Saturday, September 20, 2003

September 23, the Dia de la Verge de la Merce, is coming up; she's Barcelona's patron. Therefore, it's time for the fiesta mayor. They're having a bunch of like theater and modern dance stuff, none of which seems like too much fun to me, but then I'm an old stay-at-home stick-in-the-mud party-pooper.

Here's Mayor Joan Clos's official declaration:

Barcelonese and Barceloneses,

With the first days of the fall comes La Merce, Barcelona's fiesta mayor, the vibrant explosion of the energies we save up to face the new season. La Merce, a living tradition, expresses the best of ourselves, which is the ability to share happiness. there is wisdom in the peoples who know how to find themselves in the fiesta; there is wisdom in the cities which turn the street into a meeting place, a space of dialogue, a stage for different cultures. La Merce is the affirmation of generous and open, curious and cosmopolitan Barcelona, the symbol of the Mediterranean city we are.

This is La Merce of peace, a desire which the city has expressed and expresses, as a demand to those who have the power to make decisions that define the destiny of the world. Barcelona has suffered, too much, under the whip of war, not to know that it is always a tragedy.

(OK. I've already had enough. 1) I don't think it's appropriate for us to pat ourselves on the back about how great we are. I think we should leave that to others. 2) Suffered, my ass. Barcelona took a few bomb and shell hits in the Spanish Civil War, killing some 2000 people, but we're not talking Dresden here. As for the killings, it was you folks who killed each other. Don't blame "war". Take some responsibility. Barcelona wasn't hurt too badly in the Napoleonic wars. The last time it was besieged was 1714, and if they'd had any brains, they'd have made a deal with King Felipe a long time before that.)

We are not in favor of armed conflict. We are in favor of the construction of just and balanced peace. A peace that is not imposed, a peace that is often not easy, but which is better. We will talk about this in the Forum 2004. There we want to explain our feelings and we want to listen to all of those who have something to say.

(I'm not in favor of armed conflict, either. and I'm in favor of kitty-cats and teddy bears and Easter chickies, too. And my ass you want to listen, or you would, to the voice of an angry America demanding a just and balanced peace, which is not the state of affairs we have now what with terrorist gangs running all over the Middle East and rogue states from Tehran to Pyongyang threatening to develop nuclear weapons. I thought we were broadcasting loud and clear enough. Guess not.)

A city is defined by the values it exercises, but also for the values that it aspires to share in the future, because this is the deeper construction of the city as a collective project: the consolidation of values, experienced by all.

(Wait a minute. Doesn't this sound a bit like brainwashing? "Down with Saddam! Down with Communism! Free North Korea! Stop the starvation! No nuclear blackmail! No to terrorism! Castro's a dictator! Oops, Mr. Clos-Thought Newspeak Big Brother Officer, uh, I meant 'Peace and love!'" At least twenty-five per cent of us folks in Barcelona, if you figure the 15% who vote for the PP plus 5% each corresponding to the more intelligent and moderate voters for Convergence and the Socialists, think Mr. Clos is full of dog doo.)

Citizens: there can be no fiesta without freedom, but there cannot be freedom without commitment. This is civicism: measure, balance, the exact point where the individual and the collective meet. There is no excuse for vulnerating everyone's well-being: this respect is civicism. The foundation, along with tolerance, of the good-neighborliness that is the identity of Barcelona.

(In Spain, if you start bragging and talking big, they ask you, "Don't you have a grandma already?" The implication is that it's your grandma, not you, who is supposed to praise you.)

It is the job of the City Government to provide services so that the fiesta can come off, plan a program, invite artists and groups, increase transportation and sanitation. It is the job of the citizens to make the fiesta a civic celebration, the image of the Barcelona that the world admires, the Mediterranean spirit, shared happiness.

(Geez, not even Kansas City is this provincial in its need to build up its own self-esteem.)

Remember, Barcelonese, that it is the tradition of the fiesta mayor to open the doors of our house, invite friends and relatives to visit, make the dinner table more generous with food in company.

Citizens and citizenesses, visitors and foreigners: I call you to the fiesta. come out of your house, come into the streets, enjoy it. the city is yours, La Merce is yours.

(Now, why couldn't he have just limited himself to that, a call to inviting guests to help us enjoy our city? I think we can all be happy to do that and don't need our bums kissed about doing so.)

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