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(en) US, Modesto Anarcho #1 - The Life and Times of the Bastallion Squat

Date Sun, 22 Oct 2006 08:56:08 +0200


Bastallion (ba’stal’yen) a whole lot of something. 1. Antonio Negri uses a bastallion
of difficult Marxist words. 2. There’s a bastallion of pigs over in that cop car.
You can’t see the bastallion squat today, not because we wouldn’t be willing
to take you there, but because the city came and destroyed it. What was once
a house full of life, relaxation, planning, and autonomous space away from
the world of work, despair, alienation, and hierarchy, is now another parking
lot, ready to be built up again and rented out.
When a friend came to town, we knew that we had to find a house to squat and
quick. We also had ideas of turning it into a social center, (possibly a free
store, collective house, info shop), although our needs for housing had to come
first. While checking out the local abandoned house scene, we came upon it.
On the west side of Modesto it stood as a pillar of prime squat-able anti-real
estate, a beckon of a possible autonomous zone - a bastallion! Two stories
tall, with two upstairs apartments, one huge downstairs house, a
basement, and also two adjoining apartments, this place was huge.
To our amazement, we also soon found out that the house had
power, plumbing, and running water! We could cook, watch movies,
go to the bathroom, and even shower in the house! We then decided
to make our home in an upstairs apartment on the top floor. This
took some maneuvering, being that one of us had to climb out the
window after locking the door, in order to keep it locked from the
inside, (we didn’t have a key). Regardless of these small
problems, the house was amazing.
In the first couple of days we busied ourselves with the first tasks at
hand. Cleaning the floor, the kitchen, taking out the trash, and also
cleaning the bathroom. We also started going through the house and
taking what we wanted from the rest of it, and moving it up into the
upstairs. Soon we had an upstairs with two rooms, three to four
beds, a TV and DVD player, and also a small library. In the
bathroom we put in a shower curtain, and got new toiletries.
At night, we roamed the country side for food that the rich had
thrown away. With a quick trip to the thrift store, and some things
that we had laying around, we quickly had a propane stove, and a
sandwich maker. Coming across possibly the best dumpster score
ever one night, we recovered close to 70 bricks of tofu. Some of it
went into the bastallion, and a lot of it went towards Food Not
Bombs.
Our clean up job went marvelously well. When a potential buyer of
the property came by to look at it, he told us over and over again he
wasn’t going to do anything about us being there, and
complimented us on making the rooms look so nice. We had several
other run ins with strangers, and several times we thought that the
police had staked out the house. In an almost ironic twist of fate, the
house was right next to a school administration building, and every
morning we awoke to the sight of cop cars parked very close to us.
Perhaps it is true that sometimes the safest place to be is right under
the nose of your enemy!
When homeless friends needed a place to stay, or someone needed a
break from the routine of work and boredom, we happily allowed
them into our home. From the local dumpsters we were able to get
food, a fan, and other items, and the house took on a life of it’s
own.
Then, one day it was all over. Construction workers came in and told
us that in a week it was all coming down. The owner couldn’t
sell the place, and they were going to tear it down. Next week, sure
enough, those sleeping at the bastallion were woken up and moved
out. Later that day, it was all gone.
It was gone, but not forgotten. This won’t be the last house we
squat, not by a long shot. But we won’t forget the bastallion, not
anytime soon. It’s size, it’s power, it’s running water,
the feeling of collective living, of freedom from rent, the meals we
cooked - the bastallion!

“The Bastallion”
By anonymous
We made this house our own. Within the walls of this makeshift
home, I have laughed and cried, spoken kind and harsh words.
We’ve lived here and loved every minute of it. The individuals
within this shelter were some of the most passionate people I’ve
known. We bonded and talked in hushed voices over candle light.
We had arduous discussions and made intimate confessions. It is
every human’s right to have shelter, and when ours was
threatened, we did not lament, we took action, making the move to
somewhere we could call home with a roof over our heads. We were
here because there was nowhere else. We lived there more fervently
than anyone ever had. We couldn’t believe we were the only
ones. Had this house survived, it could have been a community
library, free store, or free shelter for the homeless or those passing
through. Now that it is gone we will go somewhere else to find a new
place for temporary comfort and safety. We are stowaways, and
encourage others to do the same. We fought the absurdity of paying
rent when potential homes stay vacant. Why sacrifice your livelihood
for space to live and breathe? We refused. Many did not understand
why we did what we did. Now that our home is demolished, we will
not surrender. We will move on to another space, and then another.
We are grateful for the times we had here, and will continue to
create more.
We are everywhere and we’re unstoppable.

An Occupation of Our Own: The logic of Squatting vs. the logic of
Capital


One of the prevailing myths of capitalism, (or an economic system
where one small group owns what everyone else needs, and then
forces the rest to work for a wage), is that there is naturally a scarcity
of things. In truth, yes, there are only a certain amount of some
resources that exist in this world. Currently we are learning the hard
way that clean air, water, land, etc., will not last forever, as industrial
capitalism destroys the earth, indigenous cultures, living things, and
eco-systems. But it is only in a world where the majority of our time
is divided by coercion into either work, driving to work, recovering
from work, and then sleeping to get ready for more work, that we
can say things like “love”, “joy”, and
“community” are commodities to be bought up or sold. It is
the system of capital that seeks to commodify everything, to make
everything privately owned by a specialized class, to fence it off from
the rest of us, that creates scarcity. Thus, the logic of capital evades
our daily lives like never before, and instead of using our
free time to act against it, we adapt and exist to it. Instead of
enjoying the very small amount of natural areas and animals that are
left, (much less defend them), we head to zoos and circuses without
much of a thought other wise. Instead of a family day of fun in the
park, hiking, cooking, or just talking, we find it impossible to
connect with each other unless it’s at an amusement park,
spending money, through the internet, or staring blankly into a
screen.
The images of capital then become our reference points of
association with each other, as we find we have little more to talk
about other than what Hollywood is foisting on us this month, or
whether or not someone has “myspaced” you lately. As the
situationist Guy Debord wrote, “In societies where modern
conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an
immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly
lived has moved away into a representation. The spectacle is capital
to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.”
It is through occupation that capitalism manifests itself, and that is
always a social reality based on force, coercion, and violence. One of
the most clear aspects of this reality is rent. First, capitalists have
occupied the land that was once held in common, (and also not seen
as ‘property’ at all), and then made it a crime to live
anywhere else but a shelter that is “on the market”. Of
course, some would argue that one could save up money and buy, or
build a house of your own, but this isn’t very realistic with the
daily routine of work and survival glaring down on us. Others would
state, that if we don’t like the current situation, we should
simply go off to the far reaches of the world, and live where the ideas
of private property haven’t manifested themselves. As appealing
as this seems, why should we leave our communities and places of
birth? Why should we also give up the struggles where we live, to
the promise of liberation far away? If we can’t fight and win
against capitalism in our own back yards, who’s to say that
we’ll win as it knocks on someone’s else’s door step?
The logic of squatting provides us with a way to fight back. It
proposes occupations of our own, in which we can have the
possibility to create new sets of social relationships, all the while
abstaining from those of the current social order. It is here, in these
centers of people power, that we can build and work on new projects
against the systems of domination without having to give more or
our time to simply survive. We can have something that is ours, and
is not just some bastard version of theirs. Fuck the law - squat the
world.
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