Six o’ clock. Wake up. A crowd around me, shapes, voices. Despite the fuzzy view, the senses are overwhelmed: desperation, anger, loneliness, a sense of loss. But also warmth, an extended hand, hope. And expectation. Lots of it. I am a few days old.
Except, it’s Sunday evening and I’m 27. But this is the best way I can grasp what’s happening around me. Since last Wednesday people meet here, in one of the central squares, next to the sea and the city’s landmark, the White Tower. A gathering of “indignant citizens” it was called, echoing the spanish gatherings of the last weeks. And one it is.
I look at the faces around me. Spotty teenagers, bearded students, young and middle-aged couples, families, snow-haired elders. But these are not the people I have been used to seeing in demos. Most of them are awkward, out of place. It’s their first time. You can tell they are unhappy, angry some of them. But they don’t really know what is happening, what they are supposed to do. So they stay and listen.
There is a microphone. People take turns to speak. “Number 23 is next” – “no we are not numbers, it’s Kostas next”. Everyone has a story, a problem and some solutions or hopes to offer: “…on my way here I saw many people digging in the garbage…” – “… no money to pay for water…” – “…education, health and public infrastructures are being shattered…” – “…let’s start producing again to regenerate the economy…”,”…it’s not our debt, we don’t accept it…”.
People nod understandingly, cheer, clap. Mentions of politicians or parties are met by jeers. They want them to leave. The more experienced ones call for organization, for coordinated action, for working groups to systematize aims, suggestions and ways forward. An infant collective brain tries to form synapses, to move from screams to words, sentences, structured thoughts, motions.
Will there be more than slogans, jokes, simplifications and demonstrations; painkillers for anger and desperation? Will a way forward different than the one others have already prescribed for us be hatched? I have no idea. No one has.
But for me, even if nothing more comes out of these gatherings, they have already achieved something. They have brought people out of their shell. They have reminded them – or even showed them for the first time – in the most vivid way, that there is such a thing as a public space, a community. A space where we can meet, talk, be heard, decide and act. That can involve honesty, trust, solidarity and compassion.
And in such a space politics can only follow, not as a hunt for power or an occasional half-hearted vote, but as a vision sculpting solutions and a better future.