The Road to Starbucks
It’s siesta time. The blistering sun is dispersing the crowd. We have set up our revolutionary headquarters in the Starbucks franchise across from parliament. ‘Radical ambiguity’ is what Mehmet calls this type of situation.
As a lover of coffee I do not usually visit Starbucks. People have come up with many reasons to criticise the chain, so there’s no need for me to join the chorus. I think the place is great. They have a bathroom, you can plug in your laptop, you can recharge you camera. And today you can sit down at a table for as long as you want. Nobody will care. You’re not even obliged to consume. The employees are on our side.
“This is revolution,” says comrade Afrah. She has created herself a little office space. There are papers spread out all over her table. A guitar is leaning on a chair. Anti-capitalist slogans are put up on the walls. Comrade Afrah is from England. She has been doing what someone needed to do. She has been writing songs, she has been putting together a band, she has been recording.
“Listen,” she says. And she starts to sing: ‘Puerta del Sol’ for voice, strings and chorus. It has all it takes to become the hymn of the revolution. And it’s a cappella, live in Starbucks.
The day had started off as if it were a normal Sunday. When I arrive at the rendezvous point for the southern column I only see some elderly sitting in the shade, a woman walking her dog. I am a bit worried, I start looking at the time. Surely the people didn’t let themselves be intimidated?
They didn’t. All at once they’re there. From various directions they come flooding out onto the square. And they just keep coming. I can’t see the end of it. Not for a single moment I have had the complete overview of our column. Not even when I linked up with the comrades from Audiovisuales at the head of the march. Our column is just one out of six converging on parliament from all directions. The broad boulevards of Madrid are packed with people as far as eyes and cameras can reach. And at every intersections more people continue to join.
Today we march. Today we are one. Today the only legitimate authority is the people in the streets. There is no way to stem this crowd, nobody even tries. The only police we see is a couple of municipal officers on scooters trying to contain the traffic. One of the officers agrees to let himself be interviewed. It’s completely against the rules. But he speaks not as an officer, but as a citizen. And as a citizen, he is one of us.
At one of the roundabouts we merge with the Southwestern Column. The boulevards are too narrow to walk. We’re passing close by the Audiovisuals den where our people are coordinating. I pop in for a coffee.
I find Mehmet there. We look at the images from what is happening right outside the door. The sounds from the screens and from the streets start to mix. We finish our coffee, he gets his camera operational and we hook up together to form a new audiovisual unit.
As we walk along to catch up with the crowd I start to realise what critical mass really means. Up to a certain point you can watch a demonstration from a distance. But when it grows beyond that certain point, you just have to join. If only to see how far it will go. If only for the music.
There’s a drum band playing. The vibration is irresistible. We are literally dancing through the streets as we’re passing the Atocha station and people keep joining the party. I’m happy to see there are so many children, everywhere you look. In strollers, on shoulders, or just playing around. Their parents didn’t just bring them along because they couldn’t find a babysitter for today. They brought them along for a very special reason: this is the day their future begins. And they want them to remember it.
Negative energy can be very strong. You can mobilise a lot of people by demonstrating against something. But if you want to mobilise the people as whole, you will need positive energy, and lots of it. You need a good example.
Puerta del Sol did just that. It gave a good example, an example of hope. It proved that another world is not only possible, it’s already here.
We arrive at parliament. It’s a full-scale siege. On the south side there is some grass, some trees and some shadow. We sit down to relax and enjoy the magical moment. As I lie down I can see the sun playing through the foliage of the trees. In the distance, I hear music. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces I know. A live orchestra is performing the famous final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
It tops it off. I’m dreaming away, humming Schillers words, his Ode to Joy…
Freude schöne Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!