quinta-feira, junho 07, 2018

Before My Feet Touch the Ground, a documentary by Daphni Leef

I just watched this documentary by the Israeli activist and filmmaker Daphni Leef, and I found it very interesting and great food for thought.
It’s a very accomplished documentary, in the way it depicts very vividly the 2011 protests in Israel against the housing prices, how they grew, and the emotional and political development of Daphni, one of its main organizers. She was at the session, and I was very positively impressed by her intelligence and articulate ideas, and how much she grew intellectually since those early days of notoriety. I congratulate her for that, and for the courage it took to expose her doubts, humanity and privacy so poignantly and honestly.

But then there are the questions raised by those street movements that took place in those years, what did they mean, what is the aftermath, now that 7 years have gone by?

I will not discuss here the movements of the Arab spring; even if they happened at the same time and maybe the momentum was related, in Egypt, Syria or Libya, they were true revolutions crushed by totalitarian regimes and military coups or civil war, they are wonderfully and painfully chronicled in books like The City Always Wins, Guapa or The Queue – and certainly in others I haven’t read – and they belong to a different category from the street movements that took place in Western and democratic countries like Israel, Spain or the US, and I think it would be unfair and wrong to group them together.

So I’ll focus on these movements – the Occupy movements in Spain and the US and the protests in Israel. And I’ll say that the question that I wish to ask basically is: what did they accomplish? What are the results, 7 years later? And the answer I give myself is pretty dire. In Spain, they had the appalling government of Rajoy until last week. We had Brexit, and Trump was elected as president in the US. I don’t know about the rents in Israel, but my friends there keep complaining about the cost of living in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu is still Prime Minister and that annoying Regev woman is minister of Culture, so I guess things probably didn’t change for the best.

So, what’s left? A sense of huge disappointment. So maybe we should look critically at those events to try to learn from them. Was it the right way to fight? In my opinion, supported by the aftermath, definitely not. Looking back, I see a lot of well intentioned and very naïve people, dreaming of the ‘60s protest movements, manifesting against what they call “the system”, that they feel it fails them – and it does, in many ways – and getting inebriated by their capacity to be visible, wishing to change the world because they feel it’s supposed to be changed – which I agree to. But, after all the marches, feelings of communion, partying to the sounds of Redemption Song or People Have the Power, what happened? They had their minutes – or weeks – of fame, and then people just got tired, changed the channel and everything went back to the same – or worse. “The system” didn’t even need to be violent, it just reaped the fruits of boredom and inertia. And things did not only change but actually worsened – vd Netanyahu, Trump, Rajoy, Brexit.

So my point is – this is not the way to make things better. How much flawed “the system” may be – and it is, in many ways, dominated by greedy and wealthy people and corporations – the way to change and make things better in Western democracies – and, however imperfect they may be, they’re still the best way of government we’ve achieved – is not by chanting and screaming, but by participating in politics in an educated and informed way, moving “the system” according to our ideas, putting aside petty disagreements and inflated egos, and creating honest and reliable political parties with honest and progressive ideas. I believe the way forward is to perfect “the system”, with trials and errors like the “geringonça” we’re experiencing in Portugal at the moment, that is working, and I hope they will try now in Spain. Less folklore and more efficacy. More education and responsibility and less demagogy.

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