>Britain’s Daily Telegraph is reporting that a group of squatters was recently evicted from a 6.3 million pound residence in Mayfair (my old stomping grounds and favorite part of London), only to take up their new “squat” nearby in a Mayfair home worth 22.5 million pounds. Those responsible call themselves “The Temporary School of Thought”, and as the article makes rather clear, the School is certainly capable of quite clever thought patterns – at least clever enough to keep them in the W1, the best postcode in the city. Unlike similar movements in places like Barcelona, where the “okupa” squatters have sometimes turned to violent, bloody confrontations with civil authorities, this particular group does not appear to be anything but bourgeois Bolsheviks. I imagine that they picked up their artfully tattered black Union Jack from the Urban Outfitters on Kensington High Street.
Under British law, the police cannot simply be called in to evict and arrest squatters for trespassing, since squatting is considered a civil rather than a criminal matter. Protections for squatters originally grew out of the ancient English Common Law concept of adverse possession. This is also nothing new, as it happens – squatting in one form or another has gone on in Britain for centuries. In the United States, by comparison, squatting is rarely tolerated and is often treated as a criminal offense of trespassing.
Much as I find this type of flippant anarchism to be eye-rollingly annoying, there is a tremendous irony in these actions which the participants must not appreciate, since in order to occupy their squat, they have to submit to civil authority. From the squatters’ point of view, no doubt they are smirking to themselves and think that they are taking advantage of the system. By so doing however, they have proven the untenability of their argument. One cannot assert that one has the right to do as one pleases, and that civil authority has no say, and at the same time submit to that civil authority in order to claim rights or protect you from harm. By so doing they have watered-down their own arguments about the nature of a free society.
These are not the serious anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th century that threw bombs into opera houses and carriages, or assassinated monarchs and political figures. Instead, like the designer Che Guevara t-shirts they no doubt wear, they are a pastiche of old-school anarchism and the militant socialism that grew up along with it. These are not the children of La Pasionaria, but rather the children of faded suburban Baby Boomers who resent themselves for having felt pleasure at purchasing their first Land Rover.