Sunday, 12 December 2010


Tonight in Glasgow:

Most appropriate, given the circumstances...

After all these years, still my favourite band ever and top guys they are too.

Happy Birthday Rab!

Official site

Update post-gig, 13/12/2010:

Sound quality perhaps not the best, but the Fannies played two Orange Juice covers at the end of the night, brilliant!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Déjà vu

We never learn. 

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Waverley Excursions

Ahh, what a fantastic day I had yesterday aboard the beautiful Waverley paddle steamer on the Ayrshire coast.

Sailing from Ayr [wiki] to Ailsa Craig [wiki], stopping in Girvan [wiki] to pick up more folk.
Absolutely fantastic day out, the weather was great and the ship is a work of art. Check the pictures in the link above.

At Ayr harbour

Engine room                                                Helpful advice

Isle of Arran in the horizon

Heads of Ayr
This is not the Med. It is Scotland's west coast!

Kennedy Castle at Dunure

Crew member enjoying a well-deserved break

Culzean Castle

 Approaching Ailsa Craig after stopping at Girvan

Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig, west side (phone camera). The white dots are breeding gannets.

Three twats on jet-skis

All in all, a glorious day out and something I'd recommend to anyone.
If it is not your think, don't fear: there is a licensed pub on board. 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Whose right is it? (II)

Two years ago, I wrote about the double standards of many governments when dealing with the self-determination movements across the world. Sometimes, they are supportive of the right to self-determination –except when they support the principle of territorial integrity.

The original post is available here

Yesterday, the UN International Tribunal issued its ruling on the process of independence from Serbia of the territory of Kosovo. Full ruling available in this link  [ENG].

The conclusions are devastating for those, like the Spanish state, who believe the right of territorial integrity of a sovereign state is above the right to self-determination of the people, or part of the people, that make up that state. That Spain stood alongside China and Russia, those beacons of democracy!, against the formal recognition of Kosovo’s independence should have been a clue as to what was coming and whose moral compass was, and still is, pointing the wrong way.

In the end, despite the repetitive caveats and disclaimers, this ruling provides legal cover for those stateless nations/countries/regions, call it what you will, who have a settled will, democratically expressed, to secede from the macro-state.

Let’s hope the Spanish state takes note and ceases to issue veiled threats of military aggression if the peoples of the Basque Country or Catalonia decide to exercise their democratic right to self-determination.

Original post (30/08/2008) - Whose right is it?

Amidst all the noise regarding the events in the Caucasus and the Balkans, the western media is doing a very good job in dumbing down the Georgia-Russia conflict as if it were a simple choice between the goodies (the West obviously) and the baddies (Russians of course).

Many others have written endlessly about the authoritarian nature of the Russian government, and its lack of democratic credentials. We could write about the Georgian president and his miscalculation. We could write about the Ossetian militias and how Georgians have been driven away from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a tidy exercise of ethnic cleansing. We could write how the Russian government caricaturises the Georgian President as some sort of crazy despot, despite Georgian elections being overseen by the OECD, unlike Russia. We could write how it is Georgia’s turn now, then it will be Ukraine and Crimea, then Poland’s energy dependency on Russia, and after that it will probably be the Baltic Republics’ (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) turn.

But not many people is paying attention to the key socio-political issue: the selfish manipulation by states of the debate on the right of self-determination versus the principle of territorial integrity.

In the last few months, we have seen how the Russian government comes out to defend the territorial integrity of Serbia, against the right of self-determination of Kosovar people. A few months later, they send troops well inside Georgian territory to defend the right of self-determination of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, without a care in the world for Georgia’s territorial integrity.

It is the exact opposite with the western states: support for the right of self-determination in Kosovo but deny exactly the same right in South Ossetia.

And the fact of the matter is that neither the West or Russia can claim the moral high ground. Both sides have switched from defending one right to supporting the other. Their positions are not based on a consistent ideological framework, but driven by geo-political and economic considerations.

The outcome however, has been the same in both cases: the right of self-determination has succeeded in both Kosovo and South Ossetia.

The lesson of the last few decades in Europe is that if there is "on the ground consensus", and some degree of external help, in the end it is the people’s right (self-determination) the one that prevails above the right of territorial integrity of states. It is also a confirmation of the politics of fait accompli: whatever happens on the ground becomes the new status quo and the new accepted reality.

But the right of self-determination does not always reign. If in doubt, ask the Kurds, who have no external support whatsoever for their cause and must be the largest and most fucked up stateless nation in the world jointly with Tibet. 

The question is: will the Russian government do the same trick in Crimea? My answer: yes, without a doubt.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A rally as a metaphor

Watching from afar, via the Catalan news channel, the massive civic demonstration in Barcelona against the ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court on the Catalan Estatut, I could not help but draw a parallel between the organisation of the rally and the current political situation.  

This political rally was called under the banner of “We are a nation – we decide” (Som una nació; nosaltres decidim). The local police, never one for inflating numbers for pro-Catalan civic demonstrations, has estimated attendance at over 1.1m people. After watching TV, I would say that is an overly prudent lower bound by a police force mostly staffed by people who would never support anything other that Catalonia being a region of Spain.

The demonstration has been a massive, unprecedented, historic success. There were more people in attendance that it was ever anticipated or expected even by the most optimist. In fact, the rally did not advance for one hour because there were just too many people. Overwhelming popular support against an attack by the unelected high priests of Spanish nationalism against the settled wish of the Catalan people as expressed in a referendum and the Catalan Parliament. If there was any question about people being not interested, surely this settles the issue.

However, anyone has been to a few rallies and knows the city a little bit, could tell you that the design of this rally  was a mistake. It was meant to start in Pg Gracia / Diagonal, walk down and turn left at Gran Via until Pl Tetuan.
This is an inefficient way for people to congregate and make their way.
This particular rally should have started at Pl Espanya and terminate at Pl Catalunya/Pg Gracia.
Not only because this is a better alternative from a logistical point of view, and would have accommodated the hundreds of thousands of  people in attendance, but also because this would be a poignant way to symbolise the political cul-de-sac Catalonia has now arrived at.

In a way, the overwhelming success of this political demonstration in favour of Catalonia’s nationhood, is representative of the current state of affairs. People, most people, regardless of their background and national preference are fed up with being treated as second class citizens. People are fed up with the constant insults from most of the Spanish press against Catalonia. However, the political divisions, the lack of leadership and vision amongst the Catalan political class, and more than anything the lack of cojones, are holding Catalonia back. Undoubtedly, there is popular will to change the status quo, but there seems to be no political agent willing to implement this message.

Against this, there are those luminaries who claim that the “nationalists” are only a few, that this issue does not interest the majority of people, and that this is a distraction from the real issues that matter to real people. Those who say these things are, have been and will always be nothing more than duplicitous, manipulative and resentful little people, unable or unwilling to understand, to accept that Catalonia is a nation, a stateless nation, that should be allowed to choose its own future without interference and threats from the Spanish state.

Let it never be said again that “people in the street” are not interested in the Estatut, that it is only political anoraks who worry about these things. It is because the Estatut is the vehicle that enables Catalonia to look after its interests, after its hospitals, schools and public services, and it is because of this, because people are worried about things that matter, that Barcelona has witnessed today the biggest civic demonstration in living memory if not ever.


Will this historical, massive civic demonstration of national strength achieve anything?
I am afraid it won’t.
Sorry I don’t have the time to translate the article below:

Mr Alexandre, one of the brightest minds in Catalonia, nails it again.

A political problem is resolved via political decision making and policy implementation.
Civic demonstrations and rallies are noise. A cry for attention given everything else seems to have failed.

After all, this Estatut that has been decimated by the Spanish CC is an already cut-down version of the Estatut approved by the Catalan Parliament in 2005 by all parties except the Spanish PP. In a matter of days, that Estatut was watered down by CiU and PSC-PSOE in closed-door negotiations.

Therein lies one of the conundrums of Catalan politics: support for independence, overt or subtle is ever higher, growing almost by the month. Today’s rally was a rally in favour of independence. However, none of the mainstream parties, not even ERC, let alone CiU, do try to implement the policies they carry in their manifestos.

PSC-PSOE, the party in government in Catalonia and in Madrid, claims to be a federalist party. However, after being in power in Spain for many years, in the 80s and now, Spain is far from a federal state. In fact, the judges appointed by the PSOE voted jointly with the PP-appointed judges in watering down the Catalan Estatut. This ruling by the Spanish CC has killed off the idea of a federal Spain. The federalist door has been slammed down in the face of the PSC by their own Spanish colleagues of the PSOE.

CiU claims to be a moderate nationalist party but in fact they are scared of challenging the status quo. For them, steady-as-you-go of the status quo is a happy state of affairs –as long as they are in power.

ERC, the party that is, on paper, pro-independence, is propping up a coalition government in the Catalan parliament jointly with the PSC-PSOE. Against the wishes of its electorate, ERC has renewed the coalition government a second time, achieving very little in terms of safeguarding Catalonia’s interests in terms of finances, cultural development, public services delivery or economic growth.

IC-V are the PSC-PSOE poodle and they will slavishly follow whatever direction is set by PSC.

On the sidelines, a number of pro-independence parties and movements appear to carry more support than ever but have yet to make an impact on the political scene.

The political cul-de-sac, this end-of-the-road moment in Catalan/Spanish relations can only be unblocked by elected politicians choosing two courses of action.

1)      Management of the current devolution framework as set out in the Spanish Constitution.
2)      Exercise of the right to self-determination via  referendum bill approved in the Catalan Parliament.

The problem is that most political parties in Catalonia want a third, unviable option: a high level of self-government in a federal Spain. Despite the clear-cut ruling by the Spanish CC, PSC-PSOE and CiU will try to pursue this non-option.

Choosing option 1 would be an admission of failure, whilst option 2 requires a level of courage and dignity than anyone in CiU or ERC, let alone PSC or IC-V, can only dream of.

For over 100 years, Catalonia has tried to change Spain, make it a federal, multi-national state. The Spanish have decisively rejected such possibility.
Yet some Catalans still insist on trying to achieve a chimera.
The stage is set for either a massive climb down and humiliation or a paradigm shift in Catalan/Spanish relations the consequences of which are unpredictable.
Let’s hope that the Spanish state does not resort to military threats and intimidation as has been historically the norm. History is not on the side of the Catalans.

English: BBC News, CNN
Catalan: Vilaweb,
Spanish: Publico,
Videos: CNN, Vilaweb,

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Blogus interruptus

Regular readers will have noticed that there has been an hiatus in this blog.
Sometimes life takes over in unexpected ways. Amongst other stuff, being without internet at home for 6 weeks has been quite traumatic. Let’s hope I never have to go through this again.

Much has been happening since my last entry.

-         a new UK coalition government
-         FC Barcelona has won the League title
-         AVUI has been bought by El Punt on the cheap with the support of PSOE-PSC with the aim of toning down its editorial policy and ultimately get rid of the title. Shame because AVUI and its Diàleg pages were an oasis of free-thinking and competing viewpoints, from PP and Ciudadanos to ERC and Reagrupament. 
-    I visited by family and friends in Catalonia and enjoyed a visit to the city of Zaragoza.
-         The Labour Party is Glasgow has found itself mired in corruption allegations and scandals. To call this lot the Labour mafia as I and many other people do is really an understatement.
-         The Spanish Constitutional Court has issued a ruling against the new Catalan Estatut (devolution framework) that was approved by the Spanish Parliament, the Catalan Parliament and the people of Catalonia in a referendum. This ruling destroys the consensus of 1979 and attacks the most fundamental tenets of social cohesion in Catalonia.
-         The Spanish PM has said that the process of devolution (“desarrollo autonómico”) for Catalonia has been closed.
-         Spain is going to play in the FIFA World Cup final for the first time ever. My 20/1 bet placed a few weeks ago now looks extremely good value.
-         A few so-called “neutral” bloggers have come out of the closet with regards to the whole Spain vs Catalonia debate.

Normal services will resume soon. I am trying to recover usernames, passwords, etc, and get my thoughts together on a few issues.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The resignation of Steven Purcell

Well, well, well…. Who would have thought it?

Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council and rising star of the Scottish Labour Party has resigned from both his position as Leader of the Council and as a Councillor.

The importance of the events of last week cannot be over estimated. This is a huge issue which is likely to continue shaking Scottish politics for months to come.

Let's recap:

Late at night on Monday 1st March, it became apparent that The Herald had a scoop: Stephen Purcell was going to resign from his post as Leader. This appeared on Tuesday’s edition of The Herald. The reason, we were told at the time, was stress and exhaustion as reported by the BBC News.

On the topic on the stress of high ranking public officials and politicians I side with this view. Or if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Except of course, that this has nothing to do with “stress and exhaustion”.
And there are two reasons to be sure of that:

First, we have the fact that Mr Purcell felt necessary to use the services of Peter Watson, Scotland’s top libel lawyer.

Second, Mr Purcell is employing Jack Irvine, allegedly Scotland’s answer to Max Clifford. Mr Irvine, a former editor of The Sun, is a PR professional whose job is to control media coverage of a story in order to protect his client’s interests.

As a long-suffering Glasgow council-tax payer, I hope I am not paying for any of this.

If that was not bad enough, we have the bizarre coverage by the Scottish media.
First, the BBC’s blog Blether with Brian was heavily “moderated” from the start.
From the very start, other online media outlets pulled the plug on online comments.
Under the disguise of well-wishing choreography, the papers hint that more is to come.

Speculation on Wednesday was rife as to the potential causes for Mr Purcell’s sudden departure and his using of the country’s top libel solicitor and top spin doctor. The Scotsman and The Herald continued to run with the story. Even the SSY wrote about it.
On Wednesday afternoon, it is made public that Mr Purcell had checked in at a re-hab clinic in the Borders.
On Thursday, The Scotsman reveals what everyone suspected but dare not write.
And on Friday, when everyone is in agreement that the Sunday newspapers are going to have the full story, it is made public that Mr Purcell has now resigned as a councillor.

In the meantime, the Labour party appears very quiet.
Whilst messages of goodwill and recovery have been made, political support for Mr Purcell is not existent within the ranks of the party.

This, by a long way, is not over: Sunday will only be the start. 
As another Scottish Labour failure said not so long ago: bring it on!

Update Saturday 6 March 2115h:
Now Mr Purcell has left the country.
The Daily Record

Can't wait for the newspapers tomorrow -if they are allowed or have the balls to print anything.  BBC Scotland's coverage of the most high profile political story since the Scottish elections has been a disgrace and further evidence of its Scottish Labour bias. Apparently Purcell's shocking resignation does not merit being included under the Scottish Politics section.

Another viewpoints worth reading here and here.
A somewhat different take from a Ranting Rab (no relation).

If Joan McAlpine was chief editor of The Herald, and if The Herald were not so biased towards Scottish Labour, then it would be worth buying it every day. Alas, we buy the Sunday Herald and that's enough. But will the SH have any substantial reporting about this story tomorrow? Paul Hutcheon, not for the first time, broke a top story, his sources must be very good. Does he have more to tell and will he be allowed to publish everything?

We shall wait and see.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Rotten to the core

A lot has been, is being and will be written about the state of Spanish banks and the Spanish economy.  One of the reasons I do not write more regularly about economics, finance and investments is that there are plenty of very smart and intelligent people already doing so, not least Catalonia-based Edward Hugh. The other reason is because I work in the damned sector (asset management) that bears a great deal of responsibility for the boom, the bust and subsequent economic mess we are all involved with.

A few months ago, I tried to reply to a post in The Badrash about the banking crisis but I think it was far too long...  I was cleaning up my hard drive when I came across the text I had written at the time. So this is a bit of a recycled text from Q4 2009 but still valid nevertheless:

Any published investment research uses ramping to some extent. Everybody talks their own book and it is just a matter of degree how unsubtle some people are. Let’s ignore the xenophobic PIGS slur nonsense and focus on the numbers.

Ramping or not, the banks are not recognising loan losses. That much is clear. 
Whether they are insolvent or not is not the point anymore –the government is always there so it does not really matter unless you are a shareholder or a junior debt-holder. Retail depositors will be fully protected, which is the main thing these days, and rightly so.

This story has been brewing for a few months now, so let’s recap: (taken from FT AlphaVille)

February 2009: FT publishes warning piece on the grandstanding of Spanish banks and the “miracle” of dynamic capital provisions.

April 2009: BdE governor issues infamous list of cajas at risk.

May 2009 (a week later): Moody’s Ratings division issues release announcing it would review ratings for 36 Spanish institutions.

June 2009: Moody’s Ratings division issues ratings downgrade update/

Questions start to arise about the ability of cédulas to pay out.

During the summer, rumours start to spread in the web about the financial strength of Spanish banks and all kind of wild predictions are made. It all kicks off at the end of August.

18 August 2008:
Expansion publishes famous article about 1 in 5 mortgages at risk of being in arrears or default:

This is picked up by Edward Hugh in the Fistful of Euros blog:

21 August 2009
Variant Research (affiliated with a UK hedge fund) issues gloomy report.

25 August 2009: Felix Salmon at Reuters publishes article on Spanish banks.

2 September 2009
Iberian Equities (Madrid-based) takes patriotic exemption at Variant’s research and issues counter-report.

3 September 2009
Variant Research replies to Iberian Equities counter-report.

11-21 September 2009
Edward Hugh publishes various articles about Spain:

9 September 2009
UBS publishes research on Spanish banks.

14 September 2009
Credit Suisse issues less gloomy report on Spanish banks.

15 September 2009
S&P issues report on expected credit losses.

5 October 2009
They are even talking about it in Australia.
13 October 2009
Moody’s issues updated report on Spanish banks.

15 October 2009
Nomura issues research report on Spanish banks. Nice graphs.

So, Spanish banks are fucked, and it is only the political will of the ECB that there have not been in Spain more bank failures like Northern Rock, B&B, etc.
Dynamic capital provisions, prudent lending standards, all well and good and thanks to this it is not worse. An airbag would not save you from a 200 Km/h crash, and the same applies to dynamic loan provisions in Spain.

Let’s stop and think for a second:

Is it possible that Spanish banks are somehow immune and unaffected to the biggest property bubble in modern history and still with an inventory of c3m properties unsold?

So that is what I compiled and wrote around mid-October 2009. 
Since then, a few things have happened. 

 9 Dec 2009: S&P places Spain sovereign debt outlook on negative watch. Edward Hugh expands and explains. But check this older post for a back-to-basics explanation and background on the whole fiasco.

3 Feb 2010: BBVA presented results in Q1 2010 and people started asking questions [again] about NPL (non-performing loans), or mortgages in arrears/default to you and me. 

17 Feb 2010: JP Morgan issues a report on regulatory reform and capital requirements of the banking sector, looking at dynamic provisions, one of the idiosyncratic features of the Bank of the Spain regulation of the banking sector. This report vindicates something I wrote many months ago in someone else's blog and at work in 2008:  "..dynamic provisioning or not, Spanish banks are toast. Would you be saved by an airbag if you were driving at 200Km/h?". 

18 Feb 2010: Credit Suisse publishes a research note on Spanish banks. Top read. 

 And of course we have the whole sovereign debt crisis in Greece and moving westwards across the Mediterranean (and Ireland) into what the europhobe and ignorant anglo-saxon media have termed the PIGS. 

So let's recap:

1) The banks get themselves into a mess of their own and end up insolvent or bankrupt.

2) Sovereign states (ie: taxpayers) come to the rescue of the banking and wider financial sector and inject billions of euro/pounds/dollars into the financial system. 

3) Now the financial sector turns their attention to the fiscal position of sovereign states and demand that spending be curbed or taxes raised to reduce debt. 

4) Politicians across the western world get ready to cut public sector investment (that's schools, hospitals, police, transport, and so on) and/or  lower corporate taxes to attract foreign investment and encourage growth

And then when people complain about this rotten state of affairs, they are labelled populist and that banker-bashing is childish. 

If I was a teacher/policeman/nurse/bus driver/social services officer about to lose my job because of the demands of the very people that got bailed out by the taxpaying public I would feel nothing but hatred for any manager/front office dumb-ass working in the financial sector who is still defending the indefensible against any logic.

There is no other "industry" in the world of business that can get away with deception, duplicity, theft, tax avoidance and an absolute disregard for the wider common good in such a massive scale as the self-serving, socially useless banking and investment sector. 

And what can be done about this? 
Nothing, absolutely nothing because our politicians are all in the pockets of the financial sector. It is all very depressing.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The economics of Catalan independence

Fascist impunity (II)

A family misses a flight from Girona airport after the Spanish Guardia Civil detains a woman for daring to speak Catalan. [link]

I wrote about this incident a few months ago.
After over 30 years of so-called democracy the Spanish Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil still behave with total impunity criminalising Catalan-speakers and making their lives a misery. The Spanish State remains silent and continues its policy of complicity with these Fascist scumbags masquerading as police officers. They are never disciplined, let alone sacked as they would be in any advanced democracy in Europe.

If this kind of incidents were happening against any other community in the world, Amnesty International would get involved. Foreign correspondents would write about it.

But discrimination and police repression against Catalans is accepted. It has happened for centuries so what’s new?

Spain in 2010:  court trial date set for daring to speak Catalan language with a Spanish police officer. Another example of the wonders of Spanish democracy. And then some wonder what the fuss is about….

Road to nowhere

More and more people are coming to the same conclusion: being part of Spain is the road to nowhere. A political, economic and social cul-de-sac for Catalonia at every level.

The latest political representative is Raul Romeva (blog), a member of the European Parliament for ICV, the eco-socialist coalition of former communist parties. This is a journey I make myself over a decade ago: the federalist route is a waste of time and effort. Independence in Europe is the best possible solution for Catalonia.

In a conference with other MEPs in Barcelona, Mr Romeva has admitted that it is pointless to pursue the objective of a federal Spain.

To quote from the man himself:

To start with, something of a confession which is not entirely new I am afraid: I am in the camp of those who for a very long time have defended a federalist vision of the [Spanish] State, of those who believed that what we needed was to persuade our friends around the rest of the [Spanish] State to make institutionally visible the plural, multicultural and multinational reality of the Spain. However, I acknowledge that in the rest of the State nobody believes in the necessity to move forward towards a federal solution. What is the point, therefore, of insisting in an option that nobody else believes neither necessary nor possible?

This coming from a senior representative of a party that has always advocated the federalist route as a way to resolve the current Catalonia/Spain “conflict”.

How many more will switch sides in the coming years?

Links :

Racó Català (cat)

Publico (cas)

Monday, 15 February 2010

Euronews - Catalonia: independence or autonomy?

Nice to see the Spanish nationalist lobby embarrasing themselves with their lack of democratic convictions, historic revisionism, cultural prejudice and a disturbing fundamentalist attachment to the undestructible unity of Spain and the 1978 Constitución.

Let's hope they do not send the tanks again.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The more the merrier

I am glad to report that I have recently discovered a couple of English-language blogs about Catalan/Spanish politics:

Catalonia Direct
Catalonia Info

and an updated entry from George@BCN. Keep it up, superb writing.

These new additions to the English language Catosphere, each with its own perspective, will serve to counter the pseudo-historic revisionism, the pack of lies and bullshit, and the Catalanophobe resentment of Spanish nationalism (past and present) apologist Kalebeul.

Update 19/02/2010:
I have added a few blogs to my blogroll and to the list of blogs I follow. Great stuff out there but there are some people that could do a bit better....

Friday, 5 February 2010

When in a hole, stop digging

In the end, only four MPs will be prosecuted by the Police.

Full details of the story can be found at the BBC News website.

The extent of the immorality of these scumbags, the four that are being charged and the many that are getting away scot-free is beyond comprehension. But surely the top prize for conceit, the number one award for guilt-free theft has to go the the RH Jim Devine MP.

I almost choked on my fish and chips watching this interview in Channel 4.
The Labour member of parliament for Livingston admits to submitting false receipts. But wait, things can only get better: he did so on the advice of a Labour whip.

Under questioning by the C4 presenter, Mr Devine refuses to disclose the ientity of the Labour whip who alledgedly advised him to submit false receipts. I trust Mr Devine will not be as shy under interrogation by the Metropolitan Police.

But here is the interesting thing about Mr Devine's explanation: he claims he moved money around but did not benefit financially himself. So who did? Were there any bank transfers between Mr Devine's "communications" and "staffing" accounts and a bank account of a third party, let's say a Labour party bank account?

This is only the start.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The resentful immigrant

And now to the topic that triggered my previous post.

Over the last few years I have noticed how there has been a proliferation of blogs about Catalonia or Spain in English. That so many people from around the world move to Catalonia for whatever reason speaks volumes of what a welcoming country Catalonia is.

In every society, there is always a percentage of immigrants who are not happy with some aspect or another of their host country. I have seen it with Poles in Germany; with Asians in the UK, with Englishmen in Scotland, with Scots in London, with North Africans in France or Spain… and with many a Spanish person who emigrated to Catalonia.

Resentment towards the host community in an immigrant is a terrible thing.

I have seen it with some relatives, who after 40 years living in Catalonia still refuse to be grateful for the chance at a new life and the vast improvement in living standards and wealth they have achieved. Their resentment takes many forms: they refuse to learn the language or watch certain TV channels, or they speak in disparaging terms about their country of adoption. I have seen it also with some Spanish people (and it tends to be Spanish more than Catalan) in the UK. They resent the food, the drinking culture, the weather, the crumbling NHS. Without prompting, they will remind you that things in Spain are better (apart from jobs, obviously) and that British people are cold, smug, drunkards, unhealthy, illiterate, or whatever is the rant of the day.

I feel very sorry for people like that.

Fast forward to the start of the 21st century and globalisation of trade and labour.

Since the late 90s, a huge number of immigrants from the Americas and Europe have settled in Catalonia. Many of them have done so successfully and they are a great asset:

Tom, George, Matthew, and many others I have not heard about (more here, here and here) are valuable members of Catalan society, nouvinguts, and they have adopted their new homeland as much as their new homeland has adopted them. Everyone is a winner.

However, there is a minority of Anglo-Saxon and other northern Europeans, not to mention a few people from South America, whose new life in Catalonia does not bring them all the joy they would have hoped.

Whereas in the UK most immigrants complaint about the weather or food, in Catalonia some of these newly arrived wealthy immigrants take exception to the educational policy of the devolved Catalan administration.

They particularly object to the teaching of Catalan in schools and the use of Catalan as the vehicular language of education in Catalonia. I recommend you read my earlier entry here.

This new type of immigrant finds the fact that Catalan language is not actually dead an unpleasant discovery. The indigenous language of the host community becomes thus a little nuisance, and inconvenience. Over time, their resentment grows into something more powerful, a deep-seated prejudice against the host community.

These immigrants, albeit nominally living in Catalonia, have adopted the discursive message of the most nationalist Spanish media. In a way, they have settled in the wrong place, but this is not something new: there are many first, second and even third generation immigrant families from other areas of Spain which harbour the same narrow-minded prejudice. These blue-eyed newcomers have just joined the ranks.

There are many crackpots in the blogosphere, if you do a few searches you will find them easily.

There are the more belligerent ones who refer to the democratically elected government of Catalonia as “nationalist-socialist”. That this government coalition between an unionist party (fiercely opposed to independence) and a (nominally) pro-independence party and a federalist eco-socialist grouping is described with that slur says more about the utter ignorance and comptempt for democracy of the poster than anything else. This kind of language is used by the Spanish far-right and some elements of the Madrid-based press. That some of our supposedly intelligent immigrants have adopted this narrative reveals that under the pretence of “detachment” and objectivity (“I am a foreigner after all, no axe to grind”, etc, etc), these people are nothing more than cheer-leaders for the most repulsive side of Spanish nationalism, directly feeding from the ideology of post-Francoist Spanish nationalism.

Examples of such hatred against anything Catalan can be found in the revisionist pseudo-historicism and false intellectualism of Kalebeul (aka TerrorBoy. I call him TerrorBoy because his posts rewriting Spanish history and fake intellectualism cause me terror). The same type of material, often just without any subtlety can be found here in Life in Catalonia. Be careful with the latter because this despicable racist bastard will also edit your comments and post comments pretending to be you or someone else.

Recently, I have noted a few additions to the English language Cat-osphere.

This is a pattern we have seen before. The newly arrived claim that they were open-minded about the “issue” and that they take no sides, although they always “dislike nationalism”.

However, given time, we find out that what they mean is that they object to Catalan nationalism’ attempts to preserve and seek legal and social equivalence between Spanish and Catalan languages in Catalonia. They do not object very strongly however when Catalan speakers in Aragon are not even recognised officially and their language has absolutely no legal status. And they do not complain that the Spanish Constitution enforced the obligation on everybody to speak Spanish. That is the status quo, however unfair, and they don't mind that. Enforcement of language policy done by the Spanish State is alright, but if the Catalan administration tries to do anything remotely similar, than that is a breach of human rights, interventionist or some other nonsense.

They also don’t mind taking sides when it comes to supporting the current crusade coming from Spanish nationalism against the Catalan educational system.

Of course, everybody has the right to express an opinion about policy issues, including immigrants who are unlikely to become long-term residents. After all, millions of words are written about the whole Israel/Palestine conflict by people who have not ever been there and probably do not have a clue what they are talking about.

But when these new arrivals in Catalonia express an opinion on the whole issue of Catalan education system and language, they need to accept they are taking sides.

And in this debate, there seems to be only two sides.

Those in favour of the current system, the vast majority of people in Catalonia and all the political parties except two: the Spanish branch of the PP and the fringe party (soon to be extinct) Ciudadanos. These two groups barely attained 15% of the vote at the last Catalan elections, despite being given extraordinary media presence by the Spanish media.

The reasons for why the current system is as it is were outlined in my previous entry.

And I content that tinkering with that system only serves a purpose: to pander to Spanish nationalism and to create divisions in Catalan society based on language and family background. Given the fragile demographic profile of Catalonia, where around 50% of citizens, including myself, can trace our family origins (one or two generations) to Spanish-speaking areas of Spain, it is wholly irresponsible to pursue a policy of division rather than to support a policy that aims to achieve bilingualism for everybody, or at least as many people as possible, and not just for some.

Catalan language has its own word for immigrant. “Nouvingut”, literally ‘newly arrived’ is often use to describe immigrants. It is a word that does not have the negative connotation of the word immigrant. As I wrote about in my previous entry, Catalonia must be one of the countries in the world where it is easiest to integrate and feel part of the community: speak the indigenous language and you are one of us, whether your are from Almeria, Alabama or Africa.

These new immigrants have the right to challenge the Catalan educational system, like others did before them.

However, here is a novel thought: if you don’t want your children to be taught in Catalan in Catalonia, if you don’t want to learn Catalan yourself even if you are living in Catalonia, why do you live in Catalonia and not somewhere else where Catalan is not spoken?

It has always mystified me why some people put themselves through the pain of settling in Catalonia and then resenting the fact that Catalan language exists at all and is not dead in the water. The fact is there are over 160 other sovereign states in the world, covering about 99.9% of the habitable land, with all sorts of climate and job opportunities where Catalan is not spoken.

The world is huge. Enjoy it while you can.

PS: please do not bother posting a comment accusing me of being xenophobic or racist. My parents are immigrants themselves, I am an immigrant now in the UK myself, and I work with people (and often hire) from all ethnic backgrounds. I am just giving out free life counselling and advice.