Wednesday, November 14, 2012

General Strike in Spain — 14 November

     Today there is a strike. In all of Spain. That means, among other things, that public transportation is limited. I waited for 35 minutes for a train that usually runs every 4 minutes. It also means that many professors did not go to school, nor many children. My first class had two children. My second had one. 
     So why is there a strike? Put simply, some people don’t like what the government is doing. The strike was organized by the CGT, a labor union, along with other organizations around the country. Their reasons for the strike are that the government’s spending cuts and reforms are dismantling basic public services and have led to a situation of social emergency. 
     It’s true, the economy has seen better days. Several years ago, when the United States’ housing bubble burst, Spain’s did too. Yet while (some would say) the United States is climbing out of its economic crisis, people in Spain feel their economy is continuing to decline. According to the CGT pamphlet I was given, six million people are unemployed, and over 50% of people under 25 don’t have a job, 700,000 people have been evicted from their homes, and millions of people are on the threshold of poverty. 

("They leave us without a future. There are guilty people. There are solutions. General Strike!")

     So...why does an American have a job (provided by the government) in Spain, and why is that fair? Maybe I shouldn’t make myself answer such difficult questions. But it’s something I’ve thought about a lot, and I don’t feel guilty about having a job here. I’ll tell you why. Spain believes in the importance of the English language, and that people who speak it as a second language will have more job opportunities, more knowledge, and be more cultured. It’s really a beautiful thing to be investing so much money in the education of Spanish children, and with the specific goal of giving them more opportunities in the world through language learning. And I would like to think that I am playing a small part in that goal. Having native English teachers in Spanish primary and secondary schools is for Spain what having native Chinese speakers in American schools might be like. In other words, if one believes that knowledge of the Chinese language will continue to grow and give opportunities to those who know it, having a native Chinese speaker to educate American children would be a wonderful thing. 
     Secondly, the monthly scholarship I receive is being entirely spent in Spain. While the government might be giving me money, I am reinvesting it in the Spanish economy. All of it. In restaurants, grocery stores, museums, concerts, clothing stores, music stores, street vendors. The bottom line is, I’m not taking the money and sending it back to my homeland. I’m spending it. 
     So, I am receiving a monthly scholarship in exchange for teaching English to Spanish youths, and I am spending that money in Spain. I think that is justifiable. I think I am doing a good thing. And I think people should read this Robinson Jeffers poem (feel free to adapt it to apply to the country you are from):

Be Angry At The Sun
That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

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