Wisdom and optimism

The mayoress of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, at 74 years old is an amazing woman. She was the co-founder of the labour law office that saw a massacre in 1977 of 5 lawyers and assistants. The response to the massacre was one of the factors that enabled Spain transition peacefully from the era of the dictatorship to democracy. She came out of retirement to run for mayoress in Madrid and many social changes have taken place. On Monday this week she met with the mayors of London and Berlin. She says perhaps because she is older she is more optimistic than they are! Older, wiser and more cynical? No… Love it!! I also love the ‘govern from below’. Wisdom from the street. (Rough translation below.)

Hoy he estado debatiendo con los alcaldes de Berlín y Londres sobre los retos que afrontan nuestras ciudades, desde las consecuencias de Brexit hasta el ascenso del racismo y la extrema derecha. Quizá por tener más edad que ellos, yo soy optimista: he visto a España salir de una dictadura sin violencia y he visto cómo se ha arraigado el pacifismo, que es una idea relativamente reciente que va ganando espacio.

En las ciudades, no debemos olvidar que la única manera de conseguir mejoras es que haya solidaridad entre la ciudadanía (como estamos viendo por ejemplo con la contaminación y la movilidad sostenible). Y para ello, los políticos deben gobernar desde abajo y no desde arriba, relacionarse con los vecinos y vecinas en su vida cotidiana en lugar de colocarse en una situación de privilegio, y nunca convertir los problemas en un teatro.

Today I have been discussing with the mayors of Berlin and London about the challenges facing our cities, from the consequences of Brexit to the rise of racism and the extreme right. Perhaps because I am older than them, I am an optimist: I have seen Spain emerge from a dictatorship without violence and I have seen pacifism become established, which is a relatively recent idea that is gaining space.

In cities, we must not forget that the only way to achieve improvements is to have solidarity among citizens (as we are seeing for example with pollution and sustainable transport). And for this, politicians must govern from below and not from above, interact with neighbours in their every day lives instead of placing themselves in a privileged situation, and never turn problems into a theatre.

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