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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Monday, November 03, 2008

Down and Out in Paradise: Against All Odds, Brigitte and Mumu Strive to Forge New Lives for Themselves at Mallorcan Airport

"Isn't it a pity?
Now, isn't it a shame?
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity?"
-- George Harrison

Strip away all hope of redemption and the customary happy ending and it would be a storyline worthy of Charles Dickens. Since it is more of a case of German idealism floundering on the rocky shores of reality, it perhaps would be better suited for the pen of Hermann Hesse.

In Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, a forty-eight-year-old petite and shy German woman has lived in exile at Son Sant Joan Aeropuerto for more than ten years. Although she is variously known as Biggie, Bettina, and Brigitte, staff at the airport refer to her simply as "La mujer del gato."

That is because her sole companion is a white Persian cat that she calls Mumu. Little else is known about him. He could have been brought to Palma by Brigitte, picked up somewhere on the island, or more than likely rescued from the grounds of the airport itself.

After all, most airports have substantial populations of feral and stray cats. This is due first of all to the fact that baggage is not the only thing that careless airline personnel are notorious for misplacing.

Unconscionable individuals exacerbate the problem by using airports as convenient dumping grounds for cats that they are either no longer willing to take care of or to take along with them to their new destinations. (See Cat Defender posts of November 5, 2007 and November 28, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent to Save Them" and "Lovable Ollie Finds a Home at Manchester International Airport After Workers and Vendors Come to His Aid.")

Despite the obvious hardships, Mumu appears not only to be well cared for but, perhaps more importantly, contented with his lot as well. "Er est wie ein Hund," Brigitte told the Aachener-Zeitung on October 13th. (See "Wohnort Flughafen Palma, Abflughalle links.") "Ich gehe mit ihm kurz nach draussen und dann erledigt er sein Geschaft."

As for Brigitte, the confines of Son Sant Joan are pretty much all of the world that she has seen for the past decade. As far as it is known, her worldly possessions consist of three suitcases, a few blankets, and some books that she maneuvers around the spacious terminal on a trolley. Mumu usually rides in a stroller. (See photos above and below.)

She and Mumu sleep sprawled across the benches in the terminal and she does her laundry and ablutions in the restrooms. She takes her meals at the airport's cafes and spends the remainder of her days reading novels and newspapers as well as working crossword puzzles.

Not a great deal is known about Brigitte and even most of the airport scuttlebutt never has been confirmed. It is nonetheless fairly safe to say that she hails from a small town in Rhineland Pfalz where her eighty-one-year-old mother still resides.

She worked as a customs specialist until 1989 when that job ended along with an ill-fated romance. She then fled to Mallorca where she worked for a while as a waitress in Cala Ratjada and later as a home care attendant in Cala d'Or.

Never plentiful to begin with, the work soon ran out and she wound up marooned at Son Sant Joan. She has not given up but it is not easy for a German ex-pat to secure employment in Mallorca despite the fact that the Treaty of Maastricht grants the citizens of all member states the right to travel, work, and live wherever they please within the European Union (EU).

"Ich lese viel Zeitung. Vielleicht gibt es ja doch eines Tages mal wieder Arbeit," she told the Aachener-Zeitung in the article cited supra. Old prejudices never die, however, and most jobs in Mallorca go to Spaniards.

"Inzwischen werden hier aber nur noch Spanier beschaftigt," she complained to the Aachener-Zeitung. Once again, political integration and multiculturalism have been exposed to be every bit as fraudulent as their equally mentally retarded siblings, immigration and colonialism.

Consequently, she is forced to scrape by on odd jobs and whatever food and money she is given by the twenty-two-million passengers who fly in and out of Son Sant Joan each year. A popular vacation destination with Germans since the early 1950s, it is home for at least part of the year to such Teutonic notables as former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, model Claudia Schiffer, former tennis star Boris Becker, and pop singer Heino.

She should not, however, be mistaken for a bum. The food and money that she receives is freely given, not panhandled. She also keeps herself clean and is well-groomed in her customary jeans and pullovers.

"Ich store niemanden," she told the Aachener-Zeitung. "Ich klaue nicht, ich bettele nicht, ich tue nichts Verbotenes."

Nevertheless, reaction to her presence has been mixed. Acting in their dual capacities as lickspittle for the capitalists and the bourgeoisie on the one hand and as the persecutors of the poor on the other hand, the police initially attempted to give her the bum's rush but were ultimately forced to back down.

"She has never bothered anyone and as this is a public building she can use the facilities -- washing in the toilets or cleaning her clothes," Marta Fernandez, a spokeswoman for AENA, which manages the airport, grudgingly conceded to The Guardian on August 9th. (See "German Woman Spends Decade in Palma's Airport.")

The harassment that she and Mumu have been forced to put up with at the hands of the police and others in positions of authority is no doubt precisely the type of blatant class discrimination that Anatole France had in mind when he sarcastically spoke of "la majestueuse egalite des lois interdit aux riches comme aux pauvres de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans la rue, et de voler du pain."

She also appears to be well-liked by the workers at the facility, some of whom even have expressed compassion for her. "Things didn't work out so she has come to live here," housekeeper Maria Jesus Rueda Garcia related to The Guardian. "She can get by and is not a beggar because she has income. I have seen her take money out of the Cashpoint. This could happen to us all."

All things considered, Brigitte seems to have adjusted as well as possible to her reduced circumstances. "Neunzig Prozent der Leute sind nett zu mir," she told the Aachener-Zeitung. "Ich fuhle mich eigentlich gut, wie Mitte zwanziger."

The overly romantic Spaniards have theorized that Brigitte was abandoned by a lover in much the same fashion as Theseus deserted Ariadne on Naxos. This is a claim that she categorically rejects.

"Alles Unsinn," she declared to the Aachener-Zeitung. "Aber das meiste, was uber mich geschrieben wird, stimmt nicht."

Wolfgang Wiesner of the German Consulate in Palma thinks that she might be mentally deranged but nevertheless is totally unwilling to lend her a helping hand. "Gemass des Europaischen Fursorge Abkommens mussen Deutsche in Spanien von den hiesigen Behorden so behandelt werden wie Spanier," he told the Mallorca Zeitung on August 7th. (See "Wie eine Deutsche mit ihrer Katze auf dem Airport lebt.")

She certainly does not appear to be any crazier than anyone else, unless being poor, alone, and down on one's luck now is considered grounds for committing an individual to an insane asylum. Besides, millions of individuals have lost their economic footing in this rapidly-changing, corrupt-as-hell, globalized world.

Thousands have taken refuge in airports. Zum Beispiel, it is estimated that at least one-hundred-ten individuals call Heathrow home while another twenty reside at Gatwick. (See The Independent, August 13, 2008, "Terminal Blues: What It's Like to Live in an Airport.")

As Angleterre continues to morph into a police state, officials have begun handing out Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs) to individuals who take up residence at airports. So far, at least four residents of Gatwick have been ticketed and as a consequence face the prospect of spending substantial time in the cooler if they do not permanently vacate the premises.

Although all airport residents have their own hard luck stories, one of the most intriguing involved a man known simply as John who lived at JFK in the early 1990s. Once a week he would be picked up outside British Airways by a chauffeur-driven limousine.

He would return by limo later in the day sporting a haircut, shave, and clean clothes. Apparently there were strict limits to his benefactor's generosity because John was soon again forced to return to rummaging through the trash for his next meal.

Perhaps the most famous airport denizen of all time was a stateless man who reportedly lived for eighteen years at Charles de Gaulle Aeroport near Paris. It was his plight that furnished the plot for the 2004 movie, The Terminal.

Despite the hardships and blatant job discrimination, Brigitte insists that she likes the mentality of the Spanish and is dead set against returning to Deutschland. "No way. Life is better for me here," she declared to The Guardian in the article cited supra.

Quite obviously, whatever happened to her at home is far too painful for her to ever contemplate returning. It was individuals like her that George Harrison had in mind when he penned the following lyrics:

"Isn't it a pity?
Now, isn't it a shame?
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity?"

If she ultimately decides to stay on in Palma, her options are rather limited. Being an EU citizen, she is eligible for financial assistance from the Mallorcan authorities but for whatever reason she has chosen not to pursue that avenue of endeavor. Although she is willing to work, the discriminatory hiring practices of the Spanish limit what she can accomplish.

Worst still, all of the hoopla churned up by the nosey capitalist media has robbed her of her anonymity and undermined her position at Son Sant Joan. While it is conceivable that someone will come forward and offer her a legitimate job that pays a living wage, it is far more likely that she is going to be treated henceforth as a freak by the hoi polloi.

Being down and out is certainly bad enough in its own right, but caring for a cat on top of that is doubly difficult. Luckily for her, Mumu seems to be especially well-behaved and to have simple needs.

More to the point, it is amazing that Son Sant Joan has allowed Brigitte to keep him, especially in light of Mallorca's appalling animal rights record. Cats and dogs, for instance, are routinely hanged, shot, starved, and beaten to death. (See photo above of a cat that was killed and then hung from a tree.)

Furthermore, it is common practice for kittens either to be killed immediately after entering this world or to be tossed into the trash to die on their own accord. This same horrendous practice is commonplace at the United States' naval base in Rota, Spain. (See Cat Defender post of January 19, 2006 entitled "Public Outcry Forces Army Navy Country Club to Scrap Plans to Evict and Exterminate Long-Term Resident Felines.")

Sterilization is practically unheard of and there are very few animal shelters on the island. Filmmaker and journalist Stefan Eckart took a candid camera into some of Mallorca's breeding farms and shelters in order to record many of these outrages during the making of his documentary, Tierelend auf Mallorca -- zum Leiden und Sterben geboren. (See Marl Aktuell, July 21, 2007, "TV-Reportage" Tierqualerei auf der Ferieninsel.")

The German ex-pat community is doing what it can to correct this deplorable situation but it is an uphill struggle. Heino, par exemple, is caring for a large contingent of stray and feral cats at his villa in Port d'Andratx. (See photo above.)

The Mallorcans' disdain for the rights of animals is by no means limited to their abhorrent treatment of cats and dogs but rather extends to just about all living creatures on the island. For instance, it is not uncommon to see cows and goats shackled and left to starve to death in the street. (See photo above.)

Bullfighting and cockfighting are still major attractions and the catapulting of quails into the air so that they can be blown to bits by sportsmen is common. Ducks likewise are hurled into the sea and then hunted for sport.

"Katastrophal" and "hoffnungslos" is how Marlies Beuse of the animal protection group Capdepera described the status of animals on Mallorca to Jungle World of Berlin on October 16th. (See "Rettet Udo! Nicht schon: Im Urlaubparadies der Deutschen fuhrt der Tierschutz ein Hundeleben.") She went on to state that they are treated as "Dinge behandelt" as opposed to living, sentient beings.

As those sickening revelations make painfully clear, there is not enough sun, sand, mild Mediterranean weather, rich celebrities, and multimillion-dollar villas scattered about the island to conceal the petit fait that when it comes to their treatment of the animals Mallorcans are savages. Being a cat-lover herself, it is difficult to imagine why Brigitte would want to remain in such a feline hellhole.

Be that as it may, the atrocities committed against the animals of this world by the Mallorcans must not be allowed to overshadow the burgeoning problem of homeless pet owners, such as Brigitte. In the United States, for example, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that between five and ten per cent of those living on the street own cats and dogs.

For all too long, these unfortunate individuals and their pets have been ignored and laughed at by society. Now, thanks to Feeding Pets of the Homeless, all of that is changing ever so slightly.

Based in Carson City, this thoughtful organization collects and delivers pet food to food banks and soup kitchens in both the United States and Canada. These donations are then in turn doled out to the homeless so that they can provide for their cats and dogs.

Fully realizing that cats and dogs who are sans-abri also from time to time require medical attention just like their domiciled cousins, this organization also pays veterinarians and other non-profits to treat them. (See photo above of a man who has lost pretty much everything he ever had except for the undying love of his dog.)

The grossly corrupt, inhumane, and unjust policies pursued by governments around the world already have turned tens of millions of individuals and their beloved companions into dispossessed beggars and this deplorable situation is only going to worsen in the days and years ahead. Of course, it goes without saying that most Americans do not want to hear that.

In their eyes, poor people fully deserve their rags and distended bellies; only the crooks on Wall Street and the hypocritical bourgeoisie are entitled to wallow head over heels in governmental largess. Tant pis, they never will change their thinking on this subject.

All is not lost, however, in that there are enlightened souls elsewhere who know differently and are more than willing to spare an ounce or two of kindness and understanding for the Brigittes and Mumus of this world.

Photos: S. Llompart of the Mallorca Zeitung (Brigitte and Mumu), Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Brigitte and Mumu), Marl Aktuell (hung cat and starving cows), Horst Ossinger of the Press Association and Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Heino and cats), and Kirsten Bole of Feeding Pets of the Homeless (man with dog).