Nando from Cadiz – Email4 – “Babylon Ghosts”

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Nando from Cadiz – Email4 – “Babylon Ghosts”

Mensaje por Nando el Jue 23 Sep 2010, 13:01

So many houses without people, so many people without houses.

I went to the shelter for homeless people; it was the first time in my life that I had visited a place like that, experiencing exactly how homeless people live. Reading on, you will realise that I am completely integrated into this inhuman way of life.
First of all was a hot shower. Since Isa and Horacio’s house I had been cleaning myself at the showers located on the beach with cold water and without soap because it is banned (nowadays the only things that are not banned are work and taxes). So many people believe that in order for a dictatorship to appear there needs to be a cacique (tyrant), but in a society where everything, what you can do and what can you not, is dictated, it is quite similar, if not the same; the difference is that you can choose your oppressor; there is no space for spontaneity nor for individual personal development.

How things are different when they have been absent; the shower was true pleasure.

They gave me a room for two people. My roommate was an Algerian. We conversed;
-Where do you come from?
- I’m from Algeria and have just been released from prison after 6 years in Valladolid (Spanish city), I cannot believe that they did it, because I had a file full of accusations; I was thinking that they were joking with me and after releasing me they would put me back, but no, I’m here, clean in the street with a boat ticket to the Canary Islands.
- And now, what are you planning to do?
-What can I do, steal, I can't do anything else, I have nothing, there are no jobs here, and I don’t want to be out on the street.

He said that he missed the smell of women’s perfume and new shoes.

Social reinsertion is the name they give to a pile of laws in this country for people who’ve made mistakes; pickpockets and delinquents; victims of our social system, without opportunities. Newspapers are full of reports of thefts of insulting amounts by people in suits and ties who do not stop lying and smiling, promising future changes (the future is an illusion, it depends on what everyone does in the present). They control information and preside over laws regarding their duties and friends' positions. They enjoy themselves while we work and pay. We carry on following to the letter the instructions of men such as Berlusconi or Milosevic, and end up killing our brothers.

Since the day I was born I have heard people say that justice doesn’t exist. But everyone knows it does! When are we going to stop listening to them and start listening to ourselves? There is a good example in Saramago’s “Essay on Lucidity”. Nevertheless my Algerian friend, stealing was never an option to me, because nature is clever and you reap what you sow.

Here I am going to tell a tale that has lot to say about what stealing is and the role everyone in our society plays in it.

My father, a well-made and honest man, spent all his life working for Coca Cola; from a young age he worked in such positions as mechanic and lorry driver. He is not very literate, and you rarely see him with a book, because reading is difficult for him; he grew up in unstable times and literacy teaching was not available to many people.

Coca Cola paid him a sum of money upon his retirement after his life of service. He was thinking of putting the money where people of his age feel is best, in a long-term savings account, earning some profit from its interest; he added another amount of money that I gave him. I did not put this money in the bank because I was afraid that they were thieves. Nevertheless, he put my money into his account.
The man went to Barclays, the bank which offered the best interest; the bank promised him that he could take his money anytime.

After coming back from Croatia, I went to Spain to get some money to go to India. When I arrived in Spain I began to notice that there were not too many lorries on the roads; businesses were in recession and some cash points were switched off or out of service. I imagined people in countries like Argentina in the streets protesting. I arrived home and my father called the bank to take some money out. Talking on the phone;

- I would like for you to prepare some money for my son.
- Sorry Mr. Jose but that is not possible at the moment, due to the adverse financial situation.
- Did you not tell me that I could access my money anytime?
- Yes, but I am afraid not right now.
- My son needs the money because he needs to go abroad.
- Sorry Mr. Jose the money is invested in shares with other banks and these shares have decreased dramatically by 30%. (My father will never buy shares).
- How could my money be in another place if I put it in Barclays? Please stop playing around.
- The money is invested in shares with another bank, and if you withdraw it now you will lose 30 %.
(I was quickly working out what had happened, and was worried about the situation.)
- They're conning you, pass me the phone.

- Ok sir, even though we will lose this 30%, could you prepare the money? I had understood that we would not even have the 70%.
- No problem, in two days the money will be ready for you.
Two days later I went to the bank, just after reading a letter they had given to my father about the operation. All the letter showed was the paid in amount in capital letters on the front and information on the back in tiny letters and in language incomprehensible to someone of my father's capacities; they said that the bank could act without responsibility. The cashier who usually dealt with my father was off, sick with depression, which did not surprise me. The cash point was switched off. I spoke with another cashier.
- Sorry, but do you know what happened?
- No, but I've got an idea of what are you going to tell me.
- The lorry carrying his money hasn't arrived yet.
- I was afraid that something like this would happen.
- Come back after 12, the delivery should have arrived and we will give you his money.
- Ok see you then.
At 12 I arrived.
- Sorry the shares have fallen too low; no one wants to buy them and we can't sell them, so we cannot give you your money.
- The money has disappeared? Where is my father’s money? The money he spent all his life working for... Tell me, have you been studying all your life at college and university for that? Was that what they taught you? Do you feel good about yourself? Are you recognized socially? And your parents of course, are they proud of their son? Are they? Do you know what? I feel compassion for you, it is not shame it is compassion at how unconscious you are. To have a life full of work and sacrifice, and then to have the fruits of your labour stolen; moreover, it's not even you who gets it, it's your boss who you've probably never even met. If tomorrow something happens like in Argentina, you will be here inside surrounded by angry people outside; I would not like to be you at that moment; and your boss will be free and easy, because no one will blame him or her for anything, because he or she will not be here. I feel compassion for you, I said looking him in the eye, and left.
I have seen my parents suffer a lot due to this situation; they are still waiting for the money, the original sum minus the 30% percent, plus the other sum that still seems to have disappeared. They are still suffering...

Barclays earned € 13,000 million last year; now you know how.

A drunk guy was chatting in a bar in Barcelona; - Banks are thieves. Where is your money?, I asked him. -In the bank. If you know they're thieves, how can you give your money to them? Silence.

In the morning I went with my roommate to pick up the ticket to the Canary Islands and we said goodbye.

We had to leave the shelter by half past eight in the morning and you cannot return until six o’clock. You can only stay for three days and cannot come back after three months. In these circumstances I decided to wander around Cádiz until half past twelve, the time at which they give you food at the public dining hall. Any dining hall usually offers knives. The Babylon Ghosts meet there. The people there are unbelievable, once you have been in the dining hall, you know their faces; you see them everywhere. Loneliness is an imperturbable constant due to social intolerance in most cases. There are so many cases, and some of them very hard to bear: some cannot walk at all; one person every single night wets himself while asleep, and you see him lying in some corner wet and dirty. My heart sinks. There is a public shower. There is no access to washing machines; to clean our clothes we need to clean them in public fountains; no one likes this, we neither, but it is a necessity.

Some cannot say two words of sense because of how long they have been in the streets. Some mix alcohol with antidepressants to escape this life; it doesn’t surprise me. My being here is my own decision; if life had sent me here by force, I do not know what I would do. I do not know.

The social behaviour in general (individually everyone is a world and it is everything, like everywhere) evokes a new variety of leprosy, that tears and rots your soul to pieces. Being obliged to be here, in these conditions and alone with you mind full of problems, leads logically to madness or criminal offences. In some cases, these problems just need time to emerge.

With the shelter dude it is good, he sometimes does me favours; because you are not allowed to do anything without talking with the social worker, who I did not meet because I arrived at nine when everyone is out (although you can wait to talk with her). The last day I slept there there was no space for two people, and I was very worried. They told me they would ask the social workers for some extra days, and that they would probably accept; but as someone was waiting outside I decided not to ask.

The shelter had a television, and on the last day we were watching a channel 6 programme called 'Who Lives Here?' or something like that. It was about 800 metre houses, mansions and such. We laughed when some lady said that she had 50 purses; or a night club owner said he had built a prison for him and his family full of security facilities and top level comfort. Others had kitchens worth €49,000 and so on. Everyone was laughing ironically, I guess so as not to cry.

In the street you are never relaxed; although you sleep, you always do it for short periods of time, and the fact that you do not have a place of your own means you need to constantly pay attention and be on alert. After a few days it starts to show its first symptoms; the facial expression becomes harder. Of course, all of us have our face burned by the sun, like the people who go to sky, but it is not the same at all.

Also the ghosts dance during the night time; if it starts to rain, we need to dance and the streets get busy with ghosts sauntering looking for banks or places to sleep under a roof. We see each other dancing laden with cardboard and with our stuff, looking for a place, because everywhere is wet out there. Now it has been raining five nights in a row; between three and six in the morning it rains at least once every night, whereupon everyone dances; a macabre dance that is reflected the next day at the dining hall in our faces (although some of them have a perennial expression imprinted by the time spent in the streets).

There are some couples, some women on their own and even a blind guy.

Since leaving the shelter I have come down with fever; this is my third on the streets with fever. The first night there was a storm at three in the morning; I collected my stuff and jumped into a small doorway, the only thing I could find. The wind blew the rain everywhere; my raincoat was flapping and didn’t keep me or my stuff dry; the buttons were exploding and on more than one occasion I had to run after the coat trembling with fever. The tiniest gust makes you tremble from head to toe. An apartment owner who sees me every night, went out and saw me there in a total struggle with the environment; it did not occur to him to offer me his entrance hall to protect myself.

During the day time I have passed the hours immobile on a park bench, inside my sleeping bag, until lunch time. I don't get hungry, but if I don’t go to eat things get worse. Walking with the backpack is hard, so it is difficult move around. The mothers who take their children to school see me lying on the bench. Mostly, I get shameful gazes. No one comes to get to know you or chat with you.
In general the people from Cádiz are good people, but there are not many jobs and lots of people are unemployed, so the situation is complex. All you hear people talking about is money, the government, trade unions and the injustice of public expenses, exactly what they broadcast in the media- terror and division. There is a man who has gone on hunger strike at the town hall. People are bored, too many people beg on the streets and the city is not big enough. Until we stop listening to those who lie to us, and start to work for ourselves and produce what we are producing not for a government, entity, bank or business man but for ourselves, we will find no solutions. It could be that they give a job to this guy at the town hall after his efforts; but this would not bring any solutions. Others will come to replace him. I admire him; at least he is fighting. This is the first step.

I am still sleeping by the church door; every night the priest comes out and sees me there in the corner; he could look into my eyes, or offer me some consolation or interest. He avoids such contact and averts his gaze. Of course, car with other younger priest who drives, mobile phone... They are “Fathers” who claim to represent God, following Jesus Christ, who said practise what you preach, and they know what others need to do, what is good, what is bad. If they want to represent Christ, they can get out on the streets with a blanket, live with the homeless, clean their clothes in public fountains, have their illnesses, practise what they preach; show, and not say, to people what they need to do.

Humility, do you remember what it means? I received a humility class from one of my masters, Vicente Ferrer in India and I am hugely grateful.

It is a fact, they do not represent anyone; they lie to themselves and consequently lie to others. More than a symbol of God, they are ethereal politicians. Collection boxes, 1 euro candles and flowers to decorate the church. Reconsider “Father”: a commandment from Moses said do not speak thy father's name in vain, because some Saints and Messiahs might arrive with bad news, and you are spending your life unconsciously adoring the Golden Fleece. They call it “First World”.

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