Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pontevedra Pensées: 30.10.16


An Overview: At the end of this post is an article I found on my phone. I think it's from Justin of Just Landed and was written in 2012. I know I've read it before and I may even have cited it previously but it's worth a second read. I find it hard to disagree with a word of it - as you'll know if you're a regular reader - and I certainly agree with the Conclusion. And most of the Comments. Though not those from the Spaniards who don't know what 'tongue-in-cheek' means and don't recognise the writer's underlying affection for Spain. Worse, these demonstrate the very sensitivity they don't themselves show when it comes to foreigners. It's a fact of life that many of the latter do find the Spanish rather rude at times. And it's also true that - seeing themselves as 'noble' - nothing hurts/annoys the Spanish more than to be told this. So, it needs to be stressed that, when it comes to how you're treated as a stranger (whether Spanish or foreign), everything changes the moment you establish a personal connection. Which can happen via a simple conversation in a bar or restaurant. For this, as in every country, it helps greatly to have learnt the language. That said, not many of those of us who do learn Spanish advance to Catalan, Basque or Gallego. Which can be taken very personally indeed among the more nationalistic of the latter. Happily, these are not usually in the majority even in their own region.

The Time: I've said that Spain changed its clock - to align with Germany's - during Word War  2 and so moved out of its 'correct' zone. And that there's now talk of returning to it. Which seems to be going nowhere, in truth. Meanwhile, the Balearic Islands have proposed staying on permanent summer time but have been slapped down by Madrid. Explaining why Galicia shouldn't be back on its 'correct' Canarian/UK/Portuguese/ Moroccan time, the regional President retorted "I'm Galician, not Portuguese". Which presumably made sense to him. If not to the residents of the Canary Islands. More on the general subject here

A Southern Desert: Global warming, say some, will turn southern Spain into another Sahara. Click here for more on this worrying prediction.

Kids' Kostumes: I thought this sort of (pijo) thing might only happen in Spain but my elder daughter suggests it might be true of Italy as well . . .


Refugees: There's an article at the end of the post from a columnist with whom I rarely disagree. And I don't this time. A sampler: There has never been a time in human history when there were more agencies and organisations dedicated to the cause of international cooperation and the welfare of the world’s peoples. The idea of moral responsibility, not just to those closest to us, but to the human race at large, has never had a more prominent place in political discourse. And yet, somehow, we are managing to make an absolute mess of this. The august bodies in which so much hope and idealism were invested, the United Nations and the European Union, with their high-flown rhetoric about global accord and delivering the populations of the world from war and want, have been almost entirely useless.


Tattoos: If you'd told me as a young man that this would happen, I would probably not have believed you: The Police Federation says 52% of female officers have at least one tattoo, compared to 47% of their male colleagues. With only a third of British adults thought to have tattoos, the greater propensity among police officers is thought to be because many are recruited from the armed forces, where tattoos are popular. Allegedly, the majority of Brits don't mind this.


Salaries: Government employees are generally believed to have far more job security than those in the private sector. Especially in these days of the zero hours contracts which seem to be a feature of most new jobs. And now we learn that the funcionarios here in Galicia earn on average 45% more than their equivalents in the private sector. No wonder everyone here aspires to be one. And that so much money can be made training people for the civil service exams, las oposiciones. Spain's labour market is normally said to have two tiers - the older employees on good contracts and the newer ones facing much greater precariousness. Perhaps the civil servants represent a third - even better - tier. By the way, civil servant salaries in Galicia are reported to be the 3rd lowest in the country. So, you can imagine what private sector salaries are like. Especially when you see jobs openly advertised at below the legal minimum wage.


The weather: The end of October and my daughter visiting from cold, grey Madrid went to the beach yesterday. And will go again today. AGW can't be all bad, then.


Another cartoon, in honour of Pontevedra's legion of beggars:


No new case today. Just a laugh at the defence put forward by one defendant in the case of the huge illegal financing set-up of the PP party - that it all started because of campaign by a PSOE minister against the PP party.


1. The Spaniards. Everything you need to know for dealing with the locals.

Who are the Spanish? What are they like? Let’s take a candid and totally prejudiced look at the Spanish people, tongue firmly in cheek, and hope they forgive my flippancy or that they don’t read this bit.

A typical Spaniard is courteous, proud, enthusiastic, undisciplined, tardy, temperamental, independent, gregarious, noisy, honest, noble, individualistic, boisterous, jealous, possessive, colourful, passionate, spontaneous, sympathetic, fun-loving, creative, sociable, demonstrative, irritating, generous, cheerful, polite, unreliable, honourable, optimistic, impetuous, flamboyant, idiosyncratic, quick-tempered, arrogant, elegant, irresponsible, anaficionado, hedonistic, contradictory, an anarchist, informal, self-opinionated, corrupt, indolent, frustrating, vulgar, voluble, helpful, friendly, sensitive, a traditionalist, insolent, humorous, fiery, warm-hearted, chauvinistic, bureaucratic, dignified, kind, loyal, extroverted, tolerant, macho, frugal, self-possessed, unabashed, quarrelsome, partisan, a procrastinator, scandal-loving, articulate, a bon viveur, inefficient, conservative, nocturnal, hospitable, spirited, urbanised, lazy, confident, sophisticated, political, handsome, chaotic and a football fanatic.

You may have noticed that the above list contains ‘a few’ contradictions (as does life in Spain), which is hardly surprising as there’s no such thing as a typical Spaniard. Apart from the differences in character between the inhabitants of different regions, such as Andalusia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia and Madrid, the population also includes a potpourri of foreigners from all corners of the globe. Even in appearance, fewer and fewer Spaniards match the popular image of short, swarthy and dark, and the indigenous population includes blondes, brunettes and redheads.

Although not nearly as marked or rigidly defined as the British or French class systems, Spain has a complex class structure. The top drawer of Spain’s aristocrats are the 400 or so grandees, who are followed at a respectable distance by myriad minor nobles, all of whom tend to keep to themselves and remain aloof from the hoi polloi. Next in pecking order are the middle class professionals, the lower middle class white-collar workers, the blue-collar working class and the peasant underclass.

These are followed by assorted foreigners, a few of whom have been elevated to the status of ‘honorary’ Spaniards (usually after around 100 years’ residence). At the bottom of the heap, below even the despised drunken tourists, are the gypsies (gitanos), Spain’s true aristocrats. Gypsies are treated as lepers by many Spaniards (except when they’re celebrated flamenco artists or bullfighters) and are even less desirable as neighbours than theMoros (Moroccans).

Spaniards are often disparaging about their compatriots from other regions. Nobody understands the Basques and their tongue-twister of a language, the Galicians are derided as being more Portuguese than Spanish, and the Andalusians are scorned as backward peasants. However, the most widespread antagonism is between the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, whose inhabitants argue about everything, including the economy sport, history, politics, culture and language. Catalans claim that Madrileñosare half African, to which they reply that it’s better than being half French. However, although they’re proud of their regional identity, most Spanish aren’t nationalists or patriotic and have little loyalty to Spain as a whole.

Most Spaniards live in harmony with the foreign population, although many foreigners (colloquially dubbed guiris, from the word guirigay meaning gibberish) live separate lives in tourist ‘ghettos’, a million miles away from the ‘real’ Spain. The Spanish don’t consider the concrete jungles of the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Majorca and parts of the Canaries to be part of Spain, but a plastic paradise created for and by foreigners so that pasty-faced tourists can fry in the sun and get drunk on cheap booze.

However, although the Spanish aren’t generally xenophobic, they’re becoming more racist and many would happily eject the gypsies, Arabs and North Africans from their country. They don’t care much for the Portuguese either, who are the butt of their jokes (when they aren’t about the Andalusians)[or the Gallegos]. It’s an honour for a foreigner to be invited to a Spaniard’s home, although it’s one rarely granted. Nevertheless, Spaniards do occasionally marry foreigners, much to the distress of their parents.

Usually when Spaniards and foreigners come into contact (conflict), it concerns official business and results in a profusion of confrontations and misunderstandings (few foreigners can fathom the Spanish psyche) and does little to cement relations. Spain has among the most stifling (and over-staffed) bureaucracy in Western Europe (even worse than the French!) and any encounter with officialdom is a test of endurance and patience. Official offices (if you can find the right one) often open only for a few hours on certain days of the week; the person dealing with your case is always absent; you never have the right papers (or your papers and files have disappeared altogether); the rules and regulations have changed (again) and queues are interminable (take along a copy of Don Quixote to help pass the time). It’s all part of a conspiracy to ensure that foreigners cannot find out what’s going on (and will hopefully therefore pay more taxes, fines, fees, etc.).

Official inefficiency has been developed to a fine art in Spain, where even paying a bill or using the postal service (a world-class example of ineptitude) is an ordeal. The Spanish are generally totally disorganised and the only predictable thing about them is their unpredictability. They seldom plan anything (if they do, the plans will be changed or abandoned at the last moment), as one of the unwritten ‘rules’ of Spanish life is its spontaneity. Spain has been described as part advanced high-tech nation and part banana republic, where nothing and nobody works.

Almost as infuriating as the bumbling bureaucracy is the infamous mañana syndrome, where everything is possible (no problema) ‘tomorrow’ – which can mean later, much later, some time, the day after tomorrow, next week, next week, next month, next year or never – but never, ever tomorrow (the Spaniard’s motto is ‘never do today what you can put off until mañana’). When a workman says he will come at 11 o’clock, don’t forget to ask which day, month and year he has in mind. Workmen (especially plumbers) don’t usually keep appointments and, if they do deign to make an appearance, they’re invariably late (and won’t have the right tools or spares anyway). The Spanish are good at starting things but not so good at finishing them (hence the numerous abandoned building sites in Spain).

The Spanish are dismissive of time constraints and have no sense of urgency, treating appointments, dates, opening hours, timetables and deadlines with disdain (it’s said that the only thing that begins on time in Spain is a bullfight). If you really need something done by a certain date, never tell a Spaniard your real deadline. It’s significant, however, that the Spanish have a much lower incidence of stress-related disease than north Europeans, which is somewhat surprising in the noisiest country in Europe and the second loudest in the world (after Japan).

Over half the inhabitants of Spanish cities endure noise levels well in excess of the World Health Organisation’s ‘healthy’ limit of 65 decibels. Most noise is caused by traffic, lustily supported by pneumatic drills, jack hammers, chain-saws, mopeds (usually without silencers), car horns, alarms, sirens, radios, televisions,fiestas, fireworks, car and home music systems, discos, bars, restaurants, incessantly barking dogs, loud neighbours, screaming children and people singing in the streets.
In Spain, a normal conversation is two people shouting at each other from a few feet apart (not surprisingly, Spaniards are terrible listeners). Spanish cities are the earthly equivalent of Dante’s hell, where inhabitants are subjected to endless noise. Maybe creating a din is the Spanish way of releasing tension? Spaniards don’t care to waste time sleeping (except in the afternoons) when they can party and cannot see why anyone else should want to.

Spanish men are world champion hedonists and are mainly interested in five things: sex, football, food, alcohol and gambling (not necessarily in that order). The main preoccupation of the Spanish is having a good time and they have a zest for life matched by few other peoples. They take childish pleasure in making the most of everything and grasp every opportunity to make merry. The Spanish are inveterate celebrants and, when not attending a fiesta, family celebration or impromptu party, are to be found in bars and restaurants indulging in another of their favourite pastimes: eating and drinking.

Spaniards have a passion for food, which consists largely ofpaella and tapas and is always swimming in garlic and olive oil. Like the French, they eat all the objectionable bits of animals that ‘civilised’ people throw away (e.g. pigs’ ears and bulls’ testicles) and will eat any creatures of the deep, the more revolting-looking the better (e.g. octopus and squid). They’re particularly fond of baby food (baby suckling pig, baby lamb, baby octopus), which is preferable to ‘grown-up’ food as it’s easier to fit into the ubiquitous frying pan (when not eaten raw, like their ham, all food is fried in Spain). Contrary to popular opinion, the Spanish are a nation of animal lovers: they will eat anything that moves. They do, however, have an unsavoury habit (at least most foreigners think so) of ‘playing’ with their food and can often be seen chasing their steak around a ring before dinner (¡Olé!).

When not eating (or playing guitars or flamenco dancing), the Spanish are allegedly having sex – Spanish men have a reputation as great lovers, although their virility isn’t confirmed by the birth rate, which is one of the lowest in the world. In any case, most of their conquests are drunken tourists (only too keen to jump into the sack with anything in trousers), so their reputation doesn’t bear close scrutiny. (A recent survey found that the average Spaniard makes love badly and infrequently: just 71 times a year compared with the world average of 109 – how do they know these things?) Their macho image has taken a further pounding in recent years as women have stormed most male bastions and today are as likely to be found in the university, office, factory, professions or the government, as in the home or the church.

Most Spaniards are anarchists and care little for rules and regulations, generally doing what they want when they want, particularly regarding motoring (especially parking), smoking in public places, the dumping of rubbish and paying taxes. Paradoxically they’ve taken to democracy like ducks to water and are passionate Europeans, firmly believing in a united Europe and the euro (so would you if you’d had to put up with the peseta!). However, like most sensible people they care little for their politicians, whose standing has plummeted to new lows in the last decade following a spate of corruption scandals.

The Spanish are sensitive to criticism, particularly regarding their history and traditions. Whatever you do, don’t ask an old man ‘what he did in the Civil War’ or mention Franco, the Falklands or Gibraltar. Spaniards are intolerant of other people’s views; criticism of Spain is reserved for the Spanish (who do it constantly) and isn’t something to be indulged in by ignorant foreigners.
Since throwing off the shackles of dictatorship in 1975, Spain has resolutely turned its back on the past and embraced the future with gusto. In the last quarter of a century, the country has undergone a transformation influencing every facet of life. However, although most changes have been for the better, many people believe that the soul of traditional Spain has been lost in the headlong rush towards economic development.

The modern Spaniard is more materialistic than his forebears and has taken to the art of making a fast buck as quickly as any North American immigrant ever did. Progress has, however, been purchased at a high cost and has led to a sharp increase in crime, drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty, begging, and the devastation of unspoilt areas by developers hell-bent on smothering the country in concrete and golf courses. Despite being hard hit by the recession in the ’90s, the country has made a strong recovery in recent years and has one of the most promising outlooks of any EU country.

To conclude

Despite the country’s problems, the Spanish enjoy one of the best lifestyles (and quality of life) of any European country and, indeed, any country in the world; in Spain work fits around social and family life, not vice versa. The foundation of Spanish society is the family and community, and the Spanish are noted for their close family ties, their love of children and care for the elderly (who are rarely abandoned in nursing homes). Spain has infinitely more to offer than its wonderful climate and rugged beauty and is celebrated for its arts and crafts, architecture, fashion, night-life, music, dance, gastronomy, design, sports facilities, culture, education, health care and technical excellence in many fields.

For sheer vitality and passion for life the Spanish have few equals, and whatever Spain can be accused of it’s never dull or boring. Few other countries offer such a wealth of intoxicating experiences for the mind, body and spirit (and not all out of a bottle!). But the real glory of Spain lies in the outsize heart and soul of its people, who are among the most convivial, generous and hospitable in the world. If you’re willing to learn Spanish (or at least make an effort) and embrace Spain’s traditions and way of life, you will invariably be warmly received by the natives, most of whom will go out of their way to welcome and help you. Spain is highly addictive and, while expats may occasionally complain, the vast majority wouldn’t dream of leaving and infinitely prefer life in Spain to their home countries. Put simply, Spain is a great place to live (provided you don’t have to do business there).

¡Vivan los españoles!   ¡Viva España!

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.

John Mortimer
Total trash. This is a ridiculous article, none of it is true. I am a resident of Spain and disagree with every part of this rubbish, obviously the writer has never even visited!

REPORT. I agree with John, Yo don´t know at all Spanish people, at least the north of my country. It is a pity article,,,, en otras palabras no tienes ni idea de como somos los españoles, por favor, ,,,, NO GENERALICES ASI

Alt least the north? So the south does match with the rubish this ignorant wrote? Eres tan ignorante como él entonces.

Very Well Written Article. I think your article is great because it tells it like it is...both the good and the bad. Every country has its good points and its bad points and people should grow up instead of getting offended. I saw all of those exact same patterns when I lived there for 2 years. That is exactly how I saw the country as well coming from a North American perspective. I grew up a certain way and so, upon moving to Spain those same things really stood out to me as well. I don't understand why Spaniards get so mad at any little criticism about their country when they do the same thing constantly. They love to criticize other countries and say that Spain is the best in every way. So, they should be able to take it when other cultures criticize theirs. Its called maturity people. Relax and realize that NONE of our countries are perfect yet we ALL have wonderful beautiful things about our cultures as well. No country or people is any better than any other. We are all just people living in this world together. 

Creo que tu artículo está bien escrito porque lo cuenta tal como es…lo bueno y lo malo. Cada país tiene sus cosas buenas y sus cosas malas y la gente necesita madurar en vez de estar ofendida. Yo vi los mismos patrones cuando viví dos años en España. Es exactamente como me parecía el país desde una perspectiva norteamericana. Crecí de una manera distinta entonces al mudarme a España las mismas cosas me llamaron mucho la atención. No entiendo porque se enfadan tanto los españoles por un poco de crítica sobre su país cuando ellos hacen lo mismo constantemente cuando hablan de otras culturas. Les encanta criticar a otros países y decir que España es lo mejor en cada sentido. Entonces, deberían ser capaces de aguantarlo cuando otras culturas critican a los suyos, si no es un poco hipócrita, no? Se llama madurez gente. Reléjense y dense cuenta de que NINGUNOS de nuestros países son perfectos pero también que tenemos TODOS cosas bonitas y maravillosas sobre nuestras culturas también. Ningún país ni gente es mejor que cualquier otro. Nada más somos gente viviendo juntos en este mundo.

Beware the Spanish male's need for total authority and dominance
On May 1st, 2012, I was sitting in a dining room and overheard a conversation between several adult couples from Canada, America, and Germany. ALL of them has suffered from the same treatment is Barcellona and that involved sitting for hours in restaurants and waiting for service or food while local patrons were well catered to. I joined in the conversation stating that we had shared the same type of experience the previous night and when I complained to management (after 80 minutes), he asked me if I had ordered in Spanish. I respectfully responded that I was most limited in Spanish as Canadians spoke English and/or French primarily and I added that the waiter had interacted with us and I was confident he understood the order. Within minutes, all of our courses were dropped on the table( cold and piled one next to the other as it was a table for two. We left the restaurant and did not pay the bill which was well over a hundred Euros. I told him to call the authorities if he wished but he declined. The hostess walked us to the door and said there is a great deal of anger towards tourists, especially women who appear affluent!!! In this economy, how can they possibly develop such a mind-set??? We found a lovely place nearby and had a very late but enjoyable dinner. Avoid places on Avenidad Diagonale as several had nasty experiences.

Trip to Spain cancelled for 2013
After witnessing violence is prominent restaurant between staff, being ignored as patrons in other establishments, and discussing very negative experiences that dozens of other tourists had been subjected to in several Barcellona restaurants, we shortened our trip last week , returned to Canada, and cancelled our accommodations for April- May 2013 in Marbella, Barcellona, and Madrid.

"Maleducados": I agree with most of what you said. I have been living in Spain for 8 years and have met very few "polite" Spaniards. I think the term "maleducados" fits. Very proud and insular.

No estoy de acuerdo
Todo esto es una basura de artículo.

There are many types of spaniards. This is a typical vision of a arrogant british.

pais de retrasados
The main problem with the spaniards is still their unbelievable arrogance and complete lack of manners towards any person they don't know. The last 10 years I've visited the country on a bi-monthly basis, and it's just shocking to see that despite the billions of european funds poured into their systems, the inhabitants remain as backwards as ever... Whereas they believe themselves to be at the top of Europe. PS a typical phenomenon I see also in the reactions here... the spaniards have to react in spanish of course

Too unfair to generalize
I also disagree. People everywhere are much more understanding when you speak their language. It's only human. It's also understandable that tourists would be offended. We forget how the same situation might be in our own culture. I'm sure plenty of non-English speaking Japanese tourists also think the British are rude. Of course, I've heard that in Britain people can be very outgoing and friendly even if their dog died and their mother is on her way. In Spain you also meet friendly people but it's more often the case if you find the person in a good mood that day. They value expressing their true feelings because they see it as honest. Besides, from that perspective, everyone else should understand that not everyone has a good day and shouldn't hold it against Spain. These feelings are probably heightened around tourists when the economy is like it is.

So right: The article is right, Spanish people are rude and do not consider the language barrier that the tourists have, very inefficient and absolutely no organisation, i should know as i am an Erasmus student here and nothing is ever going right. So yes i agree totally with thsi article.

Who's rude? If you think spaniards are rude, don't come, as easy as that. But if you ever come, don't leave your manners at your country, because the most part of tourists, when they arrive at Spain, they lose their manners, for example, when you do what you know in a corner or in the middle of the street because you have get so so so drunk you can't stand on your feet. If you're so polite, why do you do that? Don't deny it, any spaniard who watch tv ONCE a MONTH, especially at summer, will know this.

Asi que quereis enseñarnos algo, predicad con el ejemplo.


It´s all in good fun Spaniards. Spain is a great country, as a Britton who´s basically grown up here I can confirm, I agree with almost everything said in the `To Conclude´ section. Lifestyle wise it is better that Britain and many other countries, even though Spain are now having their economic problems and all.

But I also agree with many parts of the article, and I found some bits hilarious. I used to hate Spain not that many years ago because of some of the things, mentioned here, but I have overcome these things and now like it quite a lot. However there is one thing about Spain that is just annoying to the core: It´s the way that they are the best, their sportsmen, are the best, their food is the best, their culture is the best, etc, and they will boast about these fake ideals with real pride (not all Spaniards, but many) and if you happen to be a foreigner they will still say it to your face too which is both untrue and rude. I am amazed at how many sportsmen (champions even) who are not Spanish are actually crap (or so they say) in the eyes of Spaniards when their athletes are the best. Also when talking about food they will say "You won´t eat anywhere like in Spain" which is complete patriotic bullshit IMO. There are plenty of places that have to be as good as Spain in many aspects (food of all of them, something so universal ...) or else half the planet would live in the peninsula.

All of this wouldn´t be so bad if the Spanish people (who may have previously rubbished your country) took anything anyone says about their great country with HUGE OFFENCE (as you can see here)

So calm down, no os ofendais por una pagina web que dice cosas parecidas de unos 30 paises, these descriptions are mostly hyperboles, I myself have read the US and UK ones already and laughed a lot there too. Peace. Paz

2. Narcissistic guilt in the West is creating the lawless chaos of the migration crisis   Janet Daley

Let’s stop accusing each other of lack of compassion, shall we? If we are sincerely interested in finding a solution to this horrendous migration crisis, then hurling insults is not going to help. Compassion is the beginning of this discussion, not the end. We all start from there. The next question should be: what would constitute a humane and just outcome?

Can I establish my credentials at the start, in the hopes of avoiding just the sort of incendiary fulmination that is wasting so much time and energy? I am the grandchild of refugees who fled from persecution and genocide in the last century. As such, I have pretty much limitless sympathy for those who are doing so today. I also believe that human progress is largely a story of the migration of peoples.

I am particularly favourable to the idea of economic migration: it is a testimony to individual courage, fortitude and endeavour and almost inevitably results in greater prosperity for the countries and populations which accept it.  None of what follows should be seen in any way as a repudiation of those views. On the contrary, what I am asking for is a proper argument rather than a phoney one.

In the midst of all the shrill noise, there is scarcely any useful conversation taking place about what is happening and how we might deal with it. This is quite extraordinary considering that there has never been a time in human history when there were more agencies and organisations dedicated to the cause of international cooperation and the welfare of the world’s peoples. The idea of moral responsibility, not just to those closest to us, but to the human race at large, has never had a more prominent place in political discourse.

And yet, somehow, we are managing to make an absolute mess of this. The august bodies in which so much hope and idealism were invested, the United Nations and the European Union, with their high-flown rhetoric about global accord and delivering the populations of the world from war and want, have been almost entirely useless. Nothing has slowed, or even adequately dealt with, the millions displaced by war, and the further millions who are, as they say, just “seeking a better life”.

Any proper moral debate must establish some basic premises. Otherwise we end up where we are: talking at cross purposes. It would be useful to get right down to the most fundamental questions.

What is the desirable end result? Do we believe that it is an unalloyed good thing to encourage huge tranches of poor or endangered people to abandon their own countries and settle, almost certainly permanently, in the rich parts of the world? Given that these migrants are likely to be among the strongest, healthiest, most highly motivated individuals in their unfortunate home countries, wouldn’t it be plausible to describe the diaspora as an abandonment of those who are most disadvantaged? Because the truth is that the men – and there is a great preponderance of young men – who arrive on Europe’s shores with smartphones having had enough cash to pay the people traffickers are not generally the most deprived or the most deserving of compassion.

In the Calais Jungle evacuation, it became clear that children had been left behind in the scrum, and the voluntary workers who had real knowledge of who was most needy were scarcely being consulted. It is a fairly sound assumption that men between the ages of 18 and 30 are in less potential danger than women and children under most circumstances – and that girls are in the greatest danger. It is surely those left behind in the hell holes created by civil war and despotism, who do not have the wherewithal or the insane willingness to risk their lives and those of their families, who should be the first in line for generosity.

It is precisely because the rich Western nations, awash in their narcissistic guilt about the visible crisis, have had no rational plan or discussion that those hapless people have been left out of the equation almost entirely. When Britain proposed taking families from the refugee camps on the Syrian border rather than illegally trafficked migrants from Greece and Italy, this was roundly condemned in the European Union as pure cynicism and a refusal to meet our obligations.

What they meant was that it was unhelpful to the EU, whose chaotic handling of uncontrolled mass migration had got completely out of hand. In all the breast-beating and mutual recrimination, there has been almost no consideration of the consequences of this movement of the able-bodied and relatively affluent (with enough money to pay for their transport) out of what used to be called the Third World. What will become of those left to their fate among marauding warlords? It might be argued that we in the West have a greater responsibility for them since it was often our interventions that destabilised their countries.

There has not even been the universally agreed global action on the people-smuggling industry that should, by rights, be comparable to the slave trade in international ignominy.

In fact, dreadful as it is to have to say this, the charities whose ships wait just off the coast of Libya to pick up the smugglers’ desperate passengers could be described as aiding and abetting the crime. Stamping out this wicked trafficking in human life should be among the top priorities in the migrant crisis. At the very least, one would have expected the UN and the EU to have agreed on an effective programme of action for eliminating it, rather than simply “condemning” it and then picking up the detritus left in its wake.  

So where does this leave us? Unfortunately, history is not much help. The United States, famously “a nation of immigrants”, is not a useful model. When my grandparents arrived at the turn of the twentieth century, there was an established and rigorous procedure at Ellis Island – and it was not the unbounded open door that sentimental Europeans might think.

No one could be admitted to the US mainland from the island reception centre who might prove to be, as the rules put it, “a charge upon the state” either through mental unfitness or ill health. (Because my grandmother’s cousin had measles, the whole family was held in the quarantine centre until she was deemed non-infectious.) Perhaps more surprisingly, prospective migrants were not permitted to have pre-arranged jobs. This was to prevent the importation of cheap labour gangs into the country: if you wanted to come in, you had to take your chances for survival with the indigenous population. There would be no state support and no employment stitch-up.

The system was designed to stress independence and resourcefulness. Modern European societies with their extensive welfare provision and employment protection laws are a world away from this mentality. And, of course, those European entrants had paid for legal sea passages in steerage: they were not fodder for smuggling gangs. This was a well-supervised operation with rules and regulations, not lawless chaos. Now the US is deeply troubled by the sort of migration that is much harder to control: from Mexico and points south, the border with which (no matter what Donald Trump claims) is impossible to police. The lesson is, unsurprisingly, that there may not be easy solutions to this great mass movement of peoples but there are worse and better ways of dealing with the political pressures that it raises.

It is imperative that decisions are made – and stuck to – about what “dealing with migration” should mean: about what we want the end result to be. Otherwise it will remain a brutal fight to the front of the queue for those who may not be most deserving, and a collapse of trust in government and the rule of law which could undermine the most compassionate intentions.                       


Perry said...

Pretty good article, but the alleged Spanish love of "democracy" is identical with the pickpockets' love of unsecured back pockets & open handbags. The Spanish political classes just love rifling the treasuries of the northern members of the EU; the most undemocratic organisation after the Chinese Communist Party.

Democracy consists of four key elements: I do not see them all four of them in Spain, yet!

(a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free & fair elections.

(b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics & civic life.

(c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens.

(d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

Spain is a conglomerate of regional oligarchies & is likely to remain so. It was not until 1978 that there was a definition of Spanish people & the definition of ethnicity or nationality in Spain is politically fraught as the Constitution recognises with the words "peoples and nationalities of Spain".

However, unless the pueblos y nacionalidades de España get it on & return to procreation, it's a moot point that they'll go the way of the Poles & Hungarians.

BTW Colin, how are you enjoying Goldman's book?

Perry said...

Vis-à-vis the EU & its lack of democracy:

Poland has told the European Commission it will defy their rulings because the Commission doesn’t respect Polish sovereignty or understand the Polish legal system. After the Polish government passed legislation allowing it to appoint its own judges to the constitutional court, the EC told them that this was against the rule of law, the first time the EU executive has criticised a member state under its rule-of-law procedure. The Polish government has hit back:

“In our dialogue with the European Commission, we have assumed that our cooperation will be based on such principles as objectivism, or respect for sovereignty, subsidiarity, and national identity. However, we have gradually come to realise that interferences into Poland’s internal affairs are not characterised by adherence to such principles. On top of that, such actions are largely based on incorrect assumptions which lead to unwarranted conclusions. So we regret to note that the Commission Recommendation is an expression of incomplete knowledge about how the legal system and the Constitutional Tribunal operate in Poland.”

In conclusion, this from Dr. Richard North.

Colin Davies said...

Finished it a week or so ago, Perry. Found it fascinating - if repetitive- and copied extracts to friends. But I don't see a return to religion as the solution. That said, don't see any other solution either. Other than plundering the developing world for citizens, a la Germany . . .

Perry said...

Likewise about religion. Some religions are mortally toxic, including the Green religion & the one currently fleeing Mosul. Nothing stays the same & something like a repeat of the 30 Years War in central Europe seems in the offing. Because I attended an RC grammar school from 53-59, my History "O" level dealt with the 30YW from the viewpoint of the "valiant" Hapsburgs & Henry VIII received tremendous disapproval. By age 13, the school had thankfully eliminated my faith.

Goldman has prompted me to look again, especially the machinations of Richelieu & Mazarin in supporting the Protestants. Wikipedia is quite useful in these cases.

This from the History Channel. Not sure about the last sentence though.

"The cost, however, had proved enormous. Perhaps 20 percent of Germany’s total population perished during the war, with losses of up to 50 percent along a corridor running from Pomerania in the Baltic to the Black Forest. Villages suffered worse than towns, but many towns and cities also saw their populations, manufacture, and trade decline substantially. It constituted the worst catastrophe to afflict Germany until World War II. On the other hand, the conflict helped to end the age of religious wars.