Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
20 September, 2016
Editorial: 31
Fecha de publicación original: 6 agosto, 1996

Date of publication: 6/8/1996. Editorial 031.

“Out of sight, out of mind”

About four years ago I had to find some statistical data on the Spanish population. I requested this information from the appropriate public office in Madrid, from the economic studies department of a well-known bank and….I searched the Internet and Compuserve to see what I could find. It was via this last route that a few minutes later I reached a centre in Ohio where I found everything I needed and more, not only on Spain but on the population of almost every other country in this hectic world. Whilst I was working on my article for “El Periódico” I received a message from the studies department at the bank informing me that within a week they would tell me where I could obtain the information I had requested. Nothing from Madrid yet. It’s true that this information was a bit pedantic, but then it was for everyone: for the bank, for the public administration and for the centre in Ohio.

In Spain, over the last few years, we have all found out – with no chance of pleading ignorance, under penalty of being banished to the land for the socially inept – that “Barça” (the Barcelona football team) won and lost each of the finals of the football European Cup, that Miguel Indurain was unbeatable in the Tour of France, that there has been a change of government in the midst of numerous cases of political corruption and…that we have suffered an extraordinary period of drought which almost caused the exodus to Morocco of the agricultural work force in search of employment. Every time I have scanned the networks for information on the water issue I have had absolutely no problem in finding a wealth of literature on the problems in California, on the range of infrastructure in Arizona, on the attitude taken by a whole slew of movements in defence of the environment in the USA on this subject, etc., etc. But I found nothing, absolutely nothing, on what was happening here in Spain.

I mention these two anecdotes in the light of the last two articles published on en.red.ando and the responses they have drawn from some readers, all of whom agree that we need to concentrate on how essential it is to develop material of our own, while at the same time seeing nothing wrong in finding this material on other services in places as far apart as the USA, Madagascar or Pakistan. And I agree (except that Madagascar and Pakistan do not provide this material nor will they provide it for some time to come: information does not accumulate in certain places just by chance). My line of argument was not that everything American is intrinsically perverse. We have all fed and will continue to feed, to a different extent, on this melting pot of American culture. This, obviously is not the issue. The issue is whether we have our own melting pot or not. If the answer is yes, the next question is what are we going to do with it in cyberspace (if it is no, then no answer is needed).

Taking the environment as a case in point. In Spain we have a wealth of associations, organisations and institutions of different kinds dedicated to the analysis, protection or aggression of the environment. Many of them produce extensive work, they embark on in-depth studies or dedicate hundreds of hours to accomplishing goals of enormous significance. But there is no way that the general public (and I am assuming that the Internet has a general public, in spite of the subtleties which surround this concept at the present stage) has access to the information, knowledge, or action these organisations propose. This enormous effort is enclosed in local areas which are predetermined by circulation in printed form and close relationships. It is a vicious circle. It is precisely the kind of vicious circle which the networks are boldly cutting through – like Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot – to transform the simplicity of the circumference, where all its points are controlled, into the complexity of a decentralised and a “dehierarchified” framework. It is the jump from the local to the global without having to change the nature of its own features.

If one wants to know what is happening on the Spanish coast, for example, we should have access to results obtained by our environmental watchdogs in Valencia or other parts of the country, who with great dedication control stretches of the coast to offer an alternative view to the – usually triumphal – official one. The same applies to the river-watchers in the Basque Country, who keep the contaminating companies in check. These “baywatchers” should have their counterpart in “screenwatchers”. It should be as easy and expedient to obtain information from them as it is from organisations which carry out similar activities in Paris-Texas or Toledo-Ohio. The the enormous difference is that the information coming from our country becomes immediately more valuable due to the proximity factor, while information coming from other sources is much less so.

Translation: Bridget King.