Vicent Martí is a farmer and activist for Per L’Horta (a platform in defense of the 'green belt' agricultural land in Valencia). In a speech he delivered at the Europa Forum in September 2015, Vicent brought into a hall full of members of the economic and political elites an indignation and weariness about the current socio-political situation in Spain shared by many ordinary citizens suffering the consequences of the politics of austerity and corruption.
Vicent used this rare opportunity to speak from the heart, with great thoughtfulness; his voice and image took the mainstream Spanish media by storm, representing a cry for human dignity and a symbol of authenticity.
Vicent was invited to speak at the Europa Forum by Monica Oltra, a social and political activist, now the Vice-President of the Valencian Autonomous Regional Parliament with the Compromís Coalition (governing in alliance with the Socialist Party, which has the Presidency of the Parliament). Compromís also holds the Mayoral Office for the city of Valencia, after emerging as the voice of the opposition to the Popular Party with all its long-term corruption scandals in the region. Compromís has reached an agreement with Podemos to collaborate in the run up to the General Elections on December 20.
This special contribution to our guest week brings Vicent Martí’s views into our discussion, with the translated transcript of his spectacular introductory speech for Monica Oltra at Europa Forum,which exemplifies the fresh ideas coming from below in formations like Compromís Podemos, as well as the social movements.
It foregrounds the necessity of allowing a voice to the voiceless as a form of empowerment and hegemony-building and as a fairer type of politics. Vicent’s voice breaking out onto the mainstream political scene, in the way that it did, created an opening in the public sphere for a face-to-face, genuine confrontation of ideas, experiences and emotions in a space traditionally reserved for ruling elites.
The voice and stripped down language of an ordinary citizen from a rural background reaching the screens of millions of other ordinary, hard-working citizens was a reminder that 'you are not alone'. It was an acknowledgement that many in Spain are not resigned to accepting defeat and they continue to struggle and resist with strength and courage as they are expanding the spaces for hope and optimism, through envisioning alternatives for change based on ethics, humanism and a care for the environment.
Speech delivered at the Europa Forum – Mediterranean Tribune on 29 September 2015:
Vicent Marti speaks at the Europa forum.
"Good day, and thank you for the invitation that you have extended to me!
I come from the countryside and find myself very stunned, left with no ability to comprehend anything. I don’t comprehend how there’s so much wealth here when it’s evident that there are people out there who are unable to live. So really, I’m amazed. It’s something that strikes me very much. I come from the countryside, from L´Horta of Valencia, a town that has been abused by politicians (by all or almost all politicians), large industries, by speculation, by shamelessness.
Then I come here and have to ask: What is it that is happening here? In what world do you live, at least most of you, while there is a society out there that is dying of disgust and has just enough to make it to the end of the month.
These are questions that I ask myself. Normally I ask myself such questions in private, but now that I have the opportunity —and since we are never given the chance to speak out publically—, I will try to take advantage of this moment. Some of you will be pleased, and others not so much, nonetheless this is the reality. When I come to think about the number of immigrants that we have in this country and in Europe, I ask myself: how does this arise?
Well it’s very simple, ladies and gentlemen. The colonization of America, of Africa… a genocide. This immigration that we have now is the chickens coming home to roost. It is the result of big companies investing and taking out profit at any cost. It does not matter that people are dying. It does not matter that people are left on the streets. What matters is my business, a business which in reality could be ethical, but it’s not. Respecting the environment and the people would involve me in a huge effort; this way, it isn’t.
Either way, you, with all the privilege that you may have, you will die just like myself. You know that when you take off your ties, when you take off your suits, underneath we’re all the same: butt naked. We entered the world butt naked and we will leave it that way.
I think we should reflect a little. Politics should have an ethical basis and be humanistic in order to go on, but it isn’t. The government must be ethical and humanistic in its approach in order to have human progress, but it isn’t. We only serve our own interests. Politics is not about fighting against one another, it’s about reaching agreements. It is about living and letting live.
L´Horta of Valencia has been mistreated by all politicians, or at least by the majority. L´Horta of Valencia represents the strength and health of a town. That town is the Valencian town. It is the city of Valencia and the metropolitan area. It’s the land of Valencia which depends on the health of L'Horta, its professionals and the politics that you would implement; under the impression that you would know your politics, have ethical standards, and be compassionate.
The workers are neglected and local markets are being taken out of business due to large companies such as Mercadona and others that are taking the liberty of ending all small businesses. Now, tell me how you think the economy is supposed to function for the people?
The city of Valencia is not for the sole purpose of acting as a service road for all the main highways. Where are the bike lanes and pavements? What kind of world do we live in?
We have a city with resources that are incomparable in the rest of the world, yet we fail to know how to take advantage of such circumstances. We have an excellent climate along with other fantastic virtues. We have the legacy of our Arab brothers, but we sooner mistreat them than take advantage of the culture they have left us.
Vicent at work. Photo used with permission of author.I could continue on for a while and share a vast amount of things with you, for I know that deep inside you also have a heart like me. However you still represent something that is entirely wrong. The world exists differently out on the streets; there are different circumstances. You guys are no different than the others; you should be representing us. We too want to be engaged in meetings and talk shows just like all the politicians and some journalists, yet we don’t want to form narrow circles of power like everyone else. When one listens to the radio or watches television it’s always the same group of people.
If this is truly a democracy, we the people have the right to intervene and participate, to prevent the system from becoming engulfed by capitalism or communism – either way they both strive for power. I don’t defend either capitalism or communism; I only want to defend our common sense.
It is this what we should do, but we don’t. We can and we have the power to do so. For us, and the generations to follow, caring for the earth is caring for everyone’s health, so that we may need fewer hospitals. What do we supply to hospitals and give our children to eat? Nothing but the low quality, rubbish and poison of large multinationals, because ‘that’s the way that business works’. They do business with the future of our children and grandchildren.
Do you not read? Are you incapable of reacting or looking further afield, beyond your cramped office?
You must step out onto the street. You must go to the countryside. You cannot keep your bollocks and ovaries locked in an office. One must be brave and do politics. The reason I am here is all thanks to Monica, because I could see that she does humanitarian politics. She has ethics, she has responsibility, and she was brave enough to go out to the neighborhood of Cabanyal to be struck by the police, as well as to go to La Punta, a zone that’s been battered by the Popular Party and the Socialists.
This is a reality, and I’ve lived it. They have driven people out of their homes and broken families apart. What political responsibility do you have? What does the Popular Party do? That’s what’s on the table. Those who were driven out are due the return of their land and homes. This would prove that the politicians are true politicians who have a sense of kindness, a humanity about them.
There she is Monica, on the streets of L'Horta, and the difference is that she practices a humanitarian politics while most of you don’t. What happens with the banks? Why are they allowed to be unethical? Why does all the money have to be spent on roads, guns, and lies? Do you believe that society is either blind or ignorant? How is it that she has gotten where she’s gotten? She’s compassionate and does everything from the heart, along with demonstrating bravery, which are characteristics that many of you lack. Both, politicians and citizens should have courage and guts.
I’ve been wanting to talk for a while because there is no place for me to speak. And that’s because you have everything tightly controlled. The media is in the service of power, a corrupt power – this has been more than demonstrated. This is why it’s necessary to reflect thoroughly and make politics be as it should be. That is why I’m here. For no other politician would I have come to this forum, except for Monica. Thank you."
Video of the speech in Catalan-Valencian at the Europa Forum.