Friday, October 31, 2008

That bastion of Anglo Saxon arrogance, The Economist magazine, has a review of Spain which begins as follows. It is difficult not to like Spain, not to enjoy the atmosphere of such a civilised society and not to admire the achievements of its people. In under 30 years, Spain has emerged from dictatorship and international isolation, built a successful economy and established an effective democracy. Perhaps no other European country has achieved so much, on so many fronts, so quickly. Yet Spain is also slightly ill-at-ease, slightly lacking in self-confidence. That was true even before the terrorists' bombs of March 11th that shook Spaniards to their bones, and the ruling People's Party of José María Aznar from the seat of government that it thought it had a lock on for another four years. Things were not altogether composed even then, and they are certainly more complicated now. . . Sadly, this is all I can get without a subscription. But I can be reached on should any kind soul want to send me the whole thing . . .

As I've said a few times now, whatever else it is or isn't, Spain is the most anti-American nation in Europe. Here's Trevor's almost-serious take on this, over at Kalebeul.

What with my annual medical and dental checks ups, this was my week for jabs. At the hospital lab, the guy is so good it's almost a pleasure. And he has an excellent bedside manner besides. That said, I was geared up for him to again ask me the question he must put to all Brits - "Ah, you are English. Did you know that Alexander Fleming was from a small village in England". But, no. Instead, he asked me if I lived in Combarro. Perhaps he remembered me telling him last year that Fleming was a Scot.

As someone who's told the filthiest of jokes - to both men and woman - throughout his adult life [and who laughed himself silly at jokes about lobsters and [?]Jayne Mansfield's bottom 30 or 40 years ago], I like to think I don't take a terribly moral view of what the inane Brand and Ross did on their BBC radio show. Rather, I feel they - and the BBC - failed to realise, though hardly for the first time, that there's a time and a place for everything. The fact that most Brits under 30 find them hilarious is irrelevant. Though rather sad when it comes to cruelty and personal abuse. In short, these obscenely overpaid clowns are part of the coarsening of British life which has depressed so many of us for at least two decades now. Here's a paragraph or two from a British columnist who puts everything in its widest - and most appropriate - context:- Loutishness in the British male is nothing new; to an extent it is in our national DNA and partly explains the nation's military success. But only in more recent decades has it been celebrated by sources of authority: the nation's public service broadcaster and a slew of magazines and advertisers. The tenor of most mainstream comedy, and other entertainment, has become abusive and the tone of much of the national conversation is now glib and cynical. This change started in the 1960s and ever since the liberal ratchet has turned only one way. The ultra-liberal analysis was that bourgeois behaviour and manners had to be attacked and broken down steadily as they stood in the way of freedom. Free from any constraints, ran the theory, we would become happier. Value judgments over whether Shakespeare was superior to EastEnders were out and anyone emphasising the importance of the bonds of family was shouted down. "Pushing the boundaries" became the priority of many modern artists, comedians and authors rather than entertaining or enlightening us. The ultra-liberal assault has relied, successfully, on the idea that we all wanted a little more licence to do as we pleased compared to our parents' generation. It hasn't been without benefits. Who does not have a friend who was able to disentangle himself from an unhappy marriage he once would have been stuck in for life? Or a gay friend or relative who lives a life unpersecuted in comparison to that of others just 40 years ago? Yet, when broadcasters and millions of individuals decide there are no limits to acceptable behaviour, we are in trouble. Beyond the boundaries of conventional manners, which involve consideration for others and decency, is not a land of happiness without limit and boundless expression, but a great deal of anarchy and cruelty. Manners and codes of behaviour are traditionally what humans construct to protect themselves from such an onslaught, and the Ross and Brand affair demonstrates what happens when they are abandoned.

As I say, those who find Brand and Ross funny and feel the reaction has been hysterical are rather missing these points. But, then, they do tend to demand age and, therefore, maturity. Plus the courage to take on the liberal establishment. As with multiculturalism and the place of the family in society, it has only recently become possible for anyone to do this without being labelled racist, elitest or whatever. Thanks to Brand and Ross - and a recession - we will surely see far more of a backlash now. No wonder the BBC has acted like a rabbit caught in headlights. The worms are turning and the licence fees taxed out of them are now at serious risk. This show will run and run.


Asked by the Voz de Galicia whether they felt it was right for the Xunta to 'incentivise' the more productive civil servants, 43% of those who could be bothered to vote on line said Yes and 57% said No. Pick the meat out of that. Perhaps the result was biased by votes from funcionarios with time on their hands. Which woud be all of them, I guess.


Jose Antonio said...

Colin said...

Excellent. Very many thanks, Jose Antonio.

moscow said...

Over-stretch? What over-stretch?

Tom Watkinson said...

Hi Colin,

My position re Ross/Brand is this: there's no black and white position on this. You don't have to find what they said funny to judge the media reaction as hysterical. In fact, you can even find what they said extremely unfunny and do this.

I agree that when times are hard, moral panics are easy to whip up. The telling point is how much JR has been (justifiably) attacked for being over-paid, compared with the rest of us.