Civil rights days

We've spent this past week in New York City, too busy to blog, and will be going home to Andalucía (Andalusia) in a few hours. Besides seeing friends and picking up our Spanish permanent residency visa from the consulate here (which obliged us to return), we managed to see the production of Tracey Scott Wilson's The Good Negro. (See review at backstage.com. More reviews at Critic-O-Meter.)

Most of the audience were, like us, old enough to remember the early, dangerous days of the civil rights movement, how precarious every little victory seemed to be, the spying and false information spread by FBI men to disrupt the movement, the murders, the exaggerated and impossible expectations everybody had of those bold, scared men and women who dared to lead. The play simplifies the history, but wonderfully complicates the accepted myth -- that somehow Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and the others in the Southern Christian Leadership Council were always virtuous, always sure of themselves, always focused only on the movement. It couldn't have been like that -- these were human beings, just like us, with all our common frailties. That's important to remember, because otherwise we will forget what June Jordan reminded us, that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

On a personal note, the play reminded me of an episode from my own past, which I've recounted here.

We were no heroes or demigods, but we dared, and in our bumbling and sometimes frightened ways, we did what had to be done. And even when victory looked most remote, we kept telling ourslves "Yes we can." And, finally, we could and did.

Frittering away a good crisis

My friend and colleague Don Monkerud sent a NYT article, March 16, 2009, Fruit Picking Causes Strife in Andalusia as Natives' Job of Last Resort, by VICTORIA BURNETT. Other American friends may be interested in my response, how things look to somebody (me) who lives there.

Thanks, Don. I hadn't see this article, but I have known about the problem. It's also serious in Jaén, olive country. Spanish bricklayers and plasterers trying to learn how to pick olives (their grandparents knew, but they've forgotten) and competing with all the Moroccans and others. Locally, in Carboneras, some of the Romanians we had come to rely on -- especially a very skilled electrician -- have gone home. There may be no work for them back in Romania either, but at least they have a home there and it's familiar. People from Mali and Mauritania are still arriving, however, risking their lives in overcrowded open boats to get to the Canary Islands, or joining the Moroccans to try to dodge the Guardia Civil patrols and land on some Andalusian beach.

So far, there hasn't been much anti-immigrant violence -- nothing on the scale of the vigilante patrols in the U.S. Southwest. But tensions are building. The Spanish Socialist government is limited in its options by its membership of the EU and the euro (the European Central Bank won't let its members devalue the currency or take other unilateral measures to stimulate exports etc.), and it is afraid to exercise the options it does have or to test the limits. And as you know if you've been reading Krugman, or even if you haven't, the ECB is far too conservative in a climate that demands bold measures.

My impression is that the U.S., China and Brazil are the countries best positioned to weather this crisis. Of the major economies, that is. Brazil and China are still growing (economically), though much slower than last year. Meanwhile, European socialists have forgotten what socialism was all about and, by fearing to break with their "liberal" (in Europe, that means pro-business conservative) colleagues, are letting this perfectly good crisis go to waste.