As I read about the protests today in Spain, I couldn't help but chuckle. Elections take place tomorrow and by law, no protesting or campaigning is allowed the day before elections, as it is to be a day of "reflection." News media typically run stories and ads of candidates hiking or performing other hobbies as a way to wind down after two weeks of intense campaigning. How charmingly Mediterranean.
The joke wasn't lost on the Spaniards either, as many held signs reading such things as: "We're reflecting. Please don't bother us."
Some would say the Arab Spring hopped the Mediterranean and has come now to "civilized" nations. With an unemployment rate of 21.3% (over 40% for youth) and a corrupt political and financial system, most say it's been a long time comin.'
I know I've said this before, but fuck that sounds familiar!
One protester Natividad Garcia said, "They want to leave us without public health and public education. Half of our youth is unemployed and they have raised the age of retirement."
Um...did I drink bleach or could that easily be an American discussing the issues with this country? Only exception is that there really isn't a "retirement age." You can technically retire at 65, but fuck if most people actually can. With an economy so deep in shit, you need scuba gear to find a dollar, the overwhelming majority keep working til they die. Uplifting isn't it?
The Spanish don't think so - a record 10,000 people have camped out, some since May 15th protesting the current situation in Spain. Elections will be held tomorrow, but the Madrid square, Puerta del Sol shows no signs of being cleared out by morning. In fact, many protesters have confirmed that the plan is to stay through the elections.
Juan Lopez, a spokesman for the protest said, "Now on Monday, we have to see how this develops and what the answer is. The best-case scenario, which is the one we would like, is that they will come down here as citizens to hear us, and to make a new and better Spain, a new and better democracy with all of us are together."
That certainly does sound like a best-case scenario. But with tens of thousands of people in Madrid alone, demanding change, it's hard to ignore. Even though the current protests are illegal, no police have shown up, no military. The peaceful protests have gone on without much interference from the government, suggesting there may be more than just a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The conservative parties are expected to over power the socialist party, now in power.
Tomorrow, 13 out of the 17 regional presidents and parliaments will be elected along with mayors for Spain's 8,000 cities and towns. Needless to say, there's a lot of voting to be done. Protesters hope to keep momentum going until the national elections, due before March of 2012. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that he felt particularly singled out in the protests against Spain's political system. Well yeah, I can see that. However, as we know, it's not just the tip of the iceberg that's to fault for a sinking ship. It's a collective effort (or lack thereof) to throw a country into economic despair.
Regardless of whether the Arab world is contagious or Facebook's activist power is insurmountable, I'm cheering for the Spanish.
Any people that takes an interest in their country, any people who takes the initiative to make their voices heard can effect change. It's only US vs. Them until Them becomes a representation of US. Of course there's no utopia where everyone is happy and kumba-ya is the national anthem (although I don't find that song very Utopian) but an engaged people is the biggest threat to a corrupt government. An educated, involved people is the birth place of democracy. Corruption loves a stupid mass...US.