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.

Anuncios

Spanish are not lazy, their politicians are

Contrary to what foreign media say and many people think about Spain, all Spaniards aren´t lazy. If we were lazy Germany (who sells itself as the most hard working country in Europe) wouldn´t be trying to import thousands of young highly qualified Spaniards to work there.

What has become clear to us is that our politicians, the ones that go around the world saying that represent Spain are the lazy ones, following Germany and international markets directions instead of fighting for what their citizens need. They embody a part of our culture that most of us don´t agree with and consider from another century: the culture of the minimum effort and maximum benefit no matter the method or the consequences. Yes it is our fault that those people are in the governement since we voted them. But unfortunately we hadn´t have much of a choice and until recently nor the means to see how other system work so we could compare. The institutional system defined in the 70´s after Franco died is the cause of all our current problems as Julio Anguita has denounced (one of the few valuable politicians in our country that many are hoping comes back from his retirement in this time of need). It was created by the same politicians that are still nowadays working in the two main parties of the country, PP and PSOE, and apart from getting a feeling of evolution from a Dictatorship it helped them to protect themselves and be able to have all the control without being challenged in any way by the society.

When the time for Democrazy came this closed group of people defined the rules that the country would follow for elections, how the justice branch would function and be appointed and the legal penalties for each type of crime. These three things have made possible that they could do whatever they wanted with an impunity proper of thirld world countries. They decided that the citizens will have to vote an ideology not to a party since the lists will be closed and the representatives are chosen by the party, so they could control directly all the policies. Thus politicians follow party directions and don´t have any contact with voters, many representatives represent an area in which they don´t live and know anything about. Their isolation from society is complete and they will only interact with people if they want to, and time has proved they don´t. The justice system is practical terms appointed by the political parties almost in its entirity, which makes justice a slave of politics: corruption cases are dismissed when they impact the party in power in that jurisdiction and promoted when they damage the opposition. Likewise corruption cases have a very low penalty compared to regular bulglary, a person will go to jail sooner for steling a loaf of bread to eat than taking one million euros from the public treasury, and is never forced to give it back. Thus politicians have been living for years inside of a bubble doing whatever the party decided, and to our disgrace they never felt like doing good for the citizens, they prefer following power lobbies and their personal benefit till the end.

Since the 80s politicians in power have sold all the public companies we had at a ridiculous price always benefiting companies controled by their families or friends making sure any debts were paid with public funds before selling so the new owners only get profits. When Europe demanded that we reduced our agriculture production (for example forcing us to stop cultivating olives although Spanish oil is considered one of the best in the world despite of current Italian’s dominance) they assumed the demand without confronting it even though that forces us to spend money importing things we used to produce, export less and limit our growth. They have innundated the system with assessor roles and innecesary construction projects done without people’s consent (the system doesn’t force any consultation nor provides control mechanisms like in another countries) given to their friends and family members at public’s money expense. They haven´t invested in any industry, just sat in their chairs seeing how constuction became the first economic force even knowing the consequences: artificial increase of home values with people having to spend more than before to buy the same house and a huge amount of young people leaving school before graduating to satisfy the low qualified jobs demand. Now with the crisis we have 3 million of empty houses, millions of useless assessors and construction works, millions of unemployed people that required training if they are to obtain any other job not construction related, millions evicted from their homes (organising to occupy empty houses) and no industry that could impulse the economy except the few tourists that visit us (mostly European since the Euro is so high that Spain is too expensive for people living in other currencies) because they have decided a country with more than 300 sunny days per year in some areas shouldn´t invest in renewable energy although many Spanish renewable companies are successfully working in other countries like USA and now we face a law-suit from renewable energy investors due to senseless cuts.

At the moment there are more than 400 politicians suspected of corruption, almost all are keeping their political duties and priviledges whilst being judged and keep appearing in the lists because is the party’s choice. All the major parties have corruption cases, with stong evidence of the party in goverment financing themselves illegally for years through donations from construction companies in exchange of allocating public projects to them, althogh this is not exclusive of this party and has happened at all institutional levels independently from the party governing; likewise the Monarchy is being investigated for corruption and trafficking of influences. We have a national government applying all the austerity measures Germany and Europe want and when people make demonstrations in the streets they order police to charge as if we were a thirld world country without any human rights.They don´t feel any need of giving explanations of their actions; our President hasn´t made a press conference with questions since November 2012, he has appeared once thorught a television, and the rest of the government follows that approach; in the State of the Union address the president admitted he hasn´t follow any of his electoral promises claiming that he is doing what he has to do instead (following Germany above the compromise he established with 11 million voters) and they haven´t given no reasonable explanation about their dubious finances, if it weren´t for the press we wouldn´t know anything; obviously they are preparing a law to make illegal publishing any news related to corruption. They got 40000 millions of Euros from Europe claiming that they would go to the banks so they could start giving credit to small companies and people but that money has gone to pay French, Dutch and German banks instead of the society. People that are loosing their homes started an information campaign in the streets, going to areas where politicians live since they don´t provide any other point of contact, and the Secretary of the party in governement calls them nazis and has mobilised police against those protest.

The main party in the opposition has a leader that has been 20 years in politics, was vicepresident less than two years ago (when his party was in power and started applying austerity meassures despite being called Socialist party and being supposed to support citizens, not banks or markets) and lost the last elections. Nevertheless he considers himself fit to lead the opposition, even though no one in the country agrees with him.

If we put together all this it is fair to say that the lazy ones that live above their possibilities in Spain are politicians and all that benefit from their activities. They do what they are told by foreign bodies in direct opposition to Spain’s interest and the advice of Nobel price winners that offer other solutions, don´t bother giving any explanations and use all means at their disposal to protect themselves. During this economic turmoil times none of them has reduced costs of the political system they created with lots of public companies without any meaning apart from providing a salary to them and their friends, neither they have reduced their salary or benefits, in fact the president of the nation has increased his 27%, they fly first class, catering orders are a norm, private car with driver, as if they were rock stars instead of servants of the society. We complain and demand common sense, they ignore us and call us names.

Meantime Spaniards were forced to get a pay cut while seeing their duties doubled having to do their job and the job left from the people that got fired (almost every company in the country has reduced salaries and fired thousands of people even if the company was making profits, after all the less workers the more profits), have to spend more money on their health (medicines and general services since there are privatising hospitals) and their education (schoolarships at all levels have been reduced). Millions have left the country, specially young highly qualified that are required to have 5 years experience to get to any job in Spain without no one giving them a chance.

We are ashamed and angry with our politicians and their lack of compromise towards the society that pays their salary. They have left us without any industry and now are destroying our social net instead of making banks pay for the crisis they originated with their unregulated greed; specially German banks that voluntarily invested in our banks knowing the risk of those investments and now are demanding the state to pay that private debt instead of going after the Spanish banks and assume some loss in their investments so both parts can survive. Spain had only 30% of its GDP in debt on 2008, less than Germany, we were doing ok, the banks have destroyed that, not Spaniards living above their posibilities as they want everyone to believe. Since banks control all the economy and we don´t want citizens of other countries to pay our debts, we just need Europe to devaluate the Euro so we can borrow cheaper to pay our bills and increase our exports since we would be more competitive; otherwise we demand we leave Europe because we don’t want to be Germany slaves, I rather live poorer and free. They don´t listen to us and neither talk to us. People are organising themselves because contrary to their opinion we are not a bunch of brainless beings. We can only hope people from another countries understand our situation and support us from the outside giving us voice to put more pressure on our politicians and perhaps join us since many countries are in a similar situation (Italy, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus).

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.