Monday, July 10, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 10.7.17

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

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • I've done my duty and watched all 4 of the Pamplona bull runs so far. Given that most runners are moving very fast while facing backwards, it's astonishing that more of them aren't injured or killed. If only by tripping either over their own feet or over someone who's already fallen over. Of course, the truth is the bulls aren't really interested in goring people. They run with a gang of cows and act like males usually do in a group of females - they chase them in hope. Most injuries are of glancing blows as both cows and bulls try to make their way through what seems like ever-increasing numbers of folk who are either brave, foolhardy or stupid, depending on your point of view. Incidentally, most people who get injured seem to be (North) Americans.
  • And last night, while ironing, I went so far as to watch a commentary on the Pamplona events of the day. It's hard to believe how many words and how much time can be devoted to the subject. And how repetitive can be the reporting of incidents 'through a magnifying glass' - La lupa section of the program. It's like watching a lengthy, over-detailed analysis of a car crash. I guess you have to be both Spanish and an aficionado.
  • From El País in English: Immigrants return to Spain after 7 years of crisis-led decline. In a first since 2009, there were more migrant arrivals than departures in 2016 as the population grew 0.19%. It now stands at 46.5mMore on this here.
  • Driving towards town yesterday, I noted that the latest terraced houses built here are smaller than those built 25 years ago but have double, not single, garages. I suspect this is a national - if not international - development.
  • From an advert for Hyundai: Surfing, Tumbling, Cinking. El verano es muy de gerundios. Cinking turns out to be a Hyundai invention from the Spanish for 5, cinco. But I still don't know what tumbling is. Maria?
Which reminds me . . . This is a translation site which I find exceptionally useful, especially when looking up idiomatic phrases in either Spanish or English. I almost wish I could pay them.

It's almost boring - and certainly wearying - to report that more big names have been added to the investigation - and eventual future trial - of those implicated in a huge fraud down in Andalucia. Click here for details. Here in Galicia, it's reported that more than 1,000 cases of corruption have been investigated in the last 5 years, resulting in a mere 66 convictions. Or 6.5%. Not much of a risk then, to set against the handsome rewards. And the low jail sentences or easily-financed fines.

Here, from The Guardian, is an explanation of why Donald Trump 'turns every newspaper into a tabloid'. And at the end of this post Ross Barkan explains why Trump being an ill-mannered boor is less of a problem than we think.

Here in Galicia there are more reports of our local companies moving their HQs to just across the border in Portugal. This is because the Portuguese indulge in the 'unfair practice' of having lower rents, lower salaries and lower overhead costs. This is almost certainly because the Portuguese have got their commercial act together - witness Oporto's airport - and because Brussels-driven 'internal devaluation' has hit Portugal even harder than Spain. It's an ill wind . . .  Galician politicians seem incapable of drawing lessons from these developments, preferring localised tribal fights it seems.

And here in Pontevedra city, we've just finished FLOP week - several nights of free films under the aegis of Free Living Orgullo Pontevedra. Which was associated with Gay Pride events elsewhere. I went to see The Danish Girl, which turned out to centre on a gay woman and her transgender lover. During the 2 minutes I could tolerate the dubbing, I noted I was one of very few males in the audience. There are clearly a lot more lesbian couples in Pontevedra than I would have guessed.

Not far from my house is a private college called Los Sauces, which means 'The Willows'. Driving past it yesterday, I noted it was surrounded by pestilencial eucalyptus trees. Perhaps not when it was first established 25 years ago.

Finally . . . One of the people I chat to in my regular bar recently asked to practice her English with me. When I asked her yesterday if she wanted to do this, she replied: "After the summer".

Today's cartoon:-

Oh, dear. Not the Irish Christians again!

Donald Trump is 'ill-mannered'. But this is less of a problem than we think:  Ross Barkan
Ross Barkan

“Every day, Trump wakes up and erodes the dignity of the presidency a little more,” David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, wrote recently, speaking for the not-insignificant faction of the country horrified by a president who tweets hatefully about Mika Brzezinski and shares a video of himself body-slamming a man with a CNN logo for a head.

The hallowed office of the presidency, dignity-drenched for a couple of centuries, is now held captive by a reality show star, so uncouth and erratic. “When,” Remnick wonders, “has any politician done so much, so quickly, to demean his office, his country, and even the language in which he attempts to speak?”

Following Donald Trump’s latest Twitter rampages, this is again the central preoccupation of the people who not only didn’t vote for Trump but who earn their livings cataloging, analyzing and broadcasting his every move to the portion of the nation that will listen, the mass not yet ready to lead a chant of “CNN sucks” inside a multi-purpose midwestern arena.

Trump’s behavior being beneath the “dignity” of his office has been one of the chief criticisms of his presidency, a bipartisan lament engaging all kinds of inside-the-Beltway creatures, some more well-meaning than others. 

Remnick and his sympathizers aren’t necessarily wrong. Trump does act like a boor, use the vocabulary of grade-schooler, and show little interest in acquiring the deep working knowledge needed to govern the most supremely-armed superpower on Earth. There are many reasons to despise his presidency. No one quite like Trump has ever climbed so high. 

“My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!” Trump boasted in a recent tweet. He isn’t wrong. He is president and what he does is by definition “presidential.” He is free to redefine the term. A victor can have his spoils. 

What matters more is what he does with his mighty powers and how many people he hurts. The handwringing over Trump besmirching the “dignity” of his office ignores what’s really going on. It tells us style, in the minds of pundits, will always win out over substance.

To listen to Remnick and others tell it, the country would be better off if only Trump stopped acting like such an uncultured, impulsive slob. If only he comported himself elegantly, used larger and prettier words, spoke in a pleasing baritone and playacted like the real pros who came before him. If only he was Hollywood’s idea of a president, equally polite and portentous, grave when he needed to be, soothing otherwise. 

Trump is deeply unpopular overseas. He doesn’t conform to any nation’s idea of a dignified leader. But what is dignity anyway? Did George W Bush invade Iraq with dignity? Was Franklin Roosevelt dignified when he locked up Japanese families for the crime of not being white? Was Harry Truman dignified when he gave the orders to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians with two atomic bombs? How dignified was Woodrow Wilson when he segregated the federal government and threw a civil rights leader out of the White House? 

Imagine, for a moment, a Republican president as beholden to oligarchs as Trump, a president who wanted to demolish Obamacare, block Muslims from coming to this country, strip away environmental regulations and stack the supreme court with as many generation-defining conservatives as humanely possible.

Imagine this president as someone who only tweeted anodyne things, never lost his cool, and used the vocabulary of a college professor, or at least a fairly competent high school English teacher. How better off would our country be?

This is the crux of it all, what so many beleaguered pundits wish for in the dead of night, their heads bowed in prayer for the end of the Trump madness. Can’t a president just punish us nicely? The savior could emerge, maybe someone who appreciates a good book and a fine scotch and likes talking less and doing more.

The savior will look and sound something like Mike Pence, and he will, with great dignity, kill civilians overseas and brutalize the poor and marginalized back home.

But the president as benign paternalist is no more. This fiction overshadowed the reality of America, which functions more like a balkanized, fading empire of incongruous nation-states than the unified country schoolbook mythology has taught us is our heritage. 

Your governor, state senator or small-town mayor has much more power to ruin your life, and always has. A nationalized media obsessed all hours of the day and night with the presidency obscures this truth and tell us to regard Trump tweetstorms as things imbued with far more relevance than an underfunded school system, a broken bridge or a predatory healthcare matrix. 

If your one-bedroom apartment in a public housing development is rife with asbestos, or opioids are ravaging your town, or endless wars are leading your loved ones to die in remote lands, who cares about how dignified the president is? 

For those not living so precariously, there is time to fret about how an office gets demeaned. For people with the money and freedom to gallivant on European vacations, or just those with some actual stake in the global order, Trump undermining the dignity of the presidency abroad is a real and tangible thing.

But understand this: a lot of people just don’t care, and have no good reason to.

1 comment:

Maria said...

You got it wrong by one letter. It's not tumbling, it's tumbing. And it has nothing to do with tumba, or tomb. It comes from tumbar, to lie down. Tumbarse en la hamaca, for example, to lie down on the hammock.

And the cinking part is twofold. It's not only about the number five and all the guarantees by five they give you. It's also the way thinking is literally pronounced in Spanish. The c is pronounced like a slight th in Spanish Castilian. Which sets me apart from most, because I pronounce a soft c like a soft c in English. I suppose they want you to think you're using your head if you buy a Hyundai. I just want my head to be left alone by these lame-brain publicists.

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