The approach of a people

Every other day, I’ve been trying to go on a run around the castle above my in-laws house. Unfortunately my knee has been giving me problems lately, so I haven’t been running as much as I’d like. This period of idle exercise time has made for an idle mind and there was something that was pissing me off every time I’d go for a run which was the graffiti that some bored kids had decided to spray on the back of a power substation tower. Naturally, it was pretty weak graffiti as it was painted by pretty weak hoodlums. In theory it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was getting to me as it had been there for a long time.
I went down to a general store on the Rambla, bought a can of cheap white paint, went up the hill and painted over it. All told it took about 20 minutes of my time and a couple of Euros of my money. No one saw me paint over it and no big deal was made of it. I did it because it bothered me and because no one else was doing anything about it. I did it because despite my split nationalities, I grew up as an American and my grounding in all things practical lies with the can-do attitude of the US.
This is an element of the US that I like a great deal. By and large, it’s missing in many Europeans countries. It’s obvious why as all of us in the US are descended from those who came to the country with this spirit in mind. There is a downside to this way of doing things though in that can-do leads to a head down, self-centered manner of thinking that is concerned about the individual first and everything else second. It doesn’t have to, but it is often the case. When it gets out of hand (and up until the recent economic meltdown, this attitude had gotten so out of hand) it was rending at the foundation of the country. One can only hope that in that strife, there is progress and advancement; not just dead-end polemics.
As way of an alternate example, Spain is a great deal different than the US. Beyond canonization of the pig, this is a socialist country. Yes, for an American that brings up all kinds of allusions to the Red Scare, but socialism is an absolute necessity. It’s just a shame it has been forever tainted in American English by shortsighted individuals half a century ago and now as a very thinly-veiled racial insult towards Obama. But Spain looks after its people. If those in power don’t, they are quickly not in power. People don’t tolerate a malfunctioning government. They expect that if they’re ill, the state is there for them or when they’re unable to work, again, the state is there. Education is free because it is for the society. This is sorely reminded of when seeing that my former university in California is now $10,000 USD a year to attend when it was 25% of that a when I graduated nine years ago.
The society like the one in Spain seems ideal. But much as how the can-do individualism of the US can too far in one direction, so can the faith in the state. People get complacent. They stop fighting for what they get and those who are power hungry slowly erode away all that was gained. So you end up with some American-Croat with a can of paint going nuts on cleaning up the neighborhood because not only is the local government not cleaning it up, no one is even calling anyone to come clean it up.
Every two or three days I make a run for croissants (and occasional xuixo, god those are good…) and I pass the Rambla in Figueres. There, beneath the shade of the trees in the lingering breaths of summer in an atypical November sit the old men discussing the latest construction projects and the old women talking about how bad their son’s wives are. I watch it and realize that as important as I think painting out some minor graffiti is, if in Spain there exists Death’s Waiting Room, then help me find a number so that I may sit on a Rambla bench and wait my turn when I grow old.
The approach of a people