I´m Spanish (not Catalan) and I want a referendum

For years now I have been witnessing how Catalan politics take over absolutely everything in Spain:

  • evidence of systemic corruption in lead political parties, local and regional governments
  • economic crisis with the loss of social services (cuts in education, health, labour rights…)
  • in October a substantial proportion of Spain (Galicia, Asturias and Leon) was literally up in flames, so much so the ashes went flying to UK with the help of a hurricane and made the sun look red, of course, the fires were  picked up earlier by British media than Spanish, it was not about Cataluña so not worthy of reporting. Let alone sending help; even a 1% of all the police it was sent to stop the vote on 1 October would have undoubtedly saved a few thousand hectares.

Image result for catalan independence cartoon

I want a referendum on Cataluña’s independence, I am tired of this topic overpowering all the problems the society is facing, of politicians using it to avoid doing their job, working on behalf of citizens and rallying people against each other. Friends, families falling out due to different points of view and how polarising the conversation and acts of each side are. People without a job, living off their family members without hope for self-independence. Youngsters without any hope of having enough years of working life to amount to a retirement pension, let alone being able to leave their family home or live on their own. People forced to emigrate, leave family, friends, culture behind for the unknown, for being treated like a second-class citizen in a time when racism and fascism are ramping up, all so that they can feel a bit of fulfilment having a job and be allowed to dream of a future.

Instead of addressing all this the central government:

  • changed the law so that the justice system is enabled to stop the Catalan independentism movement. Funny enough some laws can be changed, when it is convenient, this is an example, also they didn’t waste time changing the constitution to prioritise paying back the “public debt” over funding for social services
  • keep moving deadlines and making fictional lines to elongate the drama and exploit the crisis more
  • refuse any dialog as if politics wasn’t the art of compromise, and they were not supposed to find a solution to a problem that is taking away too much time and resources; by the way justice is not a free service, neither is all the police involved in this, all Spanish people are paying the price in more ways than one. When are going to demand governments to be accountable and sensible about spending and the role they are paid to do, people in other countries do
  • keep implementing economic and social policies that only favour corporations and foreign entities, giving arguments for those wishing another type of country to try to break apart to create something that works for them, there is certainly a portion of Catalan’s society working for independence due to the failed politics of the central government, I can’t really blame them for that particular argument
Image result for catalan independence cartoon
At the same time the Catalan president:
  • started a popular vote process outside the law, making everyone that got involved exposed to be prosecuted and jailed, since laws are there to be obeyed, like them or not. If you don’t like them (I believe laws in Spain can be improved) work for change, for a solution that would be within the legal paradigm so that it is achievable, don’t put people in the dilemma of having to choose between expressing their opinion and being prosecuted
  • it is using the independentism movement as the screen for an economic battle, they want a deal that would allow them to have more money instead of sharing it with the rest of Spain, as if they haven’t benefited from all the workers in other Spanish regions that moved there and worked to make Cataluña what is today. In a way they are just funding all the people that would actually have an education and would become producers in Cataluña, call it an investment; it is also the right thing to do if you believe in equal opportunity, plus it is not like you lose all your money anyways and Cataluña has got huge amounts of funding over the years as exchange for supporting national governments
  • at the same time he blames the social cuts they are doing on central government, if they were independent those wouldn’t be necessary, without mentioning that Cataluña is the region with higher public deficit, and that is not something the rest of Spain has forced upon them
  • making equivalences between the existing government framework and Franco’s dictatorship. I see many faults in the existing system, but I also see the many privileges Catalans have now that wouldn’t have should that be true. They have more financial benefits than other regions. Their own language is present in schools, universities, it is very hard getting a job in Cataluña (and almost impossible for public roles) if you don’t speak Catalan. Even the fact they are allowed to talk about independence and protest in the streets (as long as it is peaceful) are signs of a type of democracy. I don´t think we have a democracy progressive enough but we are not in a dictatorship like Franco’s was either.
Image result for catalan independence cartoon

There is a legal way of having a referendum on Cataluña’s independence, ask all Spanish citizens. It is a simple as that. This would allow knowing what is the real percentage of people in favour in every corner of the country. Have proper debates, analysis and make an informed decision. If the independence number in Cataluña is high surely many non Catalans would consider supporting their movement; not that many people want to be married to someone that is not into them.

The concept of nation should be more than the number of regions it has, it should be the culture, common goals, nature, history. Surely Spain can succeed and remain as a country without Cataluña, thinking otherwise feels very gloom. It would be different but if it allows us to bring focus to the very serious problems we have it may not be a bad deal for us either. If we build a strong progressive country some may want to come back and others that are thinking about living may change their minds. And who knows a proper referendum could show the real numbers and stop the independentism on its toes due to lack of support but if we don’t try we don’t know and we will remain stuck.

Let’s be bold, let’s be brave and create a country that works for all of us how many of us that would be.

Anuncios

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.

Do you live better than five years ago?

Do you feel you are living better than 5 years ago? Do you think Government is doing all it should to protect its citizens? Or is it providing for the big companies and multinationals instead? Is austerity a necessary step towards a better growing economy or just an excuse to devaluate labour salaries while companies’ profits rise?

For many years societies fought for their labour and social rights through mobilisations in the streets and working places. Unions were created to guarantee minimum safety rules at places of work and minimum salaries that allowed a decent life. Economies were growing bit by bit through a moderated consumerism, but it was not fast enough for some. Mrs Thatcher was the first proposing in the 70’s that governments shouldn’t provide subsidies or benefits for jobs; she reduced the amount of public jobs available whilst privatising and deregulating many industries in particular the financial sector, under the pretext that companies know what is best and they can regulate themselves. USA (with Ronald Reagan first and Alan Greenspan and others repeatedly using the same argument) and many industrialised countries followed that approach. However whilst they were promoting this change as a necessary step to guarantee fast economic growth, people failed to realise that companies base their existence in obtaining profits at all cost and without rules to control their actions a voluntarily morality check wouldn’t do the trick. Banks, one of the deregulated industries that has impulsed the world economy over the last 20 years is the perfect example; they started creating their own products and marketing them as if they were the safest thing on earth and anyone that wouldn’t invest in the stock market or a mortgage was not of this age.

Then Leman Brothers fell, all banks took their investments away leaving “poorer” banks with huge holes provoked by foreign banks over exposure that governments decided to cover, because after all they were playing with everyone’s money. Now that workers have bailed them out and their deficits have come up to the surface it seems they have found a new way of filling their void and help multinationals at the same time which are their main partners in the world economy. They are obtaining more profits while consumerism stays the same by reducing worker’s salaries and benefits so they could pass those savings into their pockets as profits. A clear example of this strategy is strongly happening in South Europe with examples across the continent.

Due to a lack of stimulation of innovation and industry South of Europe based all its economy around the housing and construction bubble, which was the easiest option in our culture since everyone prefers putting the same money towards owning the house rather than renting and it is easier for politicians letting the bubble grow instead of finding ways of developing innovative industry like Northern countries which requires more thinking. In Spain in particular, for 30 years our politicians had been selling public industry at a low price, building disproportioned infrastructures to give contracts to big construction companies keeping a part of the investment for themselves, privatising all they could and keeping a close relationship with multinationals and banks modifying labour and social laws to their benefit. When the financial crisis started and our banks lost all the foreign capital that they had been misusing to invest into more houses, we had to bail them out. This investment of public money hasn’t been returned nor is flowing into the economy (as we were promised to give credit to small companies) it has stayed within the banks so they could cover their indecencies and pay back their creditors. Now since millions are out of job companies with politicians’ help are blaming all our problems on our lack of productivity, saying that we were living above our possibilities and they need to cut our salaries and the benefits we had paid for during years with our taxes to pay for the financial debt and become competitive. All with the excuse stated in an Excel document that to have a prosper economy national debt should be under 3% of GDP. The same document that a University student was able to dismantle finding inconsistencies in the method of calculation; history has shown that in a time of reduced private investment governments are the ones that have to invest in the economy to provide jobs for people and for private companies, otherwise less jobs lead to less demand, which leads to less jobs in an infinite down way spiral.

Everyone from a Southern European country would admit that we are not as organised as in the North. We work many hours a day but we don’t manage our work as efficiently as we could; partly because we are quite good at improvising at the last minute and we rely on that gift to loose a bit of time and then do everything the last days and partly because while North European societies were learning management methodologies for projects (PRINCE2, PMBOK) or for processes (Six Sigma, Lean) most of South European companies decided not to invest in high technology nor training for their employees, assuming that they would get efficient by force of working less people the same amount of work instead of learning efficiency techniques. If the root of the problem is our productivity, why aren’t we trained on how to improve our work instead of devaluating our salaries and make us poorer?. If the reason is that we lived above our possibilities, why there is no punishment for banks lending above their possibilities and giving loans to people that clearly were not going to give it back? Why there hasn’t been implemented any new strong regulation that prohibits this from happening again? People spend because banks gave them loans even to go on holidays, and banks gave it to gain more profit not to make a favour to a greedy person (that leaving a side the millions of people that got a loan to pay normal things because they live on a minimum wage that is not enough for the cost of living nowadays). I would like that everyone had common sense but not everyone has the same level of intelligence or self-control. Governments should regulate industries to protect societies from big bullies like banks or multinationals and silly greedy people that spend more than they have or want to steal another’s savings.

One can conclude that multinationals want cheap working labour in Europe; governments scared under the perspective of all companies outsourcing their jobs to developing countries accept these new measures and apply them. At the end this is a problem between rich and poor. Until there are no poor countries willing to accept any deal because a bad deal is better for their economy than no deal, industrialised countries will have this dilemma. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other solutions. I wouldn’t suggest that people have to stop buying from those companies because that would imply that our shopping list would become much more expensive, and being realistic we have to look for our money. But there is something that would force companies to treat every country with more respect: governments could demand that every company that wants to sell its products in their country must have a manufacturing facility in that country and apply the same selling prices in all countries with similar GDP to avoid they inflate the price and pass on the cost of production in that country to the buyer. This would work for final products such as clothing; for other products as groceries another measures could be put forward like requiring distributers to invest part of their profits in each country where they sell because not every country can grow potatoes but we all consume them. To guarantee that companies provide national decent wages while selling at a competitive price the law should include the obligation of doing so unless they have had four consecutive quarters of net loss, in which case a new salary could be negotiated always with workers approval and being applied to all roles, to minimise job cuts or depreciation of low skilled jobs as unique measure. This way we are also protecting companies profits allowing them to renegotiate and also workers. As for banks and remaining deregulated industries, they need to be regulated again strongly in every country to guarantee they grow applying economic principles instead of dubious techniques.

For some this may be an interventionist state, maybe some called it communism or something worse. After this crisis and all the suffering is bringing to millions of people I think it is better having a government protecting its working force’s rights to a proper salary and decent way of life rather than companies using salaries and prices only to their best convinience. We have to keep in mind that companies earn because we buy, we should use our power as buyers and stop being taken advantage of, with companies taking our money from their sells and now from our salaries while we are making them profitable. Otherwise we will keep transferring wealth from the middle and working classes to the elites until there are only two classes, very poor and very rich.

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.