Friday, March 23, 2012

On Europe, Judaism,...on Identity

This post has nothing at all to do with Spain, except for the fact that having lived here now for almost 6 years means that a substantial part of my sense of who I am comes from “being" in Spain over this time.

It would be more accurate to say that I feel somewhat “European” rather than Spanish or Catalan.

When events happen in France, Portugal, Italy or even Greece it seems to me that they are close. And because they seem close, they are relevant to my understanding of where I have been eating, sleeping, working and drawing breath for over half a decade.

Since, I first set foot in France in 1994 and then spent over 3 months travelling through Western Europe and a small part of Eastern Europe, the concept of Europe as an entity, to me is undeniable.

So, if I am at least partly “European” then what else am I?

I suppose I am Australian because the bulk of the first 30 years of my life were spent growing up there but I have barely related to that very distant place for a long, long time.

I have more of my heart in Japan because I strived and thrived through 3 years there, including the birth of our only child.

Identity can be simple, but for someone like me, it is a hugely complicated question.

Another important part of me is, to my eternal confusion and delight, Jewish. I think being [somehow] Jewish should be a very wide and open terminology.

Even a long time atheist like myself should be able to identify themself, as at least partly Jewish in the same way that many people think of themselves as being from any ethnic group, even if they are only, say 1/8 aborigine, Inuit, or native American "Indian."

I KNOW that a part of me is Jewish because my mother's ancestors were Jewish because they had a Jewish name.

I just don't know if they practised the religion at all because they, like some other Jews, seemingly denied it, wishing to assimilate into a mainstream Christian society. They got married in Christian churches and were buried in the Christian sections of the cemetry. If that means, in a strict sense that they were not Jews, then so be it.

Does that make me less of a Jew than Jerry Seinfeld or Golda Meir? Of course it does. But does it mean that I shouldn't feel a degree of "Jewishness?"

Here, I say no.

I understand Judaism on a number of important levels, but perhaps the most significant level is in the gut or the collective memory. I am suspicious of groupings and group-think but I get a strong sense of being somewhat Jewish when Jews are mocked or belittled.

Almost all of my closest male friends in the last 10 years or so have been Jewish. Is this a coincidence? I doubt it.

Strangely though, I did not know that any of them were Jewish when our friendships formed. I just felt an affinity with them — sharing many common interests and abilities and mutual temperaments, on the whole.

I know precious little about the Torah or Jewish religous rites and customs, so in this sense I am no Jew at all. But I have so many Jewish memes and Jewish traits that I would be disregarding clear signs of being fractionally Jewish.

What a “mixed race” mongrel am I!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The return of Tri-lengua readings in Barcelona

Tri-lengua event on Sunday, March 18th, at 6:30 - 8pm at the aDa gallery (C/del Salvador, 8). The featured writers this month will be:

Georgina Tremayne (prose, English)
Kate Kirkpatrick (poetry, English)
Celia Espona Pernas (prose, Spanish, ie. Castellano)
Jessica Rainey ( poetry, English)
Valerie Collins (prose, English)

and music by: Beth Trollan

Friday, March 16, 2012

“Holy” shit

An imam in the Catalan city of Terrassa has allegedly been encouraging his followers to beat unruly women and inflict violence on females who do not follow their husband’s orders or strict Islamic law, the local police said in a statement on Tuesday.

In his sermons, the imam, Abdeslam Laaroussi, a Moroccan, would offer examples on “how to beat” women and isolate them, and discourage men from having sexual relations with them. According to police, Laaroussi told his followers that it was best to punch women or use a stick on different parts of their bodies without breaking their bones or making them bleed.

The Catalan police force, subpoenaed the man to give a statement, after complaints were filed that he was trying to foment gender violence.

While he refused to give a statement, he was charged after investigators found his speeches and sermons contained elements that promote discrimination.

Source: here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Migrant health in Spain and Europe

Last week I was invited to a public forum called “Health and Migration: perspectives from Asia and Europe.

This event was organized by the Asia-Europe Foundation and Casa Asia and was also sponsored by the Japanese government. I couldn’t get there but I was encouraged that such an organization exists at all.

It’s a well-established fact that, in general, migrants suffer health problems relatively more than those who have established roots in their own region.

Public attention on this issue is a genuine development in understanding how migrants live and why their health is a crucial issue for any country who relies on them [us!] for various kinds of labour.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The "hole-fillers:" Spain's millions of temporary workers

A shocking picture of this country's rapidly increasing numbers of "temps" by J. Sérvulo Gonzalez [in English.]

I call them "hole-fillers" because in the past I have been one myself in my own teaching life. As a disregarded, menial part-timer who is just plugging a hole in a timetable gap.

[Photo by Javier at sic]

Friday, March 9, 2012

General strike called for March 29

Ignacio Fernández Toxo, Secretary of the 1.1 million member CCOO Trade Union today announced a nation-wide General Strike to be held on March 29 [M-29] this year.

Under the slogans "No to labour reform, defend public services" and "They want to finish off everyone's labor and social rights" the union is arguing that the Spanish government's response to the current economic crisis across Europe is too harsh on working people and is doing nothing for the unemployed either.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Eurovegas" gambles on over-coming local protest

Catalan President Artur Mas has said it will make this country “a leader of tourism in Europe” but the so-called Eurovegas casino project is meeting with plenty of objection from residents in the Viladecans and Gavà area around Barcelona’s El Prat airport.

In fact, the governments of both Madrid and here in Catalunya are competing for the patronage of North American business magnate Sheldon Adelson who has schemes for a 12 hotel, 36,000 bed site complete with 6 megacasinos and 3 golf courses.

Free land and exemptions from legal restrictions are said to be part of the deals being offered to Mr Adelson.

Protected birds and fauna in the coastal marshland area next to the aurport are believed to be under threat and an on-line petion against this and the other disadvantages of the proposals is being launched.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Less help for Spanish Civil War victims' families

Yesterday, the new PP Prime Minister Rajoy closed the office of “attention to victims of the Civil war and the dictatorship.”

This action, taken as part of a reorganization of the Ministry of Justice by the Spanish Government, gets rid of the public body which was created in 2009 by the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Its aim had been to provide advice to victims of the Franco regime, on issues such as the mass graves.

Now, the functions of this former office will supposedly be “diluted” into another pre-existing section of the Justice department.

JOAN RUSIÑOL’S article for here.