surinenglish

Individuals

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.