Friday, October 03, 2014

Identity nonsense; Boney v. Adolf; Mayoral gaffes; Spanish justice; Regional spend; & Nonsense.

I'm taking out a new house insurance policy. The agent has asked me to scan her my passport AND my Residence card, even though she knows the latter expired in 2011. Why, for God's sake? Simply because they're there? Who on earth would be stealing my identity to take out insurance in my name?

And here's another conundrum, one which I've raised before - Why do the French treat Napoleon differently from how the Germans treat Hitler? Both invaded other countries and killed millions in their vainglorious quest for power. As least the Spanish - who had to suffer both Napoleon and his would-be-regal brother, Joe - call their war against the French by its real name - "The War of Independence". Not "The Peninsular War", as it's known to the British. This thought has been prompted by the comment in a BBC podcast on Germany that the largest memorial in Paris is dedicated to the French slaughterer of European millions, while Berlin's is dedicated to atoning for theirs. Perhaps a French reader could enlighten me.

Reader Sierra has suggested that perhaps Resistencia Galicia bombed the municipal offices of a small town near Lugo because the mayor there last year put forward the view that Republicans shot during the Civil War deserved to die. Quite possibly, but I think Sierra is being a tad unfair to said mayor, as I think he said only 'probably deserved it". This gentleman has now been quoted as saying he couldn't understand the bombing as speech was free in a democracy. With no evidence that he saw the irony in this comment.

Still in Galicia . . . Relatives of the 81 people killed in the train crash outside Santiago last year have accused politicians (national and local) of manipulating justice to their own ends. Given how many implicated people are not in the dock - all of them except the hapless driver - this is a pretty plausible claim.

For the first time in my memory, someone has written to criticise the massive differences that exist between Spain's regions as regards spend on education, healthcare and benefits. The columnist even used the hallowed British phrase - postcode lottery. Perhaps we'll now see some convergence. Or perhaps we won't.

It's claimed that 7% of Spanish children maltreat their parents, with most of these being middle class and upwards. Seems hard to believe.

Finally . . . My elder daughter and I discovered this week that we each know Lear's nonsense poem, The Jabberwocky, off-by-heart. Well, she does; I could only manage the first verse. But I do know more of The Dong with the Luminous Nose. So, a tie, I think.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Will half a Frenchman do the job, my dear fellow?

Napoleon does not really compare with Mr Hitler. Napoleon had many men killed in his battles, but other than that he killed few. In fact he stopped the mindless killing by the Terror and the Revolutionary regimes (look at the Vendée for instance). Napoleon also did a few recommendable things. Such as reform the Law Code (I thought you were a lawyer??); put in the metric system; abolish ghettos and emancipate the Jews; give the people of the continent last names; supply them with excellent brandy and so on. Incidentally, he also abolished serfdom in Poland, while Mr Hitler… what exactly did he do in Poland again?

How that particular war of 1808-1814 is called depends on your point of view. For the Spanish, it is indeed a matter of Independence, since their own country was occupied, ruled and avused by the French. The same war is called Napoleonic from the British point of view, because they were not occupied and ruled and abused by the French; and because the hallowed name ‘War of Independence’ had already been claimed by the American Cousins, whose land was occupied and ruled and abused by the British… The particular sub-war is called ‘Peninsular’, because other than the Spaniards, Wellington’s Expeditionary Army did not only fight on Spanish soil, but also on Portuguese. That is to say: in the whole of the ‘Iberian Peninsula’. They might have named it the Iberian War but that sounds a little too much like a Roman conflict of eons ago.

The ‘largest memorial in Paris’ is not the Invalides, and the Invalides is not dedicated to Napoleon, but to the disabled war veterans, who received roof and sustenance here. Which I seem to remember is a whole lot better treatment than the Limey war invalids received at the time… But then, Britain is a Civilised land, right?? (Where can I hand in my passport, please??)

What memorial in Berlin exactly is atoning for the gruesome deeds of Mr Hitler? Not that idiotic field of concrete cubes, I hope. Which – meant for eternity – is already crumbling?

Napoleon is ‘the French slaughterer of millions of Europeans’. Hmmmm… That suggests that Napoleon was singlehandedly responsible for each and every aggression and for all victims. He, alone, exclusively, and nobody else. Now, you won’t hear me say that the men was an angel (the cynical bastard once declared that a single sultry Paris night would quickly replenish the shortage of men who had died in a battle of his…) but then neither were his fellow world leaders. It takes two to tango. It also takes two to do battle, and kill off countless pawns in your favourite game. And it might have helped if the other European powers had not invaded Revolutionary France years before Napoleon Bonaparte ever appeared on the scene…

I mean: comparisons between Hitler and Bonaparte?? I’m with Vincent Cronin on this, and with David Chandler, who said that ‘nothing could be more degrading to Napoleon, and more flattering to Hitler’.

Your, ever, Alfréd.

Colin Davies said...

Thank-you, Alfie. I'm delighted to have given you another chance to display your erudition.

I had no idea Boney invaded all those countries, fought all those battles, killed all those people on the basis of benevolence and philanthropy. I see now why the French revere him. A tyrant with a heart. If only he'd put it all in a manifesto before invading, everyone would have welcomed him with open arms.

Looking back, I see that I should have preferred to be killed by Boney's troops than by Adolf's. Especially as he was a much better general. And a reformer.

As for the respective memorials, you can listen to the podcast here, in your retirement-cum-dotage. Can't recall which one it is but there aren't many.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

Well well well well well… Aren't we being touchy??

Did I really say all that? Was it truly implied in the words I wrote?? Every heard of the useful German term Hineininterpretieren??

Anyway: if you wish, we can put Napoleon's deeds next to things your revered Brits did in places like India and the West Indies, and see how both come out…

Oh, and incidentally: there were quite a few places (Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Poland) where Napoleon was indeed welcomed with open arms. Just to keep the perspective…

Yours, HistoricAl.

Colin Davies said...

Everyone in the word is a net positive or net negative for the persons he/she comes into contact with. You imply that Boney was a net positive not only to all French but to most foreigners whose lives he affected. I am somewhat doubtful of this proposition. Very specifically as regards the Spanish. I suspect they'd have preferred to do without his Code Civil, if ever given the choice, But, of course, they weren't.

Coincidentally, last night I viewed Yugoslavs welcoming Hitler. A near-sighted reaction to hus invasion. And many Spaniards welcomed Franco's entry into Madrid and other cities. Which doesn't mean they weren't tyrants, and seen by History as such. Likewise, Stalin I guess.

Timurlane built wonderful cities and doubtless improved legal and administrative systems. He has many admirers for this. But he slaughtered hundred of thousands of non-combatants, Muslim and Christian. I guess we can, at least, agree he was a net negative. A tyrant, even.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

My dear fellow,

The challenge you put to us, and which I accepted, was not whether Napoleon did more good than bad, but whether Napoleon was equally bad as Hitler. I tried to answer that by pointing out that NB did a number of positive things next to the many negative; and - apart from building those nice autobahnen - one would be hard put to come up with anything positive that the Fuhrer contributed to civilisation.

And that is the whole point. Yes: Stalin, Hitler, Tamerlane, Napoleon, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Montezuma, Pizarro and Cortes, Shaka, Menelik II, Frederic the Great, Carlos V, Pompey, Charles the Great, and so on and so forth… All of them were conquerers and tyrants and cynical mass murderers. But even in this lot, there are gradations. So blindly equating one with another makes no sense. Unless you are an anarchist, and consider your local mayor to be just as tyrannical as Adolf Hitler.

Are you such an anarchist??


Colin Davies said...

Can you show me where I said or implied that they were (exactly) equivalent.

I simply asked why they were treated differently by their respective brethren since they were both (net) tyrants in my book.

Given that Hitler (inter alia) attempted to destroy an entire race, it would be ridiculous to suggest/imply they were (exact) equivalents.

I still feel the lack of justification for why Boney's crimes are ignored, both in France and elsewhere. Perhaps he made the trains run on time. Or would have if there'd been any.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Well, you wrote:

"Why do the French treat Napoleon differently from how the Germans treat Hitler? Both invaded other countries and killed millions in their vainglorious quest for power."

The suggestion there is that both are equally bad but are treated differently by their respective nations. Sorry that I lack the refinement to grasp that you meant something different from what you wrote.

Other than that, I am glad to see that, after a short exchange only, we gradually begin to see eye to eye again.

One aspect which may bring in the difference in treatment may be simple chronology. Napoleon did what he did at a point in time when mayhem and massacre were still pretty common. Think the 30-year war, the War of Spanish Succession, what the British did in Ireland and so on and so forth. It was the natural state of humanity at the time. You know: nasty, brutish and short. Which is also a good enough description of Bonaparte himself, incidentally.

Then the 19th century kicked in, and notwithstanding the idiocy of WW 1, civilized nations got something of a conscience. They might do awful things, but they felt uncomfortable about it, and ever more thinking people objected to such hardline realism. Except in Germany, starting 1933 under Uncle Adolf. That was back to the middle ages. To put it differently: in the days of Tamarlane, Adolf Hitler would not have stood out as particularly harsh or cruel. So possibly the German atonement or that episode is very much a matter of 'We ought to have known better by then'.

Add to this 'chronological advantage' the serious contributions which the Bonaparte regime made to progress, and you have the perfect brew to honor a fellow who brought La France glory.

Yours, Al.

Colin Davies said...

Or, to put it at its succinctest, Boney succeeded but Adolf failed. Ar least when it comes to the French, who look at him through an 18/19th century prism. Whereas we Brits look back on, say, Cecil Rhodes and the East India Company's activities with horror and remorse. Not to mention virtually all the deeds of our Empire-builders. Didn't someone say recently there were only 27 countries in the world we hadn't managed to invade?

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Well, yes… Possibly we see a difference there in the post-colonial views taken by nordic protestant countries and southern catholic ones. Where northern countries wallow in guilt-feeling, southern ones rather suffer from the Great Regret.

Only 20 years ago, for instance, the 1000 peseta bill in Spain still showed Pizarro on one side and Cortes on the other. That always struck me as if the 5 D-mark bill would show Göring on one side and Eichmann on the other. But confronted with my surprise and indignation, Spaniards invariably pointed out that, no matter how much evil these fellow did, they were 'important men for the history of Spain'. No shame or tormented conscience anywhere in sight there…

Colin Davies said...

Indeed. Can it be true, Alfie, that your comments, always welcome, get less wise as the day goes on?

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Do they? Or do you lose the ability to judge them by their merit?

Perry said...


To paraphrase Kissing don't last, Cooking do; Maldades no son importantes, importante es más importante para los españoles.

Which, if true, underlines a lack of morality within a Catholic nation & is akin to taqiyya & kitman, probably inculcated during the time of the Moors.

Jest saying!!!!

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