Everything is quiet. I think to myself: this is how things should be.
People are gathered in parks, talking. Or if they have left the house, it’s for a casual stroll, alone or with their loved ones.
Restaurants and bars closed again as of October 15 at 23:59 in Barcelona. It’s a great deal better than the first lockdown, when we couldn’t leave the house even to exercise.
When I lived with anarchists in the US, there was a pamphlet circulating called something like, “Abolish restaurants”. My roommate advocated this position. I didn’t understand it at the time. I, after all, loved eating out. Partly because I’m a really bad cook, and partly because I just enjoy leaving the house. And it makes me feel less social, I’ll admit, people watching, even if I’m eating alone. So I understand why people love restaurants.
But I see things the other way now. Restaurant cooks and servers are some of the hardest working, lowest paid workers out there. In Spain people don’t really tip, so that’s not a factor.
Having restaurants, bars, and nightclubs closed gives me a certain piece of mind. With the pandemic, I no longer feel like I’m missing out if I don’t have a million friends or go to the coolest clubs. In fact that whole ethos of “cool” seems to have pretty much disappeared. Or maybe I’m just less aware of it, because there aren’t two million skinny, well-dressed girls in their 20s parading around the city as tourists.
Now, I never liked tourism. Not only is it bad for the environment, it inflates housing prices so residents can’t afford to live in their own city. Meanwhile, an upper middle class elite treats cities like playgrounds and to post exotic photos on Instagram to make others jealous.
There’s the FOMO again. You’re made to feel as though your life (and by extension, of course, you) is inferior if you don’t go on vacation. I don’t want to live in a society where a person’s worth is determined by their income, position on the capitalist hierarchy and their ability to take selfies in far off places. I never saw the point in traveling somewhere for two days or a week – just long enough to get lost in a new city or get ripped off seeing the same landmarks you’ve already seen a thousand pictures of.
I do, however, feel liberated from tourists. And I think the residents of Barcelona are with me on this. The people in the city are noticeably happier than they were a year ago. They’re friendlier, calmer. They’re dressed casually; not like they’re going to a beauty pageant.
It’s not just the laid back atmosphere, I’m happy to see the entire travel industry collapse. I look up and I don’t see a single plane or chemtrail polluting the sky. And I think it’s a good thing if the restaurant industry falls, too.
Sure, I can see the desire to travel every now and then, or go out. But less flights, less hotels, and less restaurants and bars are overall a good thing. We can invent new ways to socialize or resurrect old ones. Parks and parties can take the place of commodified, capitalist forms of entertainment.
Of course, the establishment cry is, “We need more jobs!” But the reality is quite the opposite, as is so often the case with capitalist logic and maxims. As people like David Graeber have pointed out, most jobs are bullshit. And most of us know that economic “growth” is what’s driving planetary destruction. There are more than enough resources to provide for those who find themselves economically displaced, whether it be in the form of a UBI or retraining people for green jobs or cutting the workweek.
Other social models aren’t rocket science, they just need political will. And we know that the political class of the US is in bed with the billionaire class. Even when they spout their preposterous “job growth” propaganda they don’t mean it, their job is to legislate more profits for the 1% and to protect their wealth and power. If evil has an incarnation, they are it.
So the alternative to the restaurant and travel industry isn’t poverty. The alternative is building cooperative structures that can fill those needs in a sustainable and just way. The alternative is replacing those jobs with green ones to make society renewable by 2030.
So au revoir, restaurants! I’m looking forward to a better future, without a rat race.