For one reason and another, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, wants to promote whatever ‘Britishness’ might be and, in addition, to get national agreement on ‘British values’. The October edition of Prospect magazine carries the opinions of an array of luminaries on this issue. They make fascinating reading – especially as most of them think it’s a misguided exercise – and can be found here. The opinion most relevant to life here in Galicia is that of the historian, Michael Fry. To quote - The question of British values is bedevilled, like so many others, by the inability of the English to distinguish between England and Britain. When the English make up 80 per cent of the British, this may not seem to them important. When they are trying to keep the other 20 per cent on board, it is. Ask an Englishman to define English values, and he will no doubt say fair play, decency, that sort of thing. Ask him to define British values, and he will no doubt say exactly the same. But fair play is a large nation’s value. A level playing field always favours the big battalions. The wee [small] fellow gets his way by stealth and guile, by the garrotte from behind, the shot out of the darkness, or else by sheer nimbleness of mind and body. Just ask the Celts. It is the only way to beat the plodding English. Fair play is not, cannot be, a Celtic value . . . What precisely are the British canons of conduct that can transcend and sublimate these merely national norms? Would they not have to challenge the national norms in some way: say, to prompt the English to be less arrogant, the Celts to be less irresponsible? If not, they are scarcely worth the formulation.
Four questions immediately spring to my mind . . . 1. What would be the ‘Spanish values’ to set against the elusive ‘British values’?; 2. Is the search for Spanish values as bedevilled as that of Britain’s because the ‘Castilians’ think their values are those of Spain?; 3. Would the people of at least Catalunia, the Basque Country and Galicia make the same point about smaller nations needing to have different [lower] values?; and 4. Do those who acclaim the Celticness of Galicia agree that a defining element of this is a rejection of fair play? Actually, there’s a fifth question – If fair play really is regarded as a luxury by Galicians, would this distinguish them from any of Spain’s other ‘tribes’? I stress that all of these questions are, of course, rhetorical . . .
Following up yesterday’s reference to the difficulties he got into when the Spanish opposition leader made his alleged gaffe about the relative importance of global warming, here’s what a leading UK politician has had the courage to write on the subject of priorities - Whatever it may now be conventional to say, the single biggest challenge is not global warming. That is a secondary challenge. The primary challenge facing our species is the reproduction of our species itself. I guess he, in turn, will now be pilloried. You can see the full article here.
The Spanish politician in question, Sr. Rajoy, is in even deeper water today because of his dodgy relatives. This time it’s a question of his brother-in-law, who – despite having nil qualifications – was given the job of Finance Director of a huge white elephant project commissioned outside Santiago by the last PP president of the Galician Xunta, Manuel Fraga. But, as this sort of nepotism is endemic in Spain, I suspect he’ll suffer no lasting damage on this account.
The current Spanish national anthem has no words. As this is said to be embarrassing for the country’s sportspeople, a competition is on for appropriate lyrics. These will be adjudicated by a panel comprising four university professors, a composer and a sportsman. I don’t envy them. This Herculean task has all the marks of one capable of displeasing all the people all the time. Guaranteed fun.
Which reminds me – I read somewhere that nationalists define themselves by the people they oppose. Or, in other words, by their enemies. I rather get the impression - but could, of course, be wrong – that this is increasingly being done here by contrasting the ‘nations’ of Galicia, Catalunia and the Basque Country with the so-called ‘nation of Spain’. This is much more confrontational, I guess, that referring to the ‘nation of Britain’ as this actually encompasses Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What is missing here in Spain is an equivalent of England, that part of Britain which isn’t the same as its fractious minor members. I can’t see that ‘Castile’ would be an acceptable equivalent. Nor can the problem be solved by re-labelling Spain ‘Iberia’ and having its constituent parts as Spain, Galicia, etc. Unless of course, you made Portugal part of Iberia. Perhaps there is no solution. If so, Spain will just have to muddle along, in classic British fashion.
Please . . . no comments telling me the technical definition of ‘Britain’ doesn’t include Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or whatever. This is anorak stuff. No one cares.