The new 1968
So this goes way beyond a student revolt. It's a revolt that lays bare a profound ethical crisis convulsing a whole society. And it goes way beyond the economy; this is a movement seriously inquiring over the place of human beings in turbo-capitalist society.
No wonder baby boomers - the parents of Generation Y - cannot but be reminded of the late, great German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Compared with this breath of fresh air amid the asphyxiating social and economic landscape in Spain and great swathes of Europe, how not be reminded of Marcuse in a conference in Vancouver in 1969, talking about a worldwide student rebellion.
Marcuse then evoked how French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was asked the same question - why these rebellions everywhere? Sartre said the answer was very simple - no sophisticated reasoning necessary. Young people were rebelling because they were asphyxiated. Marcuse always maintained this was the best explanation for this rebel yell denouncing a structural crisis of capitalism.
Marcuse was an ultra-sharp analyst of the degrading of culture as a form of repression, and the necessity of a critical elite capable of smashing the totalitarian opium of consumer culture (the outraged are also performing this role).
Marcuse identified the French and the American 1968 as a total protest against specific ills, but at the same time a protest against a total system of values, a total system of objectives. Young people didn't want to keep enduring the culture of established society; they refuted not only economic conditions and political institutions but also a rotten, global system of values.
In 1968, they were realists; they were demanding the impossible. Today, one of their signs read, "If you don't let us dream, we won't let you sleep."
Bob Dylan turns 70 this Tuesday. In Bob We Trust; he won't tell us, but deep in his heart and mind he knows where los indignadosare coming from. If, as he wrote in Absolutely Sweet Marie, to live outside the law you must be honest, los indignados couldn't be more honest themselves, because they refuse to live under this law that is in fact killing them as well as most of us.
That's why it feels so great to be stuck inside of Madrid with the Cairo blues again.