Being part of an angry mob is fun, there’s no denying it. It’s exciting, it’s immense, it feels powerful. It’s even a little dangerous. Cops in riot gear are standing by with rubber bullets and tear gas, and they don’t really care who gets it. Under the warm springtime sun we enjoyed in Barcelona on M-29, it all makes for a nice way to spend an afternoon. But let’s not be satisfied with just that, we’ve also got to remember we’re making demands. What are they again?
Spain’s M-29 general strike was called by the two main trade unions to protest a recent overhaul of labour regulations making it cheaper and easier for employers to fire workers. With an estimated 800,000 participants throughout the country, union leaders are calling the general strike of M-29 a success. But the government’s response suggests otherwise.
Labour minister Fátima Báñez said Thursday that the government would not meet union demands, calling the reform agenda “unstoppable.” Other leaders have expressed similar sentiments. So much for labour demands.
Esperanza Aguirre, the president of the Community of Madrid, was even quoted as saying “These unions will fall like the Berlin Wall.” Undiplomatic? Absolutely. Correct? She might be.
Despite the turnout at the M-29 protest, unions have lost a great deal of support in the past decade. Their leaders, like so many others, are accused of corruption and general uselessness.
Things are looking bad, folks. Politicians don’t serve us, and unions are losing their mojo. It seems more and more like we’re on our own in the midst of a crisis which may or may not go away, and it’s daunting.
The number of participants in the M-29 protest may not mean anything to the government, but they do mean that 800,000 people are upset enough to make a sign and hit the street. And I bet at least twice that amount thought about it. That’s a lot of people who want change, and are ready to explore possibilities for getting it. Now that I’ve lost my faith in democracy, I think we’re going to have to do a lot more of our own problem solving.
Not that anyone is going to give up forming angry mobs. It brings us together, and it’s a good time. And listen. I don’t support those bin burners one bit, but between you and me, I get real not-that-guilty pleasure out of seeing that Starbucks by Plaza Urquinaona all smashed up. Come on, I’m not the only one.