The Guardia Lives!

It always interests me to see the mentality which exists in a country, whether it is one which is unique to that place or not; and to try to imagine how exactly this mentality could be responsible for historical events. Yesterday was certainly one of those days for me where I did not have to seek in any way to discover the mindset of a certain group of people, the famous Guardia Civil.  As I walked to meet the rest of the team for lunch, after having just come from a meeting with the Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales, I came upon a protest in front of the National Bank of Spain, which being a federal district, was being controlled by the Guardia Civil, just as in Washington if there is a protest in front of congress, federal Capitol Police handle it, not the local authorities. While I am walking up the street, it becomes fairly clear that what is happening is that these Guardias had been steadily losing control of a situation that they had not been informed or prepared for. In an effort to avoid the mess that was occurring, I decided to cross the street, not knowing that this is precisely what the Guardia was now trying to prevent the protesters from doing. As I was waiting is a sort of disorganized line between temporary barriers, I noticed that the authorities were checking ID’s and then allowing people to pass to the side of the street where the bank, and a growing minority of whistle blowing protesters stood. I pulled out my driver’s license and showed it to this very young guardia who had the unique look of fear and excitement that only these types of situations can bring out in a pubescent boy’s face. After examining it for a brief moment the young man turned to his corporal (the highest ranking man that I ever saw on the street) and ushered a few muffled words under his breath, after which he turned back to me and asked me for my passport, which of course was in the hotel, as per advice and instructions. When it became clear that I did not have this document, the Guardia, sweating under his triangle hat which looks like a bad Halloween rendition of Napoleon’s head-wear, got on the radio briefly and then asked me to step aside. At this point the young man asked me if I was here protesting, I declared no, I was trying to get to the Circulo de las Bellas Artes to meet friends. Clearly not believing me, he began to explain to me that non-Spanish citizens without a permit are not allowed to protest on federal property. He then told me that I would have to be detained until it could be determined who I was and what I was doing here, at which internally I was furious, but remained calm and composed on the outside knowing that there were way more of them than me. The green clad Guardia now asked me to place my hands behind me, at which point he placed handcuffs (very gently, I will add) on my wrists and asked if he had permission to search me for weapons. The short version of the story ends with a rapid call to the US Embassy, which is about 100 meters from where I was sitting against the bank, and my rapid and apologetic release.  The reason I recount this story is that it reveals to me the exact mentality, which is certainly not unique to Spain, that causes such events as the Spanish Civil War to occur. This young man saw me, probably knew immediately that I had nothing to do with the protest, but saw his opportunity to obtain power over another and possibly advance himself through the bureaucratic system. This psychology is exactly the same of General Franco, and is exactly the same idea that he used in order to recruit troops and supporters. It has been the same with many tyrants, including Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, that they have used this weakness of mind that is especially present in military aged men to take power for themselves, so not only do these men exhibit that exactly mentality in their own raw desire for power over others, but also use it to gain support for their own mission.

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