Several weeks ago I was watching a program on the BBC called Would You Risk Your Own Life to Save a Complete Stranger? In Britain, few people apparently would. Far more common is the story of a young girl who was beaten severely in a London subway by several “youths.” The attack took place on a crowded commuter line filled with grown-ups who stood by, watched, and did absolutely nothing.
Similarly, last year in Spain a female university student was badly beaten by her male schoolmates in the presence of a fairly large group of her friends, which included many boys. Once again, nobody intervened.
Not long ago boys (let alone men) were expected to be gallant to those of the opposite sex. Boys who did not behave according to this code were considered unmanly and would have to live with that stain forever.
Reports of violence against women all over the world make it clear how things have changed. It would appear that women are being killed by men in record numbers, and even by other women, and now women are being beaten up in public or even killed in public, in front of disinterested and no longer chivalric men.
This brings us to Saturday, August 2, 2008, when Dr. Jesús Neira, a Spanish university professor, stopped at a gas station in Majadahonda, a Madrid suburb, then headed toward a nearby hotel with his son to take refreshments. Neira saw, on the street by the hotel and in plain view of the public, a man whom he believed to be assaulting a slightly built young woman. Neira yelled at the man, whose name was Antonio, to stop treating the girl (who turned out to be Antonio’s girlfriend) in such a rough manner. According to Neira, his precise words were “No es de hombres golpearle a una mujer.” (“It is unmanly to strike a woman.”) He advised Antonio that he would call the police, after which Neira turned and walked into the hotel, presumably to do just that. Antonio, incensed and, according to certain testimony, on drugs, reportedly charged after Neira and knocked him flat on his back. The closed-circuit TV videos from the hotel (posted on the web) seem to indicate that Neira was struck, while flat on the ground, again by his assailant. This likely explains why he fell into a coma a few days later.
Antonio, the accused assailant, was arrested some days after the incident and charged with attempted homicide. At the end of May 2009, Antonio’s petition for temporary release was denied, and he sits in jail awaiting trial. Violeta, Antonio’s girlfriend, has staunchly denied that, on the day in question, she was a victim of any violent behavior at the hands of Antonio. She insists that she was in no danger and that if Neira had not intervened he would not have ended up in the hospital. These declarations have resulted in much acrimony between the Neira family and Violeta and her father. Violeta has appeared several times on Spanish television, defending her version of this incident. In the face of hostile TV hosts and journalists who have turned these appearances into shouting matches where Violeta generally stands alone against a backdrop of insults, derision, and uproar emanating from an audience that appears to loathe her, she has claimed repeatedly to be the victim of a public lynching by the media.
Neira, on the other hand, suffered grave complications, and for several months his very life hung in the balance. Contrary to the expectations of many, he survived his long ordeal and was eventually allowed to return home after two months in a coma and a total of eight months in the hospital. He has since had a pacemaker installed. Meanwhile, the story attracted tremendous attention all over Spain, turning Neira into a Spanish national hero, with wings of school buildings named in his honor. Professor Neira has received many honors, one of which is Madrid’s Medalla al Mérito Ciudadano (Medal for Civil Merit), and he was presented with an award by Bibiana Aído, the Socialist minister of equality. Neira has signed a contract to appear as cohost of a leading morning television program. Additionally, he has accepted the post of president of the Consejo Asesor del Observatorio Regional de la Violencia de Género, a type of advisory council on matters relating to sexual violence.
At the official launching of a book honoring Neira’s heroic actions, the guests of honor were his wife, Isabel; the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre; and Socialist Minister of Equality Bibiana Aído, whose own office contains a subdepartment dedicated to the problem of sexual violence. The proceeds from the book will be applied toward the cause. In the book Neira is quoted as saying that men should always show deference toward women, that violence committed by men against women is moral ugliness itself, “the ugliness which makes horrible the soul of monstrous beings.” Speaking at the launching ceremony, Esperanza Aguirre declared that Neira simply was not capable of turning his back on a situation in which he believed a woman was being endangered by a man. Neira’s action was no mere coincidence but the consequence of his personal philosophy and his outlook on life. Aguirre went on to emphasize that Neira is an exemplar of the way one should behave when faced with violence against the weak.
Aguirre undoubtedly spoke the truth, though she might have inadvertently revealed more than she had intended. Certainly, Aguirre is admitting here that, in the area of fighting and physical strength, women are inferior to men; in other words, that they are weaker. Obvious, yes, but politically incorrect, and the Ministry of Equality will certainly not act on this assumption.
Of course, this whole issue of sexual violence should not be placed under the Ministry of Equality at all, since the stipulations of the new law against sexual violence (la Ley Integral contra la Violencia de Género) are based on an assumption of inequality. This law is being applied in the sense of discriminación positiva, which is best translated as “reverse discrimination” or what is opaquely called affirmative action in the United States. According to Spain’s leading socialist daily, El País, aggression committed by a man against a woman will be treated as a far more serious offense than if a man were the victim of the same type of violence. What would be a misdemeanor if committed against a man could be judged a felony if committed by a man against a woman. In Spain, pompous proclamations to the contrary notwithstanding, not all individuals are equal before the law. But then, progressives have never believed in such a thing. Nor have radical feminists, since special-interest groups seldom if ever are satisfied with a tie: They want to win.
Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora, the eminent director of the fine Spanish conservative intellectual journal Razón Española, has, in a personal communication to me, given valuable insight into the background and character of his friend Jesús Neira. He describes Neira as a man of “profoundly conservative thought” and as one of the most chivalrous men he has ever known, a
prototype of the 19th-century gentleman, a human type now practically extinct. Very probably this same chivalrousness was what impelled him to defend a woman being attacked, something that, in the Spain of today, practically nobody else would have done.
Dr. Neira has suggested that an essential element in the prevention of violence against women should be the proper education of children. Too often, he sees young boys treat young girls as if those girls were merely other boys; they must be instructed to treat girls with greater deference and respect. Laudable sentiments these, but progressives will do nothing of the sort.
At the launching of the book on Neira, Equality Minister Aído lavishly praised his actions in the defense of women at risk and pledged to make sexual violence one of the top priorities of her ministry. If she is serious about this, she will be forced to undertake measures that may be deemed politically incorrect. It turns out, for instance, that among immigrant groups the incidence of sexual violence is disproportionately high. Apparently, Minister Aído herself is aware of this problem, for she said on Spanish national radio that the relevant statistics have risen alarmingly in recent years. In 2004, 22 percent of reported sexual violence involved immigrants, a percentage far greater than that of immigrants in the country. In the first 11 months of 2008, that figure rose to 45 percent.>
ACAIP, the Spanish syndicate of prisons, has reported that the percentage of immigrants in Spanish prisons has risen by 228 percent in the last ten years and that 35 percent of the present prison population is foreign born. If this trend continues, by next year half of Spain’s prisoners will be foreign. A professor of sociology at a prominent Spanish university and consultant on the law against sexual violence claims that immigration is an important factor in the increase in domestic violence in the last 15 years. According to the professor, his statement would “bring consequences and criticisms upon me,” but he emphasizes that in half of domestic-violence killings, at least one of the parties is an immigrant. Much of the traffic in illegal drugs in Spain is controlled by immigrants. And immigrant groups, legal and illegal, are becoming bolder as they find legal-aid groups and other champions with political clout willing to stand up for them. In mid-April, mobs of immigrants attacked police commissaries in the Canary Islands, having previously invaded discos, beaten up their clientele, and started street fights. Police were injured in these attacks.
One should not, of course, promote xenophobia, but a nation has a right to decide precisely who its resident foreigners should be. Obviously, Spain’s unending flood of illegal aliens must be stopped. Even land-locked Switzerland, whose illegal-alien problem is relatively small compared with that of Spain, France, and Britain, has taken some steps in that direction. On April 4, MinutoDigital reported the adoption of a new Swiss law stipulating that immigrants whose applications for residency have been rejected, and all other immigrants sans-papiers, will no longer be able to contract matrimony on Swiss territory, thereby removing one of the classic avenues through which illegal immigrants have become legal residents. Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, on the other hand, and the Spanish Socialists in general, have responded very weakly, if at all, to this problem. A few years ago Zapatero legalized en masse hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens in Spain, provoking the anger of many in the European political class.
The Socialist government claims that 77 percent of all sexual violence is not reported. However, according to the Comité Organizador del XVII Congreso Nacional de Psiquiatría Legal (the Organizing Committee of the 17th National Congress on Legal Psychiatry), whose theme for this meeting was “Abuse, Psychiatry and the Law,” 40 percent of all men accused of sexual violence turn out to be innocent because, among other reasons, women often abuse the law on the advice of their lawyers. A psychiatrist on this committee explained that in a significant number of cases, paranoid women report sexual violence and other forms of abuse, but these women themselves are guilty of these offenses against the men they accuse. This appraisal of the legal situation is supported in broad strokes by another distinguished member of the organization who asserts that some forms of sexual violence or spousal abuse are used as a “tool to win benefits” (once again following the advice of lawyers). For the record, Violeta, much vilified in the Spanish media for supposedly being one of those women who do not report such violence, cannot be classified as a “non-reporting female.” She has declared frequently and publicly that she once had a boyfriend, a policeman, who beat her up, and that she did report him to the authorities; her advice to women is to turn in the man in question. She insists, however, that she was in no danger from Antonio on August 2, 2008. We will only know the complete story after the trial.
Minister Aído appears to have little in common with Jesús Neira since, as she was praising Neira to the high heavens, she was simultaneously promoting a new law that greatly expands access to abortion and defines 16-year-old girls as “adults” who do not need parental approval or even notification to have an abortion. In mid-April she roundly rebuked the Catholic Church for opposing the law, suggesting that the Church limit herself to preaching about sin. She further stated that she had assembled a team of experts for advice on this subject, who of course did not take “religious criteria into account.” She then attacked all those opposed to her abortion law, saying that she wished people who were so ardent in the defense of the unborn would be as ardent in defending the rights of the already born. On April 24 Aído announced that the Socialist government is committed to fighting for equality for homosexuals, women, and others, not only at home but abroad. Addressing the Fifth Congress of the Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Transsexuals in Madrid, she boasted of Spain’s diversity and paid respect to the rainbow flag fluttering above them. A fellow participant and well-known member of one of the most leftist political parties in Spain railed against the Catholic Church and other religious bodies for their attitudes toward homosexuals, asking the government to end all subsidies to these churches in order to “move forward in the values of freedom.” Another politician attending the conference declared that “the Left has never been so united in its defense of diversity”; still, much more had to be done—for instance, the creation of a network of hospitals to perform sex-change operations. Spain is in an economic crisis so deep, with unemployment so high, that she could not possibly be the “happy” country Aído says she is. Yet money must be set aside for sex-change clinics.
The call for expanded abortion “rights,” however, has not been echoed by everybody. Pro-life groups have been actively collecting signatures against this pending legislation. Their objective was to collect 112,138 signatures against the proposed law in one day, corresponding to the number of abortions carried out in Spain in one year. On the appointed day, however, gang violence broke out against these antiabortion groups. In one instance, six young goons attacked a group of antiabortion volunteers, after spray-painting over their placards. One unwary and unprepared male volunteer was assaulted by a woman who threw herself on him, knocking him to the ground, then kicked him and beat him in the face, producing multiple contusions. Another man who was signing the petition had his lip split by hoodlums. Two female volunteers of the D.A.V. (Derecho a Vivir—“Right to Live”) were attacked, including a 60-year-old woman who was assaulted and thrown to the ground.
Reacting to these events in the spirit of Neira, a few employees of a nearby supermarket rushed to protect the victims. They were successful. Despite their efforts, however, Jaime Díaz, one of the volunteers, was hospitalized. Antonio Tostado, another volunteer, claimed that his organization would take legal action. Derecho a Vivir hopes that the police will act appropriately against the aggressors, whom the volunteers say they can easily identify.
I wonder how vigorous the authorities’ response will be. After all, they are dealing with hoodlums who commit violence in support of a progressive agenda, and in Europe rather ineffective action, if any, is usually taken against these types of thugs. True, all the proper ingredients are in place—men beating up women, victims of violence rushed to the hospital—but these are the wrong women, and the victims are on the wrong side. These are antiprogressives, probably strong Christians, and thus the people most despised and feared by the left.
In September 2008, shortly after the beating of Neira, Spanish sources reported that a Rumanian immigrant was murdered in Spain, allegedly by her male Rumanian partner. In the same month as the Neira incident, a Brazilian immigrant in Spain killed his female partner, also a Brazilian, by beating her to death with bricks, or so police investigators claim. These are gruesome events and should have made the front page for months, but progressives are afraid that this type of coverage would “inflame passions” against immigrants and lead to xenophobia. The Neira/Violeta/Antonio case was safer: All three were white nonimmigrant Spaniards.
Predictably, Spain’s left did not tolerate the country’s love affair with Neira for long. A highly placed member of Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Transsexuals (FELGT), an influential constituency within the Socialist Party, expressed outrage at Neira’s suggestion that young boys should be taught to treat young girls with deference. He is an old-fashioned machista, a male supremacist, says she, a “pre-fabricated hero,” and an extreme rightist. She claims that Neira does not emphasize sexual equality. Now others on the Spanish left are joining the FELGT leader in denouncing Neira. One well-known left-leaning journalist has gone so far as to label him “antidemocratic.” Dr. Neira has further infuriated left-of-center Spanish opinionmakers by calling U.S. President Barack Obama a wimp who has no knowledge of history. Needless to say, his opinion of Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Rodríguez Zapatero is far from favorable.
In the face of these charges, Neira’s convictions remain unchanged. To his attackers, he responds, “They can say what they want, I am not going to pay attention to them.”
So far the attacks on Neira from the left appear to have had scant effect on public opinion. Recently, viewers of a top-rated television program voted him the most popular Spaniard of the year, ahead of movie and soccer stars. His good friend Gonzalo Fernández de la Mora has told me that it is a gratifying experience to accompany Neira around Madrid: He is constantly approached by strangers who greet him and tell him how much they admire him.