Monday, June 19, 2006

Well, the people of Catalunia finally voted on their new Constitution yesterday. Or, rather, just under 50% of them did. Of these, 75% approved it, meaning it passes into law with the endorsement of around 37% of the electorate. This, of course, allows everyone involved to claim some sort of victory - even the far-left party who regarded the proposals as insufficiently generous to Catalunia and so recommended abstention. The rest of us are just glad the long-running saga is finally over. Though we now have to endure similar polemical processes in several other regions, all of which are vying with each other to see what creative phrase they can come up with containing something akin to ‘nation’. I suppose it keeps the politicians busy. And the ‘nationalists’ happy. More or less. But I’m not convinced it’s good for Spain.

Another weekend, another cavalcade of road deaths. Or, to put in the words of a local paper today, “History repeats itself every weekend and the nightlife again leaves in its wake a river of blood on Galicia’s highways”. Among the corpses this time were 3 young people who drove through their own village at double the permitted speed of 50kph and hit a telegraph pole not far from their own homes. I find it hard to believe the police can’t do something to at least reduce this toll, if only parking cars outside the discos from which the kids stagger in the early hours of the morning. But, in this live-and-let-live culture, they seem to think this would be socially unacceptable. Perhaps things will change after the introduction of harsher penalties in July.

It’s not as if Galicia can afford to lose anyone on the roads. Last year it suffered a net 8,000 loss in its population, the highest in Spain. It would have been worse but for the 15,000 immigrants who compensated for the 20,000 people who left the region.

In a bookshop today, I was struck by an array of textbooks for every subject in which one can take the so-called ‘Oposiciones’. These are, essentially, exams you have to take for any lifetime job with the local government, including teaching. Every one of the text books was specially published by the Galician Xunta and I guess much the same happens in each of Spain’s other 16 regions, or Autonomous Communities. The cover of each book contained the insignia of the Xunta and the large acronym MAD. I have no idea what it stands for but it seemed rather appropriate to me.

A reader has suggested the incident I cited yesterday supports the use of ID cards but I beg to differ. The only reason the police knew the cards were fake was because the guy was dumb enough to have 26 of them in his possession at the same time. So the cards had obviously been:- 1. Not too difficult to obtain, and 2. Useful in the perpetration of previous crimes in which the falseness of his card was not detected. The fact he was caught this time was pure luck on the part of the police and had nothing to do with the effectiveness or otherwise of ID cards. If he’d had only one card on him, he would not have been arrested and could have continued his life of crime, despite the fact it was false.

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