A Spanish inmigrant on Brexit

I have been a Spanish inmigrant in the UK since 2009. I respect and even admire British people for standing up to a “fear campaign” and an European Union that I don’t think is working how it should be. As much as I would like the idea of Spain leaving the EU, the outcome of the referendum makes me feel very uneasy. During the campaign I did say to close friends that I thought Brexit would win, my English friends told me I was exaggerating and I shouldn’t worry, it was a crazy idea put forward for a minority… Cuts everywhere, people struggling losing jobs due to changes in the economy and always referring to Europe as the continent emphasising how different they are from the rest of the countries, politicians referring to the European Union as the enemy for decades and a party that blames everyone’s problems on inmigrants. With that soil and a very poor case for remain based on fear angry people followed their gut and pride and decided to leave because they feel Europe and Europeans have caused their economic problems and wanted to send the establishment the message that they wouldn’t be intimidated and they should be heard.

I know many inmigrants that feel all short of bad things these days and unfortunately many are directing them towards Brexit voters. Some remainers are accusing leavers of all short of things, from selfish and poorly educated to close minded, which doesn’t help the mood of the country that we all share, for the moment. Everyone has a right to their opinions and shouldn’t be insulted or patronised because of them. I choose to direct my negative feelings to every European that has allowed the European Union to be ruled by corporations and banks diminishing workers and citizens rights and implementing austerity cuts hurting every middle and lower class person across the union, diminishing the value and benefits of the whole entity. People in favour of remaining in the EU for not making a proper campaign explaining better the positive side of the current arrangement and how the origin of their concerns relates more to an out of control neoliberalism running Brussels than simply inmigrants coming to the island, but well there aren’t many parties in the planet that don’t apply neoliberalism in their economic programme so that would have never happened… And a share also goes to UK governments since Margaret Thatcher for starting the privatisation path, not providing enough jobs, services and support so all communities (UK and non UK) would be able to integrate and have a decent living together.

 

Instead of talking about the many millions of infrastructure funds, jobs, exports etc. Europe brought as well the possibility of enjoying restaurants and different cultural exchanges the campaign became mostly about immigration and how inmigrants are stealing jobs, houses, doctor appointments and places at schools. EU doesn’t work for us and we don’t want so many inmigrants getting our things. So much so that people that voted remain are apologising to us saying that not everyone thinks I should leave, and I appreciate those that did it. And people that voted leave keep saying that the country is not racist, but when someone is saying that I am stealing their things is hard not to look like that, even if they had other good reasons to question European membership.  The reality is that even in London 4 out of 10 people voted to leave, many commuting areas did so in big numbers and that makes me feel I have to defend myself for having being born in another country and decided to come here to work and I don’t feel at peace at what I felt was my home.

I can understand people being concerned for having to wait too long for an hospital appointment, or having problems to get the school they want for their kids or not having enough jobs but doesn’t that happen due to a lack of resources in general and  poor economic plan regardless of whom is using the existing resources? Even in a country without any inmigrants if you don’t have enough health centres, schools and a diverse economic structure with several productivity sources you will face the same problems. Blaming it on inmigrants is like saying just because you were born in another country and decided to leave family, network and contribute here you shouldn’t have the same living style and services. I’ve already lost access to health care in Spain because I live in the UK, am I going to loose health care in the UK just because I wasn’t born here despite paying for it every month? In a country with a charity shop in every corner makes me feel sad so many people are seeing immigration from such a dark angle and I can’t help thinking that more should have been done to share a different light on it.

As an inmigrant you have an isolation feeling with you since the moment you leave your country. You leave behind friends, family and culture including language, food, habits even sense of humour. I did this by choice, most people do it “by force”, because they don’t see any other way to have a decent future. But even though I did it willingly seeking an adventure I always feel an outsider, I still find myself trying to adapt my behaviour to the UK culture on a daily basis. From how many times a day I say thanks or sorry to the lack of directness and emotion ( I probably should say incredibly high politeness) they apply to every situation.

I used my savings to pay for my masters. I looked for a job to be able to stay and I have been contributing and paying my taxes and national insurance since 2011. I contribute to the economy with the money I spend everyday and my labour. I got a high performance bonus for two years in a row, something that is not lightly awarded in my company and contradicts the repetitive joke that Spanish people only take naps and don’t work hard enough. I must admit I am quite tired of hearing that and everyone that has worked with me ends up telling me sooner or later that I should relax a bit and don’t work that hard. Yes there are lazy people in Spain but so there are in the UK, France, etc it is human nature. Most inmigrants work very hard because we know we are in the spot so we feel we have to deliver more than we would do in our countries on a daily basis to avoid any problems.

Being able to access to high profile jobs due to my education and language skills is not what all inmigrants experience, many start with jobs in the services sector with the minimum wage. Many others in the black market being hired by wealthy people to take care of the kids, cleaners etc and not being able to pay taxes or contribute to social security purely because they don’t get a contract so the employer can spend less money on them. I don’t know anyone that would go to a job interview and ask for their salary to be low. If someone tells me inmigration lowers salaries I told them to direct the anger to the businesses taking advantage of desperate people that would work hard for a miserable amount of money without any rights, not the person that is just trying to make a living, often doing very unpleasant jobs. Not that many people have a dream of becoming toilet cleaner, working night shifts re-stocking supermarkets or smelling like grease from fast food shifts and yet a big part of the inmigrant working force is stuck at those jobs which are actually essential for a society to work. If all inmigrants left tomorrow how would people get their Starbucks coffee or their McDonald’s meal? And what about inmigrants working as surgeons, nurses, researchers? The UK would most certainly struggle at least for a few good months to replace all of us.

Europe was created for peace and growth of its citizens, not the elite 1% so they could accumulate more wealth while the middle and low class struggle and pick up the bill. We were supposed to help each other cause together we could be stronger. The United Kingdom has decided to divorce and even though only 24 hours later some people that voted leave are wondering if they did the right thing, what is done is done. I hope Brexit helps all the European countries realise that the austerity direction and politics behind closed doors approach Europe has is very wrong. If that happens the denigration European inmigrants are enduring in the UK and attacks maybe linked to the vote would have generated something positive.

If Margareth Thatcher had been progressive

I fully disagree with The Iron Lady's policies but I have to acknowledge her leadership skills, even more impressive considering how hard it was for a woman to be listened to during her time and unfortunately also now. As Obama said she was an example that there is no glass ceiling for women. Her terms were full of privatisations, deregulation, fights to diminish union's rights, demonisation of poors, denial of the idea of society and the rise of individualism as justification to social cuts (technique Cameron is using nowadays to reduce social welfare and restrict immigration). According to Owen Jones she is responsible for the current UK's class division. A country that nowadays is divided between the people that caused the global crisis without having any punishment for it and the working class suffering austerity cuts without any fault on the situation the global and local economy is in.

She was a leader outside United Kingdom due to her role in a new way of understanding government. It is called neoliberalism but in simple terms is a system where big companies and multinationals control economy and politics, reducing laws to their own benefit with the excuse that companies with more freedom generate more jobs, trickle down economics as Reagan called it. However history shows that more deregulation implies less control on human greed and since humans chair companies they put their search for bigger profits over working and society rights. Neoliberalism also supports reduction of government's control although many of its defenders approve laws that give government control over women reproductive rights, or who are you able to marry. Introducing government in such private issues doesn't seem much liberal but somehow they have manage it to stick.

Perhaps if Ms Thatcher had had progressive ideals her terms would have guaranteed nationalisation and access to first need services (water, electricity but also health and education), understood society as the collaboration among all classes and regulations would have been put in place to make sure companies obtain profits in a reasonable way, not exploiting working class. Maybe we would have a capitalist system with classes nearer to each other and a real possibility for moving up the ladder. And since it would have been implemented in the UK, it would have spread to other countries and right now we wouldn't be in a financial crisis originated by the deregulation started by her.

However it is more likely that should her been progressive she wouldn't have made it to the top because left movements tend to constantly disagree with each other and hardly offer an unified front as Beatriz Talegon Leader of Socialist Youth said. Furthermore companies would have lobbied strongly against anyone dearing to challenge them, recurring to defamation or bribery as they have done with all political parties on the north hemisphere according to Stéphane Hessel. Since almost anyone has a price, in the current system is very hard for someone honest and willing to put society first making it to the top and stay there enough time to change things. In the end as Owen Jones says current politics is just class war, wealthy against everyone else. Wealthy introduced themselves into conservative and progressive parties, often representing “the markets” and manage to create policy to privitise everything to their own benefit. When the crisis started and the financial void had to be filled politicians chose forcing citizens to pay the bill because corruption is part of the system and economical and political powers are one and the same after many years of partnership.

All this has happened on our watch. This is not an ideology argument, is a fight for the chances of having a decent life despite of being conservative, progressive, liberal or moderate. The social ladder is vanishing in front of us due to cuts on social services and raising of living costs. Instead of a ladder with different levels is becoming a two level system with low and middle classes below and the wealthy on the top of the ladder enjoying spectacular views. Being poor shouldn't be the reason for which a person dies. All society and countries should unite and demand a system more just and regulated that guarantees everyone's basic rights. Thatcher's individualism has penetrated so much in our minds that we don't realise it is today's selfishness, “if I am good I don't care how people are”. It is easier living only caring about ourselves, thinking that progressive and socialist ideologies want to take our money to give it to people that don't deserve it although they are trying to make sure everyone has a shot to a decent life. Humans group themselves into societies because union makes strength. A business won't be successful without clients nor existing infrastructure previously built with taxes as USA senator Elizabeth Warren said. However individualism has spread across the world and while everyone minds their own business wealthy people takes what belongs to everyone.

crisis3

Getting angry is not enough. Major conservative and progressive parties are using the financial crisis as the excuse to diminish middle class rights. Applying austerity measures to the ones that need more help while the people that created and profited from the crisis are at large and getting richer and richer. We have to stop voting parties that have promoted these policies. Stop looking at ourselves and join our fellow citizens to unify the front. We are the majority. We just have to show it. Stop thinking one person doesn't make a difference, Margareth Thatcher was only one person; after all every sum begins with the number one.

 

This is not my Europe

I live in europea country with a strong anti-European feeling. Most Britons I know refer to Europe as the continent, making clear there is water between them and Europe. I always felt European. Partly because I was born in that continent but also because I liked the idea of a united Europe; perhaps Spaniards often think we are not good enough on our own due to an inferiority complex heritage from the dictatorship.

I liked to think that all countries would unite and we learn from each other, growing all together. That we would be able to travel easily across the continent. That should Spain have a problem we wouldn´t have to confront it alone. I was sad about loosing our currency (peseta) but I thought it was the price to pay and that Euro would help Spain expand internationally.

But from one day to the next something that was 100 pesetas was 166. We thought ¿where is the difference going to? Obviously to the pockets of the intermediaries, politicians and fathers of the Eurozone as payment for their two hours drafting effort, such a bad system shouldn´t have taken longer to be designed. Whilst the cost of every day life was rising up without salaries increasing accordingly, from Europe we were told that our VAT, water and electricity were too cheap. Since we had to be European the price rose without production costs justifying it. In the meantime our politicians sold all the utilities and any industry they could to get the economy Europe was demanding to get into the Euro, without caring if the price was appropriate or the consequences for the country’s future.

Years pass and  like everywhere else housing prices skyrocketed because banks wanted to earn more money through loans, politicians (because it was easier for them letting construction create a bubble than investing and promoting real industry) and Spaniards, some wanting to earn money speculating and others because even though they realised they would have to stretch their salary to pay the mortgage, they were obsessed with the idea of having a property more than Gollum was with his precious ring (also we have to acknowledge that in Spain there is no real incentive to renting). And as Gollum fell off the cliff because of the ring, so did we.

And now after years of foreign banks buying Spanish bonds and earning money with our mortgages and economy, we end up in an international crisis of trust because there were too many lies and rip offs together. Europe´s solution is austerity, but not for the banks and markets that caused the crisis, but the citizens that had already made rich the banks with their work and savings but were fools not to realise that their vote was going to people bought by the economic powers. After years of these measures and seeing it is not working they keep doing the same, which must mean that by condemning citizens to misery politicians are also getting a big piece of the cake.

Far away in U.S.A Obama won the election and made cuts (as Republicans wanted) but he also invested inestimulo the economy (as Democrats, citizens and economists wanted) and now they are getting out of the mess and creating jobs (if the sequester allows it). A crisis generated by banks should be paid by banks (they keep saying citizens should be responsible for their actions, is only fair we apply the same to companies, after all some even say companies are people and in any case they are managed by people, funny enough none of them are in jail). However to contribute to social and economic stability we all would have agreed to cut a bit on social spending. The problem is all the cuts are directed towards citizens’ rights and social benefits we have already paid for through our taxes across the years, without even touching politicians waste (unnecessary politician roles, assessors, travels, payments for attending their meetings…) nor banks and companies excessive profits neither making any positive structural reform (they are going to delete from the map many municipalities which are the closest point of contact, instead of modifying the regional structure where there is a huge room for improvement).

I am a political junkie, especially of polite, constructive and conciliatory politics that Obama always has and we lack so much in Spain. Every time I hear Obama talking about economy I think “what Europe could  be”. Right now he is fighting the Sequester, what could be an European austerity plan that Republicans passed in the House and implements social cuts across the board. Democrats on the other hand wanted to minimise the spending cuts and generate revenue by closing corporate loopholes and investing to create public jobs. On the 1st of March, without an agreement that would avoid the cuts Obama gave a press conference and expressed his preoccupation for the people, saying that citizens have already lost money because of the crisis and they shouldn´t carry any more burdens.

This europaCuervosseems like a dream in Europe. On one hand Germany and the markets demanding to all the countries paying debt only from their side (not the banks or markets that generated the debt) so they don´t have to assume any loss on the voluntarily investments they did for years and produced and produce so many benefits for them. On the other European politicians cutting in social rights rather than themselves or the banks, making citizens loose rights they had paid with their taxes and obtained after years of social struggle. This way they are suffocating more than 150 million people whose biggest crime has been voting a bunch of incompetents because we didn´t have anyone better to vote for and were indulgent with the system because we didn´t see the huge scale of the treason it will force upon us.

Germany killed thousands of millions through history and instead of condemning them for life to isolation and economic crisis we forgave their debt so they could grow. Now they threaten all the Southern European countries. Abusing and killing people you don´t like is wrong; we offered them redemption even though there is no turning back from those crimes because people don´t come back to life. However they are inflexible on an economic issue. This is generating rage and frustration towards politicians, institutions and anyone related to these austerity politics, including Germany. We are seeing it in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal; since politicians and markets keep applying the same policies, citizens are organising themselves and protesting every week.

My Europe doesn´t do economic and social experiments with countries in crisis when there are other options, forcing their citizens into misery while the perpetrators are germanyliving off the benefits without any consequence. My Europe treats all its citizens as equal, sharing the benefits so we all grow because someone dead can´t use the money in the bank; not saving Germany and France banks from the crisis at Southern Countries expense. My Europe doesn´t criminalise whole countries because of clichés (Southern Europeans are all lazy) that look very much like the nazism of the XXI century (we are better than them). They promoted Europe strongly, letting as many countries as possible and profiting from it, the least they should do is assuming consequences for their greed and poor planning. I don´t want to live in a dictatorship, I rather live poorer and free. Southern European countries should say no to this tyranny. Either they force banks to pay the crisis they created or find other solutions that don´t impact middle and lower classes exclusively.