Thursday, February 25, 2016

Look In The Mirror: Corruption trials

Is there a point at which sympathy replaces contempt and when one questions the need for prolonging the agony? She has been unwell, we know. Perhaps these public appearances - ones in court - are for public consumption and are designed to elicit sympathy. Her reputation destroyed, her dealings dissected and vilified by court and media, her life seemingly destroyed. Why continue with applying the pain?

Maria Munar, the one-time princess of Mallorca, cuts a pathetic figure. She has been in prison since July 2013, serving a six-year sentence for one of the corruption cases in which she was a central figure. Three months after she entered prison, the Supreme Court confirmed a five and a half year sentence in respect of a different case. She has returned to court, admitted wrongdoing in relation to yet another. A prison term for that will be substituted by a fine.

It was not just the sad, drawn and despairing countenance which spoke as though there had been a bereavement. There was the mourning black of the dyed hair. All vitality gone, it was as though she were attending her own funeral, shrouded in black, making confessions prior to a meeting with very much higher authorities than the Earthly ones who control her punishment.

It wasn't only Maria. Next to her on the hard, wooden bench of the courtroom was her one-time dauphin, Miquel Nadal. An extraordinary photo. Maria gaunt, Miquel almost as though he were suntanned despite his own incarceration for much the same corruption cases that burst from the one-time Unió Mallorquina. Yet his expression was strange. Fixed, wide-eyed. He's lost weight. How many more times will he be obliged to sit on that unyielding block of cold courtroom wood?

To his right was another. Francesc Buils, the tourism minister before Miquel. He is a courtroom regular too. Some while he ago, he was conveying a positive impression of his time inside. He even managed to get some words to the media. He was playing basketball, going to the gym, making the most of a bad job. He had appeared almost cheerful. Now, in this same photo, it seemed as though the weight was returning. The expression was blank, resigned.

In another court, many miles away, the one-time president of the Spanish confederation of businesses and co-partner in the Grupo Marsans empire, Gerardo Díaz Ferrán, wondered last October how much more pain and damage could be inflicted on one person. He referred to his "regrettable life" but also to what he claimed was a trial for something for which he had been previously acquitted. His regrettable life includes various illnesses from which he is said to be suffering.

Back in Mallorca, we have the various cast members of the Nóos trial. We have the close-up photos of the Infanta. There is no hiding place for her in the courtroom. For the most part, she is expressionless. She seeks to disguise reactions, but in the examination of her eyes, does one detect fear and anxiety? If there were once these with Maria, they have gone. The fear has gone, replaced only by the knowledge of inevitable greater humiliation. The eyes are dull. The life has gone.

The Infanta, for now, has Urdangarin. They can arrive at court together. But she seems to share something with Maria, with Miquel, Francesc and Gerardo. They are so terribly alone. It is this exposure of solitude as much as the rectitude of prosecutors that impel ever more such exposure that can shock as much as the empty expressions. Backs were turned long ago, just as backs have now been turned on Cristina, Urdangarin and Matas. The falls from grace, either confirmed or awaiting confirmation or acquittal, are made naked in front of the relentless examinations of prosecutor and voyeuristic media and public.

It is of course because of who they are. There are countless others who endure the same but who are never identified in such ways, who never parade personal grief in seeking the eliciting of sympathy. These are trials, in a sense, of reconciliation, of a nation at long last coming to terms with its unwritten rules that could permit immoral behaviour determined from on high. Matas, Munar, Díaz Ferrán; they are the coalition of political and corporate lives with their mutual benefits. The prosecutors, the public want, demand retribution, yet there lurks an uneasy sense that this reconciliation is one for a process to which society was often complicit. To what extent do the empty expressions mirror those of a public - not all of it, but some - which drew its own benefits and behaviours from tacit approval?

Perhaps there needs to be a broader reconciliation and examination of conscience. Sympathy? But for whom? Check the mirror and wonder if the failings in these faces are those of others. 

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