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Humane society

In the harshest of times, some politicians’ cynical perversion of our language is a criminal outrage

Difficult times breed forthright, hard-hitting opinions. Articles, for example, that sum up the world in 10 points. Ten reasons why things have come to this; 10 causes of the economic slump; 10 faults of Spanish democracy; 10 urgent measures that have to be taken; the 10 lies we all believed; the 10 reasons why the euro can't be saved (or why we have to save it). Hard-hitting opinion writers favor round numbers -- they like to list 10 points that explain the universe. All such explanations are cockeyed nonsense, of course. But hard times create a market for them.

I understand the feeling. I, too, want to open the paper one day and find an article that reads like a Holy Grail, because right now I am simply unable to see the "big picture" very clearly, and I never expected what is now happening. Some point exclusively to the markets and the greed that drives them; some to our regional governments; some to our tendency to live beyond our means; some to our politicians living beyond their means. There are lots of 10-point explanations. You just have to sit down and write them out.

In the press (better take a valium before you read anything in the news) depressing stories vie for our attention. Here we read of the healthy profits being made by publicly subsidized private schools, most of them in religious hands. That is, they are schools subsidized by taxpayers who are suffering from cutbacks in public schools. In the Society section, we see that the free public "handout" is to come to an end, by which babies, rich and poor alike, were given pneumococcal vaccines -- this, in spite of warnings from pediatricians that it will be far more expensive to treat the infections resulting from non-vaccination. Let the parents pay for these "free rides," in the words of Madrid's regional premier Esperanza Aguirre.

In the Society section, we see that the free public "handout" is to come to an end, by which babies were given pneumococcal vaccines"

And speaking of babies, we now turn to the embryo. Last month, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón wandered down a garden path more winding than he could have imagined. We are told that, in view of the government's dwindling popularity, the minister was trying to recover the support of his party's backbenchers (those of the religious right, that is). To this end he announced a surprise revision of the abortion law, which would criminalize even those women who had aborted due to malformation of the fetus. I don't know whether the minister expected to open the newspaper at breakfast and read the article entitled "No one has a right to oblige others to suffer," by Doctor Esparza, a child neurosurgeon. His arguments against Gallardón's plans were so convincing that surely the former Madrid mayor, cunning political fox that he is, will not want to indulge in a public debate with a medical man who has lived and worked for years among children who are condemned to an often fleeting life of deformity.

What I have no doubt about is that the perversion of language in such a cynical manner -- using the word "humane" to describe exactly the opposite -- ought be criminalized. All the more so in times like these, when the government has been gradually reducing the rights of the weak. I am not referring to civil servants, miners or victims of other layoffs. I would rather focus on three particular news stories: cutbacks in public education and profits in the private schools; withdrawal of medical attention for babies; and the criminalization of women who do not wish to bring a suffering creature into the world. Let me focus on these three headlines, all of them concerning children. Three headlines that contain the policy of those who now govern us. I don't need to analyze them, only to repeat them, so they won't be forgotten.

Difficult times breed eminent minds, who understand the nature of what is going on. Good for them. I never thought that the world would seem so incomprehensible to me. Like a girl who has failed some of her exams, I will be back once more come September.

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