Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 30 August 2017

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.

Tour Notes
  • Assuming my car hasn't been stolen or broken into, I'm heading back to Pontevedra today. Where I'll start the odyssey of obtaining at least 7 new bits of plastic. The first task on my agenda is, therefore, to make 10 copies of every single piece of paper that I think might just be relevant to my challenge. And I will hope and pray I don't have to get any of them notarised.
  • Walking towards my daughter's office to get the keys to her flat, I decided to re-visit the Sorolla museum I was passing. This time I got better treatment at the ticket desk and was (eventually) allowed in free of charge, even though I was seeking only a discount. Made me feel a bit better.
  • It was unusually cool in Madrid yesterday, for which I was grateful. The entire country, it seems, has been experiencing the thunder storms which kept me awake in Buitrago de Lozoya on Sunday night. See here for more info on this. The Deep South may have escaped the rains so far but can expect the thunder and lightning in a day or two, they say.
Life in Spain
  • Cataluña. Below this post is a comment from Matthew Bennett on the disgraceful exhibition of the region's nationalists during the recent visit of the king, to participate in commemoration of those killed in the recent terrorist attacks in Cataluña. In recent months, the leader of the Scottish nationalists has been trying to convince us that their brand of nationalism is different from the nasty sort demonstrated by all other nationalists. In truth, they're always the same - They define themselves against their enemies, being obsessed by them
  • The traditional concept of customer service in the Spanish banking industry was to have a number of desks in the bank at which you could poll up any time and have a face-to-face chat. If you were really important, you could go to a higher class of desk. This was good for the customer but obviously expensive and it had to go, especially after La Crisis. These days, the concept of customer service is a combination of machine recordings, phone numbers and, if you're lucky, a human being who, naturally, speaks in rapid Spanish. So, virtually from one extreme to the other. Much cheaper for the banks, I'm sure, but not yet a patch on phone-banking in the UK, which I've been extremely happy with for at least 25 years. However, I'm sure things here in Spain will improve over time. And I might even live to see it.

In the USA, the Whitehouse spokesperson - the ineffable Kellyanne Conway - has come up with her funniest one-liner yet: Donald Trump‘s most notable characteristic is his humility. Just imagine what he'd be like without that!

Up in Galicia, warmer than usual weather this summer has brought forward grape-harvesting by as much as 4 weeks, making it the earliest for at least 30 years. More on this here.

Finally . . . A favourite Sorolla painting:-


The dangerous separatist indecency: Matthew Bennett

I can't believe it, really. It really does not fit in my head that the Catalan separatists who appeared in that strategic location behind Rajoy and the King on Saturday afternoon could not shut up and put away their flags for an hour. Not for the dead. Nor against terrorism. Not with the world watching and with all the tourists who had died or who the killers had left wounded. 

Where was the decency? Where is the respectful memory of our fragile and common earthly existence, threatened by vile Jihadists? Why did they decide to ruin it for the tens of thousands of people - most, I suppose, Catalans - who had come to march without flags?

From 6 to 7 in the afternoon, on Saturday, nothing was going to be fixed; Madrid would not invade La Diagonal with tanks, nor would Puigdemont declare unilateral independence in the face of the King. Sixty minutes was everything. Silence, applause, candles, photos for covers, sad faces, a sense of common commitment, shared humanity, and home, or the beach bar. There was no need. And from eight o'clock, we could continue fighting all that you want. Like before. If you didn't like "Spanish", then how about "European" or "Democrat" or "human being".

But no. It had to be [the Catalan flag], and conspiratorial banners, and whistles and shouts and booing and rage. What a show. Because the King was coming and he had to be educated. And that was more important than the victims and their loved ones. They valued the odious protest against the Spanish above any shared value or sentiment. They acted, and reacted, in that sense, in accordance with their true beliefs and values. To what they want. Selfishly.

Given this indecency the independistas and this lack of shared values, even for those killed after a terrorist attack, I think that Spain and the Government of Rajoy have a more obvious problem than they had 10 days ago. The country, it seems, has changed a lot since the attacks of 11-M when there were, if I remember correctly, demonstrations of pain in all major cities, including Barcelona. Without flags.

So far, my main complaint on the issue of Catalan independence was something eminently practical: a lack of eggs, of course. Years and years and years of rhetoric and debate and neo-language, and media manipulation, framing concepts and distorting the law, and "cunning" politicians, but did not advance beyond the local Parliament, TV3 and the annual romería. Yes, utopian plans to tale control of the Ebro delta Ebro or the power grid or military bases, or powerful interviews with suggestive statements in the international media. But it was all about talking for the sake of talking, mostly. But, at the end of the day, they knew that the Spanish state existed and that it was very real. They would not bite that hook.

Well, at the level of vital evidence, at the level of external events that compel a reaction, of those which leave no time for further training or contemplation, the Islamic State has arrived before the Spanish State. 16 dead, 100 wounded, terror and violence in the streets of the Catalan capital and a beautiful coastal town. And how has it been seen by the separatists? As fantastic, it seems. Reading and hearing their statements, they are already prepared, they see themselves as already capable, they have already acted as would have done the independent Catalan republic that they have in their heads. Puigdemont has already admitted to the Financial Times and to El Nacional that it has bought 6,000 voting urns somewhere, but he is obviously not going to give details. Why? Because Maza warned in July that, if so, funds for this had been improperly spent.

On Sunday, the day after the alleged "unitary" march by the victims, VilaWeb's editorial was titled "No tenim por de res". They have already misrepresented the phrase directed towards the terrorists "I have no fear" (actually a lie), turning this into: "We are not afraid of anything", neither of the Islamic State nor of the Spanish State. Look at the nuance, the subtle twist between one concept and another. And all in 10 days.

If previously everything was rhetoric, now there has been something, an event in the real world, and they have acted in line with their parochial interests. Above consideration of the dead. They have taken advantage of a terrorist attack to reinforce the separatist position ahead of the new referendum because it proves, according to thems, that they are already prepared and that they are not afraid of anything. How will the government of Rajoy react? How does he intend to defend Catalan Spaniards who are not secessionists? What is the solution to this problem?


Maria said...

Rajoy will wait. That's his favorite reaction - waiting. When something does need to be done, he instructs his minions to do something, anything, and then takes credit if it goes well, or gives blame if it doesn't. Right now, he's waiting for the vote to take place (or not). Will more than 50% actually vote in favor of secession? I don't know. Even if they do, Rajoy will probably wait some more until the Generalitat actually takes concrete actions. After that, he'll probably dissolve the autonomy and then we'll really have some resentment brewing.

Colin Davies said...

Yes, I fully agree, Maria. Not always a bad strategy, of course.

Sierra said...

"The Deep South may have escaped the rains" - anybody watching La Vuelta in Almeria today will be able to answer - wet and cold (below 10 deg C)!

Colin Davies said...

I blame Lenox, who wrote the rains weren't expected until Thursday. I think . . .