This is a translation of an article originally published on Público on 11th March, by Pablo Bustinduy, about the new campaign launched by Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth Without Future), intended to politicise the phenomenon of emigration.
Politics of exile
Illustration: Ramón Rodríguez
The first thing the colonised learns is to stay in his place
Last week, the Juventud Sin Futuro (Youth Without Future) collective launched a campaign – #nonosvamosnosechan (we’re not leaving, they’re throwing us out) to denounce the situation of generalised precarity in which the country’s youth are living. The campaign’s web page compiles a series of hair-raising statistics: youth unemployment figures are rocketing, working conditions for those who do have work keep getting worse, and ever more people decide to leave the country to carve out a future somewhere else. There has been much talk of the carnage entailed by the brain drain, and of how the State has used public money to pay for the valuable training of young workers (doctors, researchers, healthcare workers, all kinds of technical experts, engineers, teachers, architects…) who are now being obliged to emigrate. The receiving countries receive these flows of qualified labour as if it were manna fallen from heaven; the German minister for Labour last week said that Spanish immigration was a ‘stroke of luck’.
But the reality is that many emigrants (qualified and unqualified) have ended up at their destinations with huge difficulties and conditions that are not much better than those they left behind (“precariedad everywhere” is one of the slogans of the campaign). Until relatively recently, those who left the country were those who wanted to try something different. Now those who are leaving are those who cannot stay any longer, and that gives rise to scenes and situations that had been repressed in the depths of our political, family and cultural unconscious. What is more, the irony is painful: in a country that still has internment centres that are opaque to any scrutiny or social oversight, we end up wishing luck to those who go off in search of a better life.
Juventud Sin Futuro has thus adopted an audacious and purposeful tack: to politicise this mass exile. Until now, emigration has been generally experienced as a private phenomenon: the decision to leave is always a personal matter in the final instance, and there are as many different trajectories and situations as people who leave. Everyone knows someone who has left, but rarely are there similarities to be found among these stories beyond the same resigned diagnosis: things are really bad, it’s normal that people should decide to look elsewhere for what they can’t find here. By pointing directly at the causes of this process, however, JSF presents exile as a de-individualised reality, a condition that is shared beyond the private and the singular, the common stem of all the voices and trajectories that are there without being in the country. Or rather, JSF manages to do both things at the same time: the symbolic centre of the campaign is a mapa mundi full of little yellow dots, each one of which represents an individual story with names and surnames; they are all different, but they are also all part of a same fabric that expresses what they have in common. That can be read fon the map: that emigration is not a storm or a plague, nor is it a sum of personal odysseys, but rather an economic and political reality that has causes, authors and alternatives.
But the campaign does something more than simply denounce this reality. Wherever she goes, the emigrant learns to become invisible: her place is that of the person who has left: an empty and voiceless place. Hence politicising exile also means rescuing emigrants from their civil death, from that tragic destiny for whom leaving means abandoning what one leaves behind, giving up on saying anything, losing one’s citizenship conclusively or temporarily along with the link to the political reality of the country. Against this imposition of silence, the campaign makes emigrants present outside (because it allows them to communicate and organise among themselves) and inside at the same time (because the campaign is not limited to those who have left, but rather binds those trajectories to those who have remained, to those who are contemplating leaving but who, independently of what they decide, share with those on the outside the same problems and the same condition). The youth without future is on both sides, inside and outside the country, and that is what the campaign achieves: it makes them present in two places at the same time, giving them a voice and a common name, and gives political form to what was invisible.
At first glance, the political map of exiles looks like a brain or a rhizome, those botanic structures full of roots, shoots and knots that grow horizontally without any centre. Though what is needed for that is something even more important: the tracing of lines between the points, the creating of links between each one of the stories, multiplying their crossings and trajectories. Let us hope ideas and practices circulate in all directions, and this common name becomes a machine for abolishing distances. The youth without future of those who are leaving and those who are staying is paradoxically the best future the country has: it is a subject that, to liberate itself, has the task of abolishing its own present condition. In this endeavour, the young people have nothing to lose, except the precarity and silence that enchains them.