Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 17.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain
Life in Spain:-

  • When I'd been in Spain only 9 months, I wrote my first observations on life here. As I recall, I stressed the obvious need to manage one's expectations, adjusting them to Spanish culture and norms. I certainly did say it had struck me that Spaniards were averse to planning. The truth is there's the usual amount of talking about future events or activities here but an abnormal degree of non-performance. Or, to give you the thought that struck me last night - Spaniards don't have plans; they just have intentions.
  • There's a lot more squatting in Spain than I knew. See here for some 'stark' details.
  • Something from El País (in English) on the topical subject of cyclist-slaughter here.
  • Could the teaching of English be better here? Err, yes. See here for El País's take on this, again in English.
  • Two huge cocaine shipments from South America were intercepted on the high seas in the last week. Guess where they were coming to and who was managing things from this end. (These questions are directed at those who thought I was perhaps exaggerating last week about our never-mentioned local commercial activity). Here's one report on this.
Not everyone thinks that, post Macron's election, the EU is heading for the sunny uplands. Click here for one entertainingly grim take on the situation. Anyone got an idiot's guide to opening a German bank account?

That report talks of the EU needing 'massive reform', which is pretty much the view of the Spanish government. See here on this.

Down the years, Spain has occasionally been accused - usually by Anglos - of not being terribly entrepreneurial or even just commercially minded. I thought of this when driving last night past a site along the Pontevedra-Villagarcia road which they say will be commercial park one day (relatively) soon. Even though it's taken 14 years to get permission for expansion of the small facility on the other side of the road. Actually, it struck me it would be a good site for record-breaking IKEA. Hard as this might be to believe, a few years ago Vigo turned down the chance to have the company invest there. So, naturally enough, it went to Oporto in nearby North Portugal. 'Unfair competition', as the president of the Galician region calls it.

Which reminds me . . . As I've reported, there are big plans to expand tourism here in Galicia. Those in charge of this have issued a list of Strong and Weak features of the region:-

As you can see, the negative list includes the statement: Poor air connections. Yes, indeed, despite there being 3 'international' airports for a population of less than 3 million. More 'unfair competition'  from Oporto's airport, I guess. Which, to say the least, doesn't suffer from this weakness. And which cheekily advertises itself as The airport for all Galicians. It would be funny if it weren't so serious.

The UK population is said to be around 65 million. I mention this because Sky News yesterday reported there are 61 million Facebook users there. I guess many of these are organisations or companies, rather than babies. Or embryos.

Finally . . . What more can one say about Donald Trump? Not so much a loose cannon as a loose nuclear-rocket battery. Posted below is another article trying to analyse his thought processes. The author's conclusion is a new one:- Trump is none of the things he's accused of being. In fact, he's an infantalist. Enjoy. Or despair. Or both.

To lighten your mood . . . .

An English 'cartoon' . . . .

And a Spanish one . . .


When the World is Led by a Child

By David Brooks in the NYT

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.

But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.

By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere, or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.

1 comment:

She Bee said...

Thanks! I enjoyed the first part.