Monday, 16 July 2012

¡Que se jodan!

Ah… Here is a most amusing, nay: hilarious little scandal, dear reader, which may help you to understand how Spanish society works, or – alternatively – to despair of ever understanding what goes on in this weird place!

Last Wednesday, as I already told you, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appeared in the Spanish parliament to announce sweeping budget cuts. One of those was the drastic reduction of unemployment benefits. As he spoke the relevant words, the socialist MPs from the opposition benches burst out in cries of indignation (socialist MPs are heroic defenders of the poor and the working classes as long as they are out of office…) At that point, from the other side of the house, a lady MP listening to the name Andrea Fabra of the reigning PP party exclaimed, for all to hear AND full on camera:

‘¡Que se jodan!’

I blush. I hesitate to translate. And I summon all readers of a sensitive disposition to stop reading immediately here and now, to please leave this page, and to tune back in to Metis Meets Mittington the day after tomorrow for a marvellous Mayonnaise posting. If you read on, your indignation, shock and nausea are your own responsibility! Not mine!

The best way to translate ‘¡Que se jodan!’ is by a plain, straightforward, unabashed: ‘Fuck them!’

Now, the interpretation of this sharply formulated, sophisticated, and utterly educated parliamentarian interjection leaves something to be desired. To wit: Fuck WHOM?

The Socialist opposition, lefties in the street and the furious militants on Facebook, were quick to jump to the conclusion that Ms Fabra meant the Spanish unemployed. In the sense of: ‘Them lazy bastards who refuse to work and want to lie around all day drinking and smoking at the cost of the tax-payer can go fuck themselves – not out of my back pocket!’ Their indignation was correspondingly massive. Placards calling for her dismissal were immediately seen in the streets of Madrid (already in turmoil over the budget cuts), and a civic initiative was started on the social media to collect 500,000 signatures summoning her to step down, which reached – I believe – some 375,000 within the next 24 hours.

All to no avail and totally unjustified, of course. You see, Ms Fabra did not mean the Spanish unemployed. She merely meant the Socialist MPs in the opposite benches of the house. In the sense of: ‘We of the PP are only forced, much against our will, to solve the problems which those assholes over there caused in the seven idiotic Zapatero years, so they can stick their protests you-know-where and go fuck themselves!’

Now, as the above Facebook illustration shows, there are some minor grammatical minefields around this interpretation. The usual way to tell off a bundle of unappreciated folk you are looking at is ‘¡Que os jodan!’ – literally: ‘May they fuck you!’, without specifying precisely who will be performing the punitive carnal activity. ‘¡Que se jodan!’, in the third person plural, usually refers to a third party of unappreciated people who are not present in the room. As I understand it, it is just possible to use ‘¡Que se jodan!’ for a collective of unappreciated people who are present, but this then supposes that the speaker is employing the Polite Form to address her interlocutors, fully written out: ‘!Que se jodan Ustedes!’ (although ‘¡Jodanse Ustedes!’ would actually be more idiomatic), which would translate somewhat in the vein of ‘May Your Right Honourable Graces kindly go fuck your worthy selves!’

This then, Ms Fabra claimed she had been using.

And strangely, there are people who do not believe this.

Yes, dear reader, unbelievably, there are people who still insist that she ought to step down for insulting the Spanish unemployed, even after she explained what she really meant by an – admittedly somewhat impulsive – interjection. When the mayhem did not stop despite her apology, a scandalized Ms Fabra protested such lack of faith with the following words:

‘[Es] indignante [que el PSOE] haya aprovechado un drama social que afecta a 5 milliones y medio de parados, por los que siento absolute respeto, para orchestrar una campaña falsa y de difamacion contra mi persona’.

I translate:

‘'[It is] outrageous [that the Socialist party] has been abusing a social tragedy that affects five and a half million unemployed, for whom I feel the deepest respect, so as to orchestrate a false campaign of defamation against me.'

Indeed. Spanish business as usual. Simply one more instance of nobody really caring one iota about the issue at hand, and simply blowing up a minor gaffe to a mammoth scandal by way of suggestion and falsehood, so as to damage a political opponent.

For a full appreciation, you may wish to know something more about Ms Fabra. Although it does not do to visit the sins of the parents upon the children, it so happens that Ms Andrea Fabra is the daughter of Mr Carlos Fabra, the PP party’s political boss in the fief of Castellon (on the Spanish east coast), and probably – how shall I say this? – one of the more controversial politician alive in Spain today. Mr Fabra is a character (even he will surely admit so much!) It is he who built that world-famous airport, to the tune of some 150 million €uros, which has no license and where no airplanes land or take off, one of the most outstanding examples of needless Spanish prestige projects at taxpayers’ cost. It is he who then ordered to be built a 24 metre high monument to himself and his governance, at the site of that airport, for another 300,000 €uros.

Mr Fabra, who always sports dark sunglasses, which I fear lend him an eerie Godfather appearance, has been investigated several times for all sorts of corruption, fraud, bribery, shady dealings and embezzlement; but I hasten to add that none of these investigations ever came to anything. They were invariably dropped or shelved by the investigating magistrates (for one thing, because Mr Fabra could perfectly justify where his wealth came from: he explained that he had won top prizes in the Christmas lottery at no fewer than three or four occasions.) The latest of these judges, who is at present engaged in yet another fruitless investigation, recently cried out for help from the country’s top judicial authorities, because he was receiving all sorts of pressures to drop the present case as well… This judge, I have no doubt about it, is only one more fellow-travelling pinko who is ‘abusing a social tragedy so as to orchestrate a false campaign of defamation against' a political enemy. And is it any wonder, I ask? There is nothing more frustrating to them socialists, than that they fail to bring down the members of so prominent a clan of Popular Party big shots, pillars of conservative Spain, solid hopes for the democratic future of the land…!

And Mr Rajoy? What is he doing about all this?

The answer is: nothing. Nada. Zilch. Just as he has never asked Mr Fabra or any other tainted party member to step down, he has not asked Ms Fabra to renounce her parliamentary seat. You see, in Spain, giving a moral answer to a political scandal means that you publicly recognize that One Of Your Own may have been wrong, and that would be a sign of weakness. It is much better to ignore whatever transgression was committed, dismiss it as a cynical political conspiracy of The Other Party, and close ranks.

I understand the urge. I understand the principle. But what I do not understand, dear reader, is how this country is still afloat today with people caring so very nothing about truth and honesty…


  1. Send this article to 'Private Eye' in London, Alfred - - it is definitely publishable over here.

    1. Dear S,

      Thank you for the suggestion. I will consider it. I only hesitate somewhat because of possible consequences of too high a profile of one as disrespectful as myself. I have to live in this country, after all. And such consequences can be quite real...


  2. Perhaps the people are looking for someone to blame, and Ms Fabra just gave them a target? I do wonder whom exactly she was referring to :)

    1. Dear Ms Azra,

      Well, yes, in a way, Ms Fabra was handing the furious masses a John the Baptist on a silver platter, so to speak... And had it not been her, they would have found another target for their ire. Even so: her particular line of action stands out as one of the more blatant, and - if you ask me - amusing examples of Spanish practices.

      Yours, Alfred B Mittington

  3. Her actual meaning would be clearer if we had some evidence of how she normally addresses "that lot on the other side." If she uses os, then her comment was clearly meant for the unemployed. Does Spain have a Hansard equivalent?


    1. Dear David,

      Hmmm... an interesting point. There is, I believe, the Diario de Sesiones of the Cortes (the Spanish Parliament). Whether that report also include stray remarks by any of the 300 plus MPs in the house, I doubt however. I'll keep an eye out.

      Meanwhile, as you surely understood from my somewhat laconic treatment of the affair, I think it makes next to no difference whom the lady really meant. The true absurdity - and a telling one it is - is that an MP would stoop so low as to use such language in the national assembly. And get away with it!

      Spaniards pride themselves on their Democratic accomplishments after the Franco era, and not without reason. But as this episode shows: emotionally, they are still very addicted to the attitudes of their last civil war. Which makes me shudder...

      Yours, Al BM