I headed to Pertús (1) on Monday at 7pm and returned home Tuesday at 10pm. They were 27 very intense hours and I have the feeling that I will need a long time to think about everything I saw, felt and thought during that whole expedition. But I need to share three urgent reflections. The first is personal, the second is collective and the third is political.
Personally. We have gotten used to feeling small, almost insignificant. The tsunami of news that confirms to us every day that the world is a place where war, injustice and poverty reign supreme make us feel like the only role that is reserved for us is that of spectators of the catastrophe. Spectators who are only allowed to pray to god to just maintain our current situation. I’m convinced the fact that we’ve been constantly hearing that for so long poisons us and forces us to be afraid that we’ll be the next ones on an enormous list of misfortunes. Seeing a majestic bridge between two States occupied by a few thousand people is the perfect metaphor for driving out fear. If states are those monsters with inhuman rights, the occupied viaduct between Spain and France is the most powerful demand from humanity that I can imagine. A demand that drives out the fear and returns the humanity.
Collectively. I saw people who occupied a highway for the first time, who made human chains to bring stones to a barricade for the first time, who actively swallowed their fear for the first time to stand up to men armed to the teeth. People who for the first time decided to flagrantly disobey. Not because fear had disappeared but because a new conviction had been born. Is it ok to block highways? Is it ok to ignore the orders of the police? There are people who have been clear on that for a long time, that it’s ok. But that awareness doesn’t come naturally, it is learned, it is contagious, it advances and retreats among human groups. The Tsunami Democràtic (2) in action makes it so that conviction that we have the right to say ‘enough’ grows and spreads like an oil stain. Whatever [Spanish Interior Minister] Marlaska (3) says or the right of the State is, blocking highways is ok. In fact, one could say that given the circumstances in which we are living, not doing it is the more dangerous choice since they want us to choose between blocking highways and swallowing the intolerable. If they make us choose between blocking highways and accepting arbitrary prison terms, one has to choose the highways. If they make us choose between blocking highways and accepting that what we voted at the ballot boxes can be erased without explanation, one has to block the highways. This awareness is learned and the best school is a blocked highway.
Politically. Tuesday in the middle of the day, between 1 and 4:30pm, the Tsunami Democràtic paused. It was necessary to recharge batteries. We went to a bar in La Jonquera that had [Spanish public] TVE on both screens. There we could see, with the sound off, the signing of the agreement between Podemos (4) and PSOE (5). But even if the owners of the bar had put the sound at full blast, it would have all sounded distant, very distant, like the voice of a world drowning in its own impotence. I profoundly respect the hope that this background noise might represent for millions of people. To scorn other people’s hope is to scorn hope itself. But hope, like the awareness that blocking highways is correct, is contagious, it advances and retreats. And I cannot avoid thinking that the hope that has fleeing from fear as its only objective can only go so far, and makes us small. I will not look down on the relief that millions of people feel when they see an agreement being signed that might block Vox’s fascism from coming to power. But from the highway, that background noise is just that: background noise. Can they really only let us choose between VOX (6) and PSOE? How did we get to the point where we are happy about a PSOE government when on 15M (7) we said they were the same as the PP? It’s as if they make us choose between dying of hunger or eating dry bread. Of course we’re going to choose the dry bread, we want to live, we don’t want to die. But from the highway, I can’t avoid thinking that these kinds of choices are the cause of so much war, so much injustice, and so much poverty. A shitty job, or no job. A damp cold house, or no house. Long sadness or death.
We didn’t come into the world for this. Not people, not collectives, and not political beings. That’s why we have the duty to not let ourselves be intimidated and to block all of the highways where the merchants of desperation and the lesser evil are trafficking. Good luck to everyone. And onward with the Tsunami. Until they understand that we didn’t come to eat dry bread.
(1) Pertús is a Catalan town on the French/Spanish administrative border where protesters occupied the AP-7 highway on November 11, 2019.
(2) Tsunami Democràtic (Democratic Tsunami) is an anonymous group of supporters of Catalan independence that organize nonviolent protests through social media and their own proprietary app. (Catalonia has created a new kind of on-line activism. Everyone should pay attention. Wired)
(3) Fernando Grande-Marlaska is the Interior Minister of the Spanish Government, from the PSOE, Socialist Party. The European Court of Human Rights has issued a total of eight verdicts condemning Spain for failing to investigate torture and police brutality on detainees, five of which happened under the custody of Grande-Marlaska.
(4) Unidas Podemos is the leftist party led by Pablo Iglesias.
(5) The PSOE is the Spanish Socialist party, currently led by Pedro Sánchez, who called the November elections after refusing to form a government with Podemos, and then directly after the election, and losing three seats, formed a government with Podemos.
(6) Vox is a fascist, misogynist, racist political party who participated as ‘public prosecutors’ in the trial against the Catalan political leaders and used it as a springboard to gain notoriety. They won 52 seats in the November 2019 Spanish elections to the Congress.
(7) 15 May 2011 is the date of the first anti-capitalist ‘indignados’ demonstrations in Madrid that spread all over Spain and gave rise to Podemos, as well as the Occupy Movement in the United States.