The walls that won’t fall down

THE Spanish Costas should be contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize or similar.

I doubt there is anywhere in the world where there’s greater inter-nation harmony than here in Mediterranean Spain.  In a Costa Blanca community, where I first settled, there were residents from every EU nation and all got on famously.

There was international rejoicing when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Half-forgotten now, the many multitudes of tear-stained faces of many Eastern Europeans. Making up half of present day Europe their liberation from dictatorship arrived 45 years after the other half’s.

There are many walls that divide people; often they bring harmony. Naturally I was excluded at a women’s association business meeting.  I lost no sleep over it; it is perfectly sensible in many cases. When I told a friend that being the wrong gender I couldn’t attend she was astonished. ‘It’s the first I have heard of something like that,’ she cried. She is a South African by the way.  I believe the culture in Spain is that at family or community occasions women gather with women, the men with men. We Brits prefer to stick with our other ‘alf.

Social exclusion remains commonplace and many are in people’s minds and can be tougher to break down. I recall outrage over a Chester golf club’s reaction to a lady who had requested the use of their public phone. Obviously pregnant, her car had broken down outside the clubhouse. She wanted to call her husband.

It was a foul night; rather like one of those Dracula B movies in which the coach breaks down in the rain-soaked threatening forest at night. Because she was a woman members denied her access.

Apartheid exists everywhere from Belfast to Vladivostok, from South to North Poles. In the Soviet occupied Baltic States Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians were denied much that was given freely to Russian residents.

At the time the Western media was too obsessed with South African apartheid to notice it there or elsewhere. India’s caste system comes to mind; the Taliban and the Israeli-Palestine divide; on bad terms Cyprus. What about Britain that imposes employment quotas based on Race and sexual orientation?

When the apartheid regime was reeling from international indignation I wandered towards a loo on a ship’s quayside in Cheshire England.

I was brought up short; no, not that kind of caught short but by a sign over the loo’s four doors. Two were for ladies and gents; the other two for Asians.

I was taken aback; after all this was the UK for goodness sake. I made enquiries and discovered that this separation by culture and race was at the request of visiting Asian seafarers. Where are the anti-apartheid demonstrators when you need them?

World War 2 is often trumpeted as a war against racism; it was fought by American, Russian and British armies that were regimentally racially segregated. In 1940s America’s remakable coloured athlete, Jesse Owens, couldn’t sit next to whites in cinemas, on buses or in restaurants.

Yes there’s much sanctimonious double standards on the issues of caste and cliques, racial or otherwise. There’s still a long way to go and maybe it is time we all took a long hard look at ourselves.

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