From outside, it is easy to see this place as flawless, as a utopia. However, only by staying here for a week you will start seeing this perfection cracking down progressively and after the eight months we’ve been living together tensions and anger have appeared and resurged from time to time. Sometimes, it gets too much.
There’s always a debate going on, and if you had the epiphany of your life or you stick with your opinions and your mission to convert others to the death; life here is exhausting. In heated or regular conversations agreeing is rarely the chosen option and everyone feels the urge to have an opinion and voice it. I guess we’re not conformist enough to be indifferent.
“When everyone has an opinion, it’s the end of democracy.” exclaimed my friend Carlos during a dinner table discussion.
Democracy, where did I learn this word? Home. I’m a citizen of one of the 123 countries out of 192 (1) (2013 data) that enjoys the privilege of being a democratic state. Spain in my case.
However, in the general elections of May 2011, we chose to leave our power, every four years as Spain has been a representative democracy, completely in the hands of the Partido Popular (People’s Party). And by giving to them the absolute majority, (153 seats out of 350) (2) the hope for a relevant political debate was lost. How can a political debate still be relevant in the Parliament if you don’t even need to convince anyone of your ideas? A week before the elections, a week before we would bind ourselves for four years of deleting effective confrontation from official political life, the Spanish people decided to take the street in siege. The movement was called Los Indignados (The indignants) that according to The Guardian was the “harbinger of massive Israeli protest in the summer and the Occupy Wall Street Movement taking shape in the US” (3). This movement had no clear direction, no regularity and its assembly system was dreadfully slow. However, people got politicized as hasn’t been seen in decades and the anger was audible in the Spanish streets. Those few months marked us as a society and are still not forgotten, four years after.
The Partido Popular was elected because of an enormous discontent but the same anger that gave them power could take it back. Out of this spontaneous demonstration a party called Podemos was created and a major Spanish newspaper, El País, placed on a survey last month, first in vote intention. Those surveys are not reliable as data can vary greatly between November/January (range of dates of the following general elections) but for a country that has been governed by only two parties alternating each other successively since 1982, it is the symbol that a big change is coming.
Looking at this story under this lens, the new law of Seguridad Ciudadana (Citizen Security), nicknamed la Ley Mordaza (the gag law) is only logical but that doesn’t make it legitimate.
How can …..
a public protest in front of the Parliament and other governmental buildings be thought as a “disturbance of public safety” → 30,000 euros fine
people joining and spontaneously a protesting near utilities, nuclear power plants, around public transport or similar areas → 600,000 euros fine
recording law enforcement authorities or policies and/or using them, for example to document abuses that HAVE HAPPENED recently (4) → 30,000 euro fine (7)
(I’m not an expert and recommend you watch this video to understand better how absurd are the powers that this law gives to the police: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp1PVp7p1Uk )
How can any of those three examples listed above…
be considered just?
I wish I was writing fictional poetry, or dystopias but this law was passed with an absolute rejection of the opposition (but who controls the parliament?) and will be a full, tangible reality in July.
When a UN Human Right group of experts said that the law: “threatens to violate individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms”(5), Fernández Díaz, the Spanish Interior Minister and advocate of the law accused the UN of criticizing the law without having read it. (6)
It is so revolting that the New York Times has called this law “ominous” (7). And I fear it too, the end of democracy.
A group called “No Somos delito” (We’re not a crime) organize maybe the only form of demonstration that will be legal starting in July this year: by holograms. (8)
I hope for a miracle, I really dream that this government will be changed by one which will be eager to hear us shout; eager to hear us think and not try to reduce time for subjects such as Philosophy in school, because this very self-serving law is destroying what we have built since the end of dictatorship in 1978.
While I was passionately explaining this to my friend Rodrigo, of course, he didn’t agree to it. Honestly, I doubt he knows much about Spanish society, politics or history but thinking back I’m glad he did it.
I’ll disagree with Carlos, for me everyone voicing their opinions is just the start of democracy. As slow as running on a beach, but the sea of opportunities that arise when my mouse is not shut down, is immense.
You’re welcomed to check all the articles I referred to, listed below, all are in English but one (6) that I just could find in Spanish.
Written by Aina de Lapparent
Edited by Carlos Sevilla
Copy-edited by Maria Tirnovanu