The first thing that impressed me in 2004 in Madrid and later on in 2008 when I spent most of the year again in Madrid was the frequency of ETA’s attacks and the lack of communication outside Spain. Of course in 2004 what impressed me more, having been hosted nearby Delicias underground station, 5’ by foot far from Atocha Station, was the reaction of common people in Madrid after the Atocha attack. The Aznar’s lies in the upcoming national election about the organization besides the ferocious attack made him lose a very possible victory. People, besides this political choice, was in the streets and squares of Madrid for days voluntarily. Massively and without a strong role of any formal institution (like unions or so). It was a spectacle and a lesson for a possible rejuvenation for a flat and Berlusconi dominated Italy. At least, I was thinking this as an Italian young sociologist.
In 2008 people were often on the street. The reason was to join the flourishing economy of the previous 30 years and to try to deny the fatal crisis that knocked down Spain. Spain in 2008 looked like “The town of toys” of Pinocchio when the children wake up as little donkeys. However, Spaniard were massive, self-confident, noisy (in positive such as in negative term), clearly democratic. Having being told for months that Italy sucked by flatmates and people even in Academia (yes, diplomacy and politeness were not widespread and I got an almost dirty Spanish dictionary, and I always justified myself by saying that I lived close to Lavapiés…), I realized that Spain got a problem. The perfect metaphor was a Spaniard version of the Candlewick (Lucignolo) by Collodi. I reported many reflections in 2008 in a Splinger blog, but they went lost, alas.
In 2012 I was again back for three months. The democratic massive participation was even larger. People looked not tired at all after Indignados’ movement (the “Occupy Wall Street” Spanish version). Sol, and Calle del Arenal (the cuts on public street cleaners help… ) looked different in 2012 from what I watched in 2001 from Tv. The crisis was deep and couldn’t be denied any more. Zapatero was politically dead and even his persona was labeled as a lies teller. 2012 taught me that Spain was still very vital, like Italy was in the bloody 70s. But how long this goodwill to participate in demonstration if the local government is hostile? Don’t you get discouraged if you continue to assist to privatizations (included that of firemen, whose implementation may bring to have inequalities toward fires in a big city like Madrid) even though they are just business and retrenchment of the Welfare State?
For instance in 2012 I saw several times police hidden in strategic places in order to intervene promptly in case of necessity. Allegations about a not democratic behavior by them didn’t miss. Ok, after Genoa 2001 an Italian citizen should shut up, but Madrid did not appear to me the noisy and loudly loquacious safe place where to have fun. There were reasons to be in a positive mood. A Greek guy in a pub near Gran Via told us that Spain was much better than Greece: over there people got violent for a word. I mean: it was reported to me that people uses crash helmet to argue about politics… The statistical battles included to turn public lights on during the strikes’ days in order to show higher consumption of energy and therefore to justify official lower participation (the more the consumption in public places, the less the people in the streets to protest. It is technically called proxy and should be fair, not this way). I remembered to have joked, at Cantoblanco, with a statistician friend who told me that, on the contrary, the best indicator to measure the degree of conflict is to look at the range between the unions’ official declared number of participants and the Mayor’s one. The wider the difference, the harsher the conflict. In 2012 the range was comic with almost a ratio of 1 to 10.
Now there is Podemos [Podemos, “We can”, is the same slogan TVs and people used to support the Spanish national football team in European Championship in 2008, and it worked indeed], and the long conservative domain in Madrid is over.
This post is not about Podemos, because I sincerely don’t know that much. It is about a law that should turn into force on next July 1st nicknamed the gag-law.
This law drastically reduces the freedom of participation in public places (even here and here). It even declares forbidden to tape with a Smartphone what a police officer might do during his/her job in controlling the public safety (what if Smartphones were in Genoa 2001?!). Fares are super fat and you go straight to the penal trail if you say something not authorized. I don’t enter further details as I read only few articles, but this shocked me. How the Catalan people will react to this for instance? By saying: “Ok, now we shall never claim again the independence because it could be out of law”? Please, let’s be realistic. This cap over a boiling water will only makes water to boil with bigger bubbles.
Is this the way to resolve the crisis? Is it all about to deny once again that something unpleasant does exist? To have as a national strategy the ostrich underground head is clever, very clever, ladies and gentlemen.
In UK Mr. Cameron already plummeted the possibilities to have strikes by means of considering illegal any action by a union that has less than 40% or so of membership in a certain organization. Something like that would be totally anti-constitutional in Italy and I guess in many other countries. But it is possible in UK.
How can Europe exit this crisis if it is dominated by such Conservatives (you can see that when Polish Conservatives meet British Conservatives: just reciprocal incomprehension) parties and the Labor ones are so weak and ideas missing? The political crisis is more dangerous than any financial one.