From Subjects to Citizens, The Great Transition

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

(abstract of the article published in El País, 11.02.2010)

The solution to the terribly serious challenges that we face is more democracy, better democracy. And this requires active participation and a profound knowledge of reality that “educated” people especially possess, in the sense of those people who act upon their own reflections and never upon the dictates of others. Article I of the UNESCO Constitution proclaims that education creates people who are “free and responsible”. Education for all throughout life. For all, and not merely for a chosen few. And this all is very dangerous, because people with education will not remain passive, resigned and in subjugation. They will not be spectators, but rather actors. Not merely numb recipients, distracted and fearful, but rather transmitters. They will not remain silent nor will they be silenced. They will firmly and persistently, but peacefully, express their points of view.

With educated citizens there will no longer be dogmatism, extremism, fanaticism, since nothing will be “indisputable,” nor will there be blind obedience. Education erases apathy and incites people to action.

Yes, education is the solution. There is no genuine democracy without participation, if leaders and parliamentarians do not truly represent the “voice of the people”. To mobilize, to take a stand, to get involved it is necessary to have time for reflection. It is essential to “listen” to the world. To observe it, which is much more than merely looking at it. To have a planetary vision, a conscience of the whole of humanity, which will enable us to react without having to wait for tsunamis to jolt our emotions and prompt us to take action.

Those in power, who have always kept their distance from citizens who, with increased confidence are taking the stage, never realized the power of a “virtual revolution”. The capacity for distance participation (via mobile phones, SMS, Internet…) will change present consultation and election procedures. In synthesis, democracy.

Citizens’ disappointment at their governments’ incapacity to implement the now very watered-down Millennium Objectives and, more recently, their leaders’ failure to face their global responsibilities concerning climate change has accompanied their perplexity and indignation at the “rescue” of the financial institutions that are largely responsible for the serious situation we are presently facing.

And the people? When are the people going to be “rescued”? It is essential that we achieve efficient multilateralism, with international institutions endowed with all of the means required to fulfill their missions.

Only then can there be an end to trafficking and the mafias that today enjoy greater impunity thanks to tax havens, which should be closed immediately without further contemplation.

A United Nations that could rapidly deploy Blue Helmets when human rights are massively violated in the name of “national sovereignty”. And rapid and coordinated action to reduce the impact of great catastrophes, whether natural (hurricanes, cyclones, floods, fire, earthquakes) or provoked.

the transition from a speculative, virtual war economy (3,000 million dollars of military spending daily while 60,000 people die of hunger) to an economy of global sustainable development, which would progressively increase the number of people who have access to services and goods.

The future has yet to be decided. The future must be invented by overcoming the inertia of those who insist on solving the problems of tomorrow with yesterday’s solutions. Many things should remain the same. But many others must be changed. And we must have the courage to do so. We must dare.

It is civil society’s turn! From force to dialogue, encounters, conciliation. From subjects to citizens, the great transition.


Monday, February 15, 2010

“There’s not room for all of us”, said the leader of the Popular Party in Catalonia in an obviously sad moment.

But in these times, at the dawn of a new era and a “new beginning”, there’s really no room for those who express such ideas. If we look deeper into our pasts, almost all of “us” were once “them”. We have all been emigrants, immigrants, giving rise to plural mixed communities with much cultural diversity, which are a guarantee of respect for equal human dignity, the cornerstone of all rights and ethical principles.

It is an outrage that the very same people who prompted the arrival of often poorly-paid immigrants in times of “economic expansion” are the same who now favor the immigrants’ return, making severe and disrespectful comments concerning their condition.

As long as so many continue to cling to speculative economic systems with huge military spending, outsourcing production in the east –anything goes, no matter the working conditions- and outsourcing management and innovation in the west, which only benefits 20% of humanity and increases social inequality, desperate immigrants will continue to be on the move, even at the risk of their very lives.

A vast plan for global sustainable development could provide adequate living conditions and progress that would make immigration a decision to be made freely, and beneficial to all.

We need them. And we will particularly need them in the future, given the dictates of low birth rates and increased life expectancy. Those who maintain that “there’s not room for anyone else” should consult the United Nations’ immigration forecasts, particularly those for Spain.

There’s room for all of us and all of us are equal in dignity.

The great challenge for the future we yearn for is to better share what we have. And to do so we need only to take a look at the world as a whole, to appreciate what we have from a comparative perspective.

When we “look” at the world is when we will suddenly feel the fraternity proclaimed in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Friday, February 12, 2010

What a deplorable spectacle! The Spanish Parliament and the European Parliament deserted, without the “representatives of the people”, projecting a pitiful image of democracy at the national and European levels. “Parliament” comes from “parlare”… and a significant number of the Members of Parliament don’t open their mouths during the entire sessions. Only when it’s time to vote do they all obediently take their seats, voting strictly along party lines, even when their consciences would dictate otherwise. But I must insist: “parliament” comes from “parlare” and not “votare”…

The communications media should broadcast more images of the deserted houses of parliament so that citizens can know what is going on and who is involved. I was offended to see so many empty seats in the Spanish Parliament, but it was even a greater affront to see so few attending the European Parliament when the current President of the European Union addressed the representatives of all of the EU member states. Many things will have to change, commencing with minimum percentages of participation in order to consider election results valid. Otherwise, these representatives can hardly be considered representative. They should be given work to do and their attendance during debates must be guaranteed. And if they do not do it, and to the extent that they fail to carry out their duties, they should be replaced as warranted.

In view of the circumstances, they receive excellent compensation and should fulfill their responsibilities. Either the seats of Parliament are full … or we won’t vote again!

Who will remember Haiti in a few months?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In his cartoons each day Forges repeats “and don’t forget Haiti”. And he’s right in doing so, because he remembers how fast we forgot about the tsunami of December, 2005; the earthquakes of Peru, China… and Darfur… and the events that devastated Haiti only fifteen years ago. At that time I wrote:

The last soldiers


and peace broke out

in your lives,

with no reporters

to record

how you live and die

each day.

You will no longer appear

on TV screens

to ruin

the parties and festivities

of the rich.

You will no longer die

of bullet wounds.

You’ll return to dying

of neglect.

As always.

“Who will remember Haiti when the photographers have gone?” asked Milagros Perez Oliva, the Readers’ Ombudsman, in an article entitled “The Terrible Images of a Tragedy” published in “El País” on January 24.

In view of what happened in Haiti, would some of you reporters please stay? Let us not forget other terrible catastrophes of raging nature and, the worst, those caused by the fury of human beings: the genocide in Cambodia (two million deaths between 1975-1979) and Rwanda (800,000 victims)… and the immense suffering, in addition to millions of deaths, resulting from wars and, above all, let us not forget the 60,000 people, our brothers, who die of starvation and neglect each day.

Let no one else die of neglect. Let us all join together against the disproportionate military spending (3,000 million dollars daily, I’ll never tire of repeating that figure!) and let’s implement an economy of global sustainable development.

Otherwise, in Haiti and in so many other parts of the world, thousands of people will continue to die of neglect. As always.