What kind of country is this?

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

7 April 2010

The Spanish political scenario seems to be currently preoccupied with who is wearing what or who goes hunting with who, while the country’s real problems – unemployment, levels of consumption, mortgages are pushed aside. Just what kind of country do we live in?”

Many Spaniards have been left speechless by the deplorable spectacle played out recently by Spanish media and politicians. These are dark days indeed. It would seem that the Spanish population should be interested in whether or not politicians pay for their suits, or should care that other politicians are allegedly spied upon, or that ministers hunt without a license and the wrong company. Don’t get me wrong: Whoever buys a suit should pay for it, nobody should be spied on without legal justification, and no hunter should pursue his hobby without a license and with unsuitable companions.

What worries me is elevation of comparatively trivial issues to levels of key importance while things that really matter for the general public do not receive the attention they deserve.

Tailors, spies and illegal hunters are hot topics in the political arena while the number of persons seeking employment in this country is approaching a staggering 4 million, wages are frozen, people default on their mortgages, cars remain unsold, and making it to the end of the month is fast becoming mission impossible.

“Ubinam gentium sumus” – what kind of country is this? – my old Latin teacher used to say. The phrase reminds me of that Mafalda cartoon where she and her brother Guille look on while her parents are fighting in the other room. Sadly, we could apply her comment to our own current situation: “Do you think we are in good hands?”

We won’t be as long as there are no remedies for the real ills that plague us. As long as relevant issues don’t take center stage in national politics. As long as public servants don’t get past voicing mere conjectures and start formulating ideas. As long as they don’t refocus their timid short-term approach and start looking after people and the nation instead of aiming at preserving or gaining power.

If designer suits, mata haris and illegal hunters continue to make front-page news, we´re in trouble.


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