Friday, May 27, 2011

Spanish Revolutionaries Create Flash Mobs of Political Activism

In the wake of numerous revolutions around the globe sparked mostly by youth and energized by social networks, Spain’s citizens have been undergoing a cultural revolution in the past few weeks.

Dubbed #spanishrevolution, which you might recognize as a Twitter hash tag, the movement has gained momentum due to outrageous unemployment rates, bank-friendly mortgage systems, and politicians who seem uninterested or unable to deal with the problems at hand. The eponymous tag serves as a meeting point for revolutionaries looking for information related to the current status of the protests.

The hash tag was collectively realized by bloggers in Spain who write politically-motivated critique. With tons of readers who trust the bloggers for their credibility on the topics, protests can be organized via the hash tags and then disseminated via the blogs. What this amounts to is a large population of tech-savvy youth—45% of whom are unemployed—who are ready to meet in public and get their protest on.

Being unemployed has a two-fold effect here: First, the youth are motivated to protest, since they don’t have a way to generate income, and money is kind of important. Second, they don’t have jobs, so they’ve got plenty of free time! This situation clearly underlines the difference between unemployed youth in Spain and the United States, as well as the relationship between blogging and physical action in the two countries.

Those that are unemployed in Spain appear to be motivated to go and accomplish something, where a lot of the unemployed youth in the United States are content to complain and live with their parents. The Spanish may not have jobs, but they’re taking to the streets, using their social media-fueled communication to organize and align themselves to meet up in specific areas.

Both countries have a countless number of political bloggers who intend to incite momentum within their populations, but the United States seems to have an overwhelming number of people who merely write about what they’re campaigning for rather than taking further action. I’ve long lamented that we’ve got too many people who are just barely motivated enough to write something and leave it up to everyone else to perform the action. The problem is that there is far too high of a ratio between bloggers and activists.

The Spanish youth, however, are using these tools as a way to quickly organize protests and gather large groups of people to attempt to accomplish something or at least have their voices heard. The result is a flash mob of political activism—which ends up looking something like this:

This event occurred earlier this morning in Barcelona, Spain. As you can see, the police didn’t take kindly to the protesters sitting down where they’re not supposed to, and as we’ve seen repeatedly in situations where those in authority are highly outnumbered, they begin to get violent. They beat the protesters with hardly more than verbal taunts being thrown at them.

Americans stage these kind of protests occasionally, but generally without success, and it’s not entirely clear whether the protests in Spain are having a major impact. It is true that a large segment of the population is involved in the debate, with most people aligning against the corrupt or incompetent politicians who seem to be ignoring the major problems plaguing the country.

Social networking is probably the best way for protests to organize, and this method has been used in America, though sometimes the cause is never fully realized, as shown in this pathetic protest staged against Scientology by members of the group Anonymous here in Atlanta:

Or how about this ultra-embarrassing pro-cannabis demonstration carried out in Atlanta’s Hurt Park?

Both are examples of how social networking can influence and bring people together to fight for a specific cause, but in the case of the Spanish, there seems to be such a collective mindset that something might actually be accomplished. The role of social networking in this revolution—and especially Twitter—will be memorialized within the moniker given to it.

Let’s think about that for a second; in the history books, there will be references to World War II alongside #spanishrevolution. That’s pretty crazy! Let’s hope they succeed in their efforts instead of just getting beaten in the head repeatedly.

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