The streets were heaving that evening with revellers clung to one another in drunken solidarity. The night sky was clear and black, patted by solitary hanging orange clouds.
Explosions and coloured flashes added to the night’s delirium. A chorus of banging drums came from the direction of the Ramblas.
The entire city was out that night, locals, ex-pats, and tourists. Armed with gunpowder and drink. The street beer-cerveca men doubled up as fireworks sales men, as well as other night-time commodities.
Nit de Sant Joan (St. John’s Eve), the midsummer celebration, centred around the summer solstice.
Plaças from Gracia down to Barcelonetta were packed. People in the bars and restaurants, grouped on the floors, on church steps, around monuments, drinking, sharing, and setting off fireworks.
The Catalan coastline erupted in bonfires, silhouetted bodies danced and moved by the warmth of the fire. The ever-constant bang-and-whistle of fireworks kept the night’s rhythm going. The 21st Century hedonists were ushering in the start of summer and the eve of Catalunya’s national day (24th of June).
Elsewhere in Europe a monumental shift was taking place. Britain had just closed the polling booths on the Brexit referendum, and the European Union was soon to receive a terminal diagnosis.
Throughout the festivities of that night, I couldn’t help but be worried. To allay my concerns I asked various inebriated British ex-pats and tourists that I came across on my night the question -
“What do you think the result is going to be?”
Without fail each one replied with certainty, “Remain!”
I followed up with “Did you vote?”
Each answered “No.”
If all the Remainers are drunk in Barcelona, who is left to vote?
We soon learnt the answer.
Six months down the road; Britain is still trying to figure out how to Brexit. U.S. President-Elect Trump(hole) is choosing which desk to sit behind in the Oval Office. And just last Sunday, Italians decided to buttar la pasta on their Premier Renzi’s reform, effectively voting for his resignation.
It has been one big shake-up of Western democracies and they predict more to come. These are strange times – they’ve been for some time now. Or have they always been strange?
What do I know? I can only write from what I observe.
The 2011 London riots had revealed something, a warning of sorts. The events that followed the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, showed that today’s disenfranchised would fight for the ideals of a flat-screened TV and a pair of new limited edition air-max shoes.
Only a few state building were targeted, the people attacked and looted commercial outlets. It showed us who the people’s perceived their oppressors to be. Not Westminster, but commercial brands.
The government’s reply was hard and swift – they no longer wanted to “hug a hoodie”.
An alienated public, apathetic towards the illiberal democracy they found themselves in. This was five years ago. Fast-forward, a re-elected Tory party sans Lib-Dems, a bundle of austerity measures and national Scottish insurgence later - Nigel Farage and Boris de Pfeffel Johnson unwittingly hoodwinked the British Isles.
Lies, a term now called post-truth politics. From what I’ve seen, it should simply be called politics. This was not the first time the electorate had been lied to during a democratic process. They, we, have become accustomed to it.
We know it to be the language of the political establishment. And election after election, promise after promise, scandal after scandal, I guess, personal dissatisfaction begot voter disenchantment.
How long can they continue to feed a people the same baloney; fear through one ear and entitlement through the other?
How long before we see something snap? Not long - it’s most likely that it’s already snapped, but our heads are to far up our own sand traps to have heard it.
From everything that is dished out in the media, and consumed on social media, it is easy to believe that our world is not long for this galaxy. A scroll down your screen shows you; wars, climate change, mass migration, religious conflict, cats, and more cats - information mixed with disinformation and cats. Generating a society of apathy and fear, which themselves make for dangerous bedfellows.
Brexit, Trump’s victory, and Italy’s chronic ungovernability, paint a clear picture of today’s western voter; tired, hungry, and helpless.
The political establishment, the architects of this mess, is doddering. The people can smell it, as do some in the establishment itself.
2008, America and in turn the the western world, were captivated by the notion of change and hope. Enough to overturn the then already rising tide of fascistic nationalism.
The geopolitical landscape quickly brought that hope down to a flicker. Fear has crept in.
*BOOM* *BANG* - *BANG* *BANG* *BOOM*
I jump in my chair. Fireworks are let off in celebration of theImmaculate Conception. I curse.
At the moment the situation does not seem particularly bright. Even though you have may have just eagerly opened your daily advent calendar window, you know that things aren’t quite right.
A strangely haired demagogue is in the White House, the union of nations we form part of is on the verge of collapse. Worst of all we seem to have forgotten what we were meant to lest forget.
Democratic process has been highjacked by popularism. Feed the people the truths they want to hear, no matter how ludicrous, bigoted, unfounded, or divisive.
The narrative we are given is constructed to overwhelm. At least that is how I feel, overwhelmed. To such an extent that the only way to continue is to look away, and say this isn’t my fight. But for how much longer? How much longer can the good give into to apathy?
It’s coming up to the end of year. A time, we are told, for reflection and gathering. A time in which we feel “Ah, thank god 2016 is over with, bring on 2017!”
I salute your optimism, hold onto it, you are going to need it.
In a world where the bad in people has been rudely awakened, and the good left in an apathetic slumber, hope and optimism could be the only way to navigate the dark times ahead.
If you do believe in Baby Jesus, Kris Kringle, and all his elves, etc. then don’t turn your back on what is going on around you. Face it with a brave and informed view. Wake the good.
So raise a glass of mulled wine, to you and your loved ones, and toast to the good times, but keep an ever watchful eye on the bad.
I still miss Bowie.