Wednesday, May 28, 2003

After today, we're going to declare a unilateral moratorium on stories about the elections. But today ain't over yet, so we're gonna translate TWO articles on the results of said elections. They're both from La Vanguardia, which is incredibly sensible today, just like the good old Vanguardia before September 11.

"Tantrum" by Francesc-Marc Álvaro

I have a friend in Madrid who just doesn't get it, how the PP was able to hold on so well in the last elections "if there were so many people out in the street, indignant about the Iraq war, the chapapote (oil spill), the decree (on education), and Aznar's own style". My friend is an artist and he believes that the creators and intellectuals should mobilize themselves (clothed or not) at all times. My friend believes that the people should participate more actively in making decisions, Porto Alegre style. My friend doesn't understand it at all, since he was expecting a major collapse of the PP, and now, he's stammering, but he can't find any arguments: "The people are manipulated, the Government media cover up the truth, banging pots during so many nights wasn't worth anything..." My friend, who went to vote wearing all the possible stickers on his sweater, believes that, in the city of Madrid, one of the greatest evils was (Ecogaysocialist José María) Mendiluce's candidacy "because it hurt the left badly", and he refuses to admit that (Madrid PP mayoral candidate) Ruíz Gallardón attracted a lot of non-conservative voters.

My friend comforts himself with the results in the Madrid region but he does not hide the severity of his overall diagnosis: "The Spanish people is not mature yet, there are strong leftovers of Francoism, authoritarianism is popular, bossism exists in certain places..."

I tell him that perhaps what he calls "the Spanish people" feels, at least partly, comfortably represented by Aznar and the PP and that it is too easy to attribute everything to endemic backwardness and the legacy of the dictatorship. I remind him that (Socialist ex-prime-minister) Felipe González renewed his majority after winning the referendum on entry into NATO (1986), a fact that, certainly, caused my friend enormous headaches. I add that, in the case that it has lasted and endured, sociological Francoism has inhabited, equally, the years of Felipeism just as much as the years of Aznarism.

My friend cannot accept that many Spaniards vote for the PP--only two hundred thousand fewer than for the Socialists--and they believe that their choice is just as free and serious and defensible as that of those who choose leftist parties. My friend is convinced that they need to be, more or less, reeducated, saved, brought to the only truth. The right (whether or not it dresses up as the center) is always, according to my friend, an error, and therefore it cannot win. My friend had high hopes for the collapse of the PP, and disappointment has turned over his world. He feels that the people has failed him, instead of trying to understand what it is that Aznar offers to many citizens. Today he observes what the calls "the people" and he is filled with an aristocratic dismissal, which, no question, is not exactly progressive. He's terrified of analysis. He prefers a huge tantrum.

Mr. Álvaro, who is not an idiotarian, has his (almost certainly imaginary) friend twigged. That's the totalitarianism of the Left: no matter how many times we tell them we aren't going to do what they want us to do, they're going to be hassling us about the same old crap, because they know better than we do and there's no way we're going to convince them that they're wrong.

Here comes Quim Monzó, one of our two cleverest Barcelonese writers along with Eduardo Mendoza, a man who would be considered a first-rate writer--OK, maybe high second-rate--if he were American or British, but is stuck in the swamp of Spanish / Catalan writers that are so mediocre that they're not worthy of translation to English: see, for example, María de la Pau Janer. Because the reeking muck of Hispanic literature is so foul at the moment, intelligent people like Monzó get swallowed up and find it hard to sort themselves out from the mire of their contemporaries.

Monzó is often ironic. This piece is called "Is Barcelona losing importance?"

The elections have demonstrated that the protests and the kitchenware concerts of the last couple of months haven't completely fallen into forgottenness. Even the day before the elections, while Televisión Española was showing the Eurovision Festival, there was a timid revival of the pot-banging. And, despite it all, the punishment of Aznar for his attitude toward the Iraq War wasn't as great as that predicted. How can it be that in Barcelona the PP should gain a Council seat while across the whole world the antiglobalizers are every day more and more organized? The latest news is from last week: an online-dating website.

Boiled down, it's a webpage like any other of the millions through which you can pick up, whether permanently or temporarily. Its address is and its promoters describe it as an online-dating webpage for "aware people", for people who were shouting, a few weeks ago, "No war!" and "No blood for oil!". Those people now have a million personal advertisements to choose from, among whom it shouldn't be difficult to find someone who makes your heart go flitter-flutter. A million people are a lot of people, that is, if you don't find anyone appetizing, it means that you are castratingly selective. They splash their website with sentences like "Activists of the world, unite! (literally)" and there is an agenda of demonstrations, solidarious fiestas, concerts for peace, and lawsuits against tobacco companies. So, therefore, since the planet is so global, one may end up falling in love with a rasta from Seattle or a homeopath from Genoa.

So I signed up in order to check it out. They asked me exactly what I was looking for. In order not to miss any chances, I tried to be as eclectic as possible. I said I was looking for a person, but I didn't specify any of the things they gave me to choose from: sex, age, race, religion, hair color, zodiac sign...How can we put up barriers against love because of something insignificant like that ascendent in Libra? I also showed myself to be open-minded regarding alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (Note: I, your blogger, have personally seen Mr. Monzó indulge in tobacco and alcohol in fairly herculean quantities), so my spectrum is very wide. The only thing I specified is that, no matter who this progressive and multicultural person is, he or she must live in Barcelona; I'm not going to spend a fortune on phone calls to Porto Alegre.

Well, do you know how many Barcelonese have signed up? Only one: a 33-year-old woman. And, when I read her information, I discovered she was born in California. Of the million people that the personal-relationships website offers, only one is from Barcelona. Only one in a million! This is not due to language difficulties with English, after all the summer courses we've spent in Ireland, Great Britain, and the United States.

Is this the Barcelona that Bush I pointed out as an example not to follow? Within the little anti-system world, today being from Barcelona gives one cachet, something much more important than, on the day of the blind date, staining your Doc Martens black to imitate chapapote (the oil spill), hiding your posters of Beth (the winner of 'Spanish Idol' who represented Spain at the Eurovision festival) under 'Nunca maís' flags, or refusing Coca-Cola in favor of drinking Mecca-Cola. If you're from Barcelona, here's the website where you'll be beating them away with a stick! Just remind them of the Tragic Week, the Cabot Utopians of the 1850s, the demonstrations on Diagonal Avenue, the sustainable campout at the Plaza Macià...

But there's only one Barcelonese woman, and, adding insult to injury, she's imported from California. I'm not at all surprised that (conservative PP candidate) Alberto Fernández Díaz won another Council seat in the elections.

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