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Spain's Society And Economy In Flux

A self-confessed Spanophile, (made up word) was shocked on his return to Spain. The economic powerhouse of the Iberian Peninsular has been metamorphisizing at a great rate. The pace of daily life has accelerated, prices have been catapaulted in line with the rest of Northern Europe, and the noise level has risen at least 10 decibels.

That may sound like mixed news, good news even, but not when you view it against a background of stagnant wage levels, inter-generational tensions and a persistent mańăna mindset. The future well-being of the inhabitants of this rich, vibrant, but very new economy is in doubt.

Castilla is hundreds of years old, modern Spain is not.
Of course Castilla, the province that lends its name to the Spanish language, castellano, predates the US by centuries, but modern Spain is younger than most of the readers on this website. The Spanish Empire days of Conquistadors may have faded from the memory, but, cast your mind back to 1970. What were you doing? Probably going up in the corporate world; writing to your politicians, telling them to get the refuse collection up to speed; buying new purple and orange designer wallpaper? Spaniards were living in subjugation under dictator Franco, and would continue to do so until 1978!

1982? Were you watching a World Cup, or listening to Duran Duran, or enjoying the fruits of centuries of democracy? A young Spanish man would have been polishing his boots and telling his new wife that he would be alright, even if he had to go and fight to protect the constitution. Yes, in 1982, just 4 years into a democracy, there was a Coup d'État underway in Spain. There was only one person who could stop the rot and guarantee that conscript's life.

Spain's king is a real hero
You may think the Royals in Britain deserve their slice of wealth going to engagements and putting their heads on coins and notes. Next time you see the Spanish King Juan Carlos, picture him walking into a Parliament chamber full of gun-wielding generals, and putting his head on the line, telling professional soldiers to lay down their arms. They did, and he went back to work, talking calmly on TV about his actions. After lunch he was back in the groove, continuously waving and attending functions like a good monarch should. He must be quite upset to see the Spain of today.

Spain is under attack.
Al Qaeda told the Madrid folks what they thought of their government's involvement in Iraq. But worse, now they are under constant bombardment from the American media too. Added to that, Burger King and MacDonalds are loving it, while demand for delicious homemade burgers wanes. Leading Spanish TV personaliities are setting substandards for social skills, corrupting their impressionable audience, coercing them into shouting over each other at every opportunity for "discussion". The politicians whose antecedents' asses he saved, are striving to ruin each other and undermine the novel social structure in search of easy-to-come-by dollars.

Spaniards aren't responding quickly enough to change
The young are becoming lazy before they even got busy, and their education system is sadly lacking in energetic teachers. No lead will come from the educators of old. Added to that, the backward-thinking middle classes, a weak link in any economy, are fighting a battle royal to keep things as they were in the glorious 70's!

Putting aside the shameless corruption and controlled profit-skimming still practiced unfettered by some former Franco entrepreneurs, the majority at the head of nuclear family life view the old ways as the best. Family is sacrosanct. They have their way, because fathers and mothers still carry sway, and families still sit around the lunch table and meet for Christmas, Holy Week, fiestas, birthdays, weekends, anniversaries and days off, without fail. But there is growing domestic tension.

The TV is blaring and the teenage kids are dressed like Eminem with Playstation and Zapping addictions. The light on the horizon, the trendy 30-somethings driving the economy forward with incredible websites and great engineering minds, still phone their mums every day. That is, the small percentage who ever got it together to leave home and go to Madrid. Something has to break in this old v new scenario.

The lines are drawn
The dollar is ruling the hearts and minds of a nation of low wage earners and under-qualified experts faced with the onslaught of materialism. And the old folk battle with credit concepts while their young ones sign up to anything, knowing Pops will bale them out.

If Spain could realise what is coming from excessive credit and inflated prices for houses, they would stop right now and say, "Oops, let's not go there." Spain is heading for an economic rise and a social fall, followed by a problematic economic fall. History does repeat, and never lies, look at 1990's Britain, mis amigos. Learn, inwardly digest and realise there is a decision to be made. Pay up and shut up, or keep things as they were and forgo the trappings of a "success" that will never be as sustainable as the retro family tradition.

Spaniards would probably be indignant, saying they have every right to be rich. Escúchame. Listen up. Ignore the idea that you can have it all, balancing work and play to attain wealth beyond your parents' dreams. Spain is no Sweden or Denmark or Holland. You are too happy and cheerful and noisy as a race to mimic the coolest economies on earth.

Submitted by:

James Crichton

Often struggling to keep order at his satirical website, "Ed the Editor" writes more weighty pieces for pleasure. After years of travelling and working abroad, most recently in Spain, it seems only right to share those observations.




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