Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
In his book A Stranger in Spain, H V Morton – like others before him – refers to the morbid Spanish obsession with death. I thought of this when reading a report of a light-plane crash down in the south. The accompanying foto was of 3 black-bagged corpses lying on the grass. Why, for god's sake? Admittedly there was a Guardia Civil helicopter in the background but this doesn't vitiate the question.
SCOOP!: According to a document I have in my hands, the entire dispiriting Brexit show is a sham. I can reveal that Brussels and London have cooked up a plot to ensure that Mrs May, as she always wanted, keeps the UK in the EU, paying a huge proportion of the total bill for this vainglorious project which benefits its high priests more than anyone else. Here are the bare bones of the conspiracy, from a UK perspective:-
- Appear to accept the result of the referendum.
- Appoint 3 imbeciles to manage the negotiations from the UK end, opposed by the hardest of hardliners from the EU end.
- Have the ineffable Herrr Juncker made the main EU spokesperson. Guaranteed to irritate just about everyone in the UK.
- Have the EU make a ludicrous demand for an upfront payment of billions of euros.
- Make the Brits even angrier by giving Spain a veto over any deal because of its claim on Gibraltar.
- Ignore all the advice from experienced diplomats.
- Ignore all the comments from knowledgable Brexiteers such as Richard North.
- Specifically ignore the only sensible exit provided by North's Flexit plan.
- Create the image of a hard woman, determined to get what she wants, come hell or high-water.
- Boast that the UK will walk away from the table, if its impossible demands aren't met.
- Declare a general election so that the mandate for tough negotiations is apparently gained.
- Ensure there can be no other option than a 'hard Brexit' which will, to say the least, seriously disadvantage the UK. Or what's left of it.
- Announce, Trump-style, that negotiations were more difficult and complicated than expected.
- Announce that future UK economic prospects are now so bad that a second referendum is essential to confirm that this is what Brits want and that Mrs M has a mandate for it. Or not.
- Pour millions/billions of their own money into convincing voters that they don't want the disaster scenario to unfold.
- Hold the referendum
- Achieve a change of heart.
- Abide by the revised wishes of the British electorate and stay in the EU, albeit less influential than before.
- Wait to see if the EU undertakes the 'deep reform' demanded by both candidates for the French presidency.
- If not, wait for the EU to slowly collapse under the weight of its internal inconsistencies.
- Blame everyone else. Especially the French.
Remember that you heard this here first.
On a lighter note . . . The much-used Galician obscenity/term of affection carallo/carajo essentially means penis. Or cock/prick. Here's an article from Monday's Diario de Pontevedra which rather amused me. Tarted up Google machine translation:-
Saying 'carallo': Juan Tallón.
On my previous newspaper, I met the person who probably said carallo more times than anyone. His name was Santiso, he was in his fifties and an institution. He was in charge of the television and hobby pages . He liked to improvise horoscopes aloud, which he later wrote boldly, convinced that that section too should reflect the truth. When letters came to the director one day, he wrote them himself. Often the opinion pieces that collaborators sent through the fax or mail, stung him and he would be heard to mumble things like pff, chst, gggh, boh. Over time, these disturbing sounds became almost poetic. They said a lot about those columns.
Santiso used to come to the newspaper in a Opel Frontier of maroon color with two enormous German bulldogs in the trunk. His wife had abandoned him years ago and the dogs were his family. He parked the SUV in the back of the building to see them from his chair. He had brought to the office the cats who occasionally climbed the tables with a mouse in their mouths, half-dead. Every day he was in charge of giving them drink and food. He liked to open the windows in winter and close them in summer. He was the perfect antagonist. He seldom stayed more than five minutes in silence, perhaps for fear of suicide on the words if they stayed inside him. His hair and mustache were white, and his skin possessed that decadent, tender tone that strawberry chewing gum gets when you chew it for too long.
"Tallón, carallo, good afternoon, carallo, how about the weekend, carallo?", he greeted me every Monday. The word carallo was embedded in a natural way in all his sentences, at the beginning, in the middle, at the end. He no longer heard it, and after time, you did not either. You acclimated to it and it became a phantom sound, without repercussion. Impressed, at first I was amused to look at the clock and calculate in secret how many times he spoke it in five minutes. On one occasion I counted seventy-three. Some comrades, who thought they were better at communicating with more correctness, played at imitating him, but when they said carallo the world became truly ugly, artificial and inhospitable. Santiso did not bother. He did not hear them, and after a laconic silence he resumed his phrases with his carallos.
"Tallón, carallo, good afternoon, carallo. How about the weekend, carallo?", He greeted me every Monday
These days made me think of him Mr. Colborne, the well-spoken man whom Joseph Mitchell immortalized in a chronicle of the New Yorker in 1941, now recovered along with many others by the publisher Jus. Mitchell had run into him in an Irish tavern, during a day when it was raining cats and dogs. The journalist had his feet wet and he thought he was going to die of a cold, when he lamented aloud about "the weather of the devil." A potbellied man, who wore white mustache and gray hair, like Santiso, turned to him and warned him that "The weather will not change because you swear, young man."
He then handed him an Anti-Blasphemy League card which included an invitation not to mouth obscenities. They had a prolific conversation. Colborne had been cleaning the world of profanity for forty years, he explained. "My partners and I have distributed six million cards like the one I just gave you." Exterminators of blasphemies, we call them, "Six million!" He seriously believed that sooner or later they would eradicate them. He did not know my ex-partner.
Santiso worked for more than three decades in that newspaper. One day they threw him out like a dog. I was glad when he took the paper to court. The last thing I learned of him, three years ago, was that he was sick. I have not seen him again. I always remember the day he asked me: "Let's see, carallo, what sign of the zodiac are you, carallo?" I clarified that it was Aquarius. He looked at the ceiling, full of stains from the leaks, and at the end he said, "It's not your best time. Take control. If you can close a deal, do not hesitate. Move fast .You will come well out of this." We looked at each other. "What do you think, carallo?" I nodded and the next day this horoscope was published as it was.
Back to the even darker stuff . . . See the article at the end of this post for a rather pessimistic - and US-centric - view of the world. Though the author might be right about Trump.
Finally . . . It's reported that the the number of vehicles on the streets of Pontevedra city has risen by 25% in the last decade, despite every effort by the mayor to make this - like a Oxford - a car-unfriendly place. Including the eradication of hundreds - if not thousands - of parking spaces on the streets. Thank god I park across the river and walk across the bridge into the city every day. Sometimes twice.
A bit tardy . . .
Reign of Idiots By Chris Hedges
The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.
There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.
The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.
Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.
This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet’s wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.
The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state.
Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war:
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us.
All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.
Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored.
Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.Gal