Spain is Israel
Published: January 1, 2013
Josh Haner/The New York Times
What has been going on in Spain is truly historic, and it has been on my mind ever since it began. It is impossible not to be tantalized by the potential of these events to change the course of Spain's history. What's important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the people. The current administration seems too caught up in worrying about their own skins to pay attention to what's important on the ground. Just call it missing the fields for the wheat.
When thinking about the recent turmoil, it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like car salesmen, so attempts to treat them as such are a waste of time. Car salesmen never suddenly shift their course in order to fit with a predetermined set of beliefs. Two, Spain has spent decades as a dictatorship closed to the world, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, freedom is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If authoritarianism is Spain's ironing board, then freedom is certainly its flowerpot.
When I was in Spain last week, I was amazed by the level of Westernization for such a closed society, and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of Spain have no shortage of potential entrepreneurs, and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in Spain are just like people anywhere else on this flat earth of ours.
So what should we do about the chaos in Spain? Well, it's easier to start with what we should not do. We should not ignore the problem and pretend it will go away. Beyond that, we need to be careful to nurture these first inklings of a moderate, modern society. The opportunity is there, but I worry that the path to stability is so narrow that Spain will have to move down it very slowly. And of course Madrid needs to feel like it is part of the process.
Speaking with a small business entrepreneur from the unpopular Protestant community here, I asked him if there was any message that he wanted me to carry back home with me. He pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, won tin jin hao, which is a local saying that means roughly, "Fish are no respectors of human boredom, so why go angling."
I don't know what Spain will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will probably look very different from the country we see now, even if it remains true to its basic cultural heritage. I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven't lost sight of their dreams.