Thursday, February 21, 2013

Corruption - or just "the way we do things here"?

There are a a couple of things that can be said about this latest reeking, venal scandal in Catalonia.*

The man at the heart of it,  Jordi Pujol is a hero to many people here as he largely seen as the main person responsible for Catalonia's post-Franco autonomous powers.

His son has allegedly been laundering his family's allegedly dirty money from an alleged trunk of an alleged car to an also-alleged bank in Andorra (which is a vile, ultra-consumerist ski-resort city in a tiny principality where people like to drive their big black cars too fast through narrow roads.)

This part of the world (still) has a lot going for it but
institutional honesty is obviously not one of the strong points.

Cheating on your income tax and using the "black" or cash-economy is largely the done thing. In my experience, cheating, in whatever form, is thought to be the clever thing to do.

Children do it from a very young age and at a local (wealthy) private school where I used to work, it was completely standard to cheat in tests and teachers knew about it and did not punish it.

The family is probably
the most important single unit in Mediterranean Europe, so favouring a brother, son or cousin is entirely normal.

It is not just those at the top of the political pyramid who do this. It is a practise that is as ordinary as drinking a glass of wine here. Having connections is called "enchufe" - literally, 'plugged-in.

It is difficult living here without some kinds of connections to help you advance your lot, so the common-place act is the one that scratches a friends back when they will also soon scratch yours.

The latest cases of corruption are logical but
extreme, grotesque extensions of some basic dishonesty.

An edited version of the above text was first published under the same title at the World Voices blog.

[*I strongly suggest reading one of the comments from 'reload' under the original article for an insightful explanation about the surprising use of 500 Euro notes.]


thecatalanway said...

Good to read this and I have been musing on a similar theme for a while. More on the personal level than the political.....problems with the son of the house mean he has a habit of taking money and lying about it. But his father thinks nothing of encouraging him to skip paying on the metro. I see this as strange as surely they are part of the same pattern. But to him - the father - it is normal to try and get away with stuff so long as it is from 'large anonymous organisations who steal from us every day'
Of course stealing from the family is low down dirty - but personally I wonder how clear this is to an adolescent boy?

Brett said...

It's a really insightful comment you make here, Kate. I certainly share your point of view about lying by children and "selective" honest behaviour by adults being a bad example fror our kids. Of course, I admit that I am somewhat of a hypocrit because after 6 years of living here I too have started to cheat the system on RENFE trains when I can.

I don't think I would do it if "the system" was not so rotten and I was actually earning a fair wage/salary. Here I mean being an honest autonomo paying 230 Euros a month no matter what income I make. It's the first time in almost 30 years of work that I have ever resented paying my share of taxes!

I actually partly share your child's fathers attitude towards SOME "large anonymous organisations" but I would never encourage cheating them in front of my own son.

We live in interesting and intricate times, don't we?