Monday, August 18, 2008

The Spanish athlete, Marga Domínguez, wasn't the only woman who had a bad fall this weekend. On Saturday evening, my 83 year-old mother tripped and fell on her face, breaking her nose and piercing her lip with her teeth. As you would expect, the people in the nearby houses were extremely solicitous and helpful. But this could not be said, I'm afraid, of the British National health Service. For my mother sat for an hour on the pavement until a paramedic arrived in his car and then another hour before an ambulance came. In the hospital, she was pronounced 'low priority' and then waited another four hours before she was attended to. I find it hard to believe this would happen in any other developed country, the sick joke being that British politicians continue to tell voters that the NHS is the 'envy of the world'. Anyway, here's a photo of my mother yesterday, sent by one of my sisters. She looks anything but a 'low priority' to me but I guess it's possible that the hospital was having to cope with a Saturday-evening queue of the victims of drink-fuelled violence and the near-fatal consumption of alcohol.

But on to the the nationalism[s] by which the government of Spain is bedevilled . . . I've touched on this numerous times over the years and what I write below may or may not be totally consistent with what I've said before. This, I like to think, is partly because Spanish commentators have written politely and knowledgeably in response to my comments and presented counter views to mine. And, of course, what I write now reflects almost eight years of living in one of the regions of Spain heavily affected by the nationalist aspirations of some of its inhabitants. I use the word 'region' below to refer to Galicia, Cataluña, the Basque region and, indeed, all of Spain's 17 or 18 autonomous communities. In practice, terms such as land, country, territory, nation and 'historical nationality' are used here in Spain but I will stick with 'region' so as to try to avoid confusion.

In brief, I would say there are four types of nationalism, starting with the most aggressive and ending with the least. This is , of course, a simplification so I crave the indulgence of those who know a lot more than me and who could come up with additional [sub]groups:-

1. Nationalists who seek secession and independence by force.
The ETA terrorists/freedom fighters are the most obvious members of this group but there are others here.

2. Nationalists who seek secession and independence via democratic means

Again, we have to turn to the Basque region, where the Basque Nationalist Party [the PNV] is engaged in a democratic [if allegedly illegal] referendum process of getting voter support for looser/nil ties with Spain.

3. Nationalists who do not seek real secession and independence but demand quasi- independence for their region.
In the absence of a demand separation from Spain, these folk push for greater powers within a federated Spain and for dominance of their regional language at the expense of Spanish. This might stretch to exclusive use of the regional language in education and all official matters. This group would include the Galician Nationalist Block [the BNG] which was the subject of the article I quoted yesterday.

4. Nationalists who are not as strong as, say, the BNG in demanding the fostering of the regional language at the expense of Spanish but who, nonetheless, want to see the regional language and culture promoted within a non-federal Spain.
In the past, I've numbered what are called Galleguistas [Galicianists] in this group.

I have no difficulty in saying that I have the least sympathy for the first group and the most for the fourth group and I guess things were always thus. What has changed over the years is that I've come to admire the second group and to almost detest the third group.

This is essentially because I take the overarching view that in a world which is more peaceful than ever, where there is less of the threat of war that causes groups to sink their differences and to band together to resist aggressors/invaders, it's rational and sensible to allow those who see themselves as a true nation to seek and obtain self-determination by peaceful means. Of course, to me it's odd that, say, Scotland and Cataluña would seek to break away from the UK and Spain to become a minor entity within the EU but I can't argue against this being their right. More importantly, how does one stop nationalist movements once they have a legitimacy born of majority support?

Accordingly, democratically-oriented Nationalists seeking the independence of Scotland and Galicia have my best wishes. So why not the BNG of Galicia? Well, because - like the author of yesterday's article - my perception is that, if the local nationalist party doesn't have the courage of its convictions - because it knows independence won't wash with the voters - it's forced to major on the local language and to pursue the dominance of this in ways that are questionable and divisive. I get the impression this is happening not only here in Galicia but also in the Valencia region and in the Balearic Islands. In all of these, I have serious doubts that what is going on is in the interests of the population. Particularly of the children, their education and their employment prospects in a tough world..

All that said, I have to be consistent and say that - if a substantial proportion of the population backs parties in this third category - then this needs to be heeded as the voice of the people.

The real problems arise when, as here in Galicia, the nationalist party gets only a small proportion of the votes but becomes a lever of power within a coalition government. This, it seems to me, brings the worst of all worlds. Far better that we had a true, honest nationalist party in government than a pseudo-nationalist party taking full advantage of a mandate it really doesn't have.

So, there you have it. I very much doubt that everyone will agree and only ask that adverse comments be civil, even if angry. I will try to respond to all of those which eschew the apparent Spanish fondness for personal abuse. Especially as this tends to come from people who give the impression of not having good enough English to understand all that I've said. This does not apply to my Basque friend in New Zealand, who is welcome to contribute in support of what most of us see as terrorism, if he's still reading this blog.


mike the trike said...

It seems to me that it is like a lottery and you can get quick service if you are in the right place at the right time. My wife fell and broke her hip in England and an ambulance arrived in less than 15 minutes. She was kept in the corridor from 11 am till 6 pm when they finally found her a bed. She fell on her face here in Coruña and the ambulance called by a passerby arrived in less than 15 minutes. We were in Juan Canalejo hospital for about 6 hours and she was released to go home after x-rays etc. My nephew in Canada had to go to hospital because his leg was swelling and looked like a balloon and his blood circulation was affected. He slept in the corridor for two days before they found him a bed.

Lenox said...

Sorry about your mum. Hope she gets better quickly.

Colin said...

Many thanks, Lenox

Xoan-Carlos said...

Hope you mum gets better. It's a disgrace. I'm completely for on the spot fines for the louts who clog up A&E departments, and put at risk the lives of people suffering from real accidents and emergencies.

You forgot to run through the various shades of Spanish nationalist ranging from the idiot who gets pissed stupid because Spain has won Euro '08 and ends up in a fountain siging Viva España; to the Spanish nationalist who would do away with the autonomous communities, ban regional languages, retain street and school named after fascist leaders or Nazi collaborators (e.g. the number of streets in Spain commemorating the Division Azul brigade that fought alongside the Nazis on the Eastern Front) and condone death squads against supposed ETA members. None of these have my sympaphy.

Colin said...

Thanks, Xoan-Carlos

I think you're being a bit tough on those who [over]celebrate Spanish sports triumphs but I agree that the rest merit no sympathy. I find it hard to believe some of them exist - never having seen any - but there are still Nazis and Hitler-admirers in Germany, I guess.

That said,I can understand why some Brits and Spaniards can regret the break-up of their polity, without being British/Spanish nationalists.