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OPINION: Four things the Catalan crisis can teach us about social unity

The Catalan crisis has made headlines numerous times around the world over the past few months. It has sparked heated arguments between pro-independance and anti-independence supporters. And in many of the reports, the Catalan people – especially pro-independants – have been referred to as “troublemakers” and “nationalists”.

Eva Polymenakou, University of Bath

While some Catalan people might indeed be nationalists, not everyone is. And in this way, accepting a simplistic representation of individuals limits our understanding of complex human beings, and complex societies. Not only is this unfair, it is also dangerous, as it puts social cohesion at risk.

As a researcher of intercultural communication and education, I spend a lot of my time investigating how people can learn to accept and respect cultural diversity. I also look into how people can interact peacefully with those who are different from themselves. These are important skills to have, because all of us encounter pe..

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The Catalan crisis has made headlines numerous times around the world over the past few months. It has sparked heated arguments between pro-independance and anti-independence supporters. And in many of the reports, the Catalan people – especially pro-independants – have been referred to as “troublemakers” and “nationalists”.

Eva Polymenakou, University of Bath

While some Catalan people might indeed be nationalists, not everyone is. And in this way, accepting a simplistic representation of individuals limits our understanding of complex human beings, and complex societies. Not only is this unfair, it is also dangerous, as it puts social cohesion at risk.

As a researcher of intercultural communication and education, I spend a lot of my time investigating how people can learn to accept and respect cultural diversity. I also look into how people can interact peacefully with those who are different from themselves. These are important skills to have, because all of us encounter people who are culturally different to us on a daily basis. This can either be in the immediate reality or mentally – through things like newspapers, TV, books and films.

The Catalan crisis has shown how people living in the same country can have strongly opposing views – which are sometimes different to friends, family members or neighbours. And for some of these people, inflamed passions and lack of understanding have led to violence and misunderstandings, protests and the severing of personal relationships.

It is clear then that being able to accept and respect other people’s views and cultures helps people to live harmoniously in multicultural societies. And in this way, there is a lot that can be learnt from what has happened in Spain.

1. No two people are the same

In the midst of the current political conflict in Spain, it is important to attempt to understand what may unite the Catalan people, but also to develop an understanding of the unique complexity of each person. Catalan people do not make up a homogeneous group – based on their shared (national) culture. Nor does any given group of people.

The contemporary societies we live in are multicultural. And a broad understanding of culture involves differences among the citizens of such societies in terms of nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, abilities and disabilities. In this way, we all belong to multiple cultural groups and as a result have multiple cultural identities.

2. It’s time to ditch the stereotypes

To coexist peacefully in any multicultural society, we need to resist the human tendency of thinking in stereotypes and of ascribing imaginary identities to others. Thinking in stereotypes prevents people from grasping individual complexity. Stereotypes reduce individuals to a prevalent characteristic – which can be real or imaginary. Even when an attribute is real, it might not be stable over time and across different situations. This is because culture is something that is fluid, dynamic and context-specific – it is ever changing and always evolving, just like us.

Spain is reportedly ‘ready to discuss’ greater fiscal autonomy for Catalonia. Photo: AFP

3. It’s not just enough to have an opinion

Everyone has the right to agree or disagree with the fight of some Catalan people to gain their independence from Spain. In fact, in democratic societies, we are all free to hold and respectfully support our own opinion on any matter. But this right comes with a responsibility: to learn as much as possible about the matter at hand and about the people involved. For example, many people still don’t know that Catalunya is an autonomous region of Spain, with its own language, its own historical and cultural heritage.

4. Walking in someone else’s shoes pays off

One of the most powerful ways of understanding others is by stepping into their shoes, to see the world through their eyes. Empathy can be defined as:

The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state.

No doubt, empathising with others takes an effort and requires people to step-out of their comfort zone. But caring for others is a social investment – because everyone will ultimately benefit from a spirit of mutual understanding and care.

Thinking and acting in these ways – with more knowledge and with greater empathy, without prejudice, and without leaning on stereotypes – would allow people to value those who think and feel differently. And it would also make it easier for the voices of the “smaller”, the “weaker”, or simply the “other” to be heard and respected.

Eva Polymenakou, PhD candidate in Intercultural Communication and Education,, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The post OPINION: Four things the Catalan crisis can teach us about social unity appeared first on News Wire Now.

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Spain – Gas falls below 90 euros per MWh for the first time in almost two months

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The price of TTF natural gas for delivery next month has fallen below 90 euros on Friday for the first time in almost two months and closes a week marked by the decision of the European Commission to cap gas with a drop of 29, 36%.
According to data from the Bloomberg platform, gas closed this Friday at 83 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), 8.9% less than the day before and the first time it has lost 90 euros since last October 31.
After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on Monday to set a cap of 180 euros on contracts linked to the Amsterdam TTF index with a price difference of at least 35 euros above the average price of liquefied natural gas in the markets.

EU countries agree on a cap of 180 euros for gas with the support of Germany
In a report this week, the Swiss investment bank Julius Baer indicated that the chances of the mechanism being activated are low and pointed out that the chosen formula was not very effective in avoiding the multiplier effect that gas has on the price of electricity. However, he reiterated what was said in other previous reports: “Energy supply risks are minimal and prices should continue to decline in the future” due to the availability of raw materials from Asia to offset cuts from Russia.

Gas tends to fall during the hot months due to lower demand, but this summer it has reached historic heights as European countries were buying to face the winter with their tanks full and reduce their dependence on Russia. The price fell in September and October due to lower demand once the warehouses were full due to the high temperatures at the beginning of autumn, but in November it picked up again and 66% more expensive.

This article was originally published on Público

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Spain – The retirement age rises to 66 years

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Ordinary retirement at age 65 ends for those who have contributed less than 38 years. In fact, 2023 will be the last year in which this can be done since it will be necessary to have a contribution career of a minimum of 37 years and nine months to be able to retire with the reference age of the last century, since it was established in 1919, and once the year is over another quarter will be added to be able to do it without cuts in the benefit.
This requirement means that to access ordinary retirement at age 65 without loss of pay, it will be necessary to have been working, at least, since April 1985 for those who exercise this right in December 2023 and since May 1984 for those who intend to do it in January.

More than ten million contributory pensioners
In the last decade, and coinciding with the implementation of the delay program, the real retirement age of Spanish workers has increased by one year, from 63.9 in 2012 to 64.8 in mid-2022, according to data from the Financial Economic Report of the Social Security included in the General State Budget.

Contributory pensions will have a historic rise of 8.5% as of January as a result of the disproportionate increase in the CPI, while for non-contributory pensions the revision will be 15%. This review will place the average pension of the contributory system at 1,187 euros per pay, while the retirement pension will rise to 1,365, the disability pension will reach 1,122 and the widow’s pension will reach 847, as a result of applying the 8.5% increase.

The Social Security forecasts point to next year, and while waiting to find out the real effects that the rise may have on the payroll due to its “call effect” to bring forward retirement given the opportunity to alleviate with it the penalties for anticipating it, the number of pensioners will consolidate above ten million, with almost two-thirds of them (6.37) as retirees, to which will be added 2.3 million widows and almost one affected by work disabilities.

This record number of pensioners will place the cost of pensions at 209,165 million euros, the bulk of which (196,399, 93.8%) will be used to pay benefits, including non-contributory ones. Health care has a budget of 1,890 million euros and social services another 3,791, while the remaining 7,144 are dedicated to operating expenses.

On the revenue side, the largest contribution comes from the contribution chapter, which will amount to 152,075 million and will leave the gap with contributory benefits at 36,765.
The imbalance will be covered by a contribution of 38,904 from the Government, to which is added a chapter of others worth 18,116 and which includes everything from sanctions to asset disposals, among other concepts.

Read more of this from the source Público

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Spain – Workers protest in Madrid for a wage increase

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Inditex workers have demonstrated in Madrid this Saturday, at the beginning of the winter sales, for a wage increase and “decent” working conditions, during a day of a strike called by the CGT union.
Several hundred people have gathered to protest on Calle Preciados in Madrid in a day of shop assistants’ strike that was called throughout Spain, but which has had its greatest impact in the Community of Madrid.

This concentration occurs after the agreement was reached in Galicia on December 23 after several days of protests, in which the store employees of A Coruña reached an agreement with the group. Under this agreement, store staff, more than 1,500 people in Galicia, will have a monthly increase in salary bonuses of 322 euros during the first year, 362 euros during the second and 382 euros thereafter.

The secretary of the state section of CGT in Zara and Lefties, Ánibal Maestro, explained that the Inditex workers have decided to “take a step forward against precariousness”.

“The benefits are distributed among the shareholders and directors meeting and we demand a salary increase, so that they realize that the workers are the engine”, he has defended.

For their part, the CCOO and UGT announced this week that they will start negotiating with Inditex on January 25 at the state table on global wage measures that offset the impact of inflation in all group companies and in all territories.

Specifically, the CCOO recalled that in recent weeks, and in coordination with the UGT, the firm chaired by Marta Ortega has been asked to formalize the state table throughout this month to address global aspects of salary policy in all companies of the group and in all territories, bearing in mind both the situation and levels of provincial collective agreements, as well as the impact that inflation is having on the purchasing power of the workforce, as well as the commitment to review and improve the system of commissions for Store staff.

This article was originally published on Público

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