Spain, all shook up! — Sue Chien Lee
JUNE 25 — España, arsa pilili! Say what? I mean, in plain English: “Spain, so sexy!”
Take it in the context of these tough times when the fourth largest economy in the European Union is seeking approximately €62 billion (RM248 billion) from Brussels to recapitalise its banking sector. Conditions are unknown as of the time of writing.
Call it a rescue; call it a rather favourable loan; call it utter humiliation. Call it what you may, the southern European nations comprising Portugal, Italy, Greece, and, now, our beloved Spain have fallen on their knees faster and harder than other nations within the EU affected by the financial crisis.
On June 22, in reference to the longed-for agreement between Germany, France, Italy and Spain to invest €130 billion amounting to 1 per cent of the European Union’s gross domestic product in an European growth pact, certain tweets air a mixed sentiment. Laconic humour masking a certain sense of helplessness and relief over the promise of help.
Arsa pilili or salsa pilili, is an Andalusian expression said to be derived from their version of “sex appeal”. Just as other languages tend to influence each other, Spanish, or rather Castellano, has adopted and transformed English words such as “freaky (friki), cool, to check (che•que•ar), to go running (hacer footing)”. Although some other regions deride the Andalusian way of speech, they would have to agree that Spain still has hot salsa pilili.
There’s no dearth of reasons why.
Xabi Alonso, with his two magnificent goals, has just led the Spanish football team to the semi-finals of Euro 2012. The Guardian says it all: “One hundred caps, two goals and victory in a competitive match against France for the first time in Spain’s history. Revenge too for the last time they were knocked out of a major tournament, six long years ago. Xabi Alonso was on the losing side that night in Hanover. He led the winning side on Saturday night in Donetsk. Everything has changed since then: Spain have gone from habitual failures to perpetual winners [in sport, and some].”
There’s also Miguel Poveda, that gifted flamenco singer who looks remarkably like another hero of ours: Rafael Nadal.
If only Spain, as a nation of fairly autonomous regions, could pull itself together, and look beyond narrow personal interests to work at being habitual winners in what truly matters: education in the broadest sense of the word, meritocracy and mutual respect.
I recently asked a friend who works at a reputable firm in Barcelona what she was thankful for.
Very sincerely, she said: “We are very fortunate to be living in this time and age.” And place, or country, as you wish. One in which we have relative peace, clean air (you actually get to see the sun almost every day of the year), quality food, admirable public transportation which enables students, workers and professionals of all levels to commute with speed and ease. A stark difference from the horrendous two-hour traffic jams other city-dwellers have to put up with. We ought to be thankful indeed.
But here’s a reality check. We still have to deal with the glaring rate of unemployment of youth below the age of 25. Fifty-two percent (or is it more now?). I’ve lost count. Spain is in this respect the leader in Europe for the wrong reason. And that’s leading to the growth of a lost generation: la generación ni-ni (ni estudia, ni trabaja) which translates into the generation which neither studies nor works. An explosive combination when you factor in moral malaise and the strange lack of personal responsibility among so many.
Push it to the State. Let it handle all our woes, take care of most of our basic needs in health, education and in old age. And forget about saving. This, I must stress, ails not just Spain. It ails others within the European social model that I’m afraid is designed for the honest man.
Am I saying we’ve got less honest folk in Europe? Not at all. It’s just human nature for anyone, regardless of race, age or nationality, to want to take advantage of a system for a society “that combines economic growth with high living standards and good working conditions.” It’s coming apart at the seams, and it requires deep soul searching and strong, eminently competent leaders for us to get back on track.
Meanwhile, friends and family we have in Barcelona, Spain keep striving, working, dreaming of better days ahead. Tourists keep coming, some to stay for good. Music, and the arts thrive. Spanish industries, talent and scientists reach out abroad. Everything’s all shook up.
After all’s said and done, and despite these turbulent times, I’ve got to say: Spain’s still got salsa, soul and substance.
* Sue Chien Lee is a Malaysian writer based in Barcelona, Spain. She can be reached at [email protected]
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.