Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Frontiers of doubt

Book review By Henry Pinna

Paco Oliva’s recently published book “The Frontiers of Doubt” written in his very characteristic bold, vitriolic and iconoclastic style, makes an important contribution and fills an essential gap in the literary series of contemporary books that deal with the Gibraltar question.

The author focuses on the importance of the Spanish dimension which, he points out, is sadly absent from our social and political milieu, and which he says is one of the intrinsic elements needed to bring about the equilibrium necessary to find a realistic long-standing solution to this 300 year old contentious dispute.

He claims that because of our understandable reluctance to take on board this Spanish dimension, while at the same time giving vent to what he considers to be a newly found overrated and exaggerated nationalism, we run the risk of losing one of the ingredients which make us have our very unique characteristic, which is not English nor Spanish but a synthesis of both, that is Gibraltarian.

In his very incisive analysis of the situation he chastises the political class for not having displayed ingenuity, integrity and courage to accommodate the Spanish dimension in a pragmatic and constructive manner, but instead for having manipulated our colonial status and economic paternalism to maintain a status quo largely favourable to the colonial power.

Paco Oliva has a Hobbesian world-view and portrays a keen enthusiasm for parliamentary democracy, market economy, and an expanding European Union with its alleged vision of diversity and pluralism within a non-monolithic union of peoples. And provided we know how to play our cards correctly, it is within this political, social and economic context that he envisages a place where Gibraltar can thrive, prosper and develop in an atmosphere of reconciliation and partnership with our neighbour Spain, without us having to sacrifice our unique identity and integrity as a people. Only time will tell whether this historic vision will become a reality given the many pirouettes and unpredictable twists and turns that history is subjected to.

Although the author tends to repeat himself and over-emphasize some of the salient themes of the book (in essence he could have said the same in 350 pages rather than in 500) the book is an essential read for all those who have an interest in the complex intricacies of the so-called “Gibraltar-problem,” and are willing to acquaint themselves with his views however controversial these might seem. All in all a refreshing and thought-provoking book which will spark off some soul-searching and self-criticism and prompt some readers to question some of our historic baggage and values, which through the passage of time have attained the unquestionable status of inviolable dogmas.

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