What I have seen….
Madrid, Friday 19th, in the evening.
I ran to Puerta del Sol, to try to be there by the time the restriction imposed by the Electoral Authority should become effective.
The truth is that the Government had already announced that, provided there were no riots or violence by the people, police forces would not act. On the other hand, to reach Sol is quite difficult, since you only access it by narrow streets and only a couple of avenues. But I guess that if the decision was to control and crush the demonstration, they would have certainly found the way.
Basically I had two purposes to go there:
a) See what the demonstration was about.
b) Be there to confirm how the authorities would react.
By 1 a.m. Saturday 20th, nothing unusual had happened yet, related to issue b). This might be in accordance with the forecast that the Government not acting or holding itself back from breaking up the demonstrators, responds to an intentional strategy to re-gain votes, as showing themselves in a benevolent and sympathetic attitude.
Not much more to comment on this.
So I will concentrate more in the first issue, by assessing: 1.- the objectives, 2.- the means, and 3.- Potential results of the event.
It’s very difficult to determine, if there were any, what the original aims were. However, it can be clearly perceived, that the massive attendance to Sol, is provoked by a shared general feeling of anger against politicians and bankers, and the situation of unemployment together with low salaries, due to the recent crisis and consequent actions taken by the Government.
People are also more than disappointed, or should I rather say, fed up, with the opposition role of the conservative parties.
The idea one gets while wandering around is that, although spontaneous and civic, there is no organic elaboration of any kind of proposals, since it is virtually impossible to carry out such a task in just a few days.
The impending election, to take place on Sunday (tomorrow) seems to be missed by the attendees in general, since you don’t really see anyone discussing what or who to vote. And that should be something to concentrate on, in the next hours.
Since there is very little organization, and this is one of the most valuable and praisable characteristic of the event, everything is being spontaneously planned and executed, and therefore, quite improvised. It’s not being said in terms of criticism, in fact, quite the contrary, it’s amazing to see such a crowd overcoming the situation of being still for hours, with little or no comfort at all.
In the centre of the open space, a small group “leads” the meeting somehow, through a microphone and loudspeakers, by performing some chants and phrases, that are immediately chorused by the people.
Inmigrants, with a higly developed entrepreneurial vision, come and go among the crowd, supplying (selling) cool drinks. You would also see beer more than sodas, and smell as much joint as tobacco.
When you approach Sol, the surroundings are filled up with bars, and you cannot say whether the masses of people on the streets are due to the demostration, or if that’s just a standard overcrowded Friday evening. In terms of activities, the core space of Sol, only differs from the surroundings, in its bigger density.
People is quiet, relaxed and smiley, giving absolutely no reason at all to the police forces to act.
It is a true civic and democratic behaviour from every single person in the Plaza.
3.- Potential result:
As a matter of fact, the demostration has already achieved a significant result, which is the self-awareness of the Madrid population.
They must be now experiencing a mix of feelings: surprise, by having taken action, relief, by expressing their anger, and satisfaction of having let off steam, all toghether, regardless each one’s political preference.
But the most important issue, is related to the effect this demonstration will have on the politicians. Admittedly, being so cynical, politicians must be now giving a shit for the demonstration. And to me, this is the weakest link in the chain.
If the demonstration was an end in itself, we can say “Mission accomplished”, and it will clearly turn into a huge achievement.
If the demonstration was a mean to transmit “pressure” to the Government, it will surely be a failure. The status quo will not change only because 200.000 people gathered peacefully in Sol, along a week. They will need a bolder action from people to really become aware that the game – at least as it has been played until now – is over.
The vote is the only tool people actually has, so far, and in the current democracy, to let their representatives know what the majority decision is. Therefore, if people has any power in the modern democracy, it is the vote.
Things as they are, voting the least evil option is not an option, for if the claim is for a “True Democracy”, any positive voting would validate the poor end result, and all of us would have to live with it for another four years. But the worst part is that the feeling within political spectrum (both Government and opposition) would be in that case that “nothing happened”.
If every claim, every sign, every banner, (“you don’t represent us”) ought to be translated into vote, I’m not sure that everybody has the clarity of mind enough to know what he or she should do tomorrow in the dark room.
I’m afraid this election should be sacrificed in the benefit of next ones to come. Otherwise, the actual proof that people wants control of their own lives, will be, again, postponed.