Post-Colonial Jam

Down in the southern heat of home, people are getting mad. For those of you not familiar with the long running story of the Gibraltar/Spain border queues, the tl;dnr version is that since Gibraltar is British territory and Britain is not part of the EU Shengen treaty, travellers still need to show their I.D. and pass a customs control when crossing the frontier. The Spanish government implements a ‘go slow’ policy at the border crossing whenever they want to give Gibraltar a kicking, and right now people are feeling the hurt. This follows up some recent agitation over Spanish incursions into Gibraltarian waters that has gotten a lot of local groups mobilised in protest. So right now news from friends and police reports are saying that the border queues have reached 7 or 8 hours which is crazy, with dehydration being a major issue. I myself remember all too well as a child the torture of sitting through a not infrequent 2 hours crossing, cooking in the sweltering heat, agonisingly aware of your summer days slipping away second by mind-numbing second.

Of course this would make anyone mad. Of course it would make people feel persecuted. Gibraltar is effectively a small town and these traffic jams stretch far back to impede drivers not even going to the frontier. Couple that with having to stop movement across the isthmus to allow planes to land and it ends up affecting nearly everybody who has to go anywhere. When I’m at home I’m a committed pedestrian in a country that has too many cars anyway, but people have a range of health and family needs so while I would encourage people to walk around much as possible for the good of the environment and traffic control, going anywhere out of town is still going to be hell.

The most disturbing thing that I see coming out of this though, is a whole slew of misdirected, misspelled rage that has the potential to confuse and distract people from the causes of the problem and worse, but innocent people in danger. Gibraltar has a lot of Spanish nationals who commute across the frontier to work and contribute to the local economy, which is doing a damn sight better than Spain’s, and is in fact a godsend to the recession-stricken border town of La Linea de La Conception. As is typical in these situations, Spanish workers are more often found doing menial work in the service industry, jobs which are less appealing to locals. As is also typical in these situations, some local jobseekers are upset about immigrant labour. Nothing out of the ordinary, but coupled with the border queue situation things start to get a little more ugly. I keep up with several local messageboards, here’s a small sample of what’s cropped up today:

‘Guys if this going to continue today and we are going to end up with a worse traffic situation than yesterday by the looks if it, shouldn’t we stop all cars coming into Gibraltar….. Only locals can enter or people with local ID cards? The rest must walk in and use public transport.’

‘Enough of this Inhumane madness. Lets close the frontier on OUR side this time and leave it closed until Spain shows Gibraltar some political maturity and respect. we survived very well last time.
Gibraltar was a much nicer and safer place to live.’

and the grand prize goes to:

‘food for thought, during one of our friendly but heated coffee morning debates.
it was suggested by?! sorry no names mentioned, Paul, that when we have big problems like this we should get the list of all spanish workers and indiscriminately terminate (sack) 20% of them at one go, and so on. how would the spainish gov deal with that, would la linea be up in arms i think so!?. very quickly.
while this suggestion is far from democratic, this is after all how they deal with us, constantly on a day to day basis in an undemocratic facist manner.
all GIB has ever done is aid them from as far back as the plague continuing up to their civil war on to this present day at a minimum of giving them work. so a penny for anyone ‘s thoughts.’

I haven’t shown the comments, but there are some people calling these posters out on their bullshit, and I’m sure many more just not deigning to participate. But there are enough that support these statements and similar posts that I feel they should not go unchallenged.

Not only is it immoral and illegal to punish vulnerable workers for simply coming from a country which is behaving badly, but it is also shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to the harmony of our community and the hope of improving the political situation. Leaving aside the fact that life was not exactly peachy for Llanitos when Franco’s Fascist administration closed the border (just ask the people who lived through it without contact with friends and loved ones on the other side as well as many basic amenities). Expensive property prices and a lack of living space at home has also motivated many Gibraltarians to take up residence in Spain, and they commute across the border along with Spanish nationals. Living in Spain among Spaniards doesn’t make them any less part of our community. On top of that consider that Gibraltar is a much more international community than it used to be, with people from all over Europe and the rest of the world living and/or working there. This is good for the country, the economy and culture, as well as raising our profile higher on the international stage, which in light of incidents like these queues, is something that we need badly.

Regarding the Spanish specifically, this isn’t a case of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Yes, we are British, and we are Gibraltarian, and of somewhat complicated ethnic and national identity and background but the Gibraltarian community encompasses more than just Gibraltarian nationals. A lot of Gibraltarian families, I would say the majority, have Spanish blood in them somewhere down the line and many of us have Spanish friends, lovers and family members. Protectionism and vicious nationalism will get us nowhere and only serve to break the community that we are proud of. Of course the border won’t close, and Spanish workers won’t be sacked. It’s stupid to take these ideas seriously. What I am more worried about is people taking this warped sense of ‘justice’ into their own hands and taking out their frustrations on those around them, either physically or just by spreading hate.

The truth is that Madrid isn’t doing this for the benefit of its own people, and in fact many Spanish nationals are suffering along with local residents. But the narrative of enmity suits the jingoistic, fascist-descended PP just fine. There are many in Spain who have their own problems with their government, and are suffering under their corruption and mismanagement. To them, sabre-rattling over Gibraltar is a sideshow to distract from these issues, and we should also recognise it as such. The current UK government is dominated by reactionary pricks of the highest magnitude, and pandering to jingoistic, colonial sentiments to appeal to them, clamouring for gunboat diplomacy, is quite frankly anachronistic and embarrassing.

Everyone who lives on, around, or nearby the Rock has common interest at stake here. How many times have the linenses, even the customs officials themselves, been shafted by their own government, and denied pay and public services? This isn’t the time for nationalism, an outdated ideology which is the cause of the problem, and not the solution. What we have is a clear issue of elites bullying ordinary people for their own convenience, pushing us around to make a show and flex their muscle. How they would laugh to see us shout and throw rocks at each other. How superior and untouchable they must feel when we lash out against our co-workers and neighbours, fellow working, struggling people because they’re the closest thing we can reach in the moment. I bet they laugh so hard that they stain their trousers with spilled gran reserva, and have to quickly wipe themselves down with embezzled hundred-euro notes.

These are the bastards. And they’re pulling the strings from a long way away. But they’re not completely untouchable. I see that a lot of the more sensible people at home are coming up with good plans to protest – demonstrations, petitions, letters. Even the more extreme statements (mass dropping of trousers and mooning, anyone? I think that just cutting through the fences alongside the border makes for a better plan, myself) make a more constructive contribution than lashing out at our neighbours. Reach out to your neighbours on both sides of the border, talk about how badly it affects us all and how we need to stick it to the people who made this happen . Ignore those who are trying to make it a nationalistic dispute. Remember who the real bastards are. The elites in Britain are cowardly and interested in their own careers, not in our happiness or rights as British citizens. The Spanish elites are similarly inconsiderate of their own people. They think we’re an ignorant mob. Show them that we’re not. We’re rational, dignified and intelligent human beings. And we’re as mad as hell.

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~ by theserpentscircle on July 27, 2013.

2 Responses to “Post-Colonial Jam”

  1. Well said.I agree,we must keep a level head here as some of the comments made on both sides are increasingly worrying and are not doing us any favours.It is of course,no coincidence that Rajoy is due to face Parliament on corruption charges probably this coming week!

  2. Excellent! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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