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THE CULTURAL TIGHTROPE

Happy to help, sir

The point is NOT ONE OF LAW, IT IS one of trust and respect you gain respect not by wearing a uniform, but through your own behaviour

So there I was, wandering down Passeig de Gràcia with a friend for the first time in who knows how long, minding my own business as the sun peeked cautiously though the clouds, promising to turn this into a beautiful morning stroll in the sunshine, when out of nowhere appears a clearly very agitated uniformed individual barking instructions. The individual in question was wearing a Mossos d’Esquadra uniform - for those who don’t know, that’s the Catalan police force.

What on earth had got this Mosso so wound up to be openly shouting at us from two metres away in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia? Well, according to him, it was the fact that we had both turned around and blatantly ignored him when he had shouted for my companion to pull her mask up over her mouth.

Although not strictly relevant to my point here, which will become clear soon enough, let me present the facts as I saw them. I had turned around a few seconds earlier when I heard something, but I certainly hadn’t seen a police officer or heard any actual words. I can’t speak for whether my companion turned round, as I don’t know if she did or not, but she hadn’t heard anyone telling her to put her mask up, or she certainly would have done. As an aside here and again not relevant to my point, she’d pulled her mask down to breathe more easily for a few seconds, as she is a smoker. Now, I know what you may be thinking - the Mosso was perfectly within his rights to stop us and even fine my companion if he thought she was flouting the law, which is exactly what he proceeded to do, and I have no argument with that. As I have already said, the point here is not one of law.

The point is one of trust and respect. As I explained to the Mosso, if we had seen and heard him, we would have heeded his warning about wearing the mask properly. We do not go around disrespecting members of the forces of law and order. Having said that, the Mosso’s initial reaction should not be one of distrust and disrespect towards two ordinary citizens strolling through the city centre. Once he had heard our respectful apology and realised it was a misunderstanding on his part - no one had deliberately ignored him - he should have left us with a warning about being more conscientious and let us go on our way. But he didn’t. He demanded documentation and would have fined my companion had his partner not come running over shouting “To the Batmobile Robin!”, forcing him to abandon his petty crusade and depart with a scowl on his face.

Like myself, my companion has lived in several other countries, and she was appalled at the treatment we received in her first brush with Catalan law enforcement. The way I see it, you gain respect not by wearing a uniform, but through your own behaviour, and distrusting and disrespecting citizens is no way to go about it.

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