“I don’t want a new iPad, I want a new life”

This is a translation of a truly remarkable, extraordinary piece by Guillermo Kaejane, not just in terms of the ideas it expresses but as a historical document. It was originally published on the madrilonia site. I regret not being able to do it full justice. There are probably a few errors in it.

The tagline on this site, by the way, reads ‘because you even have to pay to breathe’.

Seven key words on the Madrid-Sol experience and 15-M.

“I don’t want a new iPad, I want a new life”

– graffiti during the mobilisation of the 15th of May.

1. Time

Time accelerates. The senses are shaken. Fear paralyzes the senses, vertigo sends them haywire. The permanent camp in puerta del Sol is pure vertigo. The hours pass quickly between one concentration and the next, but then time stretches. The nights are loooooong. Time contracts and expands, moved by a tide of people (mainly, though not exclusively, young people). It seems we have been there for years, and not even three days have passed.

Revolts are real when they change space-time.

The space-time created in the last days has a sole obsession: continuity. Paradoxically, this is only possible through interruptions. Through a physical “entrance and exit” from Sol. Keep the experience going even though you are not present. This is why the camp in Sol-Madrid (and so many others) can’t be understood without social networks. The continuity of the experience is achieved through deterritorializing it. I am in Sol even though I am at home. I am in Sol because I keep talking about it, because I can’t concentrate at work, because it doesn’t leave my head. And as soon as I can, I head off there again. I run there, I insert myself again in this new “social connector” and by this others can go and rest.

The classical conception of social revolts sets forth a scenario that ties together the gathering of forces, and continuity. If we keep at this longer, we will be more. If we keep at this longer, the tyrants will fall. This mystification is drawn from a simplification of what has gone on in Egypt and other Arab countries. Places from which we have not had any news of even the end of a process, nor of its seed, nor of its years of visibility and invisibility, its failed experiments, its one way streets and its setbacks.

What is happening these days is not final, it is not the decisive moment, it is the point of departure.

2. Communication

Communication is the form of political organisation. People become the medium of communication. Social networks are not so much the medium, as the expressive and organisational territory. Common sense is knit by way of flux and meme. From the logic of shared trust of Facebook one moves to the logic of direct experience of Twitter.

The slogan circulates and multiplies. With no official versions, rumour takes off. The traditional communications media find themselves in a Dadaist cacophony that brooks no interpretation. They cling on to what they can, they project their own conceptions.

The auto-narration of the process does not pass through (for the moment) live streaming, but the need to tell one another, to narrate what has been lived, the anecdote, the “I was there” intensifies.

The obsession of the communications media of retransmitting the demonstrations from their “interior”, as though they were “one more” points to an obsession with the loss of their centrality. The experts and analysts reveal themselves as incapable of thinking with their own head and return (to both left and right) a singular voice. The sensation for the spectator brought into the experience is the same as that of those fans of Lost who turned up to attempts at debates on Cuatro (Spanish TV channel – HG) to explain the end of the series: a mixture of stupor, embarrassment and clowning.

3. Powers

In these times an enormous expressive capacity is unfolding in which any person gathered in a group believes to be the representation of the whole. The sensation of empowerment is such, that one ends up believing that what each one does is represent everyone else. It is a reasonable logic, and difficult to get out of one’s head, but it has to be de-activated. The power of the movement comes from its unrepresentability. They do not represent us..because they cannot represent us.

As with any disperse network, there are a multitude of centres that are not “the centre”, but stations of sign repetition, of proposals and directions. Creativity is foremost. The hegemony of whoever holds sway (Democracia Real Ya? The assemblies in the squares? The commissions in those assemblies? Twitter? Me and my mates?) is totally changeable.

The assemblies are not spaces of production of a direction, but rather of a collective catharsis. Of an enormous desire to talk and talk and talk. Memorized registers are mixed together “The people united will never be defeated” with new forms of expression “Error 404 System Failure” “Downloading democracy” “This is not a crisis it’s a swindle”

In the institutional field madness reigns. In 72 hours we have seen the political class in its entirety move from “this is not happening” to “this is not important” to “this is dangerous” and in the last hours to “We are you!”. Once again, grotesque. The impossibility of fitting the mobilization into a clear “left-right” frame that has maintained social consensus since the transition begins to reveal a new logic of conflict: “Above and Below”.

Unable to control what is happening, the control mechanism over the movement is a simple question, a constant question: What do you propose?

4. Proposals

The demand for proposals is a control mechanism. A way of filling up the vacuum of the unrepresentable. A mechanism that is not the preserve of the media and the political class, but also of some expressions of the movement. Getting an answer enables putting the rebels in a place. It enables one to say “ah, they’re utopian” “ah they’re populists”, “uff, they’re leftists”, “ah, what they want is impossible”, “Oh how naïve”, “Bah, they aren’t radical”, “Ooh, they have some reasonable things”.

What is imposed, however, is silence. Or something very similar to silence, which is a cacophony of contradictory signals.

However much anguish it might generate, maybe a good point of departure would be to say “Contrary to those of you who fake knowing everything, we don’t know yet”. The person who urges haste wants to get somewhere soon. This is not the case.

In the squares, the very discussion is more important than its conclusion. The responsibility is to defend and extend that. To continue discussion. To continue speaking. To trust in the same common sense that has brought thousands of people to resist in the streets for days. Until know, it hasn’t gone too bad for us.

5. Democracia-Real-Ya:

This logo, this slogan that cuts through the whole mobilisation is one of its constituent parts and from this, the media and the political class have decided not to give it much thought. But it is quite easy: “Democracy”, not any old democracy, but a real one. The real is opposed to the simulated. This means that the logo (or one of the logos) under which the movement is built says that what institutional power calls democracy is a lie. And it demands the construction of something else that breaks this simulacrum. But on top of that, it does not set it forth in utopian or far off terms. We want it now. “Now” means urgency, “now” means nerve, “now” means we have to be able to touch it, that it has to cut through our live, that it is not babble, but construction. That it does not exist, and, as such, it has to be made.

6. And so, tomorrow?

It is very difficult to think about tomorrow when you are so taken up by the events of today. It is even more difficult when the rhetoric of the political class has always sustained itself on what happens tomorrow. In the movement tomorrow is unthinkable at the moment. Only the now exists.

For institutional power, the elections of next Sunday 22nd May are a moment of relegitimation. A moment of restitution of governmentality. A moment for putting one’s foot up on the desk and get back to drawing up the map of the possible.

The elections have functioned for the moment as a sketchy element and, perhaps, a unifying one at a symbolic level. But in the camps, in the meetings, etc, the words heard most are “connect”, “extend” and “build”.

On the 23rd of May one will begin to resolve this question mark, as a painted slogan read on the day of the demonstration.

“I don’t want a new iPad, I want a new life”

PS – Point 7: Joy, joy, joy.

11 Responses to ““I don’t want a new iPad, I want a new life””

  1. 1 DublinDilettante May 20, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for the translation, it’s an interesting piece documenting the meaning of a movement which I suspect the political and academic explanatory framework will struggle to define for decades.

    However, the repudiation of the left-right axis is something that’s come up a lot in relation to these protests. Deep down, I have a nagging suspicion that this is what a We The Citizens-type venture might look like in a country with some vestigial memory of a revolutionary past, and a history of mass protest.

    • 2 Hugh Green May 20, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      I think you’re misreading it. Or maybe I haven’t made it clear enough. The point he is making is not ‘we are neither left nor right, we have no politics’, but rather ‘you cannot represent us in terms of the habitual categories of left and right which you have been applying since the end of the dictatorship as a means of controlling the way in which we understand politics’, where the descendents of Franco are ‘right’, and the corrupt neo-liberal PSOE is ‘left’. The normal terms and conditions do not apply. In so far as you come across outright disavowals of leftism, or revolutionary politics, these will be on the part of people who simply have not got with the programme yet, and they are probably pushed to the fore of coverage from mainstream media outlets such as the Guardian.

      • 3 DublinDilettante May 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm

        Sorry, I was the one not being clear enough, I didn’t mean in relation to the above but to a lot of vox pops and interviews I’ve read (including some from left perspectives.) And yes,I accept that there are elements of the left which will never recognise the legitimacy of any movement which doesn’t have the workers-in-themselves as its alpha and omega.

        It appears to be a unique and authentic development in modern European politics, and that’s extremely heartening. I think there’s a long way to go before we can determine whether the majority of those mobilised equate “real democracy” with “real representative democracy” or “real economic democracy”, though.

  2. 4 Eoin O'Mahony May 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I agree Hugh, there is a point though that DD brings up in an Irish context. Do we have something similar for tomorrow’s gathering? Neither capital nor the state? We might ensure that no ‘message’ comes from tomorrow’s gathering. Who knows.

    As a companion piece to DD’s own blogpost during the week, it’s a good moment to gather and talk.

    • 5 Hugh Green May 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Well I personally think that tomorrow’s gathering should give full solidarity to the central logo and slogan of the campaign -Real Democracy Now!- and contain some recognition recognise that this cannot be contained at the outset within any political boundary or formal category of citizen. Also, as the Saramago video says, we cannot talk about democracy in a space where the demos is dominated by unelected organisations such as the ECB, the IMF, the OECD, and so on. I do agree, however, that the resolution of ‘democracy=voting’ to ‘real democracy=voting with knobs on’ in the Irish context is a big concern.

      As for DD’s point about the economic dimension to things. I think I am a bit more optimistic about the possibility of the material dimension getting inscribed in the idea of ‘real democracy’ here. In fact I think it is one of the central planks of the campaign. I mean, when you’re talking about ‘real’ democracy, you’re simultaneously saying that what there is is a fake.

      One thing I ought to point out is that ‘Ya’ is more emphatic than Now! ‘Ya’ also means ‘already’.

  3. 6 ejh May 21, 2011 at 6:13 am

    I actually missed all this until Friday morning: I was working in Menorca and staying in a house with no telly and so it weasn’t until I was in a bar waiting to leave that I saw the news (and then bought El País for the ferry trip).

    Tremendously cheering, isn’t it? Looks to me a lot like the post-Seattle movement. I remember turning on the news when Seattle happened and thinking blimey, went to bed in the Nineties and woke up in the Sixties, and this was similar.

  4. 7 make do and mend May 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Two points stand out for me in this article.

    One, the author seems to imply that what isn’t important is that the people speak with one voice towards bullet-pointed goals but that they are simply speaking to each other; often face-to-face. The media, who’ve long believed themselves the sole means through which popular opinion is formed and conjoled, can’t get their heads around people speaking to other people and forming and reforming their own opinions as they confront the fluidity of differing and often opposing thoughts.

    The subjective totality bringing the people onto the streets is obstensibly anger at a system that fails so many people on so many levels, but there are many concrete ideas competing for popular authenticity. The broadness and fluidity of differing voices appealing to democratic ideals doesn’t allow authority to categorise and splinter. The people are giving themselves the space and time, literally, to discover communal remedies to their individual grievances.

    The second point – #4 Proposals – correlates closely to the first. By refusing to state concrete objectives the fluid group removes the basis of negotiations beloved of monied authority. If Spain is like Ireland, the unstated proposition of everyone’s life is to make money, or to comply with business goals solely. No other human goal is worthwhile. Anything that detracts from the sole objective is a distraction or worthless.

    When monied authority can ask ‘what do you want?’ and you reply with a concrete reply, you have entered a world that they now define – the world of exchange, and a definition of exchange that is narrowly defined by some tangible benefit to someone or sub-group. They immediately have the upper hand by simply asking the question because it implies they have something to give and you must get it from them. On the other hand, if you claim democracy isn’t theirs to give but yours to bestow as you see fit, they are at loss to negotiate.

    In many ways, our leadership throughout the West and beyond believe history is dead. We are on a one way street called progress, if progress is just defined by something as misleading as GDP. I see these poeple in Spain as making one conclusive demand – open up the history books. The future isn’t written and won’t be written by monied interests in splendid isolation. Democracy by definition is always fluid. It says something about our era where popular democracy can be seen by some as insidious.

    • 8 ven dimias May 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

      These are the best words (in terms of explanation) I ve read in this blog about Toma la Plaza. Cheers!
      Anyway, thanks for you for your trying to understand.
      It makes you part of this democratic movement

      Abot the representative democracy we must not forget that a social movement could have democratic roots even if it had not a formal representation (as people fon Iceland Know traditional political parties do not work anymore by now).
      The trick of the systen now is asking for us to be there like a party. That s part of the neoliberal fake.

      Thanks you all.

  5. 9 Brian May 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Just to share with you some of my experience and what I have seen. I’ve been living in Barcelona for 9 years. I went to the gathering on Thursday in Plaza Catalunya in the afternoon, about 15.30. It had been organised into various different “commissions” to organise food, book reading, talks etc. I think I even saw a guy who was in charge of uploading peoples comments onto the web. He had a paper notebook beside him and was transcribing into his computer.

    There was a corner where people had left written statements of various intent. Most of which had messages similar to what you would see written in “Squat houses” around Barcelona. My point being that for me the gathering didn’t seem very heterogeneous, it seemed to be comprised mainly of people from 21 to 30, college students possibly, the “okupa” or “antisistema” type you see here in Barcelona, that has tinges of anarchism and collectivism. I don’t wish to judge anybody I’m just trying to describe the best way I know how…I’m not shall we say “politically educated”.

    From what I have heard/seen, Madrid is more heterogeneous. My personal opinion is that the gathering in Plaza Catalalunya needs older people and more people from different social classes to go along and share their opinions. They are in dire need of different opinions and a decent discourse! All this said, I was there on Thursday in the afternoon, it may have been different yesterday.

    For me there are some concrete proposals that decant from meetings. 1. The electoral laws in Spain need to be reformed, here the electoral lists are not open. 2. Where is the tax money that our elected officials gave to the banks? The public would like it back. 3. There is very high unemployment here in Spain amongst younger people, those who are employed after studying for years, have very low wages and find it difficult to emancipate themselves, people want something done about wages and the way labour is organised here in Spain.

    There might other opinions and proposals but as I said this is my observation.

    Anywho…as this article says, Joy Joy Joy!!

    I encourage people in Ireland to get out of your house, meet with your friends in the street and start a conversation, let strangers join in…see what happens.

  6. 10 Alright Jack May 23, 2011 at 8:33 am

    That was amazing. Thanks. While not an expert or having even read those texts, it seems this kind of writing is rather similar to the ’68 writing of for example a Guy Debord, including the seventh point.

  1. 1 Moving On « The Punishment of Sloth Trackback on May 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

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May 2011

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