Thursday, July 31, 2008

Be Careful With That Fiscal Balance!

Yesterday I watched the emergence on the Spanish blogosphere of an almighty row that has finally ended up on the front pages of today’s newspapers. They say that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and that clearly applies as much to Photoshop as it does to anything else. A Catalan blogger, in an attempt to be “ironic” about the issue of the fiscal balances and who pays for what in Spain, published on his blog the other day the following image.

This image, with its suggestion that Cataluña pays to keep poverty stricken Extremadura going, could have come from the worst sectors of Northern League style nationalism with their “we work hard while the rest of the country lives off our efforts” way of thinking. That’s what made the origin of the image so surprising because the blogger in question, Lluis Suñé, is actually a councillor for the Catalan wing of Izquierda Unida.

Under pressure from the wave of protest his artwork provoked, including a threat of legal action from the Extremaduran regional government, Suñé ended up apologising and has now withdrawn the offending image from his blog. I suspect the origin of the problem can be detected in the banner of his blog where someone, presumably the councillor himself, is pictured holding a flag. Flag waving is an activity which inhibits that part of the brain responsible for controlling logical thought. Based on my daily experience in Madrid, it is a similar effect to that provoked by driving; which is why combining the two activities can be so dangerous.


Sergio López said...

"Flag waving is an activity which inhibits that part of the brain responsible for controlling logical thought"
-you're absolutely right.

What Suñé forgets is that, OK, catalan taxpayers are now helping the fast development of Extremadura... but, before of that, this particular region exported thousands of workers who helped Catalunya.

Catalunya couldn't have reach their current development without the labor force which came from Extremadura, among other places.

This bothers me a lot cause I was born in Madrid being a son of extremeño parents who migrated.

People like Suñe love the ancient traditions of their familiar clans who've inhabited their homeland for hundreds of years...

This liking is respectable but it has very little to do with the left-wing politics (aren't they supposed to support internationalism).

Waving flags disguised with funny customs celebrating their ancient roths is only a bourgeois hobby that not everybody can afford.

(wow... I became heated)

Anonymous said...

López, but surely there is a difference in that the people who came to Catalunya were paid for their labour, and both they and their homeland benefitted from transfers back. Those who came and stayed are now Catalans, with as much right to be here as anyone else. Catalunya has always been a land of immigration, and now there are Catalans born here called Mohammed and Sven, as well as Lluis and Francesc, Juan and Pablo.

Also, the level of transfers from Catalunya is at a ludicrous level, with the infrastucture in Catalunya now being among the worst in the Spanish state. Especially when you consider that what comes back in the other direction is criticism and even abuse simply for being and speaking Catalan. And "insolidarios". I ask seriously, what benefit does Catalunya gain from being a part of Spain as opposed to being an independent country within the EU? And why is it offensive to think in that way, when it is not offensive for Scottish, Irish, Slovakian, and Quebequois people?

I would also disagree that it is incompatible to feel Catalan, but not Spanish, and also be internationalist. Why must those things be mutually exclusive? The desire I feel from people in Catalunya is to be more engaged in the world rather than less, without Spain being in the middle. This straw man argument about wanting to build walls and separate from the world is entirely false, and I believe intentionally so on the part of those who use it.

All that said, the illustration under discussion here was crass, unpleasant, prejudiced, and profoundly unhelpful.

Sergio López said...

John, when I was talking about people who waves flags in funny disguises I was not talking about the Catalan people. I was depicting some kind of person who grows everywhere (including Catalunya, the entire Spanish state and almost every European territory). Sunyé seems to belong to this sort of people who think and act locally (it's my feeling, but I can be wrong) and I think it crashes philosophically with the classic idea of internationalism.

Of course I think somebody can feel catalan and not spanish and being a good 'internationalist'. I was criticizing nationalism not nationality.

I would never doubt about the catalan solidarity with the other spanish peoples. And I have nothing to say about the needing of more money to improve the catalan infrastructures. It's true. I wouldn't say Catalan infrastructures are the worst in Spain, but it's true they doesn't match up.

The only allegation is things are changing a lot from five years ago. National investing in Madrid railways and highways has decreased, in fact it's 'frozen'. During this time this investing rose rapidly in Catalunya. This, which is absolutely fair, has had a huge prize in Madrid for the current government as you probably know.

People from Madrid who attacked the goverment because it turned the tap of the public works off in Madrid and on in Catalunya are as miserable as the people who designed the banner with the motto 'Extremadura needs you'.

That's what I think. So maybe our view on the issue is not so different. And anyway it's a pleasure for me discuss with you.

Anonymous said...

No, no, Lopez, you really haven't got the hang of this blog debating lark. Rather than saying it is a pleasure to discuss with me, you should move to insults as soon as possible, ideally comparing me with Hitler and, if you are a real expert, changing to capital letters TO SHOW HOW STRONGLY YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MATTER AND HOW DISGUSTED YOU ARE ABOUT MY VIEWS, AND ALSO THE ZAPATERO/AL QUAEDA/ETA LIBERTICIDE PLAN TO BREAK-UP SPAIN AND DELIVER THE SPANISH PEOPLE INTO A MARXIST CATALANIST BASQUIST ECOSTATE.

You should also write my user name or real name deliberately wrongly to make your political point, so it could be JohNazi, for example, or jETAn.

To learn stylistically, you should go to Libertad Digital, where they manage to get supremely angry on the blogs, even though they all think the same thing.

So much to learn, my friend, so much to learn...

Graeme said...

Yes indeed, this discussion has been far too reasonable so far, I'm almost ashamed to be the owner of the blog where it takes place. If it carries on like this people will get the wrong idea and think they can just come here and argue their position.