary ideas that will catapult you to the top. Once you are there, just follow these steps and don’t forget to fill out your “Greediness Journal” every morning for a more successful outcome.

On a last note…

If you don’t agree with my wise advice you can always politize yourself and start taking sides on issues that don’t affect you at present time but that can potentially shape your future’s landscape. You can waste your money supporting independent media that provides you with more useful and objective news. I don’t recommend this option because it requires much reading and it spoils many unethical pleasures that you haven’t questioned before.

It can turn your world upside down and you might find out that your best friend is a jerk. You can also realise you were not right all the time and become depressed by the enormous amount of knowledge you will never acquire. You will be drawn to take life slower and confront reality in ways you’ve never experienced.

If you decide to take this path you must know there is an endless list of dreadful consequences and solely a beneficial one: wisdom.

“Our passion for learning … is our tool for survival.”
— Carl Sagan.

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