There is a particular pleasure in penning this fourth update to the Hexagram 42 – Increase energies predicted by the I Ching to be the dominant energy flow of 2011. While the first three updates (tag increase right) were commentaries on situations taking place in distant countries, this update is happening on my doorstep. I was strolling through the Barcelona concentration site in Plaça Catalunya this very morning, soaking up the scene, picking up the pamphlets that were being handed out and seeing what supplies were needed. But before we get into the scene, let’s get some context to better understand what it is and why it is now.
Spain: the last of the PIGS standing, rumored to be “too big to fail”. The official unempoyment rate is 21%, but in the 18-25 bracket it reaches 45%. Huge swathes of the productive population is chained to the banks with mortgages taken out in the pre-2008 boom years, when debt was cheap and homes were expensive. It is worth mentioning here that in Spain the small print on mortgages does NOT allow termination by handing in the keys and walking away… if you’re underwater, you drown. If you used family member assets as collateral for the mortgage, they drown too. Tough titties. Did you know that by a twist of cosmic irony, the name of Spain’s biggest bankster translates literally as “booty”, as in pirates? No joke.
To make a long and depressing story short: the boom years profits were privatized, now it is time for the losses to be socialized. Just like everywhere else… except Iceland, they got it straight.
Meanwhile, next Sunday the 22nd is day of municipal elections throughout Spain, which means that we’ve been hammered with the daily sight of the political dog and pony show with the usual suspects going through the motions, the lies and the photo-ops. Despite being a multi-party democracy, Spain is a de facto two-party monopoly between the socialists and the conservatives, which hold the two main parliamentary blocks, with all the rest of the country’s parties fighting over the remnants. The ingrained corruption of the political system can be demonstrated in numbers: over 100 candidates next Sunday are under judicial investigation and/or indicted for various types of corruption, from paybacks to downright theft. This complete disdain for the intelligence and dignity of the average voter by the professional politico-thieves that live off tax-payer money –not exactly a new circumstance– has broken the camel’s back in the context of the crisis, the lack of jobs and now the cutbacks.
A famous Spanish proverb says: “Si rasuran al vecino, pon tu barba a remojar”… if they shave your neighbour, start soaking your beard. We’ve seen what happens, how the game plays out in the other PIG countries once the IMF gets their knife in and starts the bleeding. We can sit around and wait for it to get like Greece, strikes and riots every day, or we can sit around in large numbers right now and try to bring some sanity before the place goes up in flames. Every day that passes there seems to be less to lose and more to gain by putting a spoke in the wheels that are leading us off the collective cliff.
So what is IT? It is a twitterface-powered movement that first appeared last Sunday in the famous Plaza del Sol in Madrid, mostly young people that filled the square and stayed there until they were cleared out by the cops, only to return the next day with the vow to weather it out. The movement has various names, los indignados (the outraged), 15-M (in reference to the first manifestation on the 15th of May) and the most official one: Democracia Real Ya! (DRY!) or Real Democracy Now! and it’s main slogan is “We are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers”.
Here in Barcelona the movement is smaller and unconsolidated, but there seems to be the idea of waiting it out, even “taking” the square. Of course, if they put up tents, they’re camping illegally and will be expelled. If they let litter accumulate, they will be expelled to let the cleaning brigade through. So brooms and garbage bags were high on the “Needed Items” chalkboard this morning, when there were almost as many tourists taking photos as people protesting (actually, sitting around and playing various instruments), but they all got a copy of the paper shown above, which includes a piece in English that ran in the Washington Post last Monday the 16th explaining who they were and why they were there. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/acampadabcn for photos of the Barcelona camp, including the one included in this post; also see the Barcelona movement’s blog at http://acampadabcn.wordpress.com/ (in Catalan and Spanish).
The movement, which defines itself as apartisan and asindicalist but NOT apolitical, has been prohibited by the Electoral Committee due to being in campaign time, prohibition which has been totally ignored by the thousands of people taking the squares in cities all over Spain. Saturday will be a big day because more people will be available to take the streets on the “day of reflection” before Sunday’s vote. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more people and more great signs, which will be worth a future post. So far, my favorite in all its brutal succintness is “No hay pan para tanto chorizo”, literally there’s not enough bread for so much chorizo (sausage, jargon for thief), meaning we’re fed up. Bread and chorizo are deep Spanish psyche things, so it’s a message that resonates strongly.
Some pundits are already saying that by Monday this will be over, because the elections are on Sunday. That remains to be seen. What I saw today didn’t look like something that’s about to pack up and ship out because some municipal elections are over, unless of course the economy magically recovers and everyone suddenly gets jobs between now and next Monday. However, for now I’m calling this movement the Spanish Bloom… fragile, tender, vulnerable and yet with fertile, seedbearing potential if only it can survive long enough. Let the Increase flow.