Saturday, January 24, 2009

Not Much Racism in Spain

It always seems to me rather a waste of time being a racist when you live in somebody else's country than your own. If you don't like foreigners (for reasons which you no doubt hold dear but which I find repugnant) then the first thing to do is not go and live somewhere abroad. You may find that your own country is overrun by people with bones through their noses and you should feel free to write letters to your favourite newspaper or join your local equivalent of the KKK and make a fool of yourself every other Friday. But you should re-consider moving to another country. It'll be full of foreigners.
Here's a letter in one of our 'freebies' written by someone who may not have noticed the irony of being a Brit living in Spain:
'I am incensed by the ‘do gooders’ and ‘race-card players’ who are making capital out of Prince Harry’s casual remark that one of his fellow officers was a Paki - which I believe is an abbreviation of “he is a Pakistani”'.
Is that what it means, by Gum.
We all know the paper I've quoted - it's a 'free-sheet' distrubuted among and read by the more home-sick members of the English-speaking community living along the costas. It offers some anodyne pieces of news, plus stuff about Britain, has seven pages of British television (really!) and a weekly article by Leepy Lee which rarely veers from race-hatred in Britain, even though the writer has lived in Mallorca for twenty years or more.
I once asked a British friend over a beer if there were many foreigners living in his street on the playa - 'Oh no', he answered, 'they're all English'. He's lived here about twenty five years and doesn't speak a word of Spanish. He nevertheless has quite a high opinion of them, as long as they leave him alone. 'It's their country', he concedes. Just not their street.
There's no reason to be a second-class citizen here, which many Britons tend towards, with their 'I'm just a guest here' and so on, but it is equally absurd to get ah, uppity, about being somehow superior. Waste of time when you're living in Spain. Innit?
Yesterday, there was a small (and rather embarassing) protest in Madrid by some skinheads and assorted riffraff against the new American president, Barack Obama. I'm sorry... you what?
That's right. Pathetic. So anyway, a girl who is staying with my daughter goes out for a coffee and comes across some idiot who has a swastika tattooed on his neck and 'orgullo blanco' - white pride - thumped in on his bald head. Oh dear, a lunatic. Now, the girl is Spanish, but black. So this idiot starts in on her with insults. she is soon surrounded by a passing gang of South Americans who take her side. Some more Nazis drift into the bar...
Followed by the police.
My mum's cousin was a leading member of the British National Front - our version of the Frente Nacional at one time - and he told my dad (in one of the rare times they met) that the extreme right prefers its members to come from the poor and the uneducated. While there must no doubt be intelligent racists here and there, it appears that they are not welcome in the party. Le Pen, the leader of the French version, says the same thing: 'bring me les petits Français', he says, 'the ones whose jobs are under threat from the immigrants'.
Spain has its Nazis like anywhere else, plus those who remember the good old days with the Generalísimo - Francisco Franco, who, as dictators go, was a reasonably aimiable one. Dentro de lo que cabe - that is, as far as power-mad dictators and their minions can ever be thought to be 'reasonable'. Spain today, where there are over four million 'inmigrantes', plus a large number of foreign residents (me and my pals there on the costa) is surprisingly affable towards its foreigners. There may be a lively institutional racism (you should see our new residence cards) regarding foreigners, who are rarely employed in any white-collar capacity, but we manage, we manage. Just don't try and homologar your papers here, the Spanish will move mountains to fuck you. It's the breaks.
The Spanish reserve their dislike for Jews (for some odd reason) and for Gypsies. While Gypsies have been in Spain since the sixteenth century, they are still thought badly of, and beside producing Flamenco and working with horses, their universaly recognised main occupation is thievery.
It's odd though, since you shouldn't really be a racist, it seems to me, if you live in another country; and if you only got to know your new neighbours then you would perhaps be pleasantly surprised, but we Britons haven't quite caught the message yet. I sometimes ask people who have just returned from a visit to England as to how it was. The first or second criticism (believe me, no one here likes England) will always be something to do with the asylum seekers, the Muslims, the Poles, the foreigners...
But they'll justify it. I return to the letter featured above:
'(The writer is quoting John Howard, a conservative Australian prime minister)"...We opened our doors to you and made you welcome. We have our laws and our customs to which we expect you to conform. If you don’t like our laws and our customs and our way of life, then go home. We are not stopping you.”
If only we in England had some politicians with the GUTS to stand up and say that
.' In England, a letter like this would never be printed, nor probably would it be in Spain in a Spanish paper at least, but unfortunately, there is no one to check the foreign-language free press which is distributed along the costas.
So, if you are thinking of living here, do come. The Spanish will treat you well, although they will probably never come to your bar or your shop, or hire you to work for them. That's the breaks.

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