Friday, July 06, 2007

Living in Spain, it’s probably clearer than elsewhere in Europe what the opposing political forces of the age are. On one hand, a commitment to a European superstate. On the other, growing demand for recognition of restored ‘nations’ such as Catalunia, Euskera, Galicia and Scotland. Not to mention Asturias, León and Cornwall. Or the Arabic kingdom of El Andalus. Quite where the nation states of Britain, France and Spain will end up is anyone’s guess but, meanwhile, here’s an interesting quote from a review by Eric Kaufman of a book called “A World beyond Politics: A Defence of the Nation State”:- The book’s powerful argument is that the universalist hopes of western political elites are on a collision course with the popular desire for moorings in place and time. As I say, this is nowhere more true than here. So, I predict the skin-deep love affair of the Spanish with the so-far beneficent EU will one die day an ugly death. Tears at bedtime.

Meanwhile, as a good example of the tensions the EU produces, we read this week that, whereas the competition-oriented Spanish are in favour of Brussels’ latest ideas for [de]controlling the production of wine, the protection-loving French are all against them. No great surprise there. And nor will we be astonished when the measures are watered down to accommodate the French. Who can then continue to produce increasingly expensive wines that nobody wants. Perhaps it was wine that Mr Sarkozy had in mind when he recently persuaded the Commission to reduce its commitment to free competition in the EU.

As of next September, kids in Galician secondary schools will not only be taught in both Spanish and Gallego but will also have to learn English plus one other foreign language. This is expected to be mainly French. If I were still a parent of a child this age, I’d be seriously concerned at what economists call the opportunity cost of all this. Especially as, if history is anything to go by, very few of the poor sods will emerge with an ability to actually converse in either English or French. But their understanding of the grammar will be impressive. And some of them will go on to become ‘philologists’ – whatever they are – despite being unable to order a drink outside Spain.

I mentioned the other day a member of the PSOE party had written to EL Pais to query the BNG emphasis on Gallego that contributes to this linguistic [over]load for pupils here. There’s also evidence that the right-of-centre PP party has broken cover to withdraw support for the tripartite pact on furthering the local language in education. The BNG, it says, has opened the door to monolinguistic teaching. But, as I’ve said, what other policies can it have? The poor pupils, of course, are merely the innocent victims of all this politicking.

Back in the UK, average personal debt has soared to nearly £55,000, or 83,000 euros. This is twice the level in Continental Europe and the latest increase in the bank rate has led to predictions that thousands of people will shortly lose their homes. Thank God this can’t happen here. Or maybe it can . . . Earlier this week, a man from Vigo went into his bank to loudly complain about his house being repossessed. Shouting ‘You’ve taken my home and forced me to take my own life’, he then fatally shot himself.

Not a lot of laughs today. But life’s like that sometimes.

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