“This is not a crisis, this is a fraud.” “We don’t lack money, we just have too many thieves.” “We have the right to be indignant.”
With these and many other slogans, at a time of recession, unemployment, austerity and profound despair, the people of Spain, men and women, young and old, intellectuals with those struggling to make a living, took to the streets and plazas to tell the government: enough.
What became known as the 15M Movement (for having started on May 15, 2011) was fueled by those who became to be known as los indignados or the indignants, the incensed, tired of apathy, yearning for change but really thirsty for justice. Their movement was inspired by our own Arab revolutions and went on to inspire other social grassroots movements such as Occupy Wall Street. Although no longer on the streets, los indignados have established a social movement network ready to mobilize at any time, working on the local level to support the most affected by the crisis and watching the government’s every move. They have not remained silent.
I have long asked myself about the lack of indignados in Lebanon. With the start of the Arab revolutions, we remained silent. With the outset of the 15M, we remained silent. With Occupy Wall Street, we remained silent. And after years of being ignored by our own government, with its corruption, its lack of services, its unequal development, disregard to people’s health and welfare, and a political class poisoning our lives with hatred and confessionalism, we also remained silent. Very pertinent movements and noble efforts have sprung up in the interim, none of which have continued and have risen up to the challenges faced. I wondered where our indignants were, why were they silent when they had so much to say, why were they hiding when they were everywhere to be seen. Why they had not risen, when there was so much to stand up for.
Headed by the Union of Coordination Committees (UCC), not the mockery that is the General Labor Confederation (CGTL), the indignants have risen to the challenge and are now taking over the capital city. Contrary to what they have called it, they are not “crawling” to Beirut, which is not up to the sacrifices they have put into their struggle nor those who they represent. For me, this is about biting into the arrogance of politicians and a small number of monopolistic business conglomerates, who have become almost untouchable, bound in a mafia-like pact against the rest of the country, being held accountable to nobody. This is about restoring rights, justice and dignity.
Let us be clear, teachers and public sector workers may be truly on the ground, but this isn’t only about them. The fact that many other groups have joined their struggle or publicly supported them shows that this isn’t about young or old, public sector or private sector, women or men, Christian or Muslim, right or left, people who may be well-off out of their own hard work or those that barely are able to make ends meet. This is about saying enough to a system that has impoverished us for years, a political class that has used us for years (for which we also have ourselves to blame), and a people who stayed silent (for many different reasons, valid or not) for more that it should have.
Today, los indignados take over Beirut. They may achieve victory or victory may be far away. They may live up to their name or disappoint us at the end. But they have finally risen and certainly are here to stay.