Puerta del Sol Madrid Demonstrations, Elections 2011

 

Image by UStream Channel MotionLook

Politics & religion are two issues they say never to discuss when traveling abroad as they’ll only cause problems. Discussion and debate, while necessary, is also exhaustive and requires effort and patience. The tens of thousands of people in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol are there for political reasons but also to raise awareness of a number of issues – to be discussed below.

How would you feel if you had a bank mortgage on your house and lost your job because of employment cutbacks due to the worldwide economic crisis? How would you pay your mortgage? Worse would be if you lost your job, couldn’t pay your mortgage, AND lost your house to the bank, right? Sure. Well, it gets worse. In Spain, even after the bank takes your house you must continue to pay until the end of the terms of the mortgage – AND be denied any future mortgage requests because of it. If this happens to you when you’re 25 or 30 or 40 years old you can pretty much forget your future.

The above is what happens – and IS happening – in Spain and this is just one of many reasons why tens of thousands of (mostly) young people have been demonstrating nonstop in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol – and dozens of plazas in Spain – since the 15th of May. They’re fed up. And not only with this, but also with political corruption of the top tier parties, banks, and unemployment. Add all this together and you have a generation with a very unstable future. Those families/people with influence and money will never have problems with the above and so, clearly, those people tend to belong to the more affluent political parties. And those same people with money aren’t usually those whom are demonstrating around Spain. It’s always been like that. The rich never protest. The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor – so that the rich can stay rich. That’s survival of the fittest, right? Yes, but when you have no chance in the first place because the leaders you trust are selling-you-out, it’s hard to survive.

It’s true, the group of people demonstrating in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and around Spain are part of the left-of-center political parties. We can’t deny that. But just because of that we shouldn’t turn our back on them – as would be the nature of many right-thinking nations of the world. 10 years ago I would’ve read that and essentially stopped reading, stopped caring, and presume “Those socialists will never learn. Their political views got them in this mess.” Clearly, to anyone who thinks clearly, can see that “socialism” (such as modern socialism goes – which is not much further left than USA’s Democratic Party) is not to blame here. It IS the entire system which has broken down. The WORLD’S economic ills have made a bad situation much much worse, politicians and banks making back-room deals and gambling with the futures of their citizens.

How would you like it if you lost your job? If you were lucky enough to have/keep your job, how would you like it if your wage (which is ALREADY among the lowest in Europe) was cut while still paying high income taxes? (Spain pays slightly less in income tax than Switzerland!!)

Today, Sunday, is when Spain votes in local and regional elections – but not for president. That’s next year and it in itself will be yet another slap in the face. When things are bad, people want change, no matter what that change will be. So Spain votes on Sundays. What a great idea to have voting on a weekend when everyone can attend – not like in other countries which do so on a, say, Tuesday, forcing low voter turnout because they can’t leave work. So today people voted – OR DIDN’T. Many of those demonstrating say they’ll either NOT vote – as a way of punishing their party – or vote for one of the dozens of tiny political parties which never get more than a few thousands votes during normal elections.

This year, the elections are anything but “normal”. This year we will see the PSOE (Socialist Party) take a bare-knuckle beating, allowing PP (Partido Popular – conservative party) to win by a much greater margin than usual. They’ll be happy, of course, as they have few worries in this world anyway. They’re the ones with all the money & influence, afterall. But many working class people vote PP too because of their conservative views too. This is totally understandable and I don’t blame them for this. To each his/her own.

It would also seem that any group of people who can front the application fee can claim to be a political party. It’s all about freedom and choice here in Spain, something I really like. Everyone knows that in the USA there are essentially TWO political parties; Democrats & Republicans. Some would argue there are three parties, including the Independent Party – and maybe a fourth being the Green Party. But the top two parties gain like 96% of the total votes. This year in Spain’s local/regional elections there are about 20 political parties all elbowing for your attention. But unlike in the USA, the top two parties won’t gain 96% of the total votes. Here you have a couple FAR right-wing parties with the Francoist term “La Falange” in them. Scary. There are also a couple FAR left-wing parties with the term “Communist” in them. Also kind of scary to my American mind. Funny (OR NOT!) how we Americans, in general, are more accepting of a right-wing point of view than a left-wing point of view. It takes years and generations to formulate a perception, whatever it may be. In Spain, a left-wing (or even communist) point of view is totally normal and acceptable. In the USA, you get yourself labeled a communist and you’ll have your house firebombed within a week or, at the very least, shunned by society.

Also as in the USA, the Spanish media must allow an equal amount of TV-time to all parties involved in elections. So imagine the block of time for the one-after-another campaign commercials! That’s where you really learn of the existence of these people.

The “political party” which makes me scratch my head more than the others is the “Partido Pirata” – whose election platform promises to (fight to) allow everyone to legally download copyrighted music, movies, software, anything via the Internet without fear of repercussions. Wait, isn’t that commonly, casually, and proudly done in Spain already??

In the next hour or so we’ll all have the results of the local and regional elections in Spain. Once the votes are counted and political positions acquired/retained/lost, will Madrid’s Puerta del Sol return to its normal state? Time will certainly tell. The demonstrators swore they’d stay from the 15th of May until Election Day – today. Just now the “La Asamblea General de Acampada Sol” says they’ll stay until Sunday, 29 May. Whatever happens, history has been made. At this point it’s not clear if elected officials will heed the wants of those demonstrating or not. I tend to think not. But at the very least, some of those young people peacefully voicing demands will one day hold political office themselves. Will they take their youthful opinions with them or will they sell-out too?

 
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