In Barcelona’s Ciutat Meridiana, in Sant Cosme, in the Vivendes del Governador buildings (Javier has documented his visits to all of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods so he can write about his own), you can see the enormous improvements made by the local authorities since the arrival of democracy but also the beating the people have taken; because you can improve brickwork and décor but not the inner quality of life. And so you notice the young boy dying of AIDS, the unemployment, the weariness, the hours of waiting at bus stops where no bus ever comes, simply because there is no public transport. Nobody can go back to their past, but the world never changes; we only know how to change the apartment blocks and we do it the best way we can. He then asks me if I know a building that fascinates him in La Verneda at the crossroads of the streets of Agricultura and Concili de Trento; a building with a number of courtyards, but you can see there are different class levels in that some courtyards are renovated and other neighbours haven’t been able to do theirs. (I remember a hotel in Bloomsbury, London, where I have stayed sometimes, where the same block facing onto Russell Square contains 1, 2, 3 and 4 star hotels so as to serve the broadest possible clientele).
Javier is aware that this is not a story of good versus evil and that the human condition includes the exploitation of degeneration. And he tells me about people who, through official protection housing or by a great deal of scrimping and saving have been able to leave the apartment blocks and buy a second home or a villa, and they rent out the old apartment to immigrants who then overcrowd it, so you end up with longer-standing immigrants exploiting the new poor in a vicious circle. The fiefdoms of Albiol and company. And I think about the madames who were prostitutes in their youth and who now, instead of trying to save young girls from falling into the clutches of Mafia networks, try to exist the best way they can by living off the sweat of the novices they supposedly protect. Or I recall an Andalusian friend of mine who told me after the 1982 elections, “the Right has robbed us blind, now it’s our turn”, which they have most assuredly done. If it’s not one it’s the other. That is why the old-school parties fared as they did in the last municipal elections. As Nietzsche said, the best thing about democracy is not being able to choose politicians but the ability to throw them out of power, to unseat them. But this is also part of the human condition. And, speaking about the human condition, he tells me about the president of the community of apartment owners who recently, without commending herself to either God or the devil, put up a notice saying “no junk mail” without even consulting the neighbours. And that makes me think about Monago, the president of an historic Autonomous Community who should never have risen above being the president of an apartment community and who ended up turning Extremadura into a community of owners.