surinenglish

Eternal blame

Children's ludicrous antics can be quite hilarious. For example, when they do something wrong but immediately look around for someone else to blame, pointing randomly in any direction except their own. The trouble is, it's quite funny when someone's aged three but not when they're a fully-fledged adult.

Refusing to take responsibility for our errors has become something of an international sport of late. Only this week, Hillary Clinton has been promoting her new book in which - judging by the extracts I've read - she blames her US presidential defeat on everything and everyone but herself. The electoral system, misogyny, poor journalism and general ignorance are all cited as motives for her demise. I'm only surprised she doesn't blame the sunshine, the moonlight, the good times and the boogie while she's at it. No, this is a prime example of somebody unable and/or unwilling to accept a harsh truth that so many of us find it difficult to face: we're often really rubbish at our jobs.

When was the last time you heard a car mechanic, builder or tradesman take responsibility and admit to a mistake? It never happens, even when you directly question them about it.

“Er, why is the left wing mirror broken when I only brought the car in for an oil change?”

“Ah, yes. That'll be from the last time you took it to a garage that wasn't this one. They'll have loosened its screws by hanging their bags of sandwiches on it and then - bingo! - along comes an autumn breeze to finish it off while it's in here with us. Terrible business. That'll be nine hundred and forty five quid for the oil, mate.”

The Catalan president Carles Puigdemont - who looks alarmingly like former radio DJ Mike Read - put his foot in it big style this week campaigning for independence on an unabated tide of hubris and ego until it became clear that loads of big businesses were legging it sharpish at the very thought and he had to back down. Except he didn't exactly back down; he just stamped his foot and fudged some some half-cocked speech about still being right but not doing what he said he was going to do because the other children were all being mean and horrible.

One day we'll learn to acknowledge responsibility for our errors and the world will be a much better place for it. I'm still longing to hear somebody somewhere utter the unheard of phrase “Look, I'm really sorry, I made a mistake and it was all my fault..... oh and we'll knock fifty quid off for the wing mirror.”

Perhaps it's rather naïve of me to think that people ought to be able to love, or at least tolerate, one another and live happily ever after in peace and harmony.

That's the message drummed into children at school isn't it? Everyone should be treated equally no matter their origin, size, colour, beliefs, race, politics, etc. etc.

Recently a pro-integration organisation announced a project in Casares aimed at putting a stop to unfounded rumours that get in the way of peaceful coexistence between locals and foreigners.

So the local inhabitants are being informed that the Chinese owner of their corner shop is not really getting away without paying his taxes and that their wait for an appointment with a specialist is not because the system is being clogged up by immigrants. In the same way foreigners are being helpfully informed that their Andalusian neighbours are not really idle layabouts who haven't done a day's work in their lives.

The thing is that the majority of people know all this anyway but like to cling on to stereotypes as an excuse to keep everyone in their place. It's a lot easier to have people conveniently tucked in their pigeonholes than to face a vast heterogeneous crowd of individuals around us - all unlabelled.

So, in the current Catalonia crisis it's useful to think of everyone who seeks independence as arrogant and condescending towards the rest of Spain, using their language as a barrier to shut others out. Things get complicated if you argue that actually wanting to be independent is a valid objective - not to be confused with breaking the law to go about it - and that speaking more than one language can only be positive. Similarly, wanting to keep your country united does not make you a repressive fascist.

But children are coming home from school with their message of tolerance, only to find that ordinary people are being insulted or applauded by the adults around them just because of the flag they choose to carry in the streets.

Even if someone did decide to draw an extra line on the map - which does seem to be the trend these days - let's not let our children down by painting everyone on the other side with the same prejudiced brush.