The End of the BeginningPosted: June 8, 2011
It’s a sunny morning. We got a hot cup of coffee from Food II and we have placed two seats under the colonna maestra of our parliament building. It’s time for a political discussion about democracy.
Historically, democracy is not a very stable form of government. Both in ancient Greece, in the city states of the Renaissance and in the modern West, it tends to degenerate into tyranny or be monopolised by a small clique. Additionally, you may wonder whether the historical examples of democracy have ever been truly democratic. In Antiquity participation was limited to the native proprietary classes. In the Middle Ages it was controlled by the great mercantile families, and in modern times it was the industrial bourgeoisie which controlled the ‘public thing’.
Nowadays almost everyone has the right to vote, but that doesn’t mean to say that we are finally living in democracy. Policy, structural policy, is being elaborated by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels under the influence of corporate lobbies. On the surface, everything has changed over the centuries, but under ground it’s still the same water that flows to sea.
Also ‘Sol’ itself is not new. But to find a relevant comparison of this type of democratic self-organisation one must go far back. Maybe – mutatis mutandis, of course! – to the Neolithic villages of prehistory.
Yesterday an assembly had to be held, whatever happened. All day long rain hung in the air, and more than once it came down. The guys from Infrastructure spent the entire afternoon sowing canvases together and trying to raise columns. Wires are strung from the lamp posts to the roof of the subway exit. Once the central pillar is pushed up as if it were the American flag on Iwo Jima, cameras are flashing and cheers rise up from the square. The megaphone announces that the entire populace is welcome to help with the tightening of the canvas. Everyone wants to hold a corner of it and little by little it is pulled over the ropes. We have created space.
The assembly was about whether we should continue the acampada, and if so, until when. From the start it was clear that the commissions and the working groups want to lift the tents on Sunday. The Legal commission had drawn up a proposal in this sense. The camp is not an end in itself, it said, but a means. Or rather, the camp has already achieved its goal. A movement is born, the idea of self-determination is spreading over the world. This will not stop if we break up our camp. We will continue to create contacts, to coordinate protests, and to celebrate assemblies. All working groups will continue to meet in public, and everyone will be able to participate. There will be a permanent information point left behind in Puerta del Sol, we will leave the place clean after a grand party and we reserve the right to return here whenever we want.
Most people agree. But there is a significant hard core that wishes to continue the occupation.
Sol is a symbol for the world, the public space is ours, and we must demonstrate that, as long as necessary, they say.
We are witnessing a first split in the movement. On the issue of staying or going there is no consensus possible. The commissions and working groups will look for permanent accommodation, but some campers will stay behind. The final decision of the evening is that we respect each other. We will stand by the people who decide to stay and vice versa. We have a common goal.
But when I walk around at night, eavesdropping in the neighbourhoods of our village to feel the pulse of the common people, I already hear the first signs of resentment.
Here and there the idea has taken root of ‘we’, the ‘real indignados’, against ‘they’, the gentlemen of the Assembly.
Crowd dynamics are a fascinating phenomenon. And even more so when you see how it develops from the very beginning. I’m witnessing the birth of a social movement with enormous potential, for better or worse.
Next sunday the prologue of the relovution will be concluded with a grand celebration in Puerta del Sol. Regardless of whether I agree with the end of the occupation or not, it opens new paths of freedom for me. Whether I stay here in Madrid I do not know. Maybe I’ll grab my backpack and I’ll go travelling through the country to report to you from the province. I am curious to see how the revolution has been developing in other towns and villages in Spain. There is already some talk going around about possible ‘revolutionary marches’. And several data have been picked for large, internationally coordinated protests. So be prepared. The revolution is coming your way this summer!