In so far as one can stumble onto a massive street demonstration, my daughter and I managed it in Madrid yesterday evening. The numbers attending were 2,500,000, if you believe the Opposition which organised it, or 342,655, if you believe the rather more precise Government which was upset by it. Anyway, my daughter and I were on our way to see an exhibition of bonsais in the Botanical Gardens. She felt there were only 17 of these, whereas I put it at 6.3. Whatever, it was rather disappointing.
There was a wide range of placards on display at the demo but perhaps the most direct was “Zapatero, Have the balls to call an election!” Of course, if I say this was a very Spanish approach, I’ll be accused of rehearsing stale stereotypes. So I won’t. Probably because I lack the cojones.
In one of those reports which leave one slack-jawed, I read this morning that the authorities in Pamplona had suspended – albeit only provisionally – the driving licence of a man who’d hit people on zebra crossings three times in the last 18 months. As well as being involved in 2 crashes. Based on the fact he’d only applied his breaks after hitting each of his victims, the police had requested the suspension because, they said, of a suspicion his eyesight might not be all that it should. There was no suggestion, though, the judge had requested a brain scan for the police.
This week’s advertising scam in El Mundo’s magazine section is a slimming treatment which comprises 11 plants and is guaranteed to get you down to the weight you want no matter what you eat. This time there’s no address for you to write to – even in Andalucia - but there is a premium rate number on which you can get a free assessment of your chances of benefiting from this miracle. Surely there must be laws against this outright chicanery. Or is advertising revenue now so hard to come by in the internet age that no one cares what is sold and how many sad people are duped?
Much of the increase in Spain’s population in recent years has been down to immigration – illegal, legal and post-facto legalised. The government insists this has contributed materially to the country’s impressive economic growth. Perhaps so but one thing it certainly has done is to help prevent real salary increases over the last 5 or 6 years. Given the origin – and religion – of many of the immigrants, large social issues will surely arise if this continues. But my impression is there is as little public debate here as there has been in the UK. This is despite the issue ranking high on the regular lists of what concerns the Spanish. I was reminded of this when reading the following in a British paper this morning - The numbers are breathtaking. Each year 223,000 more people settle in the UK than leave it. If immigration continues at the same rate this will add 16 million people in the next 45 years. Most migrants will settle in the South, because that is where the jobs are. It is difficult to imagine how another 16 million people can be squashed into the area without making it uninhabitable. . . The subject is rarely discussed, for the simple reason that to raise it is to risk being branded a racist.
So, will this self-imposed but ill-advised silence be observed here in Spain, until it’s too late?