>No, the Courtier is not going to go on about how unimpressive and off-key Alicia Keyes’ singing is (although it IS, horribly so.) The Courtier will be in New York for the long holiday weekend, and wishes all of you well! To tide you over until my return, here is a little clip from one of my favorite New York films, Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan”. Despite being a committed socialist, Tom Townsend does have a valid point:
>The “Rambla”, singular, “Las Rambles” or “Les Ramblas”, as they are collectively known, constitute perhaps the most famous street in Barcelona. Although to the naked eye there is simply one long street descending from mid-town Barcelona to the sea, in popular parlance there are different qualities and histories to each section. There is the “Rambla of the Students” for example, near the university, or the “Rambla of St. Monica” near the old convent of that name. The wide, central pedestrian section changes as one walks along, from newspaper kiosks to street performers, to bird sellers, etc.
Now the independent-socialist city counselor for the historic district, architect Itziar González, has helped to bring about several changes to the Ramblas which will change the character of the place permanently. Although moving the street performers down closer to the seafront is not necessarily a bad thing, 9 of the 10 bird stalls on the Ramblas – where birds have been sold for over 150 years – will be eliminated due to fears over cruelty to animals. This will have a detrimental effect on the character of the place, which has always attracted children, and have no impact whatsoever on the pickpocketing and crowding problem which has always plagued the Ramblas.
Unfortunately that is Barcelona, and indeed Spain, in today’s age, when as has often occurred in its past, sense and reason have parted company. No doubt soon enough Ms. Gonzalez, being a good leftist, will have contraceptive vending machines installed next to the Font de Canaletes and taxes herself for her own carbon emissions when she farts. So to those readers visiting Barcelona between now and the end of the year, make sure to photograph the bird sellers while you can, since come January they will all be gone but for a token representative.
>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.