I've said more than once that this is The Age of the Bureaucrat. I was reminded of this when I heard a doctor on TV talk today about the 'tick box culture' in which British doctors now work - an environment in which teachers have lived (and died) for some time now. Almost inevitably, I then thought of an institution that was designed by bureaucrats, is run by bureaucrats and serves to to handsomely line the pockets of legions of bureaucrats and pseudo-politicians. I'm talking, of course, about the EU.
As it happens, El País today had at least 4 headlines beginning 'Europe' or 'Brussels', followed by verbs such as 'puts pressure on', 'warns' and 'gets involved in'. How many of us, I wonder, can name 3 people who wield power in this massive institution? And how many of us can name any of the people who'll stand in the farcical EU elections taking place later this month? And who, if successful, will enter the world of massive tax-free salaries and even larger expense accounts. Very, very few is my guess. And, yet, these are our 'representatives'.
So, there was corruption in the construction of the AVE high-speed railway from Madrid to Barcelona. Who'd have thought it? Will it be the last instance? Probably not. Will the money be paid back to tax payers? Certainly not.
A Prospect survey puts Spain top of the Brits' list of alternative places to live. This is even though Spain comes nowhere near the top of lists of countries with the highest standard of living, the friendliest people, the best quality public services or the most democratic political system. The sun, it seem, outshines all of these.
Talking of odd British attitudes . . . In the same magazine Sam Leith tries to get to grips with the difference between shame and embarrassment and to understand why the British seem far more affected by the latter than others:- Embarrassment is one sort of thing, and shame is another. Both are to do with seeing yourself through the eyes of others. But to feel shame is to see yourself as a knave; to feel embarrassment is to see yourself as a fool. Embarrassment has no moral content. It has to do with exposure. To be embarrassed is to venture something of yourself and to look a wally. Our reluctance to dance sober, our emotional awkwardness, the way we change into our swimming trunks. Everything points to a vice of fear that, experienced in the English way, drives more of our national life than we would care to admit. Our love lives and our public lives alike are deeply shaped by the fear of embarrassment. The blush, the cough, the fumbling with the cufflinks. The wish that the walls would swallow us. Something so mild, so trivial, so petty, so personal, so neurotically fixated on avoiding the recognition that, deep down, we are all of us slightly wallyish.
Finally . . . In today's world, art is defined as "Whatever anyone who calls him/herself an artist says it is". I thought of this when I read that a joker called Steven Cohen had "danced on Paris's Trocadero Plaza dressed in a corset, high heels, long red gloves and an elaborate feathered headdress with a rooster attached to his penis by a ribbon" and called it performance art. Three cocks in one, then.