Sunday, May 05, 2013

Every now and then the Spanish are asked to rate their institutions. The headline result from the most recent survey is that only 3.98 in 10 Spaniards (or 40%) support the monarchy. The response of the King is to say he'll be cutting his overseas trips and concentrating on helping to form a consensus on how to improve the country's economic situation. But he won't be abdicating, even though this is probably the only thing that'll restore the monarchy's standing.

11 o'clock on Sunday morning is ironing time for me, when I watch a discussion program on the BBC. I usually end up laughing at the participants and today was no exception. The topic was "Are religions unfair to women?" and it inevitably produced some gems, as both Christian and Muslim women argued passionately about the interpretation of sentences in respective holy books. Here are some of the gems:-
  • A Christian woman who argued that, while St Paul was a misogynist in the Bible, he would be a feminist if born today.
  • A Christian woman who believed the gospels did make women subordinate to men.
  • A rabbi who said he would refuse to shake the hand of a woman 'out of respect for her'.
  • The rabbi attempting to explain away the morning prayer of every Orthodox man – "Lord, I thank you for not making me a woman."
  • A fascinating discussion on the relative merits – in Orthodox Judaism - of blood from circumcisions and blood from menstruation.
  • A Muslim woman saying the Qu'ran was written in the context of the time - Suggesting that Allah couldn't see beyond the 7th century or lay down some universal and timeless laws that would preclude ridiculous arguments fourteen hundred years later.
  • The same woman saying that Muslim women can be teachers but can't lead prayers because 'it's very physical'. Patronising or what?
Once again I was left wondering why God/Allah had been so negligent in leaving the principles of all faiths so obscure and inconsistent. What was the point of the holy books, then? Another cosmic joke?

Changing religions . . . Christopher Booker has been writing on the EU for decades. Twelve or fifteen years ago he co-authored a book entitled “The Great Deception”. So you'll have twigged he's a critic/sceptic. As he wrote this morning:- For some years I had been reporting on an astonishing revolution taking place in how Britain was governed. Thanks not just to the increasing powers of the EU, but also to those of our own officials, we were now being ruled in a new way. After talking to ministers and politicians of all parties, I had been struck repeatedly by how they seemed to have become mere ciphers in a vast, unaccountable bureaucratic system that appeared to have lost any contact with reality and the concerns of ordinary people. More here.

I've been known to say more than once that I believe the EU will one day collapse under the weight of its internal incongruities. And with both Germany and France taking an axe to the Franco-German axis without which the EU can't function, you wonder whether this day isn't just round the corner. But it probably isn't. As we wait, here's another British commentator (Bruce Anderson) on the theme:- 

Eighteen months ago, it looked as if the eurozone was doomed unless its members were prepared to buttress monetary union with fiscal union, leading inexorably to political union, which could not happen. But those of us who predicted an early demise underestimated the determination of the EU elite to press ahead with the project, whatever the cost to their peoples’ welfare. Mass unemployment; blighting the lives of millions of young Europeans; threats to social stability – what did that matter, as long as we were building Europe? It came to seem as if the eurozone was trapped; that it could neither move forward, nor backward, nor stay the same.

That is not a basis for stability. There must be a limit to the willingness of the afflicted populations to accept hardships which many of them blame on the Germans – with some justice. These days, the Germans are pacific. But in their hearts, almost all senior German officials believe that there is a simple solution to the problems of Europe: the rest of us should behave like them. The Germans may have learnt to live in peace with their neighbours: but not in harmony.

Spain is not in a recession. It is in a depression. Italy is suffering many of the same symptoms, and its government is permanently overshadowed by Signor Bungasconi. As for France: M Hollande promised to be “President Normal”. He has kept half his word: the “mal” bit. The French official class is still wedded to the dream of Europe as a French jockey on a German horse. But France has lost its currency. There is a successful common European language policy: English. If the euro works, there will have to be political union, with France as Western Australia or Texas in a European federation. No wonder the grands fromages who run the French state are increasingly neuralgic – and increasingly resentful of the rosbifs.

Finally on the EU – According to today's El País, the latest strategy for everyone (except Germany) will be slower austerity, quicker reform. One inevitably wonders whether this has been agreed or is just another diktat.

Finally, finally . . . With thanks to my friend Dwight, here's a good overview of corruption in Spain and changing attitudes towards it.


Piney said...

For every "corruption" article you post, I can post 50. I am talking about naked, in your face corruption. Corruption that is so common here that people just accept it as a way of life. Most is on the municipal level, but we are now used to reading about wholesale purchases of legislation at the national level. Almost every large city has mayors and admins under investigation, indictment or in prison. One state has had 4 of the last 7 Governors in Federal Prison for corruption. Municipalities openly admit to quotas on traffic violations to increase revenue. Policemen are regularly retiring at age 40-46 with 100k per year pensions, some tax free. The corruption is so pervasive, that individuals are involved. One out of five households is collecting welfare benefits in the form of cash(not including retirees). You may think I live in Africa or maybe Central or South America, I don't. I live in the good ole' U.S of A.

Colin said...

Thanks, Piney, for that food for thought.

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