Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 28.12.17

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.

  • The police sent to Cataluña in October are being pulled out. I'm betting Presdient Rajoy classifies this as a 'return to normality' and a victory for his hard-nosed atttitude of the last 10 years. Others won't.
  • The coastal region of Cataluña now forms Tabarnia. With 'constitutionalists' in the clear majority, it might well demand self-governance from a future Catalan republic and declare itself independent. And why not? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Passport to Pimlico again?
  • A Pontevera city and a Pontevedra provincial court have pronounced that it's OK - at least in certain circumstances - for a parent to read the whatsapp messages of a child. Even if the other parent objects to this. I wonder if this will be endorsed at the regional and national level. If not, what is the significance of it? Does what happens in Galicia have any impact on parents elsewhere? Is it a regional free-for-all until the national Supreme Court decides a case?
The EU & Brexit
  • Opines Richard North this morning: Probably, decades will have to pass before the dust settles and we can get a sense of where we are going. Seems about right to me.
The Spanish Language
  • Coincidently, I was recently trying to find the castellano equivalent of the phrase I used above - Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Anyone know? Maria??
Social Media
  • See the relevant article at the end of this post, on the issue of the polarisation it contributes to.
  • Possibly the best news of the year is that deaths on the region's roads this year are down 28 (37% ) on last year's total. Which itself was way down on 2015's number.
  • Our infamously expensive AP-9 motorway crosses a bridge above the Rande Straits - a place made famous by a 1702 naval battle. Said bridge has just been widened by having an exta lane attached to each side. A ver . . . 

  • The Voz de Galicia this morning say this is the first widening of a puente atirado in the world. I thought this meant a suspension bridge but it turns out to be a stay cable bridge. Click here for the difference. Anyway, it all put me in mind of a trip to New Zealand years ago, when I was told that the Auckland harbour bridge (a box truss type) had had a new lane attached to each side. As this had been done by a Japanese company, the bridge had become known as the 'Nippon clip-on'. I thought this was hilarious but no one I've mentioned it to since then has ever thought so.
  • It's a mad, mad world. Not to mention greedy. For proof, click here to see just how far the global flood of liquidity has befuddled the minds of speculators and turned them into knee-jerk betting automatons. The author concludes: This phenomenon happens only during the very late stages of a bubble. But going back over the last three bubbles and crashes, to 1987, I have never seen anything this crazy. This is truly awe-inspiring.
Today's Cartoon

Social media again . . . 


Obama’s right: hashtags can’t change the world: David Aaronovitch

So the amiable Harry wisely decided that it was Barack’s call and let him riff for half an hour on this and that, touching on themes such as “the young”, “social media” and “doing good things”. It was not a hard gig: the man only had to open his mouth to remind listeners that we had gone if not from Hyperion to a satyr, then at least from someone who managed not to gratuitously insult a new nation or another people every morning before breakfast to someone who does.

But naturally, though the word Trump was never used and its embodiment never mentioned (Harry can’t do that, can he?), his reality haunted the discussion. There was, I think, a hidden theme running like invisible lettering through the candy: how can we not let this happen again? Whatever it was that caused all this, how can we do better next time?

Barack, now a sage in his fifties, scratched his grey head. In the olden days, he said, we in America had three TV stations. True, you had conservatives and liberals (Yank for right and left) but “everybody had a common set of facts. People could agree on a baseline of reality.” But today, with the internet, “people can have a different reality. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.” The result was a “Balkanisation” of society in which it was harder and harder to find common ground.

All-encompassing but still vaguely mystical, the internet is a useful scapegoat for the ills of modern society. But in fact the polarisation so often ascribed to the web was well under way before Mark Zuckerberg hit puberty and exists even where social media is unimportant. I remember in the summer of 2004 I went to Colorado to look for clues in the run-up to the Bush-Kerry election. In downtown Denver they have one of the most delightful bookshops in the world, the Tattered Cover. On either side of the till I noticed a different pile of books. On one side the books all had titles and sub-titles like Selling America: How the Clintons Destroyed the Union and on the other Bane of the Nation: How the Bush Dynasty Betrayed the People. Research by The New York Times established that just about no one who bought and read a book on one side would also buy and read one on the other.

Or take Alabama 2017. A few weeks ago Judge Roy Moore stood in and very narrowly lost a Senate by-election in that staunch Republican state. Though he was a Republican the party itself thought he was too extreme, he faced credible accusations of making sexual advances to underage girls and he refused so much as to debate with his Democratic rival. He went down by just 20,000 votes in 1.3 million.

Alabama has seven congressional districts. Remarkably, had the same voters cast ballots for the same parties in a congressional election, the Republicans would have won six of them. How is that possible? Simple, they’re gerrymandered. One district, the 7th, has been so constructed as to include a third of all the black voters in the state. On a map it looks like an octopus, sending tentacles way out from its body so as to take in distant black suburbs. The result is to create one ultra-safe Democratic seat and six pretty damn safe Republican ones.

That’s a disgrace, of course. You wonder how our American cousins allow it (and they’ll probably retort with something about Prince Harry). But think about the consequences. The six Republicans have very little need to worry about the problems or the wishes of the 30 per cent of inhabitants of Alabama who are black. And Terri Sewell, the one Democrat, would be suicidal to spend a moment thinking of how to create a coalition with white voters. It’s Northern Ireland before 1968.

And more of America is becoming like this and has been for decades. People move to the place where folk are like them and not like those others. All of it without much help from the internet or social media. Indeed you could argue that, for the young at least, social media offers the possibility of looking beyond their immediate circumstances.

The other thing is that polarisation is, for some quite powerful people, a useful political tool. It was once a tactic, now elevated to a strategy. Take the Reesmoggrification of the ruling classes. In the last couple of years the domestic political scene has reverberated to the squeaks and rumbles of public schoolboys, educated at significant expense by parents specifically to spare them even the most minimal contact with the great unwashed, brazenly allying themselves with those same people. Thus do politicians and scribblers formerly of Eton and the like ride out under the banner of the proles to do battle with the metropolitan elite.

Now, I might feel better for writing that paragraph, but what the former president went on to say to the prince yesterday was that to improve things you have to find common ground between people, and to do that they have to encounter each other. Nor could that just be done online, because “raising a hashtag itself is not a way of bringing about change”. People have to meet. Ideas have to be exchanged. Even where it’s sometimes true, resorting to calling someone else a name has to be resisted.

This week I interviewed an American academic who had left California to study Trump voters. The traditional American working class, she said, were being culturally insulted in a way few other groups were, and they resented it. Like? Like Homer Simpson, she replied. Imagine looking at him and knowing he’s supposed to be a guy like you.

In some countries (but by no means all), demographics favour the more liberal, more tolerant and more “sophisticated” (Obama’s word) and we could let the most natural of natural wastages do the work. We can wait for the Homers to die, but that would be wrong of us. Better to try harder to live together.


Eamon said...

"Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." I found several translations but they were really literal using salsa for sauce. However, I did find "lo que es bueno para uno es bueno para el otro."

Maria said...

Hmm. Perhaps a similar equivalent would be "tanto monta, monta tanto." Around here we also say, "tanto da xan como pericán." The first is painted above the throne in the Alcázar de Segovia where Isabel la Católica was crowned.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

'Politicians and scribblers formerly of Eton and the like ride out under the banner of the proles to do battle with the metropolitan elite.'

Hmmm... Why is it that the above sentence reminds me somehow of a certain linguistic iconoclast whom we both know and you love??


Colin Davies said...

Yes, Eamon. That was my experience too.

Colin Davies said...

@ Alfie. And you carry the banner for the metropolitan elite, I guess,

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Maria.

Eamon said...

María - I have heard the expression "Tanto monta, monta tanto" but didn't understand it. I looked it up to see that it translates roughly to "As much as the one is worth, so too is the other." Your answer to the question fits in very well thanks.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Tanto monta etc goes back to the so-called Catholic Kings, as a slogan to indicate that the Queen of Castile was on a par with the King of Aragon when they married and merged their kingdoms back in the 15th C.

I am unaware if either of the two identified with a goose or a gander. But they sure started some trouble!

Other tan that, if you want a good recipe for roast fowl, Kindly look at: