Saturday, 4 June 2011

Spinning it out...

It´s now June and it is apparent that the Spanish revolution that exploded on the 15th May (dubbed 15-M) has no inclination of pettering out gradually. On the contrary, the protesters´ camp in Puerta del Sol is showing all the signs of permanence and longevity: the motley conglomeration of tents has been slowly multiplying, an efficient rubbish collection system and street cleaning rotation has developed and the temporary rest zones have become increasingly well-furnished. Weaving through the paraphernalia that constitutes a resident makeshift village is now a daily normality.

One can´t help but admire its staying power. Two weeks on from the initial outburst and Sol still becomes a congested hotspot every evening, each night built around a structured program of talks. At different hours, various speakers are encircled by a mass of spaniards. Some sitting on the concrete listening avidly, others watching avidly from scaffolding erected on the roadside, they all periodically they raise their arms in the air, waving their fingers in a spirit-fingered-style salute or jingling a bunch of keys to show their appreciation or agreement (an unobtrusive tactic employed, somewhat ironically, to minimise disturbances and noise pollution).

However, though it is undoubtedly refreshing to see a society shaken out of indifference and roused to indignant action, I can´t help but think that the impact of 15-M, two weeks on, is starting to fade. Though developed as intentionally broad and non-political - an all-encompassing protest against a worn-out system - for being so directionless it seems to be losing its way. In fact, as far as I can tell, it has become a forum for anything remotely alternative. The signs bemoaning unemployment and political corruption are now interspersed with an array or irrelevancies – accusing exclamations unveiling the 11th Sept conspiracy, optimistic calls to repeal the anti-tobacco laws and, of course, the standard slaughter house horror stories from animal rights activists. Surely it would have packed more punch if it had been cleared up before it spiralled into a vague hippie protest about everything. Surely using the momentum of the initial demonstration to take steps towards achievable changes would have been much more constructive.

On reflection, spinning things out beyond a reasonable timeframe seems to be something of a Spanish characteristic. The prolonged parties of my housemates, for example, seem to follow an extended timetable that is beyond all reason: their return home at around 10am after an all-night party has become a common-place event about twice a week. Most recently, they have inaugurated “Sunday, the day of Fiesta”: a file of hard-core party-goers storm into the flat and Sunday morning is assaulted by repeats of Shakira and Rihanna played at full volume. Showing incredible staying power, the party often continues until gone midnight that night. In comparison, on the occasions when I roll home after sunrise, I usually just manage a slice of pizza and a pint of water before crashing out - Sunday lost to sporadic snoozes and general inactivity.

Their party-stamina is a physical feat that I could never hope to achieve – not that it is an ambition I particularly aspire to. Indeed, I imagine that the perpetual party is fairly reliant on a dirty white powder. Even so, what is perhaps most surprising about “The day of the Fiesta” is that, dubious choice of music aside, it seems a fairly civilised affair. No-one seems particularly drunk, rowdy or out-of-hand. Consisting largely of babbling chatter, music videos and periodic trips to the shops to stock up on cigarettes and drinks, it´s a far cry from the war zone that appears outside English chippies at 3am on a Saturday night.

I suppose that using my housemates´ party endurance (undeniably extreme in every sense of the word) to make sweeping generalisations about the Spanish as a nation is a slightly flawed technique. Similarly, considering the longevity of 15-M (an angry outburst triggered by an acute economic crisis) as a reflection of the Spanish character can hardly be described as accurate. Even so, I can´t imagine many English people losing more or less three days in a sleepless party-continuum. Neither can I imagine a makeshift revolutionary camp becoming an indefinite resident in Trafalgar Square.

Then again, given that I´m from Surrey and that most of my friends now live in Clapham, perhaps it is simply that I don´t move in the equivalent circles in England.

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