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Europe | Spain

Barcelona / Revolution in the Air, But Where?

people carry on ordinarily while the political stage is in flames 

   “Have you seen the protests today?” my father asked that Sunday night. Somehow, I hadn’t. In fact, I had read the headlines only minutes before his call: “300,000 rally against Catalan independence,” CNN titled; BBC, The Guardian, and Politico read similarly. This time it was the pro-Spanish movement taking to the streets of a torn Catalonia. While many in the region, including Catalan leader Puigdemont, tried to struggle their way out of the straight jacket that the central government in Madrid is to them, many others stood by a united Spain loyally. The political stage was consumed by vigorous flames, a referendum called for by one side, treason claimed by the other and only days later Puigdemont was a wanted man potentially looking at a thirty-year prison sentence.

Soaking up the sensationalized news coverage in those days with a brain sponge, there was no doubt about a revolution in the scorching Catalan autumn air. But where exactly was one to find its manifestations? The whole day I had roamed the streets of central Barcelona, and all I had come across were people carrying on with their lives as though nothing was going on. Everybody seemed to elegantly follow their set course without political obstruction as the trees kept in line with the season, and, just like the leaves, everything seemed to fall in place naturally for everybody.



 

Of course, it was easy enough to miss the marching and chanting crowds in a city of millions. And of course, there was something happening somewhere, but maybe on a more personal level of life there was really nothing much going on. Well, there was, just nothing related to politics, the government, and society as that intangible entity. Old people were doing old people things, young people were doing young people things, couples were being couples, kids were being kids. Here, an inline skating nanny zoomed through foot traffic with a stroller; there, the score of a volleyball match was the closest thing to a worry. As per Sunday promise, most streets were fairly empty.

 

"Following the news like a stalker, one tends to forget the mundane realities that disappear behind those fat headlines, and the smaller yet bigger picture of individual lives going on individually."

 

Following the news like a stalker, one tends to forget the mundane realities that disappear behind those fat headlines, and the smaller yet bigger picture of individual lives going on individually. News only becomes newsworthy when it disrupts a common routine and experience where tales aren’t all that tall, but rather wide, narrating the lot of a broad majority more so than the extreme plots of outliers at the edges. The closest thing to revolution I saw that day was a graffiti reading “Defend your vote.” Some sluggish flags hung out of windows to hint timidly at a divide, but these statements were few and mixed – some for independence, some against, and some just seeking a peaceful common ground.


 

"Yet, between these societal lines, where the quintessence of our life as human beings dwells, our situation remains largely the same, despite political turmoil."

Without a doubt, political decisions shape our lives to an important degree, whether we consciously acknowledge them, perhaps even partake in them, or don't consider them at all. They outline the borders of our society with laws and policies. To fill said outline with colors, however, each person has to pick up their own brush.
 
An independent Catalonia would be an earthquake of maximum magnitude on the political Richter scale and would change much for many – may that be in terms of jobs, infrastructure, taxes, education, or anything else that shapes our general experience as part of a nation. Yet, between these societal lines, where the quintessence of our life as human beings dwells, our situation remains largely the same, despite political turmoil: we still eat, love and make love; we’re still driven by fickle desires, untamed dreams and passion powder, and no political framework can reign us in; our happiness keeps ricocheting between those little big things, those unlikely encounters and aha discoveries, those food sins and milky way nights; we keep sipping from that glass or down it, whether it is half full or empty; we still get carried away by nostalgia and the blur that is our favorite memories; extroverts will keep going out, introverts will keep going in.

Every small and tall thing worth living for is still around, whatever this means to mankind or womankind or any one of us in particular: quenching your thirst with just the right drink; following your favorite tunes into faraway dimensions; pizza; warmth; travel. The same goes for the true nature of our worries: they are a lot more existential than any political discourse: we still need our pat on the shoulder, our quest for food and shelter goes on whether we live in a country called Catalonia or Spain, and, on a day-to-day basis, some of us might be more caught up in the everlasting soccer feud between Barcelona and Madrid than its political equivalent.



 

"...the more significant rebellion might be the one going on within ourselves..."

We might have strong opinions on a political matter, we might feel enraged, cry or laugh at its absurdity, but what truly matters is that we still have the capability to feel enraged, cry, laugh or hold an opinion.

Of course, it is important to make up one’s mind and form an opinion. To utter this opinion and to partake in political decision making is a human right, but all too often a privilege of democracy and even there it can come under threat when foul political extremism is on the rise. It is our responsibility to make use of our voice and shape the society, nation and world we want to live in according to our best principals and morals. Revolution, as a form of accelerated evolution, is a powerful tool in all this. If change is due, we should take to the streets, rally and shout our opinion so loud that it will be heard all the way up, where societal decisions are made.

Nevertheless, that quiet Sunday afternoon in the streets of Barcelona was testimony to another fundamental insight: the more significant rebellion might be the one going on within ourselves, where we choose what life we want to live today and tomorrow – a choice that shapes us more directly than politics. The life between societal lines is the biggest and nearest realm we engage in, and it is governed by our reign and responsibility. In our realm we have the ability to act according to what we belief apart from any political decree. We are free here; free to make vital life choices, no matter what’s decided above. This is where we have full agency as change makers, where we can make somebody else laugh or cry, where we can be healthy or indulgent, where we have the responsibility to respect one another's freedom, where we choose our belief system, our profession, and our favorite pastimes.