Learning From the In Between

Notes on Common Life, Hospitality and the 2011 Movements of the Squares. 1

By Luis Moreno-Caballud and Begonia Santa-Cecilia 2

A mysterious, crucial, underground relation

It is May 10th, 2011, María Paz has died, we are preparing to leave Madrid and return home.

We have been through the hospital, with its protocols, with its “there is nothing else to do.” Through the funeral home, set to make the body disappear as soon as possible. An individual has died, and that’s that, (they seem to say), she has ceased to exist, is no longer in this world, as of now there will be a thing called “her memory” taking her place, one more thing in a world of many things that exist. And the ashes, a souvenir. But the world continues to be what it is, what you see is what you get, of course, what else could it be? There are people, things, people and things, people who have things, who have clothes, cars, televisions, mobile phones, pieces of land, houses, their own body, knowledge, money, values, ideas, memories, experiences, things they sometimes get and sometimes lose or forget or abandon. And then people die too, but there are always many others left.

Six in the morning. The exhaustion of those nightmarish hospital days reverberates in the half-deserted city at dawn.

Taxi drivers begin to connect their radios. The screens light up. The flow of words and images that will provide the topics of the day begins to reach the countless recipients launching into another workday. Dealing with the early morning. The rhythm of a life in which one gets up to work, sends the children to school so that the adults can work, and so that the children can also work in the future, one works to make money, makes money to buy things, buys things to have things, gets things but needs more things, works harder to make more to buy more to have more.

One meets with friends too, to have a laugh, relax, discuss the topics of the day, joke about the latest story involving a politician, a celebrity, a common friend or acquaintance. One is amused, di-verted and dis-tracted, and stories are told, thousands of stories about people who become characters, situations are also experienced in one’s own flesh, things that one will be able to tell later, the last vacation trip, the fight with the boss, what you found by chance on Google the other day. Then everyone goes back to their houses. The morning progresses, it is less cold now, the city populates with those stories, images, words, floods of pieces of accessible meaning. You have to work to win and to have, and that also includes gathering objects of desire, plans, promises, achievements, successes, goals, orgasms, clicks, adrenaline and serotonin surges, likes, votes, looks, necklines, awards, scandals, blows, insults, slaps, cruelties, accidents, catastrophes. In the midst of this flow, in the heat of these stimuli, life is endured.

Today, however, we are invaded by an icy silence.

The smooth and shiny surfaces of the airport seem to concentrate in their pristine opacity all the desert we feel. With the same aseptic neutrality that governs the administration of airport stores and boarding gates, the hospital had administered a damaged body. Let the doctors work, leave it to the science that understands the workings of the complex thing that is the human body. Deposit your body here, in room 340, along with another body that we are also trying to fix. If you hear it screaming in pain at night, don’t pay attention, your bodies will be separated by a folding screen, and they will be given the necessary anesthetics. The family, please, do not crowd around here, go to the waiting room. Leave everything in our hands. But sadly the treatment did not work. Now there is nothing else to do, the decease of the patient occurred. Choose cremation or burial, religious or secular, and please—after, of course, honoring her memory—move on to something else. There are many things in the world, much work to do, many things to achieve. María Paz is gone now. Flight canceled. Choose another.

Of course, the doctors and nurses had done their best, working in especially difficult conditions because of budget cuts in public health, some had even been very kind and compassionate. But then, why did we feel in our guts that this death had been some kind of murder?

Why did it seem to us that the voices of the pundits blaring from the boarding gate’s TV were as complicit in that murder as the bureaucracy of the funeral company, as the obligatory return to “normality” that awaited us at home, as the animated buzz of tourists queuing up next to us to get on the plane? “Well, maybe there is a crisis, but the restaurants are full of people every night…” “Because that’s what people like, they want to have fun and that’s why …” “Hey, excuse me, there are a lot of people having a really bad time right now … “”Wait, I didn’t interrupt you … “” I don’t care, because there are more than 300 evictions every day in this country and 26% unemployment, if it seems to you that the government can ignore this … “, the pundits continued in their infinite and exaggerated quarrel. A jingle led to commercials: a hyper-sexualized woman assured us that everything would be fine in the bathroom if we took her product. A great car, life insurance, a show where people competed to cook the best dish, and they ended up throwing it into each other faces, to the delight of the public.

There, standing in line at the airport, surrounded by screens, billboards, and double panes of glass, everything seemed the same, a pure undifferentiated desert where people and things were interchangeable, where you lived and died alone. Alone, María Paz, isolated from the world to which with so much joy and pain she had given meaning, from her people, from everything she had been able to share in her 73 years, torn from everything she had been able to weave with others. Alone, in that hospital room, turned into an anonymous and discreet malfunctioning being. Alone above all in death, abandoned by the living who considered her impossible, hopeless, non-existent.

And alone ourselves too, the rest of us, administering our flat lives alone while waiting for the arrival of each of our own flat, meaningless deaths.

“Well, she was quite old, right?”

Perhaps not murder, but the continuation of a process of destruction that had begun long before her illnesses, and that was not so much the destruction of María Paz as an individual, but the constant violence exerted on her -and on so many others- precisely in order to reduce them to individuals. To kill the common worlds they housed, and to make them be alone.

Back home, across the ocean, the suitcases were left unpacked. We tripped on them, didn’t leave the house, barely spoke. The silence had remained stuck in our throats. Grief and rage colored each other.

And then, just four days after the death of María Paz, it happened. News came of a large demonstration in Madrid, a demonstration from which some had never wanted to leave. Disgusted at the idea of ​​returning to “normality”, and inspired by the so-called “Arab Spring” and the occupation of Tahir Square in Cairo, they camped at Puerta del Sol. Soon the camps proliferated in the squares of many cities and towns in Spain, soon it was also evident that this was part of what had happened, was still happening and would happen in many other parts of the world in that year of 2011, and in the years that followed (from Arab countries to the south of Europe, from the Occupy Wall Street movement in the USA to Brazil, Hong Kong and many other places in the planet).

We, like so many others, were immediately drawn into the fissure in “normality” that the movements of the squares produced, and we let our lives be changed by it. At the same time, we always knew that this crack was inseparable for us from the one that the death of María Paz had opened under our feet. And so, these two seemingly different events were linked for us from the beginning by a mysterious, crucial and underground relationship.

Now, a decade after, and thanks to these years of conversations and learning with comrades, we believe that we see this relationship more clearly, although perhaps we are wrong. Now, we believe we have always suspected that the dignity that had been taken away from the death of María Paz, that dignity woven in common with others, was precisely what we saw reappear with enormous power in the movements of the squares.

Re-encountering the In Between

We now imagine a table carefully laid out, with attentive care, at María Paz’s house, one night of so many in which ten, twelve, fifteen and even more people sat down to dinner. Everything prepared, the food ready to serve, the chairs slightly separated so that guests could sit. We are seeing it, like a photo, as it would remain for a few weeks, without anyone moving a plate. And we see María Paz, who still did not know, smiling at the table.

Now we look at María Paz and we want to see in her everything else, all the abundance, everything that the hospital could not see. We see the nights stolen from sleep by her and by Esperanza and Baltasara (and so many others) to embroider the lace that shines on the tablecloth and napkins, making each object unique and precious, amidst the darning and darning of the socks of countless large families, we see the comings and goings from the village to the city and vice versa, the hours and hours on the phone to make sure you are all well, everyone here is doing well, I’ll send you a box of lettuces with your cousin, her sister putting the peppers out to dry to make the paprika, there in Ávila, preparing the pig to be slaughtered for the homemade sausages that will arrive as the appetizer for the table tonight, her brother (and so many others) getting up at dawn to avoid the forest ranger and get hold of some hares or some partridges or some pigeons that have been stewed this afternoon with a lot of patience and a lot of onion, which was brought last summer from the orchard in the Ribera Navarra, the land where the grandfather harvested his vegetables to sell up in the mountains, that’s how he met grandma, long before anyone thought of going to live in that unthinkable place that was Madrid, when grandma looked after the cows and one day lightning struck one of them in two pieces, when a forbidden language was spoken in the mountains, which no one dared to teach María Paz, born in the revolutionary year of 1936. Because anyway, what would it be worth when she left to be a maid in the rich houses of San Sebastián and Madrid.

From the mountains, from the forbidden language and the cows to Donosti, and later to serve and to open a grocery store in Madrid. In order to get to this carefully laid table, what had to happen? It was necessary to cope with life in so many ways, to take in stride so many things that could have been taken another way, to smile at so many customers in an endless postwar period and to sew so many knee pads for so many children, to dodge so many pejorative images projected on those who came from the country, on those who “had no education”, putting so many pots of broth on the stove, remembering accurately the ailments of so many relatives and friends, keeping so many memories and relationships alive despite the constant demand to enter into the rhythm of money and consumption, rebuilding dignity in a constant coming and going of care and solidarity among those who can count on one another. To trust so much in that which does in fact exist, and that is not one more thing in a world of things, but the in between, it’s not you nor I nor any other thing, but what’s in between, the common world that we share, what no one possesses, the forces and the forms that traverse us, the sharing that is always prior, first, that predates even those who share. It was necessary to care for the in between with treats, food, songs, wine and friends, in the face of all of life’s hard knocks, the accounting, the identifications and the scorn. It was necessary to create some confusion in the face of that destructive force that always wants to know who is who, who is and who is not, who has what, who pays, how much it is worth, what is gained, what is lost. It was necessary to informally constitute María Paz’s house as place of gathering and inexhaustible hospitality, a friendly space to visit for countless aunts and cousins and godparents and friends, and friends of friends, and neighbors, countrymen and countrywomen of the various towns in which the family had roots, legions of second cousins, of kindred spirits, of semi-adopted ex-boyfriends of the daughters, distant nephews, probable relatives, and even some stray cats who had nowhere else to go. In María Paz and Martín’s house excellent food was always served, lively conversation never lacked, and sometimes there was even an accordion or another music instrument brought out after dinner.

But on that night …

The explosions started just as they were going to sit down to eat, the scene immediately turned into chaos and collective panic, the ground was bursting in the hallway, the glass from all the windows of the building fell like raindrops, the residents of the seven floors took refuge in María Paz’s house because they thought it was the best protected, some prayed, others tried to get out of the building, but out there it seemed like war. The year was 1973.

It was not until a few weeks later that the house could be used again, and there it was, indeed, the table still carefully set, and with a good layer of dust on top of everything. It had been a gas explosion on Joaquín Costa Street, one of the many supposedly uncontrollable and unexpected explosions, though the rumor quickly spread that a nearby hospital had been evacuated beforehand, and that those who were responsible, the engineers, the ones who understood these things, “the ones in the know”, were aware in advance of what was going to happen. Whether this was true or not, it had already been more than three decades of a dictatorship in which engineers were identified as an important part of the regime’s elite, and people had learned to distrust them.

Family legend has it that a cousin from Pamplona who was in Madrid for the first time in his life (who had come “to see doctors” and was a guest at María Paz’s house), got out of the house and started running at the sound of the first explosion, so terrified that he did not stop until, without knowing how he got there or recognizing any intervening street, he reached Puerta del Sol.

Perhaps we, those of us who ran towards Puerta del Sol in 2011 to occupy it, also mysteriously found the way, attracted by the hospitable magnetism of that square that has seen so many popular revolts take place in Madrid. And perhaps we were also fleeing, like that cousin from Pamplona, from a way of life in which those who know that disaster is approaching do nothing about it, a way of life in which we are required to leave complicated things in the hands of “experts”, and in which later, when catastrophe comes, those below are allowed to fall, and those above are saved.

Evicted patient, cancelled flight, busted neighborhood, indebted country.

Perhaps we can now understand Sol, the May 15 movement, and even the global movement of the squares (with all its irreconcilable local differences) as a reunion with what we already were, with that in between that was waiting for us in the squares. Let us be clear: a lot has already been written and said, about all this. The occupied squares as cities within a city, as collective experiments with a life different from that of neoliberal capitalism, as a way to place at the center interdependence and reproductive work, as communes in which people are once again able to create worlds. 3 Our desire is to re-member, and, by unfolding the abundance woven into the web that sheltered the life of María Paz (the abundance that inhabits the life of anyone), to gift ourselves the idea that the squares (and other moments of recent collective popular effervescence) nourished themselves from that abundance, which was already there.

Which is always here, although we often cannot see it.

Where did all these people come from?

What was necessary for the squares to become a hospitable place that thousands of people wanted to inhabit, from Cairo to Madrid, from Istanbul to Sao Paulo, from Hong-Kong to New York? Who brought the wood and plastic with which the ephemeral but habitable structures were built, the sofas for those who were tired, the information tables so that everyone had a place to go to ask what was happening? Who brought the microphones, the loudspeakers, the food, who knew how to cook for so many people in huge pots, who spent hours cleaning the plaza? Who offered a shoulder for someone to support his head? Who fanned those who were hot? Who knew how to make room for the children to spread their joy? Who invented the slogan “the revolution will be feminist or it will not be”? Who shouted with all his might for the first time “the people want the fall of the regime”? Who helped the anti-racist demonstration to converge on the square?  Who had to set himself on fire so that the immunization of so many was finally broken into pieces?

And all those who did it, where did they come from? How were they able to make it through life until they arrived at those squares? Who put a plate of food on the table for them, who sang them a song? From what land did the food they ate sprout? Who had counted on them to save themselves? Who had remembered not to leave them alone when they were sick or sad? Who had hosted them or even helped them build a house? Who helped their mothers and their grandmothers?

It is true, you probably have a more ingrained sense of hospitality when you have been closer to worlds in which people built and build their homes with their own hands and helped by community, whether it be in a Quechua mink’a or in an Aragonese a zofra (“a zofra” from Arabic, “as-suhra”), or in so many other forms, places, traditions. When those who have been stigmatized as “barbarians”, as “ignorant”, “backward”, “underdeveloped”, etc., migrate to do the reproductive work of others for money in the metropolises of the North (whether from the Navarrese mountains to Madrid, from Guayaquil to Barcelona, from El Salvador to Los Angeles, or from Nepal to Abu Dhabi), they take with them what remains of their harmed communitarian knowledge. But how many generations, how many humiliations, how many separations, forced forgetfulness, anguish and violence, how many promises of wealth, consumption, power, and “modernity” are necessary for this knowledge to be lost? Perhaps that Spanish banker who, as documented by Maka Suárez, insulted a family of Ecuadorians by calling them “stupid, ignorant immigrants” for having signed a mortgage “without knowing” what they were signing, perhaps that banker had a peasant grandmother who collected firewood in a communal Galician mountain, or a great-grandfather who was saved from hunger every winter thanks to the fact that the town still had communal pastures, or a great-great-grandmother who was called a witch because she got together with other women in order to learn how to heal themselves with herbs, or, if we go even further back, perhaps he had at least one Morisco ancestor who participated in the creation of the irrigation system of his town, until he was expelled from the peninsula along with so many others. “We all have a peasant past,” said a friend. “We Europeans were the first to be colonized”, wrote Marcelo Tarì, “colonized by a desire for Empire”, and that is why perhaps we have also been the first to lose “our long tradition of relationship with the invisible”. But what is “the invisible”, in addition to the “little ritual magic of our grandmothers” and the ability of children to “talk with angels” (32), if not also hospitality, the care of that in between that bonds us?

Javier García Fernández has recently offered powerful arguments in his book Decolonizing Europe to support the idea that “coloniality” (and therefore also “modernity”), that double movement that turns human groups into an inferior “other” at the same time as it propels them to a logic of the private, was invented, sadly, in the Iberian Peninsula, even before the beginning of the colonization of America. In the conquest of Al-Andalus, says Javier García Fernández, “that great other that will be the infidel, the Moor, is built as a fundamentally differentiated and inferior subject because of his religion, because of his position of exteriority with respect to the Christian community, and therefore is subject to extermination ”(53). And at the same time, the lands conquered from Al-Andalus will progressively become something that certain people have with “privative status”, and that therefore, can be bought and sold, and soon a new “job market” will also emerge, dragging in precisely those who do not own land (among others, and already in the 15th century, “Moorish, Muslim and Central African slaves brought from Portugal […] peasants with tiny holdings incapable of providing the family sustenance” (73)), who are therefore forced to sell their labor power in exchange of money.

From then on, more and more, life is not just life itself, but your life, your problem.

From the “unfaithful” and expelled Moor to the “ignorant” and indebted Ecuadorian, from the “redneck” in the country to the proletarianized peasant in the city, there are many centuries and many generations of stigmatization and individualization that occurred through the breaking of ties (between human bodies and also between humans and non-humans). Many centuries of dismemberment. For this reason, we would like to, and are making the effort to, re-member (as Rolando Vázquez Melken often says).

An effort to arrive one way or another, to something like a “welcome assembly” at the PAH (Platform of People Affected by Mortgages, in Spain), where precarious indebted global migrants meet to say to each other: “you will never be alone again and you will never have to stay on the street ”. Once again, what knowledge, what community traditions, what capabilities, what language, what bodies, what experiences, what care, what tremendous confidence in the art of sharing is necessary to be able to promise something like this? A lot has also been said about the power not only of the PAH, but also of the housing movement in Spain–that motor of popular political will that began after the 2008 crisis. We only want, once again, to direct our gaze towards abundance in the middle of what sometimes seems like a desert, to find tools that help us not to lose heart. That day, while we waited for the plane that was going to send us back to “normality” in the midst of the desolation over the death of María Paz, over her conversion into one more thing in a world of interchangeable people-things, not only were preparations being finalized for the demonstration that gave rise to 15M, not only were PAH meetings organized that would permit the gaining of confidence to raise and fulfill that promise of radical solidarity, that day, also, like every day, common life found means to proliferate everywhere, despite all the separations and assassinations and privatizations, and that is what we want to remember. That day, while the salt of banal talk shows and publicity fell on our wounds, those who had been classified as “ignorant” were organizing to show “those in the know” that their technicalities and legal jargon are not knowledge, but tools for enslavement and contempt.

Everyday Communism and “the Economy”

Of course, there will be no shortage of those who want to turn the movement of the squares into one more anecdote in a world of anecdotes, those who divide it into incomparable national cases and who dictate evaluations based on its supposed “achievements” (or lack of them), “consequences”, “further developments”. There will be no shortage of people who will say that in those movements, many have also looked for prestige, money and power. Such a gaze can be projected on almost any reality, one that sees, instead of the in between, the individuals trying to achieve things, to accumulate things, things that allow them to get ahead of other individuals. Because indeed we have been forced so much to see and live like this, that it is very difficult for us to stop doing so. It is not a question of purisms: it is true that life constantly reappears everywhere we look as a struggle between individuals who compete for scarce resources (without which it is believed that they could not make sense of their existence or materially sustain their bodies), and this happens also in the so-called “social movements”, without a doubt.

Perhaps the only thing we would like to say is that this is not the only way of understanding the world, that for centuries it has not been, that there is at least the possibility of imagining existence as something other than scarcity, other than the constant search for scarce objects with which a subject tries to satisfy his needs to “survive”. That life does not necessarily have to be the problem of survival, the kind of “dirty little secret” of humanity revealed in those pathetic reality shows that try to convince us of the inherent meanness of “man who is a wolf to man”. What if the idea itself of something like “survival” was a recent invention? “What is historical is not only the mode of being of needs, nor even merely their essence: the simple existence of needs as needs is not an anthropological invariable, but an historical creation whose global spread is relatively recent, as is that particular mode of life which is called survival. We also know that it is precisely the appearance of the modern market that created scarcity, that ‘presupposition’ of the so-called economy” (Tiqqun).

When we say that we find it interesting that in Acampada Sol the use of money was not accepted, while in the assembly of Zucotti Park comrades spent hours fighting how to administer the thousands of dollars received in donations, when we say that we are interested in this difference, we do not intend to moralize or give lessons to anyone. Nor do we believe that by not using money in occupied squares for a few months we could rid ourselves once and for all of the scourge of the scarcity economy. But we have felt in our own skin the expansion of time that occurs in moments of collective rebellion, we know that around each March 8th time dilates such that days seem like weeks for many, and we know that lives that seemed completely locked in a prison of impossible schedules, such as those of Las Kellys (the self-organized group of women working in Spain as hotel cleaners), explode and proliferate in all directions thanks to collective power. We have heard our comrades insist that “we are always in the informal and shared structures that support us, although sometimes we do not see them”, we are always in that kind of “everyday communism” in which we don’t keep accounts about who did what for whom, but we assume that anyone, “if not a declared enemy,” is therefore someone with whom we can share our capabilities. Sharing, not exchanging, just as the mother’s care for her daughter cannot be read as exchange, nor can the impulse to save the life of a stranger (David G, with us).

And it will be said again and again that we are debating about “morality”, but all this has nothing to do with the “good” or “bad” behavior of individuals, we are talking about that common world which is here, always already, as “the set of both material and symbolic relationships that make a human life possible”, “a human life, unique and irreducible, [which] nevertheless never suffices itself (our body says it, its hunger, its cold, the mark of its navel, present emptiness that sutures the lost bond, our voice says it, with all the accents and tonalities of our incorporated linguistic and affective worlds (Garcés 29))”. We say that this set of both material and symbolic relationships can never be completely privatized, subjected to calculation, to the scarcity of the economy. Thus, it is perhaps not so much that “another world is possible”, but rather that “another world” is always already here. Although, of course, there are also the thousands of devices, sad passions, codifications, mediations, captures, extractions, falsifications and acts of violence that hide it (from the invention of the self-owning subject by John Locke to the “be yourself” that is thrown at teenagers everywhere, from the sale of the lands conquered to Al-Andalus to credit cards). It is in the midst of these processes of capturing common life that we want to find our “anyones”, our mothers and grandmothers, running away, and also being trapped by different tools of colonization of common life that have been used at various historical moments. It is not that everything in the past is better, it is that crossing times opens other possible lines of flight that are the best way we have to pay homage and to mourn them.

Perhaps by getting to know how we were taken out of some forms of domination to get caught into others, these traps that subject us will show themselves as contingent. From blind obedience to the father and the endless days of physical work in the fields to the purchase in installments and Sunday afternoons in front of the television, it is not so much about calculating “what is gained and what is lost”, but, precisely, thinking how the world of calculation and the world of abundance dispute reality in their constant war (a war that is not exempt from temporary pacts, cessions, betrayals and armistices, as explored by Verónica Gago in her studies of “popular economies”).

What You Don’t Have, You Can’t Lose

From the sale of vegetables in a truck through the Navarra mountain villages to the establishment of a grocery store in Madrid, life went on, through numerous feats of accounting, many nights of trying to balance the numbers, of translating the value of collective capabilities to amounts of money. These accounts are also part of all that makes it possible to carefully set a large dinner table, capable of accommodating many more people than the “nuclear family” (that other great tool for privatizing life) certifies as “necessary.” Every Saturday you go to the store with a long list of “self-purchases”, and a multitude of products are brought upstairs that later in the week will be revealed as insufficient, and you will have to go down a thousand times for that missing package of rice or that siphon bottle. It will then be necessary to adapt the accounts, add annotations to the margin, make exceptions, corrections, because you are not going to treat a lifelong customer, who is also a good friend, the same way as the person who enters for the first time, or the uptown lady whom you know is filthy rich like the guy who doesn’t have a penny to pay you for today’s loaf of bread. So the accounts will get complicated, the always dangerous intersections between friendship and business, between the sharing that we are and the dividing to which we are brought (between the infinite debt we feel towards each other and the life on credit in which we are being forced, as Moten and Harney would perhaps put it), will create areas of ambiguity, red numbers, interest-free loans, irreparable expenses, furtive micro-extractivisms. Establishing yourself as a business owner also means becoming someone who can be robbed, in many ways. And so, a luxurious restaurant in the area, frequented by the late-Francoist oligarchy that considered that neighborhood their territory, managed to open its doors and to operate with great success thanks to the huge amount of money owed to María Paz and Martín’s store. First shame and then fear prevented the people from the little grocery store from doing what was necessary to recuperate so much money from those who believed themselves superior to them by birth. María Paz attracted many costumers because of how nice she was, in the store her friendly and intelligent conversation was as appreciated as it was in the dinners at her home. Some of these customers, especially the wealthiest, abused her hospitality, as the colonizers have always done with those who still remember a world in which the value of a people was measured by its ability to welcome strangers.

The losses were large. But suddenly, unexpected money also appeared. The sister of a woman who was a friend of the family, whom María Paz had cared for during her long illness until the end (moving, feeding, bathing, putting a sentient and intelligent being to bed), decided to give them a gift. So, they were able to go as a group to the furniture store with this money fallen from the sky, after having walked past the window shop so many times, and buy that huge L-shaped sofa that María Paz liked, because it would accommodate many people in the living room, and even serve as an extra bed for two adults, which is always good in this much-visited house. It was in the afternoon, the store was about to close and they decided to all go together, trying to encourage María Paz, who was going through a moment of very deep pain, a pain that almost ended her. Daughters, sons, brothers, friends, relatives, whoever was around the house on that day, all went to the furniture store to buy with money (that great instrument for the destruction of bonds) a huge and cozy hospitality tool for the home. And only Martín remained in their grocery store, without anyone remembering to lower the gate, counting cash like he used to do at the end of the day. Until a guy came in with a gun and took all the money.

Owning is being someone who can be robbed, someone who can lose what they have. But what if we had nothing? What if more than possessing we were simply in a relationship, in a finite and precarious relationship, with the body, with life, with individuality, with others …?

But how, how to let go when a life is lost… One, two, three lives. Three children, we can’t even write it, three. Who survives something like that, that pain? Where does the strength come from to get up again after each of those deaths, to go back to taking care of something or someone that could also be lost, forever? Where does the strength come from to continue living after so much loss, to continue being able to see abundance, to be able to let go, and to weave a new kind relationship with those who have left?

Maybe from the same place that has made possible something like the persistence of so many first nations and oppressed peoples in the world against colonization and genocide, or the persistence of the Rio Doce after having been dried up by the catastrophe of Minas Gerais (of which Suely Rolnik often reminds us).

Perhaps what you do not have cannot be lost, and from there arises that unstoppable force against which the armies of the world continue to be sent in vain.


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1 This text is nourished by many conversations shared with comrades and friends during the “Testing Assembling” meetings, partially documented here: https://16beavergroup.org/assembling/ We would like to thank these friends dearly.

3 Some crucial reflections for us that presented these and other ideas about “the movement of the squares” are those by Anastas and Gabri, Fernández-Savater, Federici and Invisible Committee.

Begoña Santa-Cecilia and Luis Moreno-Caballud take part in different communal efforts to explore ways of contesting and abandoning the colonial, racist, patriarchal, anthropocentric, and capitalist forms of life. They collaborates with friends in researching the histories of informal common structures of mutual care (mostly in the Iberian peninsula’s twentieth and twenty-first centuries) and in creating narrative and visual imaginaries for emergent forms of life.

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