Madrid recently kicked off its christmas campaign, with its low energy lights and city-style decorations, recycled year on year. It uses the same slogans that were used by political parties during their election campaign: ‘join in, unite and buy something. It doesn’t matter what, just buy something’. The christian celebration sounds like an advent mantra praying for work, christmas nougat and iPads for all. It’s safe to say that both the electoral and christmas campaigns have the same aim: to kick-start the economy, synonymous with joy and rejoicing in the 21st century, whilst at the same time placating city merchants with their very real power. Both campaigns ooze an additional, unspoken side-product with an odd aftertaste. We end up feeling like miserable pawns in this global board game.
Lights, posters, slogans. Politicians and businesses are crying out for our attention. They need us. We are both voters and consumers. We are citizens with a right to vote, although with falling labour rights. We are consumers whose purchasing power is fading. Deep down, as they well know, we are the spoilt inhabitants of a first world country too used to the good life the welfare state has given us over the past few decades. Frightened by the idea of change, we will end up losing the rights we have, even if we protest in the same way as they did in Greece and Portugal. However, we continue in our malleable state because we still harbour hope that the cuts will not affect us too much as individuals.
The election slogan on the bluish posters of Spain’s right-wing people's party (PP) during the general election of 20 November said ‘join the change’. Join and unite with us, vote for us and we will take tough action to end this economic crisis. We believe in voting because we are active democrats, because we know that national sovereignty rests with the people who elect and control those leaders governing with and for the people. Nevertheless, following pressure from the markets, various governments across Europe have recently suffered change and fallen from grace. This enormous debt is a particularly ferocious monster, a real Leviathan that’s been unleashed upon us, dragging even technocratic governments into its grasp.
'No amount of praying to any of those active monotheistic gods is going to resolve this situation'
More than ten million, eight hundred thousand people voted for PP at Spain’s general election, hoping that the promises they made during their election campaign would be fulfilled sooner rather than later: jobs for everyone, a restructuring of public funds, a revaluation of Spain and its public debt both at home and internationally. The ultimate aim is to cut the public deficit, reduce the premium risk which measures the differential of the Spanish bond with the German one over ten years, to get rid of waste within the welfare state, making concessions only in respect of pensions. Such is the economic-financial picture on a global level and no amount of praying to the almighty or to any of those active monotheistic gods is going to resolve this situation.
Let these other gods stand up and show their faces
In the end, it will be down to whatever the markets want; markets that present themselves as omnipotent, ubiquitous and invisible gods. We will carry on spending, both as individuals and as sovereign states, whilst watching their every move; unless, that is, an unexpected light appears pointing to another way out. However, so far we have been unable to distinguish between all the campaigns vying for our attention. If the markets want us to elect a neo-liberal government, the sovereign population votes for a conservative party. If the markets want economic recovery, we throw ourselves into christmas shopping. Yet if we want to stand up to the markets and expose the culprits behind this economic crash, who’s going to grant us that wish?
We need to be brave and dig deeper, to unearth the human faces behind the markets. Although they might appear to have godlike characteristics, these are real people who are getting rich, either directly or indirectly from the moves being outlined in this financial speculation. We might doubt or even deny the existence of these gods but the beneficiaries of this current economic crisis have first names and surnames. They ought to stand up and show their faces. Who will they turn out to be?
Images: main (cc) lomo-cam/ Flickr; in text © Cristina Mirinda.