This is the second time around so by now this story deserves a post. I have 4 children. The two eldest are girls. They are 16 and 14. They go to a British School in Madrid. First my 16 year old faced this problem. Now my 14 year old. I call it the 14 year old fascist problem. Because as you will see it is a problem that seems to start and end during the grade at which they are 14 years old. What is the problem? Fascism.

Allow me to explain. Spain was a fascist country. Not anymore. In Spain Fascism was a class issue. The wealthiest people of Spain were Franquistas and while Franquistas are now not even represented in an anti immigrant party as right wingers  they seem to be overepresented at my daughter´s British School. Now the good news is that these fascist sentiment seems to start at 13, develop at 14 and die at 15.   They are not present throughout most of the K to 12 experience.  Basically what happens is that Spanish boys, who make around half of all boys, and only Spanish boys, because girls do not join in, go fascist at the age of 13 and start verbally attacking their non Spanish and especially the non European classmates who are Latin Americans, Africans, Indians, Jewish or Orientals. My daughters sometimes get into trouble because they interfere in favor of the victims. Now what´s unexpected about this problem is that it goes away after 15. At that age, former friends become friends again, they forget the racist incidents and go on partying as if nothing had happened. Still tonight´s dinner conversation had to do with my second daughter´s anxiety over this problem which I find very tough to deal with.  And I worry about my third child, a son,  who will be 13 soon. When this issue first started I wanted to take my eldest daughter away from the school but the problem was mainly a boys problem and she insisted in staying and we agreed. Now with my second daughter same issue again.  I am quite concerned as to what is going to happen to my son if his classmates turn on him on an antisemitic, anti foreigner fit. I would find a year of racism pretty hard to put up with.

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bernard on July 5, 2007  · 

Hi Martin,

Spain always makes me smile…a country that is made of seperate (effectively…seperate languages/cultures/music/food) trying to act so “together”…at the expense of others.

This kind of thing happens all over the world…it happens here in Ireland (and now with so many foreign people moving here, its starting to raise its head..but thankfully not so much).

I would like to know why the change when the children turn 15. Is it just children from this school? Or this area (of Madrid?).

I am not sure if it is a Spanish thing many adults now (probable parents of these children) lived through or towards the end of the Franco period, and I would not think they wanted this kind of attitude to continue.

I dont know though, if the Spanish people are deeply racist/fascist.

Feliz fiesta,

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Luca Gervasio on July 5, 2007  · 

I did not think these things could be still alive…

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Kwisatz Haderach on July 5, 2007  · 

Most of this comment would have gone to the article about terrorism, but found that I rather connect the two stories together, as it’s more likely you note a new comment here, and I’m interested in your opinion.
You’ve said “We in the West did not start terrorism. We did not ask for 9/11.”, but this is so untrue. When did terrorism born? It did born in different times at different places, but you can easily spot the model: UK possessed Ireland, Spain possessed the Basque country, or Palestine’s land was chosen for the new Israel (with quite some help from USA).
Since Spain gave quite some autonomy to the south of the former Basque country, ETA pulled back. UK did the same with north Ireland, IRA pulled back. Of course the solution with Israel is more difficult, as both jews and palestinians call the same land their own. But for the other countries stayin away from the stupid “war on terror” propaganda pays off.

Terrorism is a bit like anti-semitism – people could happily live together with minorities, as long as they assimilate into the society. Of course I don’t mean total assimilation, loosing their origins and religions, simply accepting eachother and keeping themseves for certain standards. This works until you start to “overreact” and “overprotect” minorities, because that leads to anti-semitism. You can pretty much see this happening in most eastern-europe countries, where certain minorities like gypsys are overprotected – you can’t even say “gypsy-crime”, because this “hurts them” – even if 80-90% of the prisoners are gypgys. (and yes, there’s “gypgy-crime” officially in the USA, what we do call the country of liberty.)

But back to the topic of this article: facism and anti-semitism won’t die until we all decide to accept eachother, regardless of religions and origins – and everyones will be judged the same, regardless if it’s good or bad for him/her.

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Marion Fischel on July 6, 2007  · 

Hi Martin,

I wis you luck with getting through next year. I have six kids and brought most of them up in Israel and can tell you that the fascist phase happens to some boys everywhere. My 14 year old, who is now back in Jerusalem after spending the first term of this school year at a British school in Madrid, recently spoke to me about the Russians in Israel in such a way that I had to to tell him he was being a fascist. It is just an identity-affirming phase. One of my older sons, now almost 18, went through a phase of writing violent anti-Arab rap songs, even though we were never anti-Arab at home (of course seeing your friends’ brothers being blown up doesn’t help!).
As a mother of several, I can only advise you to keep your son very physically active (both for diversion and for fitness) during the next couple of years, maybe find out ahead of time what extra-curricular activities the will-be-fascists are engaged in and make sure he solidifies his friendships so that in the worst of cases the kids can say to him… we hate Jews but you are different… or, if you can’t stomach that, be prepared for him to get into several fights (that he is fit enough to win). In any event, it is something you should discuss with the staff of the school.
Good luck.

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Martin Varsavsky on July 6, 2007  · 


The same article in Spanish has so far 94 comments. If you speak some Spanish or using a translation tool you can see all sorts of views about this subject.

I was basically reporting what my children experienced

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Hasan Diwan on July 7, 2007  · 

I went to a British school, in Britain, and experienced lots of (latent) racism, sprinkled throughout British society. However, it is acknowledged to exist. Americans pretend discrimination doesn’t exist in their society.

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