Monday, June 6, 2011

A View From The Puerta Del Sol

I have just returned from nearly a week in Spain, delivering a plenary address at a conference on nonlinear economic dynamics in Cartagena. I also spent a day in Madrid. Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, as high as 40% for youth, and many think that it is the linchpin to maintaining the eurozone, with Germany and the other big countries able to manage defaults and bailouts for Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, but not for Spain. There have been people camping out in the main squares of cities around Spain, and the conservative opposition party has just swept the local elections big time. There was a small group camping out in Cartagena. People there were speaking out and singing in the evening.

However, the biggest group camping out is in Madrid, in its central square, the plaza of Puerta del Sol. I visited this area and walked through the encampment that fills the plaza, actually a long half-oval rather than a square. There were many tents and also tables with people selling stuff and handing things out under canvasses. There signs and all kinds of things, including posters and sculptures and whatnot all over the place, exhibiting a plethora of views and on many issues, not all about unemployment, with green issues and support for Arab Spring demonstraters among other matters focused on. I would also say that while the ideological strand tended more to the left, with many denunciations of capitalism and imperialism, some of it was a lot less clear, with many denunciations of bankers and also of "Europe," possible from either end of the spectrum (there was a particularly bizarre sculpture of a "vampiro banquero"). There were two pictures of Friedrich Nietszche in different spots, whose views and fans have been rather all over the place, and I saw no hammers with sickles.

Emblamatic of the rather foggy, quasi-anarchistic mood and views there was a large poster on the wall of one of the buildings. It showed a nebbishy looking man, sort of like Woody Allen, no beard or moustache, with rimless round spectacles, in an exaggerated military uniform and his right arm clearly raised, although cut off before the image got too far from his shoulder. However, he was also clearly wearing a shirt with a tie, and on his head was an oversized military hat, but with enormous Mickey Mouse ears on it. I could not fully read the label under this image, but it looked something like "Non No Represendar."


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