Comment: Modern Europa
EUROPE ROTTING AWAY? PART I
Skinner on modern Spain in a new Europe
is a series on Channel 1 of the Spanish television network that
has been running for about two years called Tell me. What
was it like! Its the tale of a working class family
called Alcántara who lived in one of the suburbs of Madrid
during the last years of the Franco regime. It is presented by
the youngest member, ten year old Carlitos who reminisces as a
grown up in todays modern Spain.
The uniqueness as well as the subtleness of the script
is that the author has managed to present the political situation at
the time as secondary and peripheral to the main theme. The core narrative
is based on how Spain was growing, evolving and slowly transforming
during the late sixties and early seventies as it eventually moved to
full democracy and freedom. It also shows the dramatic and sometimes,
painful effect it was having on its population, both young and old.
Its breaking every TV viewing record in Spanish television history,
even above football coverage!
Contrary to all belief, and as depicted in Tell me Spain
was a decent country. It had great moral standards often misinterpreted
as repression; the family unit was essential for survival. On the other
hand the outside world was beginning to have an effect on the bustling
and tempestuous younger generations. The Beatles, mini skirts, full
mouth kisses on screen films were all creeping in and being permitted.
The youth craved for more. Yet the elder generation, although firm in
their belief of law and order, were not being held behind.
Spains economy was growing at an average rate of 6% per annum,
the greatest in all its history. Hence the Alcantara family as many
others, were shown to prosper under the newly acquired wealth. There
were the occasional student bashing sessions by the Greys
(Francos bully boys), most priests continued to condemn everything
that wasnt related to the Catholic church and of course, the ultimate
sin was to even mention the word democracy. Nevertheless, crime was
unheard of, drugs and pornography were nowhere to be seen and prostitution
was, in Claude Rains words, made up of the usual suspects.
But what about Europe during these decades? Were the rest of the Europeans
Sure, Europeans had democracy. They had, for example freedom of the
press and religious expression. They were allowed to exercise different
political ideologies and participate in governmental elections. They
had trade unions, but they also had strikes. You could stand on Hyde
Park corner in the UK and insult the Prime Minister or try to vote him
out of office. You could refuse to work on the grounds of worker
discrimination. You mightve been able to get away with smoking
a weed or two in Amsterdam, but hard drugs in general were not yet around.
You could even have a torrid love affair in Paris without been chained
for life to an unwanted partner. But lets face it, what else was
so dissimilar? Censorship both on television and film was certainly
much stricter forty years ago, especially regarding sex and violence.
Single mother families were few and far between, homosexuality was still
taboo and females rights were growing (influenced from the feminism
movement in America) but generally womens options in Europe were
limited. But what about Spaniards?
Were they restricted from having a pint with the lads, or watching a
football match? Were they forbidden to travel abroad on holiday or start
a business? Of course not. They all had similar freedoms. In other words,
the rest of life was exactly the same.
||In 1975, Spain lost a dictator and gained
a King. A transitional government was assembled and a constitution
drawn up and approved. Political parties were formed and elections
were held. In 1982, Spain joined the world democratic club and the
European Community in 1986. From then on, money began to pour in
and Spain has now reached a parallel with both the European and
the developed world community. They are a full-blown member of todays
European rat race.
Twenty first century Europe is unrecognisable. After ten
years of binding yet tumultuous unity following the 1992 Maastricht
treaty, the general consensus at the Top is that of a prosperous
and futuristic master continent. Apart from Britain still contemplating
its navel as far as the Euro is concerned, the Union is poised to grow
and grow. It will accept ten new members states within the next year
and hopefully draft and approve a European Constitution that will catapult
its 300 million inhabitants into the annuls of future history books.
Utopia is jobs and consumerism galore, world might and power equal to
none. The offer of stability and maturity coupled with true democratic
values and freedom for its entire people. At least this is what most
Europeans are led to believe by the masterminds in Brussels. What hogwash.
As we drop down into the bottomless pit and enter the caverns of everyday
life, we find a very different picture. The politicians and rulers are
sitting in a space capsule oblivious to the common citizen and his preoccupations.
In todays Europe unscrupulous permissiveness in every sense and
in the name of freedom has created umpteen problems unheard of decades
ago. Children grow up in broken homes. Drug addiction and crime go hand
in hand like a Punch and Judy show. Psychoanalysts are making a fortune.
Jobs may be at everyones reach but they are precarious. Here
today and gone tomorrow is the motto of most corporations that
hand out food stamps disguised as salaries to the unsuspecting workforce.
General instability is the name of the game. The crux of the matter
is happiness. Are todays Europeans any happier than they were
in the sixties and seventies? Difficult to quantify but I doubt it.
Do I sound like Doomsday Danny? Maybe, but there is worse to come.
Hello. This is the police station. I have a Brit who has been
arrested for forging credit cards, was the message I received
the other day. I trotted down to the nick and interviewed the sod. He
was about 32, fair complexion and dark hair. Spoke in a broad North
London accent and refused to comment. It turned out he was an Algerian
wandering around Spain with a stolen UK driving license and ripping
off hundreds of customers with his pack of cards. Couple of weeks later
I got another call. This time it was a Venezuelan who had falsified
a British passport and was in jail for armed assault and robbery. So
what is so strange about these incidents, you may ask? Illegal immigration
and organised international European crime, just one of many cesspits
that are sprouting up all over this European haven of ours.
If the Middle East or Africa and a few other areas are part of a list
of international problems, let me expand in my next issue on this wonderful
old continent we live in and see what you think. As Al Jolson
would say, you aint heard nothing yet, baby!
© James Skinner. October 20th 2003.
If you want to make a comment for or against this article email James
What was Franco's Spain really like see
Previously by James:
From Pacman to Gameboy
Are Our Oceans Dying? Where's
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