Monday, November 28, 2011

Spain Becomes Country of Contrasts, but Where is Crisis?

Look at the pictures below and tell me what differences you see. Taken approximately at the same time, some 600 meters from each other: 6 PM... Madrid... center of the city...

A nice evening route at Westin Palace...

...and a huge line to buy a lottery ticket for the upcoming bonanza called El Gordo de Navidad:

600 meters and an abyss of difference. One thing is sure - if people go to the lottery stalls, they have given up on their government. They are entrusting their future to blind fate, which is rarely benevolent to those who are desperate. Those who spend hours in lines are desperate because instead of buying the same tickets online, they wait in cold and rain as they think that this particular lottery shop is lucky.

Yet, something is very unclear to me. I tried to make a reservation at Teatriz, a restaurant that I really like; where I have spent many memorable moments of my life with very special people. It's a remodeled building of a theater, which now wines and dines anyone who appreciates good cuisine in a quaint setting. If you ever go there, make sure you visit the restrooms downstairs - that's quite a mirror labyrinth. So, I was trying to make a booking and all to no avail, because it was fully booked throughout the weekend, and, indeed, finding a place to eat on a Friday night turned out to be a task worthy of Sisyphus himself. We are talking about a country that is allegedly in a crisis.

OCDE predicts exacerbation of unemployment in Spain in 2012, but the boutiques on the Serrano Street in the posh area of Salamanca are full of people buying things. Loewe decorated their shopwindows with cute looking  wooden soldiers and nostalgia evoking toys and that does attract Spaniards too, suffering from over 20% of population out of jobs. All media are crying out loud about a crisis in the country, but the crisis is nowhere to be seen, at least not in Madrid: the bars are full, the nightlife is rampant as ever, the airports are full with travelers. In 1998 in Moscow people were careful which ATM they were drawing money from to save on the withdrawal fee: that was the feeling of a crisis.

The politicians love the crisis horror story; it's hot political currency nowadays. A very popular game too: at first you create a crisis and then you are trying to manage it - will guarantee you two terms in most cases. On November 20th Spain went to the polls and, no major surprise, the leader of the Popular Party won, even though he was not able to formulate his position (or clearly avoided doing so) on any issues of vital importance. What we know for sure is that cuts to public spending are coming and it's not going to be pretty. Many young Spaniards only wait for their graduation to leave the country. The government does not seem to notice. Maybe it's time now it stopped playing lottery with its people and started helping them instead?

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