Dignity and Indignation: Letter from Spain

February 26, 2013

People showing agreement with hands up in Barcelona protests. Photo Marcello Vicidomini. CC BY 2.0

“Dignity and indignation are words that I had never truly considered before moving to Spain. I now think about them all the time, so ingrained are they in the vocabulary of contemporary life.” Aaron Shulman, who moved to Spain a couple of years ago, compares his happy personal life with the stunningly desolate social and economic landscape around him:

To say that unemployment is bad in Spain is like saying that the sea is watery. The situation is that oceanically obvious. Since the global economic crisis began,paro—the Spanish word for unemployment—has been rising over the country like a patient, ineluctable flood. Twenty-five percent of the population is jobless, and this leaves out the considerable number of eternal students, young men and women who, lacking alternatives, accrue degree after degree. The phenomenon has a name, titulitis, that reflects both the Spanish sense of humor and the feeling of an ailment infecting the future of the most highly educated generation in the country’s history. The 18-to-35 age group faces a 50 percent unemployment rate. I think back to 2004, the year of my college graduation. A sense of possibility remained strong even then, long after the 1990s boom had passed. And then I think of a student protest slogan today in Spain: Pre-Parado—another bit of wordplay—which means both ready in the sense of educated and pre-unemployed.

Read his whole letter in The American Scholar.