Inigo Errejon (Madrid, 1983) entered politics in 2014. First, he founded Can and subsequently, More Country. He knows what it’s like to be under the pressure of the spotlight and suffer the daily attrition of the political front line. He tries to de-dramatize his situation and remembers that life has become “difficult” for everyone. For this reason, in recent years, he has made a flag in Congress of the need to take care of the mental health of citizens.
In his book “With Everything. From the fast years to the future”, he says that the day they decided to launch Podemos he thought “we are going to end up screwed and broken”. Has that omen come true?
I was too dramatic, but there is something. The first political line involves many resignations. In return, there are also many good things. Politics, understood as a passion to transform things, is a very defective machine in which you put a lot of energy to get three steps forward. What happens is that people who are not millionaires only have that machine. If you only look at the personal, you have many hard times and you also have many very happy moments, what happens is that you do it for something that goes beyond you. Being passionate about others and being hurt by the pain of others. That requires resignations, but I don’t want to be melodramatic here either.
He talks about the “emotional host” that caused the controversy over the scholarship he attended at the University of Malaga. I imagine that since then there have been other similar situations. Does this happen every time you find yourself in the media spotlight or do you just get used to it?
Yes, because if not you couldn’t, because if you didn’t you wouldn’t hold out. What you will not achieve is that the people around you get used to it. You get used to it, but your mother or your friends don’t. And you get used to it because you take a certain distance and, above all, you understand that you have to look beyond the current dictatorship, that the things that today are the only topic the day after tomorrow have almost ceased to exist. That moment made me very angry, but there are times when the wave is bigger than you and you can’t explain yourself every time a piece of news comes out. You have to put up with the pull and time ends up doing you justice. The first time you spend it does much more damage than the following ones.
On Monday, the acquittal of my trial finally came out. There was a man from the extreme right who falsely accused me and, finally, the judge has ruled that there was nothing. The problem is that we have been like this for a year and part of the damage has been done. This is very dangerous because it sends a message to people who are not powerful: “don’t get involved because the cost is very high”. If to get into politics you have to lose the ability to be moved by things, to be fragile, to be affected by things and you have to desensitize yourself, only one type of profile gets into politics, which gradually loses sensitivity with respect to to its citizens, and, therefore, public policies are only made at the service of that small elite.
And you, how have you lived this last year?
A mix. It’s not the first time and therefore you already know how this goes. Now, I have been permanently wanting to get rid of it where I had to take it off. I think this shouldn’t have gone this far. Once it’s over you have a feeling of relief and anger because it makes you have an unpleasant time. Being accused of ugly things and false things is ugly, it’s uncomfortable, especially by the people around you, who don’t have to be used to it.
In Spain we are now in a kind of reactionary hangover that is sowing our country with hatred, but that is not polarization. In Congress, not everyone insults, not everyone shouts. Those who call the deputies witch, ugly or assholes are always the extreme right. I don’t insult, I don’t yell. I defend my ideas very vehemently. In fact, I think my ideas are better than the opponent’s and I want to defeat the opponent’s ideas, but I respect those who defend them.
You claimed in Congress the need to take care of mental health and a deputy from the PP came to tell you to go to the doctor. Is it a taboo among politicians to talk about this topic?
I think it has a lot to do with a certain patriarchal view of politics whereby being strong means appearing strong. Actually, I believe, and this is a contribution of feminism, that being strong is recognizing one’s own vulnerabilities, recognizing in which points I am most fragile and building collective strength with other people, who are also fragile.
Regarding that PP deputy, I am convinced that at some point he has needed to go to therapy or that a relative of his has needed it, or that he has needed a pill to keep up the pace, or to take some medicine to sleep and to control anxiety. I’m convinced. Only he thinks he’s stronger for not saying it and not admitting it. Since that intervention, I think that today there is less shame than before in Spain. We have broken the taboo from above, now the great wave of mental health is missing, which is the wave of the mental health of male and female workers. That’s the biggest. And the second thing that is missing, and more important, is a lot of money, a lot of resources so that this is not a fad, so that this is a right.
Do you think we are at a point where a politician would be able to say publicly that he is going to therapy?
We lack. I believe that today we are not yet prepared for a public representative, much less someone who is in government work, to say so. It would seem to us to be a sign that this person is not in a position to make decisions for all Spaniards. If we break with hypocrisy, we will recognize that it happens to everyone to different degrees. When I made that speech in Congress, part of the silence that occurred was because I was talking about things that everyone knew what they were. No one had ever said Diazepam in Congress or Lexatin, but everyone knows what it is.
I believe that Spanish society still asks public representatives for two things that are incompatible with each other, that we be true and, at the same time, that we not show any sign of error, weakness, fragility… Both things are impossible at the same time , because if you are real, sometimes you break, sometimes you bruise, sometimes you can’t, sometimes you have splendid days and sometimes more difficult days.
After almost 8 years in politics, do you think you have ever collaborated in damaging the mental health of a colleague or political opponent?
If I said I wouldn’t be lying. Surely yes. I can tell you that I am quite rigorous in trying to separate a very hard fight with ideas with an exquisite respect for people. There are deputies in the Chamber who defend ideas of hatred, backwardness, inequality… that seem despicable to me and that have to be defeated, but I think they have the right to defend them and I have the right to fight them, but what I am fighting is the ideas , not to people. Now, yes, politics is an intense and contact sport. That means he has tough times.
In addition, the activity of institutional politics tends to separate the representatives from those representing. It tends to make the representatives live in environments that are increasingly separated from the bulk of those represented, and that has two problems. If you live far apart from the concerns of the citizenry, you are not very useful to them.
On the other hand, the separation between representatives and represented also produces a kind of alienation, one thing is the figure and the character that appears in the media and another thing is the person. In my life, they never called me Errejón. They called me Íñigo and my loved ones call me Íñigo and Errejón is the name of the public exhibition, but it is very important that the public exhibition does not eat everything. It is very important that you can close the door and have spaces of your own in which to disconnect, in which to live, listen and laugh at other things.
And I want to close with one thing. This doesn’t just happen to us. Life has become more insecure and much more fragile for everyone. When we talk about mental health, we are not just talking about being received by a psychologist, but about the fact that today life produces a lot of pain for many people. What is the recipe, all of us pretending that we are strong and that nothing has happened? I think not, I think it is to recognize that life has made us fragile and that the way to strengthen it is in common, reestablishing a society in which we have the right to live without fear.
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