It’s April, it’s 2017, but some of the headlines in this week’s news are probably almost identical to others published five, ten or fifteen years ago. Politicians are arrested under suspicion of corrupt practice, embezzlement and generally abusing the power bestowed on them by the voting public. Meanwhile others promise to build hospitals, repair roads and create employment.
The names may be different (or perhaps not), the projects may be new ones (or not - in the case of certain roads and hospitals), but it’s the same great commodity at the core of every story: money. What’s more, it’s not just any old money, it’s public money, which, many still don’t seem to realise, means that it belongs to the public - in other words, to you and me.
So why don’t more members of the general public, owners of these public coffers that are being pilfered, seem shocked when someone who has gained power through their votes, cleverly pockets the money that should have been spent on those hospitals, roads and jobs schemes?
Every time we learn of a new case of corruption, involving politicians and officials sneaking public funds off to their private accounts through one means or another, there seems to be a non-reaction. People, already on their way back to silly videos on Facebook after a quick scan of the day’s “more-of-the-same” headlines, seem to need nudging into some sort of reaction.
“Hey, you’re supposed to be horrified! Those are your taxes that should have been spent on making your life better. Those guys you trusted have stolen from you!”
Even when you put it like that, though, people aren’t rushing out into the streets to protest. Those who do look aghast at a politician’s dodgy dealings are most probably feigning surprise.
If a “squeaky clean” Scandinavian politician had devised a complex scheme to siphon off funds to secure him- or herself a very comfortable future the world may well throw its hands up in horror. But in Spain, with its great track record for corruption, the news is not so much what the politician in question has done, but the fact that they got caught out.
So, as the investigations come and go, so do the elections. And, despite the recent, more colourful choice at the ballot box, the political parties in question don’t seem to be punished for producing one rotten egg after another.
“They’re all as bad as each other,” a friend told me, unable to conceive that someone might go into politics motivated purely by the chance to improve society, rather than out of a desire for power and wealth.
That friend laughs and calls me naïve when I say there must be hundreds of Spanish politicians who stand for election with a true vocation to serve their community, whatever their position on the political spectrum.
So if there are any honest politicians reading this, then, please don’t give up. You have the unenviable job of fighting against a reputation that others are still helping to make worse. But one day I’m sure you’ll prove me right.