Far from the mainstream nationalist debates on independence, our failure to coherently confront power and offer meaningful alternatives, a community of squatters and expropriators live on the coast of Catalonia. …
Warning: This story contains numerous instances of literary fraud and copyright theft that some middle class readers might find distressing.
I squatted Castillo Parasito when the funds to combat eviction were robbed by Kurt, one of the guests, in 2018. His actions directly threatened the future of a house that gave me shelter, at a time when I had no where to stay in the heavily gentrified city of Barcelona.
His threat to the future of those who continue to live there was not just because of the money he stole but the atmosphere of distrust he sought to implement, a division based on fear.
This gonzo investigation explores the failure of the imagination that drives this psychology of eviction, told through the perspective of the ghosts of the civil war. And dogs.
Through someone else’s letterbox in Berlin, I received a terrifying letter. It was a demand for 500 Euros — that fact was in bold — and it came from a mafia of German copyright lawyers. They run a syndicate where internet traffic is intercepted and IP addresses tracked. In Germany you can go to jail for not paying up, whether it is copyright theft or not paying for your train fare. I met a man who had picked up a Methamphetamine addiction in prison. He could not pay the fine when he got caught on the train.
The film they accused me of downloading was Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson, made by 20th Century Fox. ‘Murdoch!’ I screamed to myself in journalistic rage and then wrote my response to the lawyers. It ended like this;
“Ten centuries ago, before the Leveson Inquiry, free dogs roamed at liberty, marking their territory.
Seeking to extend its dominion, the cat-loving Murdoch Dynasty declared war and descended in force upon the unwary four-legged beasts. On the eve of total canine annihilation, a child warrior sympathetic to the plight of the besieged underdog dogs, betrayed his species, beheaded the head of the head of the Murdoch clan, and pledged his sword with the following battle-cry haiku. I turn my back — on plutocracy!
He would later be known as the Boy Samurai of Legend, RIP. At the end of the bloody dog wars the vanquished mongrels became powerless house-pets: tamed, mastered, scorned. But they survived and multiplied. The Murdoch’s, however, never forgave their conquered foe.”
I paused, considered the Meth addict, and packed a bag for Spain, finishing the letter in Japanese;
それは戦いになるだろう! (It’s going to be a fight!)
I awake to the sound of mice teeth grinding into wood and plaster. Arise King Alfonso, anarchist dog of Catalunya! I bark to myself. Open your crusty eyes and scavenge the castle for food! In the kitchen I can hear noises, the growl of dogs that have not had their first cup of coffee and the solitary purr of a cat.
Zaćma!, I bark but Mio, barks back ‘Fuck off Alfie,’ and the kitchen erupts in barking and growling. ‘We need food,’ a Russian dog barks as he piles powdered protein into a glass of curdling milk. A mouse runs through the kitchen. The dogs agreed finally and set out with bags; a pack of squatters roaming the streets of La Gertru.
“Everyday,” Mio growls, “humans sacrifice their food into metal containers, transferring their food to ancient burial sites.” They start to approach Lidl, a chain of German supermarkets.
“That’s madness!” I screamed. “Relax” Zaćma purrs as she jumps into the container, throwing vegetables, meat, pastries, coffee, chocolate and fruits out onto the street. My eyes light up as a whiskey bottle comes out of the container. “Even the poison goes to the gods” barked the Russian and packed up the bags.
Suddenly our ears rise to the sound of moaning. “My fingernails!” a British voice comes from the container as a body thrashes in the bins.
“My god, it’s the Boy Samurai of Legend RIP,” Zaćma screeched and fell back out of the bin. The noise was causing humans in the car park to gather and in the distance, the sound of the police could be heard. “We have to get out of here,” Mio howled and threw the man into a shopping trolley as they made their escape.
“Fascists!” the man in the trolley screamed at the incoming Guardia Civil, as they crashed into an alleyway, barking and howling. “All cats are beautiful!” Zaćma screeches as they tear into the front door of the Castle and bolt the door. The police bang heavily as the barricades go up. “What group are you?” the man splutters, ”POUM or CNT?”
‘Open the fucking door’, the Guardia Civil scream in Spanish. “In trench warfare five things are important,” the man sang on the floor, adjusting his hospital gown: “food, tobacco, candles and the enemy!”
“Who the fuck are you!” I scream. “Eric,” he replies, “my fingernails are falling out” and with that he slips into a deep state of unconsciousness, his body convulsing to the beat of the police at the door.
After barking for several minutes, a human opens the gate. Like the other humans the dogs had befriended over the years, this one was different to the zombified masses. The humans called him ‘Trash’ and I sniff his ass hole in humble respect. Trash lives in Pirate Platz – a squatted go-cart track on the edge of town. Dogs and humans were sitting together on a stage, drinking beers.
In the yard are boats of various sizes and reclaimed building materials scattered in piles. Inside the kitchen, dogs pant in the heat as lines of powdered protein were chopped up. One dog, Amphet-amigo, dives his face into the powdered protein, tilting his head back and yowling – the protein hitting the synapses of the brain.
Littered on the ground are blue barrels with yellow stars painted on them. The word “Brex-ship’ is painted on a piece of wood and Trash saw me looking at it. “What remains after the last Batalla Pirata,” he smiles and gives me a treat from his pocket. The sun was pulsating to a beat I can’t remember but it’s lyrics still haunt me today;
“At first those brothers tried to pass away the land. Now this is on the edge of town. And all run down.
Making love in her flat. Doesn’t say you got class. You don’t feel but you know it’s wrong. So are they Americans?
My guess is that your under stress. Now I really know what’s fucking best. Some of them they play around. What’s wrong with Russian lads?
Just throw your body on the scale. You play the game but it’s real. Why don’t you find out where she lives. Go dressed in your best, you’ll still be taxed!
Beer bottles stack up and the light begins to fade as a Bosnian dog asks me what’s the quickest way to build a mass grave and I tell him I don’t know and he says, put them in a well and dynamite the top! He laughs.
“Black humour, my friend. I am from Bosnia, I was a puppy in the 1990s. Can you imagine that?”
The dogs came together to build the roof of their pirate ship with the help of powdered Protein, supplied by Trash, who kept them doing until the bottle took over the hammer. I take another line and growl gently: Sleep will not come. We howl at the moon.
Eric takes a pull on his cigarette and sits down to an old typewriter, resting it in the ashtray and scanning the keys with his fingers. They were covered in plasters as all his fingernails had now come out. With great pain, his fingers tickle the keys and then with a decisive moment, he slams bloody hands into metal.
“I had been fighting this moment for a long time and now I must make a stand. This castle I lived in was crumbling and the vultures were waiting to tear it to pieces. This squat that gave me the stability to grow was now under threat.
We squat this castle because it is empty. We eat the food out of your bins because it is wasted. Your vision of freedom is through ownership, which inevitably brings waste. Our movement focuses heavily on the injustice of hungry people and wasted, edible food. It is based on the injustice of the homeless sleeping in the doorways of empty buildings.
Do not be confronted as we go through your bins, making use of what you have abandoned to a landfill. We are dogs – reminding you of the darker side of your reality. You complain about work while I quit my job, you despise those you see weeping in the gutter, not understanding your part in their misery.
None of us can escape the collective responsibility we share, no matter how gifted, intelligent or fearless you may be as an individual.”
Eric stops writing, he feels his body begin to change. Standing up, he walks down the dark stairway of the squat, the light below changing colours as the demonic roar of an electric guitar gets louder as he descends. The LSD he ingested an hour ago starts to hit his brain as he screams “I am the reincarnation of George Orwell!” And falls on the floor laughing.
Above him, stands a Russian crust punk called Filth and next to him, his dog King Alfonso or Alf — named after the Animal Liberation Front.
WWWWAAAAARRRRQQQQ. Filth spits into a nearby beer can.
Orwell picks himself up only to loose his balance as the tightening around his lungs begins. He coughs blood and then crashes through a door and into the next room. The walls are painted red and inside the room sits a man at a typewriter. George grabs an empty beer bottle and launches it across the room, causing the machine to crash on the floor in an explosion of sound.
The bell of the typewriter is followed by silence.
“Who the fuck are you?” Orwell rasps as his lungs begin to contract. “Why did you re-incarnate me!”
“My name is Kurt,” the writer screams on the floor. “I am a journalist… for the Sun Newspaper!”
“What era is this anyway?” Orwell continues, “Handheld telescreens? Brexit, nationalist independence! It’s like 1984!” George begins to wheeze. The TB had taken over his body and his legs were threatening to give way. He steadies himself on a mannequin covered in a fur coat and a sombrero. “Surely you can see it is obvious that you can’t have meaningful independence without social revolution!” he screams at Kurt. “Independence? Independence from what!”
WWWWAAAAARRRRQQQ. Filth spits into a beer can.
“Why do you have to steal other peoples ideas anyway?” Orwell demanded Kurt.
The journalist is now faced with the responsibility of a creator but aware that his position had become surreal. He was no longer in control.
Understanding he now had infinite creative possibilities, Orwell grabs the typewriter and starts to write a gun into the narrative. Kurt reacts immediately, suddenly screaming “You fool! Do you know how much LSD I have written into your character?”
“What?” Orwell interrupts, “as a narrative device to explain property ownership and the failure nationalist independence? – how does that have anything to do with the fight against Franco that I witnessed in the 1930s?”
“It’s doesn’t,” the Murdoch hack pleaded, “That’s why it’s clever.”
Orwell lifts his gun with one bloody hand, the other mashes at the typewriter. Three, two, one…
Thank you for your reply to my letter concerning your client Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Germany GmbH.
This letter is to give you notice that I will not be paying the 500 Euros you have requested by the end of November. The reason is simply that I do not have the financial means to pay, my profession is journalism and sometimes for years I live on next to nothing to finish my investigations. Your letters have been a great cause for concern, considering I am now of the opinion that my internet security has been compromised and that the sensitive data I share is not private. In effect, the identity of my sources are at risk.
Thank you for your understanding. I hope you can now feel confident closing your files, knowing that in this instance you made a mistake and followed the appropriate steps to protect a citizen over the financial interests of Rupert Murdoch.
That is what justice stands for, if an ideal stood for anything. Power must not blind us to it’s excessive force.
Boy Samurai of Legend, RIP.
~ Joe Reynolds
Joe is an anarchist investigative photojournalist living in Neukölln, Berlin. Joe focuses primarily on stories examining the housing crisis and the movement of refugees across the European Union. Since the Brexit vote in 2016, he has been based across Europe, investigating struggles in Greece, France, Spain and Germany.
Joe is a journalist without a guild or union. The core of his principles are held in the protection of his sources and a flat refusal to send documents and photographs to local police authorities. He is ‘Free’, independent but bound to the principles of his association with anarchism — the application of the tools of journalism to challenge those in power, not reinforce the lies that keep us all oppressed.
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Main pic: Anarchist graffiti on Plaza Espanya in Barcelona, the morning after National Spanish Day 2019. All pics copyright Joe Reynolds