Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I read recently that the tabloid British press was taking advantage of the weakness of the government to ride roughshod over legal restrictions on the reporting of alleged crimes. But I wonder whether anything has been as bad as the case here this last week of the media ‘lynching’ of a young man who’d taken his partner's baby to hospital and then, in short order, found himself accused not only of killing but also raping her beforehand. And with his face and initials all over the newspapers and the TV. Less than a week on, he’s been released and the air is thick with apologies from various bodies - including the police and the hospital - for devastating his young life. Over the years, I’ve often wondered about the assumption of innocence here in Spain and the reporting that takes place immediately after a murder. But never as much as after this episode. No wonder there was a fulminating editorial in El Mundo today, calling for heads to roll.

On the same page in El Mundo there’s also a cry of pain around Spain's poor ranking in the 2009 Index of Corruption. Which shouldn’t really come as a great surprise to anyone, given the diet of accusations and arrests to which we’re accustomed. Inured even.

The most current of these is a contract killing of a mayor in a small village where, according to one commentator, every single inhabitant there had a good motive for the crime. The background is said to be the (ex) mayor’s refusal to go along with some huge construction deal. Or was that another case I read of?

Gibraltar is back in the Spanish news, with the right-of-centre PP party whipping up a storm about alleged British advantage-taking of Spanish government weakness. There was, of course, a cartoon in one of the national papers, in which a Spaniard was featured standing knee-deep in water, facing up to a Briton also knee-deep in water and surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, with the Rock behind him. As ever, the Brit was wearing a sort of bowler hat and sporting a moustache. The Spaniard, however, was not dressed in a matador costume. I guess we should be grateful the former wasn’t toting an umbrella. Possibly to stop other Spaniards from taking him to be a Galician.

In Spain, the departed are usually buried in a small niche in one of the walls in the local cemetery. Which are actually rented from the church, I believe. In the small town of Cee, up our coast, one of these was broken into last week and the body removed. As the deceased had been a property millionaire and there was a family dispute – or possibly would-be family dispute – about inheritances, it’s suggested the corpse was removed to assist DNA testing. Which is not something those of us involved in discussions with Alec Jeffreys in 1984 ever envisaged as being a future application of his astonishing invention. But, then, we probably didn’t imagine he’d get a knighthood and a Nobel Prize out of it either.

Finally . . .

Galicia: I will be posting my notes tomorrow from the book Otro Idea de Galicia. For today, I just wanted to reproduce these paragraphs from the chapter on the Galician language. Of course, my reason for doing so will only be properly understood by those who’ve followed the comments of a certain Galician gentleman – I use the term loosely – who lives in Britain but has strong – albeit absentee – opinions on the subject. The rest of you might want to knock off here for today.

It has to be said that one of the problems in the way of normalising Gallego has been some of its defenders. It’s always been difficult to explain why, almost 100 years after its foundation, the Royal Academy of the Galician Language hasn’t been able to deliver a proper grammar, dictionary or spelling scheme. This fell to another organisation, the Institute of the Galician Language(ILG). But, unfortunately, the ILG used a pretty controversial methodology, in line with keeping as far as possible the Spanish spelling used hitherto through ignorance. In the face of this, the ‘reintegracionista’ philologists proposed spellings more in keeping with the language’s history so as to ‘re-integrate’ it into its Portuguese-Brazilian family. However, the ‘reintegracionistas’ promptly fell out among themselves in an interminable debate about how close Gallego should be to Portuguese. So it was that, in the 80s, Galicia was witness to an unusual fact: a highly technical discussion of comparative linguistics carried out by graffiti and personal insults.

Ultimately victory went to the linguists of the ILG, who had the support of the Xunta, who were nervous of the secessionist implications of Portuguese spellings. More prosaically, the Xunta worried that, as the spelling favoured by 'reintegracionistas' was quite difficult to learn, it would be a barrier to literacy among the new generations of speakers.

To be honest, the 'reitegracionistas' are technically correct that Gallego and Portuguese are variants of the same language . . . . That said, the perception that they are distinct languages is so great that, in this case, that’s how things are. Portuguese culture tends to ignore Galician culture and, in this sense, the insistence of the 'reintegracionistas' is unrealistic.

Amen to that. Of course the ‘interminable debate’ carried out by insults is not yet over, having been given a boost by the internet. This despite the fact the reintegracionista cause is now even more lost than it was in the 1980s. One almost admires their perseverance. Even those odd souls who carry on the campaign from the UK. Marching to the beat of their own solitary drum.


jnlock said...

When will the Spaniards realise that Gibraltar has absolutely nothing to do with British occupancy. Can people be that naive that they can not see that it is nothing more than International policing of the Entrance to the Mediterranean shipping lines.

There is no way that the International community can allow there not to be a third party involved in the Mediterranean strait.

Do people expect Barca to play Real without a referee.

Midnight Golfer said...

I wonder about the assumption of innocence of people who use the internet, given some of the recent news I've seen, and yet understood quite poorly, on Spanish TV. Sounds like mere suspicion of wrong doing is going to be enough for a government bureau to shut down a web site or even users in particular. Maybe I misunderstood.

As for Gibraltar... Is the straight really that narrow that the rest of world actually thinks that it matters which countries, or even how many, own the land adjacent? This is an honest question; not trying to be rhetorical.

Victor Goodridge said...

You can use that argument anywhere in the world. Using your logic there should be another state based at Dover to keep the English channel free. Lets get one thing aboslutely clear Gibraltar was gained by force and not for any idealistic notion. There is absolutely no reason why Gibraltar should not be returned back to Spain.

Colin said...


Both the British and the Spanish governments would dearly love for Gibraltar pass back to Spain. But they have not yet found a solution to the barrier of the opinions of the people who live on the Rock (who have powerful friends in the egregious British tabloid press). I don't know what the answer to this is. Do you have any thoughts?

Midnight Golfer said...

I'm sorry, Victor, but when I read your comment, I thought I saw a very good reason for Gibraltar to remain within its current borders, and it's the same reason I think the borders of just about every country on the planet don't need much adjusting: "gained by force"

Is there a country whose borders weren't gained or lost by force, at some point in its history? Isn't it force that actually defined practically every border ever drawn on any map?

Referendum to the resident population sounds like the most fair option in determining which country any place should belong to.

I now await the scores of examples proving why referendum isn't the most fair option...

Ferrolano said...

It seems to me that; Ceuta y Melilla and Gibraltar are all of a similar situation, being gained by treaties and now by popular demand of their peoples, prefer to stay under their current umbrellas. Could that be democracy at work?