Joaquín García is my Hero

The Dude

…[S]ometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero?

But sometimes, there’s a man.

And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here.

Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles. And even if he’s a lazy man – and the Dude was most certainly that. Quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.

But sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man.

Aw. I lost my train of thought here.

But… aw, hell.

I’ve done introduced him enough.

The Stranger, The Big Lebowski

And sometimes that man’s name isn’t The Dude but rather a Spanish civil servant named Joaquín García who was able to get way with not working for at least six years. He did this not through any particular application of individual cunning but through bureaucratic confusion:

…the water board had believed García was the responsibility of the city council for most of the period of his employment, while the city council thought he was working for the water board.

The situation was brought to light after Garcia was up for an award regarding his twenty years of service. But it seemed as, in fact, Garcia had not shown up for perhaps as many as 14 years.

Damn, what a champion.

Unfortunately, this story isn’t all rainbows and sprinkles according to Garcia himself. He felt prosecuted for his family’s socialist politics and also felt that his specific position at the municipal water board was a result of this prosecution. Still, he didn’t want to risk speaking up about it for fear of his family facing reprisal for his actions. Garcia even claimed he was harassed but didn’t want to risk his paycheck that helped him support his family, so he left it alone.

Which means that this isn’t simply a happy tale of someone avoiding work, if Garcia is to be believed. It’s a tale of someone going out of their way to spite a regime by constant and near-continuous refusal of work. It’s at once a political act but also not one. It seems unlikely Garcia wanted to cause a ruckus but also didn’t want to do anything either. So he picked the method that seemed to (ahem) work best for him.

Interestingly, Garcia used this time of non-work to brush up on his philosophy. The Guardian notes that he became an avid reader of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who helped lay some of the groundwork for the enlightenment.

Even with this story wrapped up in unfortunate political oppression it’s hard not to chuckle at bits like this:

After the former manager of the water board, who had the office opposite Garcia’s, told Fernández he had not seen his employee for several years, the deputy mayor called the engineer in. “I asked him: what are you doing?” Fernández said. “What did you do yesterday? And the previous month? He could not answer.”

I wouldn’t know how to answer that question either, to be fair. According to Garcia there simply wasn’t work to do, but he didn’t want to risk not getting any other work at his age (Garcia is now 69) and likely feared due to his family’s politics he might face worse harassment and prosecution elsewhere. The bastards decided to reward Garcia’s hard lack of work with a fine, equivalent to $30,000. As far I know this fine is currently being fought out in court.

I can’t find much on Garcia besides what has been stated in the Guardian. He’s clearly not an anti-work person himself but he’s definitely an inspiration to all of us looking for a little time away from activities we despise. I’m not sure what particular tactics he used to avoid work, it seems more like a case of institutional incompetency than individual genius.

But in any matter, he surely shouldn’t be fined such a ridiculous amount. Did he cause some sort of irreparable harm to the public use of water? He cost the institution (and by extension the coerced public) some money via his paycheck. But he didn’t do it for any malicious reason, rather out of desperation for extenuating circumstances. How much should Garcia face the blame for systematic inequalities that were not his individual design? I’m not saying I necessarily I have the answers to the tough questions I’m posing here, but I feel as if they should give pause to anyone who vigorously feels as if Garcia is getting his just desserts by being fined such a gratuitous amount of money.

Can most of us say that if we had a family to support, no other good options, and a culture that (apparently) normalizes discrimination and harassment against our families political beliefs that we’d do much different? Or, at the very least, that we can actually blame Garcia for his actions here?

Honestly, as an anarchist, I have no real issue with a government employee wasting their money.

I understand and empathize with the fact that the “government’s” money is really just the public’s money. But as I’ve said before, this is money that’s already going to be stolen. It may as well get wasted in the most effective ways possible. And for me as an anarchist that means taking the government for a ride as much as you possibly can. And I’m not particularly interested in the reasoning behind such actions either.

Whether it’s to slow down government itself, do some sort of symbolic protest, reclaim some sort of power for oneself or something else, I think there’s many good reasons to do what Garcia did.

The worst part about this situation though is that it shouldn’t take the threat of poverty, political harassment, discrimination and ageism to prompt this course of action on anyone’s part. The fact that Garcia didn’t work for a corrupt and clearly inefficient system should be praised from one corner of the earth to the other. It shouldn’t have led to Garcia gotten poked fun of, or made the media frenzy at him, or face further repression by an already repressive political system.

Desperate people act desperately in desperate times. And this is especially the case when you live under the rule of states and ones that choose to pick you and you family out for various sorts of discrimination. What sort of power could Garcia harnessed otherwise to fight the state? He chose the power that was closest to himself, that was easiest for himself and that he thought work to the benefit of himself and his family the most.

Mr. Garcia chose not to work.

And for that, I salute him.

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