this past wednesday, during spain’s first general strike in 8 years, riots erupted in barcelona. the spectacle of the riots continues to fill spanish newspapers. the images of a burning police vehicle, broken windows, and threatened journalists have been bought, sold, consumed and will soon be forgotten. yet for the time being politicians and the media have exploited the spectacle for their narrative of the current economic crisis, a narrative in which the affected are acted upon and not capable of acting themselves. from the left to the right of the dominant political/social spectrum, the condemnations of barcelona’s riots have been varied, yet typical: diatribes about the permissiveness of the city government, demands for a heavy handed response, incoherent speculations about the motives and identities of the riot’s participants, and criticism of both union leaders and national politicians. the gloomy future of growing unemployment, problems in bank solvency, and increased poverty has no place in the finger pointing and political maneuvering that guides the narrative. especially when it seems none of the ‘recovery initiatives’ are causing a recovery. the labor reforms, initiated earlier in the year by the spanish president rodriguez zapatero, were intended as austerity measures. something had to be done after the country’s s&p and fitch ratings were both lowered in january, causing alarmist comparisons with the deteriorating situation in greece. so in the narrative the economy was streamlined; public workers saw their salaries cut by 5%, the process for firing employees was simplified, and retirement age was increased to 67. yet the european union’s third largest deficit continued to grow. the unions were puffed up their chests, and the government tightened its belt. but there was little real protest. a state of denial took hold of the nation. no-one could really believe the construction boom was over. and it wasn’t until june, after the passage of the labor reforms in parliament, that the two largest unions called for a general strike- scheduled almost three and a half months later, for the 29th of september.