Spain: Looking for a new team spirit
20 July 2012
On July 19, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the austerity policies of the Mariano Rajoy government. Today, when a leap forward is needed, the trust between Spaniards and those who govern them has broken down, deplores sociologist Fernando Vallespín.
During the previous legislature we were already in a state of emergency, but at the time those who are in office now did not want to mention it. Their priority then was not the country, but their own electoral interests.
Later, once they had been voted in, they started to put into practice everything they had promised us they would not do. Perhaps if they had done it all of a sudden and just after getting in, at least they would have achieved some efficacy.
But no: the treatment had to be homeopathic, not a shock treatment, because there were still some political loose ends to be tied up, like the elections in Andalusia.
The governors of that time, for their part, did not begin to act decisively until, almost literally, Europe landed on their heads. In both cases the political interests of each party won out over what the urgency of the situation dictated be done.
We have been deceived
The result: a political class that has already disgraced itself is now filled with shame. Those who ought to be the solution for these times of such embitterment are now seen by an increasingly sceptical population as the problem.
No one believes in anything anymore, or in anyone. Neither the politicians nor the experts nor technocrats, nor anything that could come from the elites or people or institutions that once enjoyed being the authorities.
We find ourselves in the worst scenario possible, because we have no one to trust in. And, what’s worse, no one trusts us; overnight we have turned into a pariah state. Suddenly, we the citizens have grasped that we are alone.
And this loneliness and helplessness in the situation we are caught in leads to despair, if not to the greatest of nihilisms. No collective can live without a future, without knowing its own destiny.
Even so, we can put up with almost everything – except the knowledge that we have been deceived. With the promise of public services that can no longer be paid for; with a deceitful model of economic development, built on nothing, which created a false image of prosperity; with a Europe that was supposed to help empower and strengthen our sovereignty rather than subvert it. We no longer recognise ourselves in the mirror – because, among other reasons, those who are holding it up for us are naked.
Leadership is key
All the same, we have only two options: either to shatter the mirror, tear off our clothes and break down utterly into a collective depression in an aimless, zombified country, or to build on the virtues we still have – which, incidentally, are not insubstantial.
Moreover, at the moment, though alone, we are more united than ever. As Borges once put it so well: “It’s not love that unites us, but dread.” And we already know from Hobbes that the passion that drives us to work together is not altruism, but fear.
Our greatest problem at the moment is how to transform our mistrust, perplexity and scepticism into positive action: how to translate the difficulties before us into effective solutions.
For this, though, we need a project inside which the lines of action can be laid down, the necessary distinguished from the superfluous, the deprivations and shortfalls of today translated into clear expectations for improvements tomorrow. And in that, leadership is key – yet it’s also what’s thinnest on the ground.
Those in government right now limit themselves to beating down fires without rhyme or reason, with no guide to the future to lend some resolve to their action; and for those being governed, what else is left to them but to defend in the street what is being taken from them up in the offices?
What’s missing is the setting – something to cement us in a collective project that will gradually restore the lost confidence. We can choose between the nihilistic conflict we see in Greece, or the more positive cohesion we see in Iceland; we can let the fright turn into a paralysing state of shock and sense of victimisation, or guide it into a responsible and creative energy. And that depends, indeed, on all of us.
Translated from the Spanish by Anton Baer