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King Juan Carlos’s not-so-excellent vacation

King Juan Carlos’s not-so-excellent vacation

In his classic essay Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell describes an experience he had as a colonial police officer in Burma. Under public pressure from a crowd of townspeople, he puts down an out-of-control elephant against his own wishes, describing it as the moment he "first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East." As the people of the town debate the merits and legality of his actions, he wonders "whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool."

It’s tempting to wonder if any similarly penetrating insights or self-reflections have come to Spanish King Juan Carlos as he lies in the hospital, having injured his hip on an elephant shooting trip in Botswana that has ignited a firestorm of controversy. 

In addition to being about the least politically correct way to spend your vacation (was the baby seal-clubbing junket all booked up?) the optics of this were pretty terrible at a time when more than half of young Spaniards are out of work and Spanish banks are facing yet another downgrade. Plus, it turns out that the king — who is Spain’s official head of state — didn’t inform the government that he was leaving the country and might have used public funds in the process. 

Some leftist parties are calling for the king to abdicate or hold a referendum on returning to a republic. That doesn’t seem to likely at the moment, but the king may still want to stick to the beach next time if he doesnt want to his country’s surging ranks of unemployed.