A laboratory of social change

22 Jun

For several weeks now the movement of the “Indignados” – the ‘outraged’- has taken over the public squares first in Spain, and subsequently in Greece and other European cities. Very interestingly none of the major newspapers and agencies gave any attention or coverage to the movement despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people peacefully manifest daily demanding a better life. As usual the manifestations attracted the interest of the media only when there was trouble- clashes with the police, and massive tear gassing of the demonstrators as in the case of Athens on Wednesday June 15th. Yet what needs to be stressed (and mainstream media shy away from) as a small number of writers have accurately observed, is the importance of these movements in putting forward new ways of conceiving and practicing democracy, new concepts of communication and collective action.

In a recent article in the Deutsche Welle, two academics engage in a very interesting discussion of the radical shifts in the European political imaginary with their starting point being the coverage of the Greek “indignados” in the German press:

Demonstrations in Syntagma square in Athens, June 2011

“The media reproduction of the movement in Syntagma square is a of a purely exotic nature in Germany.” says Vassilis Tsianos. “This exoticization has to do on the one hand with a Greek peculiarity which is the great love for uprisings. On the other hand it has to do with the fact that in Germany people cannot comprehend the intensity and dimensions of the social changes currently happening in Greece. The result is the dominance of an exoticizing gaze which often contains racist elements as we saw a few days ago when Ms. Merkel made the remark that the Greeks are lazy and should be working more.”

Simon Teune adds that the lack of coverage of such demonstrations in Germany is also due to a type of political fatalism among Germans: “In Germany such manifestations around economic and social issues like in Greece and Spain, are not taken seriously into account because there is a belief that the decision-making in such matters – privatizations or lowering of wages- are incontestable and there are no alternatives”.

Both Tsianos and Teune agree on the imaginative and social power of this movement. Looking at its role at a European level, Tsianos says that:

“In this moment, the Mediterranean is a vast social and imaginative laboratory of social reconstruction and of a new relationship to politics that has no relation to existing political parties or the existing political system. Presently Europe experiences an immense democratic challenge that comes from the Mediterranean.”

Source: Deutsche Welle
Translated from the Greek by A. Stathaki

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