Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Fist things fist

"Spain is the laughing stock of Europe, of the whole world," said the lawyer. "Here we have vacations upon vacations, and nobody gets any work done"

Almudena Grandes

Sometimes you come up against truths that hit you like fists, and I have yet to recover from this one. “I never discuss politics with clients, but I’m going to tell you something. I understand the employer’s association. This country is hopeless.”

He was a lawyer and was speaking to two youngish businessmen, who had come with him to the Social Security office to register the business they had just set up. I was sitting in front of them, waiting my turn to register as the employer of my new, part-time cleaning lady, an immigrant with all of her residency papers in order. They contrive to make such things so difficult and time-consuming in Spain, but that is material for another article. Meanwhile, I was privileged to overhear the conversation going on just behind me.

“And me,” said the same voice. “I am going to work my ass off 12 months a year, so my employees can take a month of vacation? What goes on in Spain — you just can’t understand it. Really. We are the laughing stock of Europe, of the whole world. Here we have vacations upon vacations, and nobody gets any work done. I ask you, why does a 30-year-old guy have to take a month of vacation? Older people, I won’t say no to that, but the younger ones ought to take a week and that’s that.

“But what are you saying, man?” This was one of the clients, a businessman, who was trying to shut down the flow of words. “People have to have a rest, be with their children.”

“Well then they shouldn’t have them! Look at me, I haven’t got any children, why should I? Because I can’t afford them yet. And I’ve been like this all my life, see? All my life. At 18, when my friends were out there, chasing girls and drinking, I was at home studying…”

“That’s probably why you’re like this now,” said the client half under his breath, but the lawyer paid no attention and rode right over the comment.

“And now, what? Now they’re all unemployed; now they all tell me, you’ve been lucky, man… But I don’t owe anything to anybody, see? And I don’t belong to the PP or anything of the kind. I voted for them of course, but I’m not going to vote for them again because they cheated me, because they said they weren’t going to raise taxes and now they’ve gone and raised them. To climb out of the crisis, what we have to do is cut taxes, cut taxes so people will have money to consume; that, and the freedom to fire an employee when you don’t want them. Then you’d see creation of employment…”

“Look, sport,” the other, who had remained silent, now exploded, “it was you who started talking politics, right? So I’m going to tell you something. To get out of the crisis, what has to be done is hike taxes on big fortunes, the ones they never touch, not declare a ‘fiscal amnesty’ to forgive them the taxes they have never paid. See? Twist the arm of the banks and oblige them to grant credit for once, not take people’s vacations away, because…”

“But what are you saying?” the lawyer raised his voice, too. “What you’re saying is nonsense. Well, I mean… You haven’t had the intellectual development…”

“He’s calling you ignorant,” said the other client to the one who had just spoken up.

“Are you calling me ignorant?” said the man referred to.

“Look, the number before ours has just come up,” said the lawyer. The blinking figures came to the rescue of the cornered neoliberal. “I’m going to ask, see what’s going on.”

The next number to come up was mine. When I got up I looked back at the perplexed young entrepreneurs. They were still murmuring about that unexpected verbal outburst, as aggressive as the impact of a stone in your face.

In any case they, who on April 30, 2012 were in the Social Security office in Jacometrezo street in Madrid, know that everything in this article is rigorously true.

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