On the 15th May this year, my wife and I were in Malaga shopping. Passing through the Plaza de la Constitución we encountered a demonstration taking place. It was unusual in two respects; it was relatively small - perhaps a hundred people - and it was pretty quiet. There were some banners and a couple of tables around which people were gathered, but that was about all. The following day I discovered that this had been but one of a number of similar demonstrations in cities across Spain, each linked to the principal demonstration at La Puerta del Sol in Madrid. In Madrid, the demonstrators set up an impromptu camp at the end of the day and remained there for the next two weeks. They identified themselves as “los indignados”, the indignant ones, and their movement became known as 15-M, standing for 15th May. Their indignation was directed at the perceived alliance between corrupt politicians and greedy bankers, financiers and captains of industry., and at the lack of an effective role or even voice for the ordinary citizen, now being required to carry the burden of paying down a debt incurred by others. The birth of the movement had been prompted, partly by events here at home, partly by the civil unrest in Greece, and partly by what was becoming known as the Arab Spring.
Why do I mention it now? Because yesterday, 15-O, the movement born in Madrid went truly global with demonstrations in more than 900 cities spread across more than 80 countries. They varied considerably in size - around 200 in Tokyo, but 500,000 in La Puerta del Sol - but the number and geographical spread in only five months is impressive.
Standing on the brink of 71, and with my allotted three score years and ten all behind me, I too consider myself un indignado, though I wasn’t there in the flesh. I share the dream, encapsulated in their slogan, “Democracía Real Ya” (Real Democracy Now), that the voice of the individual citizen should be heard and heeded wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances, and that this should lead to a better and a fairer world.
I was brought up to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln; government of the people, by the people and for the people. Now, as I look around the democratic nations of the world I see countries where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is broadly implemented with regard to personal, political and religious freedoms, but where otherwise there is less and less to choose between the parliamentary democracies and the dictatorships and military regimes; the words of the Declaration of Independence have been subverted. Whatever the style of rule, it is those at the top - self-selected for this eminence - who look after each other to the detriment of the rest. Government of the people, by the powerful, for the rich.
How we change that I don’t know, but I take encouragement from the fact that there are so many smarter, younger brains than mine applying themselves to finding a solution. Not for my sake, but for the future that awaits my granddaughters when I am long gone.