Barcelona. Just beyond the Rambla, at the Radio’s bar stand two big television screens. It’s Sunday evening and the streets are half empty just like each time the Barça plays. Fran and Jordi’s gazes are fixed on the big screen, the blue and garnet players fail to stand up to the opposing team. On the contrary, Martha is wild. She talks about rage and revolution: “I’m 22 years old. I have obtained my political science diploma here in Barcelona, where I was born. I have studied institutional politics from books and I have understood that it didn’t interest me at all. I believe in politics but only in direct politics, where the individual has a voice. We have been putting the crisis in all sauces for months now. But I’m convinced that the biggest violence is committed by the State as it’s destroying all the institutions on which our society was based. The first example that comes to my mind is the educational system, reduced to nothing by the Bologna’s reform. Now, you can have 4 masters and still remain unemployed. But hadn’t they told us that with diplomas, you could succeed in life?”
Fran comes from Seville and Jordi from Majorca. They are a bit older than Martha and work in the theatre domain. Fran is 26 years old: “I’ve been working as a light technician for the past 6 years and I have never seen so many unemployed in the same sector as in the past few months. I always knew that I had chosen a job that cannot really give a certain stability. However, nowadays, job offers are becoming more and more limited. To such an extent that the few people having a temporary contract are careful not to leave.”
From now on, the unsuccessful pirouettes of Barça’s heroes are only a background sound. The second round of beers arrives at table and Jordi has also a few things to say about the insecurity imposed by the world of work:
“I have arrived to the age of 29 contented with what I’ve done till now. However, I think that I feel like that especially because I didn’t identify myself with a system that I don’t like. If I had done it, it would have stopped me from sleeping at night.” At the same, Jordi speaks of helplessness. “I cannot hide it. The situation in which we’re in is scary because what I see for example in my own theatre sector is very clear. The big multinationals go ahead while all other sectors are obliged to close down.” Before becoming a sceneshifter at theatre, Jordi was a graphic designer. A creative job, for which he has to struggle to try to come up on a market where there is little demand. “For me, it was necessary to be in a logic of struggling to survive. In order to denounce this world of exploitation and agression, we have created an artist collective carrying a very clear name, “la puta grafica” (the graphic prostitute). Working in a theatre seemed to be more adapted to the me and my soul…” On the contrary, Fran refuses to talk of fear: “I believe that in the end there are always news roads to stride. Life offers new options, new possibilities. It is true that when I was a student in Seville, I could imagine that when I would be an adult, I would face this absence of future. But I still believe that when we realise certain things, they can change. For example, in my domain, technicians that don’t have a clear contract must join a workers union. Many colleagues are unemployed and don’t manage to receive any indemnity”. At the same time, for Fran, work seems to be only a tool which can enable you to accomplish other things: “nowadays, in Spain, one should find some air. I find mine through music, my percussions, by travelling and by going to the mountains. This is absolutely necessary because the way of life imposed by certain universes is suffocating. Barcelona is one of them. Here, you live to work, it’s a machine that eats your money. In Seville, you live with little means…with very little means. You can nearly live in the street and feel well because in the end, you can live with little money.” This is the way of life that Marta has chosen to follow even if she defines herself as a privileged person who has a choice. This is what the young Spaniards call “recycling”: “Together with my flatmates, we live with 5 Euros each per week. We do our shopping by gathering the food thrown away by markets and supermarkets because they’re about to expire. One cannot imagine the number of eatable fruit and vegetables that are thrown away with the rubbish. We make it a point to arrive just before they’re among the rubble. It’s not always easy because not all shopkeepers give their approval. Moreover, I try to work the least possible, two or three hours a day because I prefer to dedicate my time to other important things rather than earning money. I have odd jobs that take little of my time so that I can do other activities like committing myself in a social centre, at the free university where we have lectures or in a law firm defending migrants. This is my response to a corrupted world of work where I believe that the only tribute is in self-management or among cooperatives that are capable of involving citizens”.
In fact, there is an obvious distance between Madrid and the young Spanish people’s way of thinking and their behaviour. Politics follow institutional ways.
In the city, even if one shouldn’t exaggerate, squats are becoming social spaces, places of sociability, associations supporting migrants, creative laboratories and cultural centres like the one in Barcelona in the Poble Sec district: “We have opened it out of passion, says Jordi, we have planned no type of profit and if we happen to earn money haphazardly, we’ll invest in an event or in the structure. We have opened it a year and a half ago without public funds and the most important result for us, its organisers, is the creation of a family revolving around the centre, succeeding in keeping the district alive. We are not an islet of happiness. Let’s say that economy is economy, but we’re something else”. Despite her critical attitude towards the educational system, Marta explains that in the near future, she still sees herself as a student: “I want to study law. Then, thanks to this diploma, we’ll see if I’ll manage to get out the immigrants that are locked up at the Cie (Inspection and Expulsion Centre). This is my objective and my future in modern Spain.”
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech