Tag Archive: social criticism


They say if a door closes, another one opens. Right now I can see where the saying is going but to be quite honest, I don’t really believe it as yet.

Things right now could not be worse from my standpoint. Ok, but this post is not strictly about me but about people who find themselves in a similar situation. It is about the people who will suffer a lot because they frigging have jack shit in their pockets, jack shit to eat, jack shit to spend on their children, jack shit to clothe themselves, and jack shit in order to follow a cultural life.
Apart from the ones who have been made homeless since they could not pay up their rent, apart from the ones who took their own lives in desperation, it is now quite predictable that a huge tidal wave of families or couples is coming who will be stuck in the same situation as me, which eventually looks like this: A family of four. One partner’s got a steady job, earns some cash, not the world, but somehow they get by, the other partner has a more or less steady job but as a seasonal worker (fijo discontinuo, which is not an uncommon scenario at all). For those of you who don’t know what this means, it is a specialty of the Spanish labour law, meaning that you have a seasonal contract for a certain time of the year, while the rest of the year, you will be jobless, simply because there is no need or no necessity to have a worker in this job in the low season. The contract revives after the low season again so you are truly a steady worker.
So, beware. Singles and one parent families can now safely breathe deeply cos they won’t be affected. This time around the families that this law is after, it is actually rather disturbing when you think about it. So, if you are married, it will basically happen like this: The woman (or whoever is the one with the seasonal contract) has completed her six month of seasonal work and applies for the usual state benefits for the upcoming six months where she is on the dole.
Then, the shock arrives. Instead of receiving 426€ state benefit, she will know only receive 105€ no matter whether the couple have got kids to support, whether they dire need the money just to get by. It does not matter the least.
I informed myself and it seems that if you have a partner who (now listen up, this is really good!) earns more than the so-called “intersalario minimo” (the average minimum wage) of 640€ / month, the law applies leaving you with 75% less of your normal state benefit.
So, instead of receiving a total of 2.556€ in a six month period (which in my case is to be expected as the island of Ibiza does not tend to have so many jobs to offer in the Winter months) you will receive 630€. The almost 2.000€ gap is something that a family of four is left to draw conclusions themselves.
That’s pretty, no?

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I would say this is the most horribly unjust law of the 21st century I have ever read about. This is a crime, and I don’t say this not just because I am affected too (which truly fucks me up too, admitted) but the core of this post is that I really envision what is going to happen in terms of the affected families, how will they deal with it, what will happen in Spain, on the peninsula, and also on the Balearic islands, and the Canaries.
It is not too difficult to foresee what will happen. Basically this here.
By taking away the last bit of money, not mentioning the last shreds of their dignity, not mentioning stripping the last bits of social mobility from this group, it basically spells poverty, cruel and not to be hidden poverty, poverty that is no fun at all. Not being able to pay all the necessary monthly bills, having to juggle things where to make another cut, in order to somehow scrape things together and get to the end of the month. Simple as that.
Taking into account that at the same time there has been a growth in nouveau riche people coming to the lively Spanish cities and hip islands, so the nouveau riche is just a stone throw (quite literally, in this case) away. This again heats up the rivalry between rich and poor, between have and have not’s. If Karl Marx were still alive, he would get out his pamphlet about the class battle.

Today, people seem to have forgotten that today’s world shows even stronger and much more cruel signs that there are three if not four classes today.
1) The poor, the unwell, the lower class – the ones who are either out of a job, too wasted, too ill or too socially unfit to work. The ones who are denied access to the big ferris wheel.
2) The mixed working and middle class – which slowly but surely seems to disintegrate – they either fall back into the group of the poor and unwell or they somehow make it into the group of the well off people. They are also struggling, they can get by, depending how clever they are, trying to work the system here and there. But basically, they are the working force of the new millennium. They hate the class 1 people because they think they are really just scum and don’t want to work. And they envy the class 3 people for obvious reasons.
3) The upper middle class – the well off people – they are also working people, at least formerly, but mostly they don’t really need to work anymore. Somehow, they are able to enjoy life as it is. They are able to lean back and watch what happens around the world. They despise class 1 and they belittle class 2 people. They envy class 4 people for obvious reasons.
4) The stinking rich – self explanatory. Of course, they know nothing of the sorrows or the pains that class 1 and 2 or even class 3 people go through. They could essentially make a difference with their wealth, but they don’t. They are reluctant to activate themselves. They observe and journey from yacht to yacht. Their biggest worry might be the question what to bestow their sons and daughters. Basically, this class is the real trouble. They are the root of all evil. If they understood that the world has come into such a crass imbalance moneywise and also in terms of division of wealth, and therefore if they would let others participate in their immense wealth, the world might be a better place. But, let’s face it, hey, this isn’t a fairy tale and I know it won’t happen.
When it comes to categorizing people, I tend to be quite ruthless, sarcastic to some extent, but I can spot the people in their peer group and make out their characteristics. I used to be middle class, today I can safely say that even though I try to hold on to middle class for dear life, I drifted back into the arena of the poor and unwell and it is only a matter of time but I eventually will stop posting blogs since I might be more than busy with the fight for survival. This is pure social Darwinism.

I know that I will need to somehow generate an extra of 320€ out of thin air. My husband works, he cannot get more money. Sincé we have been trying to cut down costs, I don’t know where another cut could be made, I don’t see any job opportunities either, especially not ones which are viable when you have two kids. So, even though economy is down, and the season is ending, I know I need to have an extra job for the winter, which is not going to happen as there are no jobs. So there is no need to worry at all. The poor and unwell are all waiting for me.

Noam Chomsky called it the class warfare. Listen for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=9o7yQIMx17s
Back to Spain: Which conclusion can be derived from this? The sacred cow named family has now officially been killed. Or to put it plainly, it has been slaughtered and its entrails hang out its guts.
Had I been divorced or would I be a single mother, this would not have happened to me. Brave new world that has such people in it!
But being a happy mother and not a divorcee or single mom made me conspicuous. I see. Duh! I could have understood it if we were talking Franz Kafka, otherwise this scenario is just too Kafkaesque for me.
Apart from these schizophrenic mind-warping thoughts of some politicians who came up with this ludicrous law, I have other, still darker visions to share.
What about the children? Will I tell them to eat 75% less, to consume 75% less of a needed education, to need 75% less clothes, to give me 75% wear and tear to compensate, to grow 75% less so they can still wear last year’s clothes, take part 75% less in children’s activities which are not for free as we all know??? I don’t think so.
Luckily, you might say, you live in the countryside. Here the differences are not as crass. Yes, that’s what you would think. But they exist nonetheless. And my children have spotted the differences a long time ago. What is going to happen now?
The thing is poverty, seen from the outside might seem like a romantic hideaway, like a safe haven from the crazy world, but the truth is that poverty basically means, that your life is not much fun, and basically it is also going to end sooner and in a fashion you won’t like as much.

Poverty basically means:
– Not having the means to pay for a doctor (and here is to people who plea the national health service in Spain was good: Please spare me the discussion. Don’t come up with national health service and how good it was, I would hate the discussion and you know, NH in Spain is ridiculously bad in some areas, and to some extent, so let’s cut the crap and face up to some realities. I’d rather ram a rusty needle into my arm and do nothing about it than ever let a Spanish NH gynecologist ever touch me again. That was the most traumatic and dehumanizing experience at a doctor’s!!!)
– Not having the money to buy the most sensible food and therefore consequently not able to follow the most equalized and sensible diet. (Even though we know which food is better, sometimes your wallet decides what you buy. Simple as that. Look at the prices in a supermarket, compare what you can buy with 30€, and then you will see what I mean. Sugary, fatty, basically all highly processed food is dirt-cheap whereas natural, authentic, sensible and good food is quite costly.)
– Not being able to buy the educational books, toys, you name it that you as a parent wanted to provide for your children (and yes, we are all avid users of a public library, but there are books that are not available, and nothing can substitute a book that belongs to you, etc.)
– Not be as relaxed, nor as well-informed as others as you keep struggling with the mere and naked existence as it is. (this may be a secondary effect, but nonetheless it happens like that)
– Not able to make the cheapest choice since in effect you are forced to buy at a time when others lean back and say, “No, I will wait until the prices fall, and stabilize at a lower level.” You, as an impoverished person, are often forced to buy at the highest rate. And yes, it is true. This makes you even poorer. It is a vicious circle.
– This situation leaves you wasted and wane
– Not happy
– Not healthy
Ok, I could continue this list for ages, but even if we suppose that you are still capable of providing yourself with the needed information, still able to cut corners here and there, there is a physical limit to all of this. And the majority of all people affected will – and here you can be pretty sure – not be as realistic, and not as rigid in what to buy and what not to buy, they will also fall into the typical poverty traps. Therefore, their poverty might even look worse than the one depicted.
But the bottom line is this: poverty cuts you off from the rest of others. Shuts you up.

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Why? They are tiny things really. You will say NO more often and at times where you want to say YES. You will say NO when invited as you don’t have the money to buy a present. And you will also say NO because even though it may just be 25 kilometers, the trip of 50 kilometers just for a party plus a present you need will leave you skinned. So you got to decide. You will say NO because the last time you were invited and this time it would be your turn to invite but you haven’t got the money to invite, so you don’t. Poverty makes you lonely.
It sounds like it was copied out of a Dickens novel, a tale of gruel, and the workhouse, but this is the bare and naked truth.
I wish for some Spanish politicians and businessmen that they may come to experience the full-blown and fucking awful situation like this.
I know there are families which are even worse off than us. There are families where both lost their jobs and so on. But I don’t understand how the state can agree to destroy familiar unity with a law like this. I nudged my husband and asked him if he wanted to divorce me so we would get the full state benefit. It is so ridiculous. The bitter truth is that nobody cares about families anymore, let alone children growing up safely. This is something that makes me angry and sad.
For me, as an adult, things are much easier. I can survive on six months on nothing but the cheapest spaghetti and the blandest yoghurt, and nothing else. I will not be able to pay all my bills, so I will have the odd problem here and there, even though I have a very good consumer’s morale. But what bugs me the most is the crime of stealing a piece of childhood, which they are taking away from our children. The innocence and the feeling of carelessness is somehow lost along the line.
Apart from needing vitamins, proteins, vegetables and fruit, children need the feeling of being protected and well looked after. They need stability. They need laughter and also the safe home which is theirs. They need clothes, new shoes every now and then. It seems so incredible that all of this seems impossible just because the state decided they would rather help out some criminal bankers and some thieving politicians. No wonder that there is no money left to help out families.
How foolish to think in the 21st century that a family is something the state wants to protect by law. How sad to be mistaken in this point.
Ever since I was 15 I have been working. There is a multitude of jobs behind me, not all of them were good ones, but each and every one of them taught me something. And I do remember and also cherish this. When you work, you should go home with a smile on your face. Today, this smile is wiped away. It has been replaced by constant worries of will I have enough to pay my bills. Will I be able to keep up this rat race? With people who are (for whatever reason) on the dole or only part-time workers, things are even worse. You are being looked upon as some kind of underdog. You are an outcast of the system. There is something you’ve done wrong. Something in your personality that did not quite fit in. Oh, you have children. See? Told you so. To have children and to be proud of them is something that our society does not want to hear, much less cares about.
So, basically, I won’t take this lying down and I hope I can keep my dark sense of humor and still make things funny and worthwhile for my children, my husband, and for me, but if truth be said: in spite of being a born optimist, I have most extreme doubts of how we might get through this long, dire drought period, how well we will be able to adapt this time, how to make our way through the winter period. How to spin gold out of thin air.
It is going to be a tough ride.
Not to mention all the burglaries and muggings, which will start happening for sure.
Ibiza is a place for seasonal workers. Most of them leave the island after the season, but some of them live here, so these families will be in deep problems. Just like us. And there is no cloud, and sorry also no silver lining.
On mainland Spain, similar problems will arise with focus on big cities like Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid. I am curious how the crime rates will develop. This should be a fun thing to watch.
Oh, and another thing. It is pretty clear that this law is another red herring, a decoy to take away the force of criticism off Mister Rajoy and his ridiculously incapable leadership. So sad if people cannot just say “I fucked up. I take my hat and leave.” He does not seem to get the message.

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It is time for a new beginning. And time to shake up the system.

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Orwell –  a dystopian writer or a socio-realist?

Down and Out in Paris and London” was the first book Orwell ever wrote and therefore it demands some special attention. He wrote it in 1933.

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Who was George Orwell? He was born Eric Arthur Blair 110 years ago, on June 25th 1903. He died on January 21st, 1950, some 46 years later. To me, Orwell has always been an important touchstone, a true pleasure to read since he is different in as much as he combines some traits I find important for any writers: will for social and political justice, very clear language, intelligence, sharp observation, wit and accuracy in the depiction of social realities.

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I’ve read him ever since I was little and funnily enough, at school, we read 1984, just in the year of 1984, when I was 13. Yes, it did make a huge impact on me. I cannot say anything else. We discussed the book. We wrote essays on it. We saw the movie 1984. It was a blatant attack against totalitarianism. That much was clear. And for a classroom with a lot of rebellious hormones flying around, Orwell was just right in showing us what society would be if we allowed ourselves to be let astray. Everyone in class including the teacher was sure that there would never be any similar surrounding, that everything depicted in the book, was pretty much a dark pessimistic fantasy, way out, and that basically this was a dystopia which would never happen.

Now about 30 years later, I am not so sure anymore. I find that Orwell had the unusual talent of absorbing very slight historical tendencies and thinking them till the bitter end and turning it into fiction. Orwell’s fiction is never just fiction. It is a moral signpost that says “Don’t go there. It might happen if you don’t watch out.” On the other hand, he wrote a lot about what happened in real life. He was in no way a writer in his ivory tower. He was pretty much connected and set in the real life of his time and confronted with real-life problems. “His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism.” That’s what Wikipedia says, and I solidly agree with that.

Orwell. The dystopian writer, the social critic

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There are many books by George Orwell, well worthwhile reading which are hard to come by because of course, 1984 and Animal Farm are the evergreens and the bestsellers that cannot be surpassed.

Retracing his steps, we find that he was basically a middle upper lower middle class son, who was born in India, grew up in Burma, living a privileged life within a well bred family. But as he grew older, and after having returned to Europe, he seemed to have been a wandering spirit. He tried out multiple ways in order to live, he had something inside him, a search of something else, a weariness of everyday life about him. Something that made him seek out adventures. He led an unusual life. Orwell wrote his first book with the title “Down and out in Paris and London” (1933) which I would like to recommend today with all my heart.

In a nutshell, it is a desolate depiction of what the social reality for poor people, for people out of a regular existence, jobless, homeless, sometimes vagabonds and basically impoverished people must have been like. The daily search to get by on a minimum of money is shown with a pinch of salt. It is not someone who is crying into his bowl of water-soup at the workhouse. There is nothing that resembles rage or an accusation against the state or the state of things in there. It just shows the reality of what things were like. Without commenting as much on it. That is Orwell’s English side. And this is what made me have goose pimples all over when I first read the book at 20. It was hair-raising. The cruelty and the sometimes really very harsh if not brutal realities are depicted in a very formal and sometimes offhand manner. It is something hard to digest at first. But that way, the reader gets to the bottom of things, to the places where Orwell leads him, to the darkest corners in pre-war Paris and pre-war London. The reader must ask himself what made Orwell endure all of this. He wanted to be a first-hand narrator. He did not want to narrate the hell of others, of vagabonds, he first wanted to endure it so he could write his books with a totally different stance. Today, we might call him an investigative journalist. Yes, but Orwell was more than that. He was a critic in his way not to criticize anything but depicting every cruel detail of what happens to poor people and what happens if you get to the point where you lose your job, you home and your social framework. Something which in the nineteen-thirties must have been something not so easy to endure.

Another very good book by Orwell is “Burmese Days” where Orwell actually lets us in on the secrets of his upbringing in the colonies. It is an eye opener. Truly recommended.

All in all, I can only recommend George Orwell again and again. I know, that 1984 is a must read for many classes (at school as well at university) but it rightly is so. As well as Animal Farm has become a total classic. However, Down and Out in Paris and London, as well as Burmese Days and his collected Essays should find more readers, the way I see it.

Orwell was a bright man, with a vision.

Ending this post, I would like to point out that in fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel that Orwell is a more than a modern classic, he is a post-modern writer, someone to foresee something sinister that was about to happen. Let’s us all see to it that we can make this dystopia stop before Big Brother and the thought police become reality.

I wonder what Orwell would write if he was alive today.

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I read this book in the finals days of July I think and I must admit I have been wanting to write a review about it for quite some time. It is not a book one can read and just put away. This book gets you hooked. But at the same time, the book really defies being typecast, it is hard to place your finger on what it is. It is a very unusual book, quite different to anything I have read in quite a while. I picked it up again and again and really immersed myself in its otherwordly charme and recently re-read it.

First of all, it really contains ingredients for a pretty rough ride, and that’s what the story really is, at least for its protagonist, well, I would say for the reader as well. But that’s a good thing. It is a fast paced story, full of twists and turns, and it does not let you breathe properly until you know what the end is like. No spoiler alert here. To me, this is a mixture of genres, a horror story, set in present day, containing social criticism clad in the institutionalisation of “difficult teenagers” as well as a classical drama. On the surface, we are introduced into these summer camps, which are basically the cheap way out for rich parents not able or not interested in facing up to their own educational failures.  Here are a handful of teenagers locked up in the outward idyllic of a secluded college for socalled juvenile delinquents. But that is just the surface and the setting.

The author is particularly strong with dialogues. They are pretty short but very poignant. When you read passages like in the beginning the discussions between father and son, you get the idea that inspite of being set in an affluent family, this youngster Vicent has not so much he could laugh about. Of course, he is rebellious and you (as a reader) wish for this dialogue to continue in spite of the youngster being sent away. There is an undercurrent of father-son relationship gone really bad, there is a huge conflict going on there. That to me was a shame that this dramatic potential was kind of wasted. All the reader was left with is a sort of background information. But nevertheless, since the speed keeps you on the edge of your seat, this is not a major set back at all. The book is just really well written and you kind of wonder why the authors would not dig a little deeper here to make the character a little more emphatic and a little more three dimensional.

The central conflict of the book is the fight between the owner of this institution and Vincent’s daily trials he has too undergo which get more cruel, wicked and grim as the story progresses. Little by little the reader gets to understand that an escape may be the only possible solution left for him. There is a deep sense of enclosure in this book which I found amazing. Trapped in the woods with some ego tripping headmaster? But what can you do when even the inmates start to disappear and you hear howling sounds and inexplicable noises and see weird things that make you guess you must have dreamt.

Ullals (Fangs) is a book that teases the reader into believing it is very easygoing, it starts pretty offhand, almost lightly, it welcomes you, it offers you a chair, but then as the chapters progress, you feel that the climate gets rougher and rougher. This is a very clever thing I never saw before in a book. The way the book is written also reflects the situation of the protagonist at the same time. The story quite literally straps you onto the chair while you try to stand up and search the exit door. But hey, it does not exist. You are trapped as well. The reader gets to peak into a scenario that has pretty dark shades and sometimes Kafkaesque touches. It gives you access to a world unknown to most of us. The sheer physical violence of some scenes lets your adrenaline rush. A very clever thing is that the reader feels quite involved through the immediacy of the dialogues and that there is not so much in between left that could clear up or free you from the menace of the damocles sword, which is not only inside the instition personified through the headmaster but also outside, in the woods, through something else, something more ferocious even.

There is this trait in the book where you feel quite uncomfortable that you are witnessing something that really could have been avoided.

Even at the end when you think you already know the end, the author manages to insert an unexpected turn and you are left with eyes wide open, your pulse racing and possibly a hand clapped over your mouth.

The book won a Youth book prize in 2010. Absolutely deserved, I think. Ullals moves you. And it does a lot more than that. An intelligent, fast and furious book, a tour de force, lots of cinematic images, very well written. If you haven’t read it so far, go and buy it. It is a modern classic.

 As far as I know, the book Ullals is being turned into a movie and is currently in pre-production.

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