Peaceful action for the triumph of citizen participation

Friday, July 15, 2011

Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of the first democratic elections in Spain after a long period in which ballot boxes were few and far between. It is a day to remember and to render a special tribute to those who to achieve that transition gave great bits of themselves voluntarily, lucidly and with much solidarity. For the first time in many years we experienced the joy of seeing that the will of citizens could be freely expressed. And yesterday, in Barcelona 34 years later, thousands of people demonstrated in front of the gates of the Catalan Parliament.

The strength of the peoples is in their numbers, in the calm but firm proclamation of their desires, of their protests and their proposals. The peaceful demonstrations that have extended since May 15 from the Puerta del Sol to the plazas and streets of so many Spanish and foreign cities is a source of satisfaction, because it was time to cease being passive spectators, manipulated witnesses and distracted recipients to become actors, protagonists and participants. From subjects to citizens.

In the early 1990s when modern communications technology and especially internet and mobile phones first provided citizens with distance participation capabilities, it became clear that these are fascinating times and that the 21st century could finally be the peoples’ century, the century of genuine democracy, which constantly hears and acts upon the voices of the peoples.

Real democracy isn’t necessarily the one that exists, but rather the one that accurately reflects the will of the people. I have frequently repeated that in elections (and I always vote because this is one of the pillars of popular representation) our votes are counted but often we don’t really count, we’re not taken into account. Especially when, as is presently the case, both the written and audiovisual communications media transmit severely deformed versions of reality and of what actually transpires.

There is undoubtedly much room for improvement of democracy at the local, national and global levels. But it was previously very difficult to participate. Now it no longer is. Thus it is quite logical that, very soon, hundreds of thousands, even millions of citizens from all countries will express their agreement and disagreement, their projects and proposals through internet, using its huge capacity to convene and mobilize. This will benefit democracy because the will of the people will limit the markets’ and the rating agencies’ current hounding of government leaders; it will reform electoral laws where needed and will close down tax havens; it will transform our present economy of speculation and war (4,000 million dollars a day in military spending) to an economy of global sustainable development; and it will promote the education that will enable us to give a sense of direction to our lives and to act based on personal reflection.

But all of this will come with peaceful action, never with violence or conflict. In Madrid and in many other parts of Spain the behavior of both participants and observers has in general been exemplary. I truly hope that from now on the same can be said of Barcelona. Let’s hope that after 34 years democracy in Spain can be renewed. Let’s hope that the initial image of the 15-M movement prevails to guarantee the triumph of citizen participation, a contribution that will be made without the use of force.

The 15-M movement may mark the turning point in an evolution away from the inertia of applying yesterday’s formulas to resolving the problems of today. Evolution enables us to change what should be changed and to preserve what should be preserved. The alternative is revolution and (as I enjoy repeating) the difference between the two is the “r” of “responsibility”.

The future has yet to be written. Let’s be capable of inventing it.