Friday, 16 November 2012




Millions of people participated in a day of protest on Wednesday, particularly Southern Europe. Spain and Portugal were on General Strike, with Italy and Greece turning out for some parts of the day as well.

Having decided to go on strike (unlike the rest of my thoroughly useless colleagues--seriously, people, I understand if you think you're in danger of being fired but otherwise suck it up), I woke up on Wednesday to the sound of helicopters passing backwards and forwards overhead. Every single shop on the street was closed, except for one bar, in protest of the crippling austerity programs that are being forced on debt-ridden Southern European countries, and the apparent inability of the governments to make the people who caused the financial crisis pay for it. I'm angry on a personal level that I get fobbed off with deeply unfair contracts, terrible pay, and an ambiguous fiscal position, and that this is totally normal. I'm also angry that, among other things, 30% of the population of Catalonia is in risk of poverty or social exclusion (that would include almost everyone I know), that youth unemployment is at 53% and that the gap between rich and poor is growing. And on a European level, I'm appalled at the treatment that is being dished out to places like Greece, which is thoroughly stupid as well as deeply unfair, as though cutting pensions and jobs and depriving entire nations of hope for the future to the point that the extreme right wing is rising again is in any way an appropriate response to the crisis. (Here is an exceptionally interesting article comparing Greece today to Germany in the 1930s).

In the evening I went along to the demonstration. In Barcelona it was peaceful and I would say fairly low-key, probably because we have some very interesting elections coming up next week. Nonetheless, it was important to attend and great to see so many people on the streets. In Madrid they went a little nuts I think, and if I were in their position, I would too.


I went with some friends

Children DO belong at protests

One of the banks gets a revealing make-over.


Closet Fashionista said...

I feel bad that I'm not more politically/financially knowledgeable. Good for you for getting involved in things like this! I really should start paying more attention to local and world news... *sigh*
(and YES! So excited for Christmas season, ha ha)

kenda said...

i've been following this story from across the pond and i can only imagine how unsettling the austerity hysteria must be for folks on the receiving end. i hadn't heard as much about the right-wing extremism. it makes sense, but that's pretty terrifying.

i'd like to think that i'd protest too, but who knows. nevertheless, kudos to you for getting out there. i'm wishing you (and everyone else in southern europe) all the best, from texas.

Meli said...

I'm studying abroad in spain in a couple months, and I really wish i knew more about what's going on. Thanks for the links- I think tonight's a good time to learn!

ZZ said...

I read someplace that Germany STILL has only 4% unemployment, even with the crisis. How do they do it?

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Kenda: That's great to know (especially coming from Texas). :)

@Meli: I'm sure you'll have a lovely time anyway, it more affects the people living in Southern Europe and trying to work, but yes, do read up a bit.

@ZZ: I think their economy is grinding to a halt a bit too. They actually need those of us in the rest of Europe to be able to buy their products. Their economy only grew by 0.2 percent this quarter. Plus they're being flooded with immigrants from Southern Europe as fast as they can learn German!

Kezzie said...

I was chatting to a friend whose wife is Spanish only 3 days ago about the awful situation in terms of employment there- it is really shocking, tis very difficult!

Anonymous said...

I have a blogger friend in Greece who tries to keep so many of her troubles bottled is just great to read a post that acknowledges this.

Xavi said...

Of course... hay motivo!!!

Penny said...

I know situation is really bad in Spain - and in terms of unemployment i think it has been bad for a few years now.. I m even sadder when I think of Greece and how certain people still benefit from other people's suffer!
Thanks for the link - I ll take a look right now!

Emily, Resplendent Tranquility said...

I heard a report on the radio a few weeks ago about a community theatre north of Barcelona (maybe? my memory is a bit fuzzy on the location) that began selling carrots in lieu of tickets in response to the new austerity measures. Have you heard of this? Essentially, patrons of the theatre buy carrots (for much more than carrots sell for, but at a price comparable to a ticket) and receive admission to shows. I'll admit, it's a very clever idea considering the recent tax hike on nearly everything in Spain. And, carrots are considered a staple food, hence the lower tax on them; am I right? However, it is still tax evasion. Are Spaniards generally not concerned about that as much given the dire state of their economy?

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

hmmm, I haven't heard of that, but that's quite funny. As for tax evasion, given the institutional corruption and the large-scale tax evasion of the rich and the corporations all over Europe (the British are particularly enraged about firms like Topshop practicing large-scale tax evasion), I'm guessing the theatre company wouldn't be too bothered. I mean, every rich person in the country has an account in Switzerland...

Sarah Davis said...

I have to say I really don't agree. Part of the reason employment conditions are so terrible for young and marginal people in Spain (and Greece and Italy) is the two tier employment system where middle aged civil servants and permanent workers have incredibly cushy jobs and can barely be sacked, while everyone else is on temporary (and as you say, rubbish) contracts. The employment law reform you are protesting against will open a huge amount of permanent jobs and opportunity to young people.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

Sarah: I don´t think anyone would deny that there need to be some changes in the way a lot of countries are run, but this particular protest was against the grinding austerity being inflicted by the EU, and the Spanish government to bail out the banks. The previous protest/strike, in March, was more related to labour reform. I frankly don´t think kicking a bunch of middle aged people out of their jobs is the solution either, but in this case, I was there to protest that the fallout of the economic crisis is being inflicted on people who didn´t have much to do with it, and also those who are most vulnerable.
Everyone knows Spain has been irresponsible, but how does 53% youth unemployment do any good to the current or future situation?