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Two parts cultural commentary, one part personal ranting. Serve with a side of political debate. May contain sarcasm.

Why Spain Needs a Good Riot
29 September 2014 @ 17:25

 
A couple of months ago a friend asked me how things were going in Spain. I don't remember what I said exactly, but my conclusion was this; "everything is just so shit and unfair. What Spain needs is a good riot"It was a bit of a weird, dramatic conclusion but what happened this week has only confirmed my belief. 

I live in Zaragoza and cycle to and from work. Over night, with no warning, the city council have decided that cyclists are now not welcome in several roads in the city centre and there will be a fine if you cycle here. One of these roads (Paseo Independencia) actually has a cycle lane on it
 
This came into effect on Sunday at midnight and on Monday morning there were police giving out fines. There was no warning, no public consultation (that I know of) and there are no physical signs in the street saying that the cycle lane is now out of use or that bikes cannot enter these streets.
 
According to one newspaper the council is giving a 15 days "transition period" regarding the changes yet the same article says that 20 people have already been fined. The general consensus is that this is a quick way for the council to make money. That it's terrible and unfair and illogical. But whenever I bring up the issue the response is "yeah this is stupid, but this is Spain, what do you expect?".
 
I expect people not to just roll over and accept it. In the UK people would start an online campaign through something like change.org and they'd protest, they'd get the local newspaper on board, they'd demand to be listened to. People in the UK start petitions about a lollipop man outside a school, imagine what they'd do if the government just changed the Highway Code overnight and started fining people for it.
 
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Spanish government is introducing worrying changes in every sector which will only push the country further into recession and into the past. They're cutting vital health services. They've frozen the minimum wage. They're proposing increasing the number of children per class by 20%. This means 36 students for 1 teacher. 
 
My boyfriend said to me "In Spain things either happen very quickly or very slowly. The things that go quickly are things that make them money like introducing fines and making cuts. The things that go slowly- well everything else"
 
And the sad thing about this is that it happens, and will continue to happen, because Spanish people are not prepared to do anything about it (this is where the riot comes in). The government is like a school bully. They make up their own rules, for their own gain, and then take the hard-working public's lunch money. 
 
The only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to themThis is why Spain needs a riot. They've tried organising peaceful protests but Spaniards couldn't organise a pissup in a brewery. 
 
There was a protest about the bike thing on Friday and I'd say a good 500 showed up (though only around 30 turned up on time- the rest flowed in when they felt like it). We all took our bikes and started cycling very slowly and peacefully down Paseo Independencia. It held up traffic and the bikes dominated the singe-laned traffic while the bike lane sat lonely and unused right next to us. The idea being to show how absurd it is to not use a perfectly good bike lane.

This would have been great. If it had lasted more than 40 minutes. The bikes just started to hold up traffic and then everyone just disappeared. It was almost like "right, the tram's started running late and the traffic's a bit backed up now. Job done. Let's go get a cerveza."

It's been three days since the protest and not one newspaper has written anything about it. So unless you were on that exact street at that exact time, you wouldn't even know it had happened. 

This is typically Spanish. The vast majority of people do nothing. The people who do try to do something, don't do it well. The media doesn't support it. Nothing changes. 
 
Of course this is a local issue which only affects certain people but even the national protests on very serious issues are not done well. Take the abortion law for example. Abortion has been available on request in Spain since 1985. Last year the government decided they want to ban abortion except in very specific cases where the mother's health is at risk or she was raped. To most people this is a step backwards. You can't criminalise a medical procedure that's been legalised for almost 30 years. But that's what the government wanted to do. 

There was a protest in January. This is how they did it:

Their campaign is called "el tren de la libertad", (the train of freedom). Now, if you were to walk past this protest what would you think they're protesting? Probably something to do with trains. The word abortion doesn't feature on their banners at all. 

Spanish people are just very bad at protesting. How are you supposed to convince people to support your campaign to keep abortion legal with a purple choo choo train?

 

{note; the government has just announced this week that they're putting the abortion law on the back burner until after the general election. Not because of the protests, but because they don't wish to debate such a sensitive issue so close to the elections when this could lose them votes.} 

Choo Choo trains aside, most citizens sit back, shrug their shoulders and let a couple of hippies organise a badly designed, half-hearted demonstration. This is why Spain needs a good riot. A good old-fashioned national strike. A full-blown something that'll force the media and the government to sit up and listen. 

It's easy to ignore a group of people cycling up and down a road for 40 minutes one afternoon. It's easy to not take the pretty purple train seriously. Riots. Strikes. Spaniards need to do something that those in power would take seriously. 

If regular citizens are unwilling to unite, stand up for themselves and make a bit of noise then the bully will continue to take their lunch money. Their cycle lanes. Their regular sized classes. Their abortions. The government will just keep taking and taking, cutting and cutting and fining and fining.Then what will be left? 



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4 Comments


eggcup said:
01 October 2014 @ 09:06

It's very true what you say about fines. I find the Guardia Civil a very disturbing presence on the Spanish roads. We are rarely in Spain - but my husband wasn't there two hours last week when he was stopped and breathalysed. In all his and my years driving in the UK we have never been breathalysed. In the last two years we have been stopped several times during our brief visits and have been fined for things you would never be fined for in the UK. I believe there are elements of the police state about Spain. They would do well to come and observe how we do things if they want to get out of their mess.
I wouldn't like a riot though - because it's just an excuse to damage businesses and loot (steal) business people's possessions. It's hard enough for Spanish businesses with all the ridiculous red tape, fees, taxes and an economy where people don't have much to spend - the last thing they need is a load of chancers nicking their stuff.


Don Tim said:
04 October 2014 @ 09:29

Spanish people very rarely unite in solidarity, though they make a lot of noise about it. They usually dedicate themselves to fighting their own little battles and exploiting the system as much as they can.


oscarverano said:
04 October 2014 @ 12:49

it is very easy to criticise the Spanish in this way. They LIVED under a very hardline dictatorship for over 50 YEARS! And those facists still lurk in the background. Was thinking of purchasing in Spain as I love the place but think France is a much safer and less frustrating option given the political and economiocal uncertainty in Spain at the moment.


jess869 said:
04 October 2014 @ 17:04

You're completely right that the dictatorship did leave a lasting impression on the "Spanish personality" but part of me, whether rightly or wrongly, thinks it ended almost 40 years ago- it's about time that people start acting like they live in a democracy and stop letting a minority decide everything and screw over the rest.

I'm not in favour of riots in general. As was said, they're horrible for small business, but I honestly can't think of any other way that the situation will change. And it really does need to change.

Less violent solutions on the back of a postcard!


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