Saturday, September 05, 2015

Migration; Castellano; Only in spain? Godello wine; Tactile Pontevedra; & Testing rats.

The migration crisis: For those who haven't seen it on my Facebook page, at the end of this post is what I call A Dose of Realistic Thinking. Read and ponder. If you don't like it, gets a Times sub and take it up with the estimable Matthew Parris. Pending supranational decisions and - possibly even solutions and actions - on this crisis, the now famous foto has produced a flood of offers from Brits to take people into their homes.

The Spanish Language: As of next year, some new Madrid-based institution will offer, via the net, a new global qualification in Spanish. You'll be able to get this using whatever form of local Castellano you use. Given that thesee are numerous and that they differ - it seems to me - far more than variants of English do - it will be fascinating to see how they go about this.

Only in Spain?: President Rajoy has finally announced the date of the general elections. December 20th. "Probably". He is, of course, trying to set up a date favourable to his party - e. g. after what he hopes will be the 'independent' announcement of a 'good' unemployment rate. Say only 21.5%. As a Galician friend said at dinner last night, he's acting as a typically indecisive, deliberately obfuscating Gallego. They know their reputation here. And possibly revel in it.

Here in Galicia we have 3 great white wines - albariño, ribeiro and godello. The goddess of these is the first but before some war or other interrupted things, large quantities of the second used to be exported to the UK, before anyone had ever heard of (now fashionable and expensive) albariño. But, anyway, here's a Guardian article on the third, which has been a favourite of mine for a few years now. As the writer says, make sure you get a good one. Which in the UK means spending at the very least 10 quid on a bottle. Possibly 15. Maybe even more in the US. One decent label is the one I've cited in another context, O Crero e o moneguiño. Or The Priest and the Altar-boy. The label is pretty illustrative thereof. I also love mencia, by the way. Again, it has to be a good one.

And here in Ponters - I was touched last night when both waiters at my regular watering hole told me they'd been concerned about me the previous day, when I'd not appeared either at midday or in the evening. And then the very tactile Carmen came by and I really was touched.

Finally . . . For the last 2 weeks, I've tried to lure at least one of the rats at at the bottom of my garden into a humane trap. With no success to boast of, two days ago I resorted to my rather-less-humane spring-loaded trap.Yesterday morning, I found the trap - empty of both cheese and rat - very near the hole in the hedge where they come and go from. This morning I found it nowhere. Presumably it's down the rat hole. Hopefully it's wrapped round a rat's head. Must get another another one. And anchor it to a tree.

Being bold: I hope you like the new headings. These are really for a young friend who lives in the UK and wants to skip the political stuff.

A Dose of Realistic Thinking. The bolding is mine. Can't resist it.

Stop crying if you’re serious about migrants

The outpouring of emotion over the death of a Syrian toddler has blinded us to the roots of this humanitarian crisis.

There are moments when a shaft of ice should enter the soul. Yes, I too saw the photograph of the dead child. Yes, I too had to brush away a tear. But weeping at pictures is not a policy, and saying “we must do more” is not a policy. Policy seeks remedies, and the remedy for the refugee crisis is no more apparent now that we have seen a picture of a lifeless toddler than it was before it.

What kind of primitives have we become that we need to see a drowned person before we acknowledge to ourselves that people are drowning? Did we not know, had we not read, that migrant children drowned? What happened to the written word? Are newspapers and broadcasters to dispense altogether with report and analysis and offer us only a slide show? “Tragic,” “shaming”, “shocking” — this is politics by adjective. We need some nouns.

We have no idea what to do about the refugee crisis. We didn’t before we saw the picture and we still don’t. It is possible there is no answer. Should there be a workable answer, it is unlikely the nations of Europe will be able to agree upon it.

Britain will not be asked to play a leading role because sharing the burden (in any meaningful sense of “sharing”) with countries like Germany that will accept something approaching a million refugees, would be politically impossible for any British government while we remain a democracy.

So we are left, as we dry our eyes, in great difficulty about what to do. As I’ve argued here over many years, the 1951 Refugee Convention is no longer fit for modern purposes. The distinction between an “economic migrant” and a political asylum-seeker is impossible to maintain when entire countries, their economies, their administrations and their law and order break down.

Whether that dead child’s father was escaping from political persecution, or simply from chaos and despair, I defy you to adjudicate and I doubt he could. Western politicians who mouth platitudes about the important difference between economic migrants and “real” refugees are pissing in the wind, and they know it. Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan are filled with chaos, despair and persecution, and the list is unlikely to shorten soon.

No wonder the neocons are flapping their arms today. They gave us this crisis, with their lordly confidence that removing Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad — indeed, the Soviet puppet Najibullah in Afghanistan — would make things better. Would the world actually be worse today if those men had been left alone? We are dealing with the consequences of liberal adventurism.

Millions must now be discouraged from rising in one place and settling in another. This is not sustainable.

So David Cameron faced this week the old insoluble problem — what to do. But after that picture appeared he faced a new political problem: how to look as if he were doing something. He knows that by appearing uncooperative on the refugee crisis, he was spoiling the atmosphere for his EU renegotiation bid. Yet he’s been aware of a national mood fiercely hostile to admitting thousands more migrants — of whatever sort. Appearing to cave in to the EU would have done precisely what Ukip wants: linking “Europe” with “immigration”.

I’m afraid to say, therefore, that the publication of images of the drowned child (though it will certainly have distressed our prime minister as a father) has come at a rather useful time for Mr Cameron, politically.

Within his parliamentary party and in the country beyond he has been given cover both to repair a reputation that was beginning to look heartless, and to show his fellow EU leaders that Britain is prepared to help.

Some credit, too, should be given to Yvette Cooper as a politician for sensing, ahead of the pack, that she could stick her neck out with a good chance of not being punished for it. Doubtless she cares as a mother, too, but it took courage and mood-reading to gamble early on the proposal for Britain to do a bit more.
Reader, unless you have a very strong stomach you will find this analysis nauseatingly Machiavellian, but it is how politicians think and how you would think if you wanted to succeed in politics.

I may be less squeamish than you in judging democratic leaders and would-be-leaders because I’ve learned that crowd-pleasing is a dirty business and not for the fastidious, and democracy needs crowd-pleasing. I often forgive politicians because we have made them in our own image and when we hate them it is often ourselves we hate.

Bear in mind the speed — accelerated by the 24-hour news cycle and the social as well as the news media — with which great waves both of public rage and of public grief can gather with frightening speed, and disperse (or reverse) as fast.
God spare us from direct democracy. Last week Cameron, had he advocated accepting tens of thousands more migrants, might have been flattened by a wave of public anger. This weekend, if he had hardened his heart against refugees, he would have met the wave surging back in the opposite direction. No wonder he ducks.

In ourselves it is less forgivable because until we grow up, our politics never will. Look at that photograph if you must. Weep if you must. But then remember that you cannot emote your way to the truth.

Distrust the columnist, the rabbi, the archbishop or the pub bore who thinks he can purge himself by the mere articulation of sympathy or distress followed by an exhortation simply to “do the right thing”, the thing “basic human decency” demands.

Basic human decency takes us not a quarter of the way to a solution. You can never dispense with thinking.

Millions of migrants from another culture settling across Europe in a short time is not the answer for the countries they come from, or for us, and is not the right thing. Every effort must be made to stop this accelerating.

There will be casualties and, yes, “casualties” is a euphemism for dead people. It isn’t easy to pit, against the power of one heart-rending photograph, a string of abstract nouns about future social cohesion. 

But we must try. If we can’t, if we duck, then expect our politics to slosh around as our own sympathies surge this way and that. And don’t blame the politicians. 

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