La PAH and the power of peer support

On our previous lecture Mikael Brunila came to talk to us about the situation in Barcelona, where many families have been evicted or are facing the threat of eviction from their homes because they can not pay their mortgages. When the property bubble burst and unemployment in Barcelona increased at the same time, many families found themselves in a terrible situation where they were unable to pay their mortgages, which they were basically forced to take because of the high cost of living and had to leave their homes. To make matters worse, in Spain even after the bank repossesses the property, it does not mean that the family’s debt is automatically fixed. Basically this means that families affected by this mortgage crisis will not only lose their homes but can also be left with crippling debt.

Mikael Brunila also referred to the economic anthropologist David Graeber who has written a famous book about debt, Debt: The First 5000 Years.  Graeber discusses in his book about the struggle between rich and poor and how it largely is responsible for the conflicts between creditors and debtors. Graeber argues about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, repossession, the seizing of properties and the selling of debtors’ children into slavery. Instead we should be discussing how to relieve the burdens of private debts and prevent future abuses of the financial industries power. (R. Kuttner, 2013)

La PAH was formed to fight the injustice that these families have to face. It is based on the belief that solving these injustices can be achieved through direct activities, such as assemblies. Mutual aid is also a key approach to the PAH and individuals are expected to help each other as equals. Collective action within la PAH is creating power for individuals as well as for the whole group. As a result, people feel empowered. The larger context in which la PAH is working is set by the global economic turbulence – and as Crowther and Lucio-Villegas (2012, 59) remind “(T)he global nature of social, economic and environmental problems can lead to feelings of being immobilised by the sheer size of the task; alternatively, shrinking the scale of the problem to community size solutions is to embrace parochialism”.

The change that can happen when people fight for their rights together is remarkable. La PAH has become a very powerful movement in Spain. People have won their cases against banks just because there is La PAH involved. La PAH has made the unfair system known for larger public and taught that the problem is not the individuals – it’s due to the unfair system.

La PAH has given a fresh start for many people. Instead of being left alone and ashamed they have become empowered and have had support to fight against banks and the system. Could this kind of activism be possible in other contexts or in other countries too? Could this kind of peer support help in other social problems too? What are the crucial/critical factors through which PAH is able to contribute  and make remarkable change in the way people see themselves in an overwhelming situation? Even if some of the methods la PAH is using are highly bound to cultural and social context and maybe not as such directly implementable into other environments, the basis of the assembly /activities are very simple: la PAH can be used as an example for analyzing how group support might reduce shame.

Within our group we discussed a lot about the concept of mutual aid, which describes the la PAH movement very well. Could this kind of peer support help for example unemployed? Especially long term unemployment can have a very negative impact on individuals self-esteem. They might have a strong sense of failure or feel ashamed, and very often start blaming themselves for the situation they are in. The la PAHs mutual aid concept could be priceless for many individuals. So the question is, is the concept bound to Spanish culture or could it be implemented elsewhere? For example, would Finnish people feel at ease discussing with strangers at assemblies about their unemployment or bad self-esteem? We think that the peer support groups would give people opportunities to share experiences and information and it could give meaning to many people’s everyday life.

“Don’t be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others…”

/Group L



Crowther, J. &Hall, Lucio-Villegas E. (2012) Reconnecting intellelect and feeling: Max, Gramsci, Williams and the educatior’s role. In Learning and education for a better world: The role of social movements. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Kuttner, Robert (2013) The Debt we shouldn’t pay. Review on Graebers book Debt, the first 5000 years.

Social justice as activism

The assigned readings basically explain the development of social justice, the relationship between social justice, education and activism, and the application of Critical Theory to education. On top of that, Mikael Brunila’s lecture and the video about La PAH further demonstrated how the empowerment of the disadvantaged and the grassroots helps achieve social justice.

Reality of Human Rights and Social Justice

The idea of human rights is multi-dimensional. Especially, we all agree with the UN’s core framework of human rights, which includes (i) the freedom of speech of expression; (ii) the freedom of worshipping God in one’s own way; (iii) the freedom from want; and (iv) the freedom from fear. Also, we believe that in an ideal society with social justice, there should be cultural pluralism, equal economic and social rights, and equal opportunities to express thoughts, and state action to eliminate inequality. However, in reality, human rights are somehow considered to belong to particular groups of people, which implies not everyone is treated equally. In addition, social norms are omnipresent throughout society. They primarily define what is normal, and further cause people to compare themselves with one another. After comparison, social inequality and the differences between individuals are more evident.

Social Justice and Education

In order to enhance the awareness of social justice, education is the most fundamental way. It is essential to provide students with social justice education at an early age, socialising them into the concepts of civil rights, social movements, equality, etc, so that they grow up knowing their own rights. Once they internalise those values, they will know the importance of the pursuit of social justice.

However, the paradoxical thing is that schools are facilities where students learn about social justice, but simultaneously schools are also filled with inequality. For example, in terms of teaching and curricula, teachers usually just teach the history and arts of the majority in the world, but they seldom mention those of other minorities, meaning that students lack the chance to learn about minority cultures. Also, different schools may get different amounts of funding; therefore, those schools with less income cannot provide as many resources as other schools do to their students, which may end up with a wider learning gap. Furthermore, students are directed to different occupations based on their gender, race, ethnicity, etc; however, such segregation in society should not exist. Therefore, according to Freire’s critical pedagogy, every student should learn to question things, to debunk, and in particular to break the seemingly correct and taken-for-granted social norms. That is what education could really be at its best: giving the awareness and understanding of civil rights, and social equality and justice.

Activism as Empowerment of the Oppressed: La PAH

To pursue social justice, social activism is also indispensable. The video and the presentation about La PAH can exactly show how important it is. The debt crisis and the evictions in Spain were unfair and unjust, especially to the grassroots. However, what La PAH has done for many people in recent years can be regarded as both empowerment and education. With the help of La PAH, the oppressed and the marginalised have been given chances to voice their opinions and to be heard. Hence, they have been enabled to question and to take action against the norms and regulations of society, which is the core purpose of empowerment. With the provision of expansive learning by La PAH, people have not only changed their objectives, but they have also learned about mutual aid and the idea that they themselves have the power to change their situation. In short, La PAH is a very typical example of activism, which aims at achieving a higher level of social justice and eliminating economic inequality.


Group E

Guilt tripping

There were a lot of dimensions to the lecture. When we discussed the lecture we found that the most interesting topic was David Graebers theory of guilt tripping. Before the lecture everyone watched a video about mortgages in Spain. In the video they talked about how people don´t have the knowledge about mortgages and how they work. This problem is worldwide. That gives the bank personnel power over the customers, who don´t have enough knowledge about their financial rights. The personnel then can guilt trip the customers, meaning that they can convince the customer that they were in the wrong, even though they weren´t actually in the wrong. When taking this to a national level, we discovered that the current government in Finland too is constantly guilt tripping the Finnish citizens of the national debt. This is an never ending spiral.

Alongside with the bank other institutions that uses the method of guilt tripping are e.g the church and health care. Some churches can guilt trip you in to giving them money in return for holy redemption. Health care specialist can guilt trip you about your lifestyle, which can be seen by constant body shaming you about your weight. This is can be also be seen all throughout society. Parents can also guilt trip their children and vice versa. These are examples of how knowledge can be used as power over someone. Like Nietzsche said about guilt: you don’t need money nor other goods to blame someone or to make the social gap bigger, it is about status and gaining power over the ones who already have less power.

We end our blog by presenting an everyday example: a young female driver who just got her driving lisence vs. a middle-aged man in an expensive car. Young female driver gets guilt tripped by the man about their crash even though the one making the mistake was clearly the middle-aged man.

Read the link here:

Televangelist in America:

Graeber’s video:

-Sofia, Jessica, Tobina, Katri