Living Under a Bridge


Have you ever witnessed the expression “living under a bridge” applied in real life? For anyone arriving at or leaving the Sete Rios train station close to Lisbon’s financial district, it is quite a view. For some people, at first it can be disquieting to see how a margin of people are currently living. But after awhile – especially for those who are not invertebrate – it is truly obnoxious to realize that this is a reality for some people.

To observe this phenomenon is not – by far – a proof that it is unprecedented. But it does reflect the profound marks of the economic crisis in societies which did not see this coming (or at least that’s what we are told).

With almost 2 million empty houses -and 500.000 of them overcrowded – almost 1 million are underused with more rooms than necessary. It is quite extraordinary to understand that society has found this way of spatially rearranging itself in what domesticity is concerned, and all of this because of the need to rearrange those who hold money.

Sete Rios

Ironically – or not – as result of the “housing bubble” we had to compress those families who were financially struggling before deregulation, while others maintained or expanded their spaces. Thus there seems to be a direct proportionality between (overcrowded/underused) space and wealth. It wouldn’t be so tragic if not the alarming scale of this phenomenon.

This sort of unbalanced mentality is also applied in other areas, most importantly with respect of health care. Poor people are compressed against the great wall materialized in the increase of health care taxes while premium healthcare services have never been so affordable for those with money. But also in education you can see similar phenomenons. The increase of Ph.D students who dropout as result of the lack of support networks is disturbing symptom of the slow evaporation of the concept of meritocracy – so much proclaimed by our parents.

Like Nobel prize laureate José Saramago said, worse than the economic crisis is the moral crisis, a lack of values, responsibility and conscience. What type of natural selection will be produced as result of the way we deal with these issues is still not very clear. Hopefully we will remain with a spine.

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