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.

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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
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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.
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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.

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#meToo

As allegations against Harvey Weinstein come forward I praise all the women willing to speak about their experiences and the culture in the show-biz. At the same time I am disgusted and disappointed by all those lying to protect their public image or criticising people speaking up, saying things like “why didn’t you say something sooner”. This is the perfect response for that wrong-twisted argument.

Unfortunately, that is not the only industry with predators, they are all around us in every place. Alyssa Milano was absolutely right to re-initiate the #meToo discussion to show how much sexual abuse lies in our societies. I am 35 at the time of writing this post and during my lifetime I have encountered a fair share:

  • I have been groped in the street. Walking in Oxford Street in the middle of the day a guy walking in the opposite direction grabbed my boob. I was not wearing anything outstanding. Walking in Sri Lanka I got slapped in my bump by a guy passing me on a motorbike, again my clothes were not flashy. On both occasions I immediately felt ashamed and wondered if it was my fault, what is wrong with our society that we tend to have those thoughts as the first reaction…
  • At a seminar one attendee came to sit besides me during one of the breaks. He asked me questions about the event, it was the middle of the day, there were people around so I engaged in conversation. After a few minutes he says: “Spanish women like to party, do you want to have sex with me?” while leaning on me. I told him I found that very rude and out of order and I asked him to leave, which he did, not without saying first he didn’t understand the problem. I did tell him for me it was not an appropriate comment and he was making me uncomfortable. I don’t think my patience and courage trying to educate him made much difference to him because about an hour later another attendee experienced something similar…
  • At work I have had senior managers and colleges making unwanted comments/acts. Sometimes a simple laugh to a joke can make people think they can make an advance, and I am talking about friendly conversation, not flirting
  • Cat calling, intense looking, walking in the streets is not an everyday event but it does happen to me sometimes and I personally find it intimidating and displeasing
  • Plus a few strong physical actions that I rather don’t describe here

Implying like Donna Karan that depending on your clothes you would attract sexual assault is offensive, total hypocrisy from someone using sex as part of the promotion of her work and a proof of sexism in women. To me that is the worst kind of sexism of all.  Mayim Bialik has also implied that the key is staying away from predators, don’t go to a place that could be compromising, don’t wear clothes that could attract attention, don’t be naive and you will be safe. She acknowledges that there is no excuse for sexual assault but all these conditions that she offers for her success avoiding abuse have a big pitfault.

Not all predators wear a T-shirt saying “look out, I will do whatever I want regardless of what you want”.  Some people (men and I am sure some women) only care about what they want and they would assault to a fellow human being regardless of:

  • what the other person wears – I’m really fed up with this argument. Someone could be walking naked on the street, that doesn’t give anyone any right to abuse them in any way. If we could all agree on that the blame culture of not condemning someone for rape because the victim wore jeans would fade away. It is the people that see others as objects to satisfy whatever urges they have whom should be singled out and condemned
  • the environment they are in – there is a lot of talk about going to rooms/staying alone with someone as an indicator of assault when in reality it happens anywhere, alone or surrounded by people. How many of us have been clapped in the ass or boob-grabbed in the street or a club? That is and should also be treated like assault even if it is not an extreme act like rape
  • what the other person looks like – anything can tip them off, maybe having a bad day and wanting to compensate it with sex and someone just passes by? a personal trait that reminds them of someone else and triggers a memory they want to offset by exercising a power position over that person
  • Unfortunately sometimes is just being in a place at the wrong time, how on earth do you prevent that? not even staying at home would save you if the abuser is a family member

Sexual assault is a crime not properly addressed by society. The fact that presenters at gala’s (or any other place) are willing to make jokes on the back of it and predators are rewarded with positions of power are just proofs of how poorly understood and prosecuted it is. Anyone with this kind of behaviour in any industry or social group should be outcasted. 

For those thinking that a bit of flirting or banter wouldn’t hurt anyone I repeat, this is not about your intention but how your action affects the receiver, it is never only about you. When in doubt keep in mind the following basic principles:

  • Know the person before you say/do something, everyone has different levels of boundaries and what someone may consider a joke others may find deeply offensive or intimidating. If you are not sure of how your action would be taken, don’t do or say anything! Be respectful over what you may think is flirty/funny
  • Most important of all, don’t insist, one rejection (as a joke, comment or soft/extreme reaction) is plenty and means you have crossed already the boundary with that person, otherwise you would have got a positive response of some sort… Don’t keep coming back, that is definitely uncalled for and predator/stalking behaviour 

In a decent world everyone would stand up to predators, men and women alike. It is important to understand consent. As women I think our role in shaking up things and demanding people to know what consent and physical boundaries mean is even more important, even if this lesson should have been learned by now… Not only to support those that have been victims but to educate everyone on how people should behave and how we should be treated by others. Women don’t only influence our surrounding women but also the men that we interact with, either at work, at home, the circle of friends or family members. We need to spread the right thinking, even if sometimes requires uncomfortable discussions and challenging people on things they may see very differently and therefore argue against.

If someone hasn’t been the victim of sexual assault they should feel lucky and full stop because it is not what you do or not do to attract them, it’s just being lucky enough not to encounter them or to escape on time if you do. Something we all can do is teaching and demanding people to respect their fellow human beings, to stop covering up and implicitly endorse predator behaviour. I don’t mean outing experiences per se, that is a personal choice, but engage in constructive conversation to enforce how important changing perceptions is to make a shift of consciousness and real change. And this goes for women and men, there are men that are respectful and supportive, they just need to stand up at every corner and call people out when required.

 

The real Spanish transition

International media has always praised Spain as the example to follow for a peaceful transition from a dictatorial regime into a democracy. For many years people like me, born in the 80s thought we were indeed an example. Then you start realising that the Two Spains (Pro Franco and Republican) are still alive and showing their hate to each other every day in the media, local conversations, politicians’ spins…. You open your eyes and see that all Transition did was putting the unresolved things (massive murders from both sides, missing persons, political differences, economic social injustices like the taxing system) into a cupboard and lock it. There was no opportunity to deal with it in a civilised manner so everyone could heal and the society as a whole could progress into a democracy mentality, where everyone is equal with same rights and responsibilities. Little lee way was given to communist or republican parties for fear of upsetting the right movements and the army with the pretext of not provoking another war. It feels as if the left had to make all the concessions for the good of the country (to avoid another war) while the right and the people who already had power during the Dictatorship aligned themselves with the new economic powers to keep social structures and institutions working almost like they were during Franco. Since the 40s when the Dictatorship started workers are paying a high proportion of their income as taxes, they suffer this burden even more if they are freelance, having to pay a minimum of 250 € monthly as a fee no matter how much they earn which prevents many from doing a start-up; land and company owners benefit from tax breaks and institutions are controlled by political parties, too often they don’t choose public employees on merits but their friends and family, as if public money was theirs to spend on private favours instead of the good of the country.

Thus Democracy started. My parents generation wasn't given a choice: Parliamentary Monarchy or Parliamentary Monarchy. If a real transition had been put forward another option should have been available, Republic; after all the civil war begun because the army didn’t approve of the Republic that was functioning during the 30s. With the fear of a new war, the majority chose Monarchy, hoping that this new system would be more equitative even though the preferred option for many would have been the Third Republic.

Since the taxing system was copied from the Dictatorship, the government didn’t have enough money to provide for public services and they started borrowing money from abroad instead of rising taxes on the Oligarchy. Years pass by, we get into the European Union and start receiving developing money which went almost solely to construction companies, not the development of the country as it was supposed to. Instead of investing it in research, education, credits for companies or innovation to develop a prosper economy, politicians promoted roads and construction projects; it was easier and generated more profit for them thanks to a law signed by Aznar (Conservative President during the 90s) that allowed local authorities to declare land fit for construction and receive money for such transactions. Thus every land owner (usually wealthy people already associated with the old regime) started selling their properties to build houses. Meanwhile city halls justified their increases on taxes by doing maintenance works on roads and footways, as if public money only could be spent on roads.

I lived in Leon for 20 years, a city with about 175000 residents; I can’t remember the number of times City Hall replaced footways, even when the existing ones didn’t present any need of upgrade. They sometimes also inflate the value of the project so they could justify the use public money and deviate some to their pockets. After a few years on a public seat most of the people magically increase their patrimony, acquiring second houses, expensive cars, etc. We all knew it and we all thought it was wrong but that was how the system worked when we were in the Dictatorship and unfortunately many people didn’t know that wasn’t the only way a country can be governed. Together with this construction bubble we had an extensive clientelism culture. If you have connections amongst the rich you will have the best job and all the possibilities, too often they go as far as to hire you as consultant for a public office. Likewise middle class workers prosper more by praising the manager than working hard and honestly.

And we got to the point we are now, realising we have a corrupt society that never did a proper transition towards a decent society of opportunities. Some blame belongs to the politicians and economic powers that designed the new system without any ethic values nor consideration for the society, doing it closed and obscure to protect themselves and be able to do whatever they want. But the bigger share of blame is onto the society. The lack of culture we inheritaged from the old regime made us sheep thinking that this was the only way; it has stopped us from demanding a transparent, meritocratic and just system and above all from realising that we are the majority and there is power in numbers. Austerity has been the last straw, we have lost our rights and services while the people responsible are at large and wealthier than before. Now things are changing 11 May 2011 was the beginning of the Spanish awakening. It may take time but we will create the Spain we want and we deserve. And then we will be a real example of transition into democracy.

 

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.

 

What government is for

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other. Ronald Reagan, USA president.

Many people see government like Mr Reagan, as a monster that only goes after their taxes without giving them anything in return. This concept helps Liberal and Conservative ideologies to diminish government’s role. In my opinion that hides another issues; is easier cutting something down rather than make it efficient but most of all it is an economic manouver. Services not directly provided by government would have to be offered by private companies at a higher cost for governments and particulars; the end game is clear millionaires, usually infiltrated in conservative parties, would make profits out of things that were out of their reach. Using this message they have managed to cut government’s ability to provide jobs and services because they portrait them as money holes, instead of an essential element for a prosper functional society. Likewise Mitt Romney's view that poor people were poor because they were lazy makes easier cutting and privatising essential services. He uses the argument of so many conservatives that while workers work to pay for services unemployed people are just lazy and taking advantage of them creating a division within the society and making taxes look a burden for them and a gift for others. But things are not black and white; for example there are lots of people that work but simply can't afford health care or other services because cost of living has gone up much more than salaries. In USA for example the national free clinics association has denounced that 80% of their customers have a job but can't pay for health care anyway. Likewise in Europe austerity measures are making education and health less accessible for lower a middle class due to higher costs and lower wages to dispose of.

Reagan's view of government is true in some countries where people pay taxes and politicians don’t use that money for the improvement of society but for their own economic advancement. Sometimes we think only underdeveloped or developing countries have that problem, but we can also see it in Europe, for example Greece, Italy or Spain where corruption is much more spread than it should. However government is much more than that; corruption that perhaps should be legally penalised as an act of treason since they are stealing nation's resources, shouldn’t taint the function of government. There are many reasons why governments are beneficial and should be given funds to function properly.

On one side we have the services they provide at an affordable cost to citizens, through their taxes; for example education, health and security (police and firemen among others). These services are a commodity for people but at the same time a job for millions of citizens. Thus everyone benefits from “cheap” high quality services necessary for a decent living (not every job allows people to be able to afford private pricey services no matter how much they work), a part of society gets a job at the same time. Furthermore in countries with good public services that also creates a society with equal opportunities, because money doesn't make a difference on education or quality of life.

On the other side we have the millions of jobs government contributes to indirectly. For example in London, the public company in charge of transportation did in 2010 a comprehensive study of their providers so UK government, eager to cut TfL’s budget could appreciate the economic contribution of this company towards the whole of the UK economy. One recent example is the new 600 buses that the Mayor of London has ordered, which will safeguard 220 jobs across the UK, forming part of the 40,000 jobs annually supports outside London that add to the 19,000 it supports within the supply chain in London. Indeed every public organisation that delivers a service has to procure elements for their day to day business that would become profits for the private companies marketing them (from expert consultants to toilet paper).

One can argue some characteristics of public entities: how many attributions they must have and if they are as efficient as possible. But on public services like transport, education, or health essential of any advanced society it is undeniable that those institutions contribute to society providing a service as well as improving the private sector; without public contracts many companies wouldn’t make profits. The fact that a public company spends much in itself is not the problem, as long as that spending is necessary for society and generates private growth. If a public entity misuses funds (either through private appropriation of funds, contracting companies without managing the contract properly or investing money without a clear return of investment) an exhaustive review ought to be carried out to find any deviation and set rules that prohibit it from happening again. But no crisis nor misused should be the justification for cutting public funding which will only lead to privatising services, making impossible for a big part of the society access necessary services.

This change in policy is even more necessary in countries where the austerity measures have provoked public investment to drop. In Spain since 2008 around 180,000 companies have close down; some they were owed money and their creditors didn’t prorogued their loans, others had to close because in an economic crisis discouraging private investment they were not able to survive without public contracts. Companies closing down and governments reducing their budgets means letting go millions of people; in the middle of a crisis they will unlikely find another job and will add to the amount of private jobs lost and people claiming their benefits. Thus government will have to spend more money in due services with less income. On top of the economic benefits that public investment creates for the society there are moral implications on providing or not public quality services. After all who is to say that our lives will be perfect forever, we will always find a job and have enough income to have a decent life. Companies shut down, illness appears without asking, there are many reasons why we may be unable to work even if we want to. At the end when a sector or an individual needs help they often ask government, even banks did it. We should have a government that helps everyone to grow and provides help when necessary, always doing it in an efficient, reasonable and justifiable way.

 

Takers were once makers

Is my understanding that Republicans believe in the “solo” approach, that every man is on its own and success will come if you work hard enough.This fuels the argument that the nation is becoming a nation of takers and makers.

I just wished life was so simple as that.

For the own sake of human society we should promote the idea that the majority of the people want to work and contribute, if not for anything else just to feel useful and get a feeling of accomplishment when they see their paycheck, I for one feel that way.

The reasoning Takers and makers is very dangerous and in my opinion wrong.

It gives the argument for division and confrontation within society thru the portrait of a portion of the people (as much as 47% according to Romney or a little less according to Ryan and I am sure another figures are being talked about conservatives in other parts of the world) just chilling waiting for a paycheck without doing anything and laughing at those people that are working instead. Thus the people that have a job would feel betrayed, used and somewhat angry at these “takers”.

The “working force” is being bombarded with suggestions that they are being used and fooled and that could ignate anger and violence. Taking this to the extreme one could even think that should one of these “makers” gets angry and tired of “being used” it would be justified if he violently fought people that were taking something from him, because hey he is working and the other guy is just chilling and taking advantage from him. 

Also this theory confuses the following fact, only extreme cases of people born with disabilities haven´t ever contributed to those benefits that they claim. Everyone pays part of their salary towards Social Security and so forth, so is not really taking something when you have put something there in the first place as Ryan mentioned today. I am happy Ryan said that and I wished he trully believes it.

No one can be looking forward to being sick and not able to work, thus seeking benefits. And unfortunately in the States going broke due to the Health Care system, at least in Europe we have a right to life (I will tackle women´s rights on another post) and medical care no matter our income.

There are few people looking forward parenting alone, thus no one can be looking forward having to seek benefits to support a child.

And more to the point, even if someone is taking advantage of the system for example exagerating an illness, I honestly don´t think we the society should sacrify all the people that are in need for a bunch of people that ought to be found and stopped. I´d better invest in fraud prevention than cutting safety nets for all.

I think people live in societies made of different ideas but should feel united to contribute all together for the benefit of the country. The more people the more ideas. Likewise in order to have an innovative and productive society all its members should feel in peace with the system and equally appreciated so they can contribute to the best of their abilities. Dividing arguments should be stopped.

 Aren´t societies supposed to be groups of people that gather to overcome difficulties together? Aren´t families the same thing at a small scale? You wouldn´t leave a lovely one in the dark, you´d help him. Why aren´t we helping our country fellows more, so shall we fall from grace and need help they help us?

I don´t want to go with the argument of I do this just to get this after but, no one is impune to disgrace, it can happen to you tomorrow with no fault of your own. What would happen to you? To your family? Isn´t it worth investing in an “insurance” for all that would help you in your moment of need? I think it is just the right thing to do.