Wednesday, June 16

Beams of Hope from Spain

Have you noticed what has been happening in Spain? Have you managed to distance yourself from the ready-made corporate condemnations of the Spanish and their new government that Americans have been served up in popular U.S. media across political spectrums?
The Spanish have begun to hold public investigations in the terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004 in which 192 people died. That is only a little over three months after the occurrence of the attacks. Moreover, the investigations will not be obstructed by any of the principles involved. The investigators will be allowed to question anyone, including Jose Maria Aznar, the former prime minister. When you compare that to the delayed and spineless "commission" that has been taking place in the States after much obstruction from the Bush administration was removed, and much remained in place, you begin to measure the democracy gap that currently exists between these two countries.

The Bush Administration's "war on terror" is indissociable from its "war on progressive social gains," although it never identifies the latter by its properly descriptive name. Appearing to fight the first (which they have done so poorly) assures them the political power to fight the second. And given that they are much more effective at fighting the War on Progressive Social Gains, it seems unusual that this war has not been commonly identified as such in popular media or elsewhere.

In a U.S. political climate darkened by citizen apathy and ignorance, popular media mediocrity, corporate cronyism, contempt among leadership for public opinion and welfare, divisive and backwards-looking social conservatism, misleading and vicious campaign ads and "opposition research," repressive "security" measures, state-promoted torture, executive idolatry and exceptionalism, etc., citizens concerned about the enfeebled state of American democracy can take heart from the rays of hope that are beaming from across the Atlantic. Confronted with many of the same types of problems, the Spanish rid themselves of their Bush-loving conservative leader (Aznar) and, in a very short time, have brought about a revival of Spanish democracy. This example should serve as a source of hope for Americans who know that, in its bid for self-perpetuation, the Bush regime is stacking the cards in its own favor and making a somber situation appear hopeless.

In a special report in the June 15 edition of the Financial Times, one reads the following:

"Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, leader of the Socialist party and the new prime minister, has begun to reverse many policies pursued during Mr Aznar's eight years in office. Spain's [pro-Bush] foreign policy has been jettisoned in favour of a rapproachement with France and Germany. Spanish troops have been pulled out of Iraq. Compulsory religious education in state schools has been scrapped. Gay marriages will be legalised."

Moreover, they have shut down the country's biggest sweetheart corporate deal, a massively expensive and environmentally irresponsible plan to divert water from the Ebro river in the north of Spain to the south.

The Zapatero cabinet is not peopled with former oil company executives and millionaires, as is the Bush administration. Half of its 16 members are women, and these women have made significant contributions already. Zapatero's administration lacks the contempt for government that is everywhere on display in the Bush administration. Its members understand that government's primary role is to serve the interests of the people.

Another relevant example: Zapatero's government is working to revamp RTVE (Radio y Television Espanola), the public broadcaster which had become a megaphone for official propaganda. (Just as, in the U.S., many "public" broadcasters have, wittingly or not, become cheeleaders for the corporate war-makers who now lead us.) The corruption had gotten so out-of-hand at RTVE that, in one case, the broadcaster was fined by the Spanish supreme court and forced to give an apology to trade unions whose cause it had deliberately misrepresented. In the States, where the public is told by the administration and its attack dogs that the truth-seeking patriot Michael Moore is an enemy to the state, we are very far from any such government-led attempt to reestablish the public mandate of public broadcasting and promote journalistic integrity. Nonetheless, just as in their effective investigation into the Al-Qaeda train bombings and in their decision to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, the Spanish are showing us Americans what it means to be a vibrant democracy unshackled by corporate greed. In this way, they are beaming a hopeful light which promises that, soon, such changes may occur in the United States, too.