Seven key words on the Madrid-Sol experience, 15M
“I don’t want a new iPad, I want a new life” (graffiti painted during 15 May mobilization)
Time accelerates. The senses are shaken. Fear paralyzes the senses, vertigo makes them acute. The permanent camp in Sol is pure vertigo. Hours pass rapidly between one gathering and the next, but then time slows down. The nights are loooong. Time contracts and expands, moved by a sea of people (principally but not only young people). It feels like we’ve been here for years, and it hasn’t been more than three days.
A revolt is real when it modifies space-time.
The space-time created in the last days has one single obsession: continuity. Paradoxically, this is only possible to maintain through intermittancy. Through a physical entering-and-leaving of Sol. Keep the experience alive even though you are not present. For this reason (and so many others) the camp at Sol cannot be understood without the social networks. The continuity of the experience is achieved by deterritorializing it. I am in Sol even though I am at home. I am in Sol because I keep talking about it, because I can’t concentrate on my work, because I can’t get it out of my head. And when I can, I go there. I go running there, and again join in the “social connector”, so others can go rest.
The classic conceptualization of social revolts is a scenario in which continuity is linked to accumulation of force. If we continue longer, there will be more of us. If we hold out, the tyrants will fall. This mystification has something to do with a simplification of what happened in Egypt and other Arab countries. Experiences which we heard about towards the end of their processes, not at their beginnings, not through the years of visibility and invisibility, failed experiments, dead ends and turning back.
What is happening these days is not the end, it is not the decisive moment, it is just the start.
Communication is a form of political organization. People become the media. Social networks are not the means so much as the expressive and organizational terrain. Common sense is woven in the form of flux and of memes. From the logic of shared trust on facebook to the logic of live recounting via twitter.
A slogan circulates, multiplying. With no official versions, rumours blaze. The traditional media bump up against a dadaist cacaphony which is impossible to interpret. They grab hold of what they can, and from there project their own ideas.
The self-narration of the process is not, for the moment, going through viral streaming but rather then need to tell about it, to narrate what we are living, the “I was there!” becomes more intense.
The media’s obsession with broadcasting demonstrations “from inside” as if from the perspective of a participant, betrays their anxiety about their own loss of centrality. Experts and analysts show how incapable they are to think with their own heads, and speak (both on the left and the right) in one voice. The sensation for the spectator who is living the experience is like that of those fans of Lost who watched television commentators try to make sense of the series’ ending: a mixture of stupor, shame and giggles.
3. The powers.
In these moments there is an enormous expressive capacity in which anyone who is gathered in a group feels that they are the representation of everything. The sensation of empowerment is so great that one comes to believe that what each one of us is doing is representing all the others. It is a reasonable logic, and difficult to get rid of, but it is important to deactivate it. The power of this movement comes from its unrepresentability. They don’t represent us, as the slogan goes… because they can’t.
As in any dispersed network, there is a multitude of different centers of which none is “the center” but rather each is a repeater, receiving and sending out proposals and meanings. Creativity is of the essence. The hegemony of who is at the helm in any given moment (The ‘Real Democracy Now’ platform? The assemblies in the square? The commissions within the assemblies? Twitter? Me and my friends?) is changing all the time.
The assemblies are not a space in which one meaning is being defined but rather a collective catharsis. An enormous desire to talk and talk and talk. Memorized language (“The people united will never be divided”) mixes with new forms of expression (“Error 404- system failure”, “Downloading democracy”, “Its not a crisis it’s a rip-off”. )
On an institutional level craziness reigns. In 72 hours we have seen absolutely the entire political class go from “this is not happening” to “this is not important” to “this is dangerous” and in the last few hours, “we are you!”. Again, grotesque. The impossibility of framing the mobilization in the clear “left-right” terms which have been the foundation of social consensus since the Transition [to democracy after Franco] begins to reveal a new logic of conflict: “above and below.”
Unable to control what is happening, the mechanism of control over the movement is a simple question, a constant question: “So, what do you propose?
The demand for proposals is a mechanism of control. A way of filling the vacuum of the unrepresentable. A mechanism not exclusive to the media or the political class, as some of the expressions of the movement itself participate in it. Having a response means you can pigeonhole the rebels, say “Ah, they are utopic” or “Oh, they are populists” or “Oy, they are leftists” or “Ay, what they want is impossible” or “Ha, how naïve” or “Nah, they’re not radicals” or “Hm, they say a few reasonable things…”
Nonetheless, there is silence. Or something very much like silence, which is a cacaphony of apparently contradictory signs.
As much as it may cause us anguish, perhaps a good point of departure might be to say: “Unlike you who pretend to know everything, we don’t know yet”. Those who want to get somewhere specific are in a hurry. This is not the case.
In the square, the discussion itself is more important than its conclusion. The responsibility is to defend and extend this. Continue discussing. Continue talking. Trust the same common sense which has brought thousands of people into the street for days. So far, its not going badly.
5. Real Democracy Now.
This logo, this slogan which is present throughout the mobilization and forms one of its constituitive parts and which therefore the media and the political class have decided to pretty much ignore. But it is fairly easy: “democracy”, but not any old democracy, a real one. The real is that which is opposed to the simulated. This means that the logo (or one of the logos) under which this movement is being built says that the thing which institutional power calls “democracy” is a lie. And it demands the construction of something different that breaks with the simulacrum. But it doesn’t pose this problem in distant, utopic terms. We want it now. “Now” means urgency, “now” means nerviness, “now” means we have to be able to touch it, that it has to be in every part of our lives, that it is not just words but construction. That it doesn’t exist and therefore has to be made.
6. And… tomorrow?
It is very difficult to think about tomorrow when you are wrapped up in the events of today. It is even more difficult because the rhetoric of the political class has always held forth on ‘tomorrow’. In this movement, tomorrow is unthinkable for the moment. There is only now.
For institutional power, the elections on Sunday the 22nd of May are a moment to recuperate legitimacy. A moment to restitute governability. A moment to put their feet down and redraw the map of the possible.
The elections has functioned for the moment as a diffuse element, perhaps unifying at a symbolic level. But in the camp, in the meetings, etc. the words we most hear are “connect”, “extend”, “construct”.
The 23rd of May will begin to resolve this question, as one graffiti said.
“I don’t want a new iPad, I want a new life”
PS: Number 7. Joy, joy, joy