Posts Tagged ‘spirit of christmas’

Family Reunion

In March on Brussels, Spain on 1 January 2012 at 16:00

Móstoles, January 1

Dear people,

Never mind all the stories about spirits and kindness. This year, Christmas was whispered to become a marathon orgy. It started on the 21st of December 2011 and was supposed to go on until the End of Time, scheduled in December 2012.

Unfortunately, we got there late.

It was the evening of the 24th. We were expected in the countryside in the outskirts of the outskirts of Madrid. We left everything to the last minute, and when we finally lifted our bags to go to the metro, we saw how the shutters of the station slowly closed in our face.

So there we were. All people were safe and warm at home, the shops had closed, even the Chinese. We were left with a pack of dry lentils, one egg, a bottle of cheap wine, a bottle of even cheaper sangria, and no cork screw.

“What do we do now?”

Our only luck was that the bottle of sangria had a screw tap. And because I’m a romantic soul, for me there was but one option. “Let’s go to Puerta del Sol. We’ll get drunk out on the streets and have ourselves arrested. Given the situation it’s the only decent way to celebrate Christmas Eve.”

I was a little bit disappointed when the Spirit of Christmas came to save the day. But in the end it was probably better that he did. The three of us ended up listening to hard core Christmas music and playing cards until eight in the morning.

On Boxing Day we finally managed to arrive here in Móstoles. It turned out that the rumours going around on Facebook about this being a kind of End of the World Mega Party, were slightly exaggerated. We were four people. But it was only the beginning.

This is the country garden of comrade Geraldo, at fifteen minutes walking from the closest metrostation. When his grandfather worked this piece of land, the towns of Móstoles, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada and Getafe were still small communities over the horizon. Now they are the vanguard of Madrid. At night you can see how the lights of the metropolis are slowly advancing from all sides. It won’t be long before this piece of country side will be turned into a park surrounded by vacant appartment blocks.

The advancing metropolis

During the week, from all corners of the country and the continent, the veterans of the March on Brussels arrived, one after another. We started celebrating New Year’s Eve a week early, and we just kept on going. “Do you remember?…” someone would say, and there came the stories about the march. The triumphs and the disasters. The good, the bad and the ugly.

There was the legendary ‘Chocolate man’ for example, who served us hot chocolate every morning during our last days in Euskadi and our first days in France. There was the couple from Barcelona who took heartfelt care of us on various occasions. And there was the family from Murcia who joined us for a few days just before our arrival in Paris (mom, dad, daughter of about 17 and son of about 9). It was one of the many times when our march was subject to internal struggle and chaos. Comrade Lodovico didn’t believe that a family would ever want to be associated with us lunatics, and he had a very hard time explaining them the true situation without discouraging them to participate.

They stayed, against all odds. And one way or another they pulled the group together and turned into the spirit of the march. We must have left them a good impression after all, because yesterday just before the new year, all four of them showed up.

Then there were the stories about the week we spent in Revolutionary HQ in Brussels. I haven’t even told you a fraction of what happened there. Most things I heard for the first time. Like the day a man came into the kitchen, and climbed onto one of the tables, and stripped. He spread his arms and announced that he was the incarnation of god on earth. When someone tried to cross his divine path, the scene turned into a full scale riot.

The third floor assassination attempt was another of those stories, probably drug related. Someone had apparently been bottled on the back of the head and left there to bleed. He was only found because of the trail of bloody foot steps that the perpetrator left in the corridor.

Everyone could enter Revolutionary HQ, and indeed, everyone did. Cases of plundering and robbery went on all week. On one of the last days someone really ‘wanted’ must have looked for refuge inside the building. All of a sudden police cars arrived from all directions and a helicopter came hovering over the roof. This scene I remember. They came in, they caught the man and took him away. In ten minutes everything was back to normal. If I had disposed of a camera crew, I could have made an action movie about the week in Brussels.

The Hulk in North Africa

Aside from telling stories, we play Risk. We didn’t have the game at hand, so we made it. A stack of cards, five dices and multi-coloured poker chips is all you need to play. I drew the map on coffee table. Comrade Perro shows a photo of the game of Catan which they made in the squat in Paris.

As revolutionaries, we are slipping, I have to admit it. While we are sitting here, playing Risk on the fifth day of New Year’s Eve, other comrades have arrived in Madrid and engaged in actions. “¡Hostia!” says Geraldo when the news comes in on his phone. “Police is charging at the Cabalgata indignada. There’s a photo of comrade Smiling Sparrow being clubbed in the head. ¡Es una pasada, chabales!

We are shocked. Geraldo puts down his phone, and picks up the dice. “So, the Hulk is going to attack North Africa from Brazil…”

On the other side of the table I drew a map of ‘Risk Iberia’. But as a result of local nationalist sensitivities, it caused more conflict around the table than on it…

Risk Iberia

The last day of the year was amazing. Comrades Cristo, Getafe, Kanario, Carmencita, Sebastian, Smiling Sparrow and many others arrived, both from the Spanish and the French branch of the march. With a few exceptions we were all there, the best of the march on Brussels. When darkness fell we turned into one big tribe dancing around the fire. ‘If only for this,’ I think, ‘the march has become a success.’

Geraldo jumping the flames

By now the stories had started to focus on what happened after the march. Some people went to the protests during the G20 meeting in Nice, or helped to organise the March to Athens. Others have formed their ‘Revolutionary A-Team’, gave it the name of ‘Proyecto Nomada’, and returned to Paris to take part in Occupy La Défense. I heard about it, I’ve seen images of indignados building a cardboard camp only to have it destroyed by police over and over again. I’ve also seen images of the spectacular dome they built, but hearing the first hand accounts of what happened, standing around the fire, is definitely better than anything you can find out through the web.

On the radio the clock of Puerta del Sol starts to strike. Two thousand twelve has arrived. Soon each of us will leave in different directions. To Rome, to Barcelona, to Bayonne, to Berlin, or back to Brussels. But tonight we’re allvhere, and we celebrate. In a certain sense we are one big family. And at some point on the paths of the revolution, we will meet again.

First day of the year




The Spirit of Christmas

In #GlobalRevolution, Spain on 24 December 2011 at 16:36

Madrid, December 23

“Wake up! We’re late! We have to hurry!”

“Huh? What’s going on?”

“Why, it’s Christmas!”

“Relax, Oscar. It’s only the 23rd. Christmas Eve isn’t until tomorrow.”

“That’s what you say. What you obviously don’t know is that good old Santa isn’t always on time.” I’m sitting on the edge of the bed with my shirt inside out, putting on my shoes. “It doesn’t happen very often, I admit it, but some years, Santa comes early. Sometimes he’s already here on the 23rd, or even on the 22nd. He takes care of Christmas in a hurrry and on the evening of the 24th, before people know what’s going on, he’s already back on the North Pole!”

 “You’re talking bullshit, Oscar. Like always.”

I’m putting on my coat, my hat. “Oh no. It’s true,” I say. “Santa likes to play with people. Once upon a time he even came to town in the midst of summer. You should have seen him, on the beach in his red coat shouting: ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s Christmas everybody! Right here, right now!’”


 “You better believe it. And there’s worse: when Santa gets angry, really angry, there won’t be Christmas at all!” I open the door. “Last time that happened was in 1824, if I remember well,” I stop to think, I look up at the ceiling, “or was it 1828? I don’t know, I should look it up in Wikipedia. Anyway – my voice gets really serious at this point – a year without Christmas! You don’t want that to happen, do you?”

 “Ehm… well…”

 “I thought so!”

I slam the door and I’m on my way.

Once I get to the centre of town I have to wade my way through thousands and thousands of desperate last minute Christmas shoppers. I look at their worried faces. Poor devils, they still have to buy presents for kids, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. And then there’s Christmas dinner. What are they going to make? What about the sauce? I feel sorry for them. But fortunately, there’s hope. In a couple of days it’ll all be over.

When I get to Puerta del Sol, the madness is complete. There’s no way of crossing the square. It’s a sea of lost souls. And in between, there are dozens and dozens of animated characters trying to entertain the crowd. I see Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Christmas outfit, I see the Pink Panther, Super Mario, various captain Jack Sparrows and Spungebobs Squarepants. I see aliens, cowboys and numerous cartoon characters that I don’t even know. ‘Is this Puerta del Sol?’ I ask myself. ‘Whatever happened to the acampada? Whatever happened to the 15M?’

 It’s already dark when I finally manage to get to the other side of the square. The 15M has gathered on the Plaza del Carmen. This is where the Christmas Working Group is in assembly. It turns out they have been here for over seven hours to discuss what to do about Christmas.

 I spot Santa Claus on the edge of the square. I knew it! He is already here. I walk up to him. “Hey Santa, how’s it going?”

He sighs. “It’s chaos, Oscar,” he says, “I’ve asked a speaking turn this morning, and they still haven’t reached a decision about whether I should be allowed to speak in assembly. Most people are convinced that I’m an infiltrator. That I work for the banks and the state and the financial institutions. They think that Christmas is the quintessential counterrevolutionary holiday, that it’s all about consumerism, and celebrating the status-quo.”

 “I see.”

I ask for a speaking turn myself. It’s a miracle. Before the stroke of midnight I convince people that Santa deserves to speak, not as Santa Claus, but as a private citizen.

 So when the chimes have sounded twelve times, silence descends upon the square, and Santa Claus steps forward to speak.

“Dear comrades…”

 “Comrades feminine, and comrades masculine! Please use an inclusive way of speach, mister Claus!” someone yells.

 “Ssst!” answers the moderator, “let him speak!”

 “Very well,” Santa says, “comrades of all genders, good evening.” He takes a deep breath. “Many of you think that Christmas is all about consumerism. About buying presents. About stuffing yourself all day long without thinking that there are people in need, people who are hungry, not just in far away places you only see on the news, but also right here, in Spain.” Santa pauses, he has got people’s attention. “It’s all true. This is what Christmas has become. A celebration of exuberance. A time for the lonely to feel more lonely than ever, a time for the needy to feel excluded of all the wealth that we as humans have been able to create.

 “But there is something more,” he says, “something timeless.” At this point he takes off his beard and his red hat. “Look at me. I’m not Santa Claus. I’m one of you. I work for three euros an hour at the Corte Inglés department store, entertaining shoppers in this silly costume.”

A wave of awe rises up from the crowd. Santa isn’t real  after all! Two girls faint on the spot.

 “So there’s something more,” Santa says. “You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, but if you’re lucky, you can feel it. It’s called the Spirit of Christmas

 “The Spirit of Christmas isn’t about presents and food and loneliness. It’s about being kind, it’s about listening to each other, like you are doing right now. It took you some time, but finally you did decide to let me speak, and that makes me feel happy. I can feel that the spirit is upon us.

 “Mind you that this is something extraordinary. The spirit isn’t always here. As a matter of fact, most of the time it’s absent. And although we call it the Spirit of Christmas, it isn’t confined to this particular time of year…

 “Knowingly or not, you have carried the Spirit of Christmas with you for a long time. And this year, finally, you have all decided to share it with one and other.” Santa raises his arm. “The spirit was here on the fifteenth of May, when you decided to camp in Puerta del Sol. And ever since, each time you have provided a meal for the hungry, each time you have prevented a family from being evicted, each time you have occupied a home for those who were, each time you gave people a voice in your assemblies and lent your ear to listen to them, the Spirit of Christmas was upon you.

 “Now the jolly season has arrived. You haven’t yet changed the world, but you have made a start. Carry on, comrades. Don’t be impatient, and don’t despair. As long as you carry the Spirit of Christmas along with you, and share it with others, you will succeed.”