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Spanish Views from a Small Town

Thoughts about life in a small Spanish town from a transplanted American, commenting on things that catch my attention.

The Come-Back, Day 10. Cracks.
21 May 2020

Summer seems to have arrived this week. Temperatures have gone up to close to 80º/27º. It's becoming a good idea to wear shorts and open windows. Already after my morning walk, I'm overheated, and thinking about going out earlier, to avoid the strengthening sun.


Strawberries are already past their prime. A month ago, I could buy them and they would last two days. Now, they have to be eaten the same day they're bought. Watermelons have begun to arrive, as well as apricots. Plums are making an appearance, but they have no flavor, yet. 


The greens of early spring have amalgamated into a uniform green with stray yellows from left-over broom blossoms. The woods begin to smell of pine needles and eucalyptus leaves in the warm afternoons. Nature continues down the year.


Human nature continues, too. At the height of the lockdown, everyone was certain that this would change us. We were certain that solidarity and respect for others would become the new normal. The young people who offered to go shopping for the older neighbors who couldn't be exposed to the illness, the support the health workers got, the newfound neighborliness, it all seemed here to stay. 


Hell, no. Cracks started showing when nurses and doctors who lived in apartment buildings were asked to go somewhere else while the pandemic lasted, to not bring the virus to their neighbors. Or when they had their tires slashed or cars scratched. The cracks are growing wider thanks to the continuous hammering of the ultra right Vox, which, instead of helping the government, only asks that it step down. It also tells its voters and followers to protest the "stripping away" of people's freedom to live as they wish. 


So, we have the anomalies of people protesting wrapped in Spanish flags, some of them from the Franco era, banging pots and chanting against the government in the richest areas of Madrid and other cities. To me, one symbol of their incongruity is that of a protestor in Santander riding in the back seat of his convertible, top down, waving a flag and using a megaphone, while his chauffeur drives the car. Ah, the chauffeur was wearing a mask, but his employer couldn't care less if he infected him or anybody else. I fear for this country. I fear for the human race if people like this get their way again.


Perusing Facebook, I ran across a video made back when the minimum salary was raised to 950 euros. It was just last year, if I remember correctly. A man was interviewed in a rich neighborhood. He turned out to be a businessman and found the higher salary an imposition and a form of bankruptcy. Continuing the interview, the reporter got him to admit that he couldn't live with less than 5000 euros a month. 


While I get the impression that that video was a spoof, it is true that those who have more can't make do with less, can't even begin to think about giving up anything, but also don't care about helping others live with more. About twenty years ago, I was in an office with someone I knew. Her boss was there, too, and I don't remember how the conversation turned to money. At that time, the average monthly salary was around a hundred thousand pesetas (about a thousand dollars, up or down one or two hundred). The woman with me was being paid just shy of that monthly amount by the man in front of her. Talking about money, he averred that an average family of four members could absolutely not live on less than three hundred thousand pesetas a month. It was an impossibility. 


After a while he left to go to a business meeting and the woman and I were alone in the office. She turned to me and said that, if it was so impossible, why the hell was he paying her not even a hundred thousand a month? We shook our heads. The man's moral blindness only served to highlight the differences between richer and poorer.


So, will we become better as humans? I just hope we don't become even more polarized and that some idiot unleashes another civil war, before the pandemic even gets a chance to end.


Life continues.




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