End of the Wave
Athens, May 20
Our tribe is settling down. We are starting to adapt to the comforts and complications of sedentary life. A new cycle has begun, an old one has been concluded.
We have running water, we have electricity, we have four stories and a roof terrace in the middle of the anarchist quarter of Exarchia. We are not in a hurry to move.
Most of us are waiting for the trial of our comrades who got arrested for occupying Syntagma. After that, there are no limits, no borders.
North, East, South, West. Some of us want to go cycling to France through the Balcans, or hitch hiking through Iran to China, or sailing to Alexandria, or flying back to Spain to occupy Plaça Catalunya, or the Puerta del Sol. The sense of freedom is overwhelming.
It’s too much. I have to sit down for a moment. I want a sofa, a pile of straw, a hammock, or why not? – a real bed! Before I do anything, I need time to reflect. This is already the beginning of another story. The first year is over. We were a wave, and now we are backwash on the beach.
So I ask myself, what on earth happened this past year? The last thing I remember is that I had embarked on a quiet life as a goat shepherd in Andalusia, which I combined with a translation assignment from a Dutch editor. I was living the rhythm of the season on the land, I was learning to make cheese.
Then it started. We all called it a revolution.
When I came out of the metro station and on to the Puerta del Sol on May 21 at dawn, it was reflection day before the local elections. There were hundreds of people camping out on the public square, demanding direct democracy and a whole lot more.
This wasn’t just going on in Madrid, but all over the country. It was spreading over other nations, over other continents.
There was no central organisation, it had come as a complete surprise to everyone, and I found myself right in the middle of it. I had to stay, I had to be part of this. I felt the pulse of history.
When I sat down in the tent of the Communications commission under the backside of the equestrian statue in Puerta del Sol, I was pretty sure that it could take some time before I would go back to being a shepherd.
Now I’m here in the squat in Exarchia with my revolutionary brothers and sisters. I occupy the sofa, I’m not planning to move, and for the moment I only recall isolated images of last year.
The siege of parliament and the bowl of salad floating over the crowd. The drums of the Basque column arriving in Segovia. The advance to Paris and the surprise assembly on Place de la Bourse. The dice wars in Revolutionary Headquarters Brussels. The occupied Christmas tree on St. Peter’s square in Rome. The snow in Naples. The phantom village in the Apennine mountains. The shores of Greece. The alleys of Agrinio.
And most of all, the people.
I have started to forget their names by the dozens, but I recall the faces. Hundreds, thousands probably. All over the world we were millions. This was the year of the people. This was the year of Sol, the rising sun.
I have followed the events daily from as close by as I possibly could without losing focus. I rode the wave of this movement from the magic start in Puerta del Sol, all through Europe on foot to Brussels and Athens. And I’m happy that I did. The amount of things I witnessed and experienced was more than enough to fill a lifetime.
I leave this account. It’s jotted down the way it came. It wasn’t written from the perspective of a journalist or a historian. I didn’t try to be objective, I couldn’t. I’m a revolutionary, and I’m a narrator. I wrote this story to capture the spirit of the moment, day after day. And it turned out to be more than just one kind of story.
It’s the chronicle of a utopian village in the center of Madrid. It’s a revolutionary manifesto. It’s an adventure tale, complete with sequel. It’s a sociological study into human interaction and self organisation. It’s an anthropological study into the functioning of an urban nomadic tribe. It’s a practical guide to assemblary politics and manipulation. It’s a travel account through time and space. Occasionally, it carries hints of mystery and fairytale.
We sit on the sofa in Exarchia. It’s over. But we can just keep on going if we want to. No destination on earth is too far to get there on foot.
We could also go home, back to reality.
“Yes, as in working fixed hours to pay for a rent or a mortgage.”
“Do you want to go back to that after all that has happened?”
It’s the big question that has been bothering every one of us. And most of us know that it’s impossible. We cannot go back to reality. Not until we give shape to reality ourselves.
This ends my account of the march and the first year of revolution. I hope to put it up soon in a chronological and more accessible format. In the meantime I will take a break to rest and reflect. I will keep reporting on the movement, and on my adventures for as far as they are of public or revolutionary interest. Thank you all for reading. It has been a pleasure to write.