Geopolitics

In Protests Against The Pope, Evidence Spain’s Youth Are Losing Faith And Patience

After the anti-Pope protests in Madrid, politicians and church officials alike have rushed to assure His Holiness that the demonstrators were little more than social parasites and vandals. That could prove a dangerous move, because the anger of Spain’s yo

In Protests Against The Pope, Evidence Spain’s Youth Are Losing Faith And Patience
Lena Jakat

In the run-up to the Pope's visit to Germany in September, young German Catholics queued up to go to confession, but on Madrid's streets right now young Spaniards are yelling words of protest. The world has turned upside down in Catholic Spain, or at least that's what it looks like at first glance.

There's more here than meets the eye. At first glance this week's protests are about World Youth Day, the Catholic Church's "pop" event. But they also shed light on a fundamental dissatisfaction and profound sense of doubt on the part of young Spaniards that runs far deeper than any specific problems they may have with this particular Church event.

Politicians and church representatives may try and write off the youth in Madrid's streets as "parasites' and vandals, but what they don't seem to realize is that these protesters represent the very real danger of a lost generation.

For the half million young Catholics expected to turn up in Madrid for the Catholic Church's largest international get-together, it's a home game, at least according to the facts: 46 million Spaniards are Catholic, which is to say 92% of the population. There are over 127 bishops and 26,000 priests at the Vatican's service in Spain, and Catholic schools and kindergartens play a major role in the country's ailing education system.

That said, in everyday life the Church plays less and less of a role: only 13% of Spaniards regularly attend religious services.

And yet the young people out on the streets in Madrid were not protesting issues like celibacy, or the Church's habit of maintaining an arm's length distance from ordinary people's concerns: they were protesting the expense -- how much the festival was costing the state.

Informally translated, banners seen on Madrid's streets read: "I don't want a cent of my tax money going to the Pope." The protesters expressed massive indignation that the government -- even though it wasn't subsidizing the event in any direct way -- was providing security and the space in which to hold the event. Exactly how much the event is going to cost Spain's tax payers is something the government has not yet divulged. Meanwhile, organizers repeat incessantly that none of the estimated 50 million-euro cost of the event comes from the Spanish state.

Hidden costs

World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005 – which cost a hefty total of 120 million euros -- was subsidized to the tune of 14.4 million euros from public funds. That didn't include the services of the police and emergency forces: state government (as with some sports, concerts and other mega events) absorbed the rest.

With regard to the Cologne event, to what extent state taxes helped finance the 2005 Youth Day is not being revealed by the Department of the Interior of the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen in which Cologne is located. It is precisely this type of lack of transparency that Spanish activists are protesting against. Why, for example, might pilgrims from around the world be given hefty discounts on the public transportation system, but not the locally unemployed?

The demonstrations in Madrid on Wednesday evening against Youth Day were a continuation of the protests that began on May 15 by the "indignados," or "indignant ones." Inspired by the North African revolutions and French intellectual Stéphane Hessel, they were also calling themselves, after the first day of protests, the "15-M Movement."

The protesters are mainly young, well-educated people who have lost faith in both government and politicians. Nearly every second Spaniard under 25 years of age is unemployed: in that age group, the unemployment rate is 46%.

Since most of them haven't paid enough into unemployment insurance coffers to be able to see any benefits, these young Spaniards are getting no support from the state. Well into their 30s, they are living with their parents and largely dependent on parental funds. The ones who do have jobs are often massively over-qualified for them. If their frustration levels get too high, they call in sick: over-qualified academics account for most sick leaves in Spain.

When, last May, Spain's many indignados joined forces and occupied the Puerta del Sol in downtown Madrid for over three months, their anger appeared to be manifesting in a very constructive way. The activists organized debates about the basic tenets of democracy, and engaged in discussion with intellectuals and even Nobel Prize winners about capitalism and the consequences of economic globalization. However, although strongly supported by the general public, politicians didn't take up the opportunity for dialogue.

The demands of the protesters – more jobs and a better, more practically-oriented education system – are, in the mid-term, as comprehensible as they are utopian: in the light of the financial crisis and the euro crisis, the Spanish government has introduced drastic austerity measures. And changes, even if they are improvements, cost money.

A violent turn?

So all hope in the political establishment has disappeared, and Spanish sociologist César Rendueles isn't the only one who's noticed this very serious communication gap. The initially constructive protests have become increasingly destructive -- expressing anger instead of seeking change. The activists themselves have also changed, becoming less political and more prone to violence.

Madrid's mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has been attacked on the street. When Cayo Lara, leader of Spain's Green/Communist alliance, sought to support a forced eviction of squatters he was sprayed with water: he was "a politician, he doesn't represent us," the activists said.

And violently, on June 15, the indignados tried to prevent a meeting of the Catalonian regional parliament by heckling, spitting and throwing fruit at representatives. The parliament meeting had scheduled discussions about the budget that included 10% slashes in social, health and education services -- savings measures that are a result of emptying coffers and orders from Madrid and Brussels.

To make matters worse, the parliamentary elections that have been moved up to this fall are likely to see conservatives win the majority – and they are likely to increase austerity measures, and this frustrate the young protesters even more.

If Spain's indignados were expressing their discontent in the run-up to the Aug. 19 World Youth Day -- a festival of belief, costing millions, that also wants to send a message of community and solidarity – that is an expression of general desperation. Politicians and church representatives, who appear to be deliberately reading the wrong causes into this by writing the protesters off as parasites and vandals, are sending a clear message: We don't take you seriously.

It is a dangerous message indeed.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Carlotta Tofani

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire


According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA

Unsplash/@nemo23


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council


Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire


The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Unsplash/@hkblind


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke


During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press


Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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