Friday, October 26, 2007

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.


moskvitch10 said...

I have a feeling that you and your blog maties have been barking up the wrong tree all this time. According to El Pais the analysis of the remnants of a Neanderthal in Asturias revealed that he and his fellow Neanderthals were actually all red-haired. Isn't this the missing link? We are all descendants from frigging Neanderthals after all. Forget the celtic myth.

Anonymous said...

Colin, I always wanted to ask this: why do you use "catalunia"? There is an English word for that nation: Catalonia. Why are you avoiding it? It's on purpose, supposed to be "ironic" (my bet)?

moskvitch11 said...

I agree, don't know exactly why, but I am still a bit sceptical about the whole global warming theory. Having said that, the winters here in Russia have become milder and milder as the years have gone by, and this summer was particularly long and warm. Perhaps, and supposing it's true, global warming is not such a bad thing after all, uhhh?
You are right, Castille is not the exact equivalent of England. I, for example, was born in Asturias, not a separatist region at all, and not a part of Castille either. Then again, you could build on the Neanderthal story and make something up. Let us suppose you take a few samples of DNA code of the Asturian population, and try to match them with some Neanderthal DNA code (assuming you find some readily in Asturias). You then go and do another sample in another region of Spain (the farthest away possible, somewhere like Murcia or the Canaries). Then, if the proportion of Neanderthal-matching code is greater in Asturias (and it doesn't really matter by how much)..... you're basiclly on your way! Asturians would then be able to claim that they are descendants of Neanderthals to a greater degree than people from other parts of Spain, which would promptly be used as the basis in the case for Asturian independence. Archeologists and anthropologist would be set on the task of re-creating Neanderthal "folklore" (bone gnashing and tusk bashing sounds of various degree of intensity) and feeding habits. Underground groups would be formed in order to launch a violent campaign in favour of independence, thus hoping to provoke the sort of reprisal measures which could then be used to justify further violence,.....and so on.......sounds familiar?

Anonymous said...

Hello Colin,

Of course the term "Britishness" is hard to define for it refers to all people in the UK and as we well know at least 40 per cent of the population is not British - albeit some are part of the commonwealth but their cultures are far removed from the English variety. The term "English" in my view should refer to the Anglo Saxon part of the British Nation. I ensure that I state I am English - not British. The place has gone to the dogs! It is clear the politicians do not value culture all they are interested in is increasing immigration because it is good for the economy. A house of cards comes to mind,in the end gravity will not be denied.
Regards David

Colin Davies said...


1. Doesn't the article say the Neanderthal race became extinct? This presumably allowed the Celts to rush in and fill the Cantabrian/Asturian/ Galician gap.

2. I don't think there's any doubt the earth is going through a warm phase - and not the cold phase everybody was very worried about 20 years ago - but it's the cause of this which is open to debate. That said, there are some very simple, cheap things we could do just in case human agency really is the cause.

3. I laughed a lot at your justification for Asturian Independence but I just couldn't remember what it reminded me of. . .

Colin Davies said...


No, there's no ironic intent at all. Initially I mistakenly thought Orwell had used this form. But, having invented it[?], then I decided I liked it. And when I started being attacked by nationalists for using it, decided to keep it. I fancy I once found several other uses of it on the internet.

BTW - The English for Andalucia is Andalusia and for Zaragoza it's Saragossa but I don't use these either.

Anonymous said...

Moskvitch, are you by any chance making fun of the democratic self-determination right? This might interest you. Or not... but it clearly proves "something".

a) Por primeira vez na súa historia Galicia concorreu con personalidade propia a un Congreso internacional. Someteu á consideración dun organismo adxunto á Sociedade das Nacións –formado por representantes de case tódolos pobos ou minorías que non atopan salvagardados os seus máis íntimos sentimentos e intereses baixo o réxime oficial do Estado en que viven– un documento no que se fan consta-las circunstancias que xustifican o dereito de Galicia a ser considerada como unha nacionalidade [SUMMARY IN ENGLISH FOR COLIN: the old League of Nations is saying that Galicia IS indeed a nationality]

b) the old III International [Komintern] said exactly the same: Galicia is a nationality.

So both conclusions are the same. And we are talking about the two important political organizations of the moment: bourgeois and communist.

But of course, it has to be some conspiracy, eh? Who's going to save the dear old Spain? ;)

If you think the DNA thing may make a nation, please by all means go ahead. Not quite serious, especially if we follow the standards of both the League of Nations and Komintern. I'm pretty certain that those delegates would have appreciated your "theory". That would have made the difference... such a revolutionary theory... Theories likes the ones defended by the PP: "Valencian language is not Catalan". O "Cómo Convertirse En El Hazmerreír De Los Filólogos Con Sólo Dos Lecciones Magistrales" por el Ilustrísimo Licenciado Don Hermenegildo Rebúznez del Guijarro Estepario... ;)

Anonymous said...

Suggestions for names for the rest of Spain:

Estados Unidos de Iberia (USI) -- wouldn't necessarily have to include everywhere in Iberia just as the USA hardly includes all the states in America, just those that are united. This would probably still be able to be maintained as a monarchy, given the mayority of those pissing on/burning photos of the Royals would be living in neighbouring republics.

Federacion Castillana-Andaluza -- it worked for Serbia and Montenegro (for a few months at least). The people of Extremadura and Murcia would probably not complain too much about having to put up with this label (while those in most of Cantabria and La Rioja are considered to be ethincally Castillian). Anywhere else would probably be independent, or anexed by Galicia, Catalonia or the Basque Country.

Mozarabia -- forcing acknowledgement of the role of Arabic culture in these regions would surely be good for racial relations between Mozarabs and their brothers arriving from across the strait.

Expanha (Expain in English) -- for obvious reasons.

Visigo-vandalia -- in homage to the Visigoths and Vandals who first arrived in these regions after the Romans.

Spain: After all, as the banner on the terraces says: "Galicia/Catalonia/Euskadi is not Spain".

moskvitch12 said...

How about?
1) Iberia Minor
2) Northern Morocco
3) Charnegolandia
4) Maketaria
6) Transbasquia
This would include Asturias, Castille, Extremadura and Murcia. Rioja and Cantabria would be "anschlussed" by the Basque country - again using the dubious but effective technique of blood sampling (this time looking for Rh+ or Rh(-) or whatever that was).
Aragon, Valencia and the Balearics, I agree with XC, could be taken over by Catalonia in one fell swoop. The Canaries, finally, would be annexed to the Kingdom of Morocco - by force.