Published November 4, 2011
I was recently invited to Madrid to partake in a panel discussion (that was part of an ongoing, and pretty cool, festival called Dias Nordicos) about Iceland post-kreppa.
When I got the invitation, I was all like: “Huh? What do I know?” Then I was all: “FREE TRIP TO MADRID? Nice! Madrid is a wonderful city, I’m sure I can make something up to tell them. Madrid!”
I mean, it’s not like my view of what the hell has been and is going on here is any less (or more) valid than anyone else’s [this is important though. A lot of the time, I find folks of my generation or inclination, or just folks in general, imagine their experience of and perspective on their environment is somehow less valid than other folks’—pundits, journalists and editors of real publications, for instance. I certainly know plenty of really smart people that have all these great ideas and opinions who hesitate to share them beyond their Facebook. I hate that. Just because someone has better access to THE MEDIA than you, or calls themselves an expert on whatever doesn’t mean they are any smarter, or their outlook any clearer. Your voice and your ideas and beliefs are unique and probably delightful, especially if you took the time to think them through and put them forth in a coherent manner. Speak up!].
So I went there and I ate a lot of amazing food and saw ‘Guernica’ again and met a lot of really nice Spanish people of various persuasions (political and otherwise). Through conversation with people, and through that panel, I learned some stuff about Spain and the current situation there.
I learned that:
-Unemployment is really, really bad in Spain (I sort of knew that before though).
-Spain is very patriarchal; Spanish men still have a huge and very unfair advantage in the workplace, and Spanish women are generally not hired for jobs once they pass the age of 40 (some remarked that this is their deadline for having a career, and that they spent their twenties and thirties frantically securing their positions). This is depressing.
-Many Spaniards believe they have been suffering an economic crisis for as long as us; that their government would not admit this or react to it for far too long. And that some of them are very afraid of what’s coming.
-Some Spaniards believe Icelanders have been handling their crisis in an admirable and progressive manner (I tried my best to correct that without being a dick about it), and this is why they are looking our way.
-To some Spaniards, that idea is very important, and we might want to try and live up to their expectations. It’s the least we can do.
-Many Spaniards still remember Franco’s fascist regime and the horrible civil war that preceded it, and that the rest of us could do well to remember that too. Those events are closer to us than we like to think.
-You get free and delicious food with every drink order, and this is why everyone can spend all day drinking without ever seeming that drunk.
And I thought: The world and its systems are currently shaky, and some sort of change is happening. It will be painful, probably, but hopefully we (and I mean you and I and our friends and their friends) can steer things in the right direction. At least we should try. We are young, virile, energetic, educated, intelligent and empathetic. It is our turn, if we want it.
I want it.
And, I want you to want it.
So speak up, please.