Saturday, March 31, 2012

29M - Huelga General

On March 29th, the day my dad arrived in Madrid, for his first time ever in Europe, Madrid went on strike.  I guess the workers' plan was to create some chaos, run a minimal amount of public transportation, close all businesses, and annoy people.  What a great first impression of Europe...

"Closed for the General Strike"
Many people around Madrid came together to protest the cuts in the retirement funding.  All semester, they have been complaining about this, along with protesting against cuts to the education system, corruption in the banks, the way the government spends money, and that life just isn't fair.

To be honest though, I think the general strike (huelga general) on March 29th was more or less a failure, and I find myself tempted to write from a position against the strikers.  It's not that I'm against the power of the people or anything, but I don't see striking as a constructive way to solve your problems.  Sure, a strike raises awareness, but awareness does not translate directly into money or a solution.  Besides, everyone was aware of the problems here before the strike anyways.  Complaining loudly in a group, without taking any other action, is merely ineffective and unattractive. 


"General Strike"
"They want to get rid of labor/social
rights...and everything else"
The city's cleaning crew was on strike, and the streets were a little dirty, but I knew they'd be clean the next day, so it didn't really matter.  The metro said it was going to operate minimally, but apart from the trains being a slight bit more crowded than usual, I hardly noticed a difference.  Sure, there were groups of people strolling around with strike flags in Atocha, Cibeles, Sol, and the airport, but they didn't do anything.  The police, in full riot gear, following these groups through the streets seemed melodramatic.  Additionally, nearly all the places my dad and I visited were still open for business, despite the warning that all of Madrid would be closed.  We went to the Palacio de Cristal, Lateral, a paella restaurant in the Retiro, Corte Inglés, and a few other places.

Since the strikers Dad and I saw in the streets were so lackadaisical, it seemed to us like all the protests were an excuse to skip work, sleep late, take an extended siesta, complain about life's problems in a group, and occasionally chant "huelga, huelga," in a droning tone.  Because of the relaxed mood the strikers exhibited, I simply saw them as a distasteful display that would be gone before I woke up the next morning.

Strikers Hanging Out at the Puerta del Sol
Disclaimer: As an observer, not a participant, I have no doubt that my view of this protest is biased toward my situation, and my situation is completely unaffected by anything the participants protested.

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