Can Europe Make It?

On centrism and independence in Spain

"Facing an increasingly self-centered centre, we stand for citizens who are open to the world and to the present time, capable of organizing and cooperating according to their abilities and aspirations."

Simona Levi
2 October 2015
Colmenas» de la M-30 (Madrid, 1953).

Colmenas» de la M-30 (Madrid, 1953). Flickr/Alvaro Ibáñez. Some rights reserved.

After the regional elections

I’m done with extremes. Extremes never reflect the complexity of reality. Reality is much more radical than the purity of ideals. Reality is always a mix.  

Even so, electoral politics – like sport - is still a space for the extremes, for opposing blocs.

Political parties, notoriously, do not solve problems; they actually work to exacerbate them and to create clear contrasts, so that the meeting points, which are always there in reality, disappear. Our fraternity and affections are plural and diverse by nature, whereas the vote inevitably compels us to tilt to one side. The vote is always exclusive.

It is not true that there is no conflict when the two contenders do not want it. It is not true that responsibility lies always on both sides. It is not true, that is, if dignity, justice and the desire to fully and happily realize one’s potential are human aspirations that must be respected. Abuses exist, and so do those who have more strength than others. There are those who do wrong and those who are wronged. There are those who look down on others and those who fight for their freedom and living space.

I feel I am a citizen of the world. I do not want borders any more than I want polarization. But sometimes, many times, you have to position yourself.

I have been living in Catalonia for the last 25 years - in Barcelona, a beautiful city that I am privileged to have been able to choose. This is a land that has welcomed me, respected me and offered me the space I needed even though, after 25 years, I do not speak the language properly. I myself would not have been so tolerant. 

It is a cosmopolitan land, crossed by many roads and travellers have always been a part of the landscape – this is why it is a land which is skilled in updating and renewing itself without losing its idiosyncrasy. It is a land that listens, learns and creates. It has been, and it is, therefore, at the forefront of many things.

Contrary to what the propaganda of fear puts around, I have no doubt whatsoever that it will continue to be so, that it will not shut itself in through independence, but rather the opposite: it now finds itself in a situation where it is compelled to close ranks in order to make itself listened to and respected. Freed from this situation, it will keep on being multilingual, cosmopolitan, and a part of a complex, networked world that lies well beyond Madrid.

The problem is not Spain. The problem is Madrid. This is in any case the reason why I – and many more people like me – are voting for the independence candidates, even though there are people we deeply respect who are running on other platforms.

Madrid has withdrawn into itself. Madrid suffers from the M-30 Syndrome (the M-30 orbital motorway circles the central districts of Madrid and is one of the busiest Spanish roads, famous for its traffic jams).

I was Italian. I have chosen to be Catalan, from Barcelona, and above all from the Internet district.

I think it is inconceivable, in the Internet era, that there should be only one, unique centre where everything is decided without any interaction with anyone outside. I am not even disagreeing with the idea that there should be a centre where things get decided. What seems highly anachronistic to me is the fact that this centre, like a wall, like a blind and deaf steamroller, is not benchmarking its actions with the world around it - a world where there may be better ideas, interesting opinions, innovations to be considered, and even jokes we have never heard before which can help us laugh at ourselves.

In the Internet district, there are no unique partners, nor is there a single place that is the centre of everything.

Madrid has forgotten the rest of Spain. Madrid talks about Madrid, meets with Madrid and comments on Madrid. Madrid agrees with Madrid, fights with Madrid and finally gives the power of decision to Madrid. Madrid thinks of Madrid as if Spain was Madrid. This has gotten worse with the crisis and with the fact that the headquarters of most of the mainstream media are in nowhere else but Madrid – so, if something does not happen in Madrid, it just never happened.

You can hardly wish to live in a country where the only place that has the right to identity and independence is... Madrid.

Unfortunately, many a comrade has been dragged in by this drift. And this, in turn, has dragged in all the parties, old and new.

Political debates are often held exclusively with participants from Madrid - even when they are not held in Madrid, as witnessed during the campaign in Catalonia. This is not to say that the comrades from Madrid do not stand out in many fields, but there are certainly issues in which outstanding contributions can also come from other places.

The Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform of Mortgage-Affected Citizens – PAH) originated in Barcelona, and so did 15Mparato (15Mforawhile), Iaioflautas (Flutegranddads), Observatori Ciutadà Municipal (Citizen Monitoring Centre – OCM), Partido X (X Party), Guanyem (Let us win). Other quite remarkable things happened in the nearby town of Terrassa, which has been a social battlefield for decades. All over Spain, citizen groups are making a difference: they are shaping our collective history but they are never mentioned in the TV news or in the important forums that set the agenda in the capital, simply because they do not happen to be in Madrid.

A graphic example: I myself witnessed the creation of Democracia Real Ya (Real Democracy Now), which was instrumental in generating the 15M movement (the Indignados), where people from Madrid were by no means the largest or the most active group. Yet, in May this year, there was a document going around that read: "15M anniversary activities in Madrid and the provinces (meaning the rest of the country)." Probably, the last people who spoke like this were the prefects of the Roman Empire.

What so many people are demanding in Catalonia - but not only there - is recognition of their existence as such: of their otherness, their needs, their vital and historic wishes. They are demanding recognition so that they may cooperate in all their diversity.

Things being what they are as far as dialogue and peer recognition are concerned, Catalonia with its own identity is a much more valuable partner than a non-existent Catalonia.

The same applies to any other people in Spain.

We are asking our comrades in many fights to help us exist, so that we can work together in a distributed and de-centralized way for the r-evolution that many of us are carrying out in this country.

Facing an increasingly self-centered centre, we stand for citizens who are open to the world and to the present time, capable of organizing and cooperating according to their abilities and aspirations.

Voting is by no means the most important thing or the essence of what we need to do to change an unjust and undemocratic world. It is just one of the many tools that we have finally begun to use in our favour.

We want a world for the people who live in it, not for those who rule it.

We keep on going.

M-30, Madrid.

M-30, Madrid. Flickr/Ricardo Ricote Rodríguez. Some rights reserved.

Thanks go to Oleguer Sarsenedas from democraciaAbierta for translating this piece into English.

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