Friday, January 19, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 19.1.18

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.

  • Yesterday, I read this article on creeping censorship here that Lenox Napier had cited in this week's Business Over Tapas. Essentially, exisiting laws are being twisted/abused to repress unwelcome comments under the headings of lauding terrorism, interfering with the police, offending religious believers and committing 'hate' crimes. And then I saw this report. I wonder in how many European countries it's illegal merely to take fotos of the police.
  • Talking of the police and fines . . .  Here's an interesting bit of news for drivers. Google will help, if necessary.
  • Here's The Local's latest bucket-list list for Spanish residents.
  • It used to be that, when you wanted to send a registered letter (carta certificada) here, you hand-filled a form in the ample time you'd have until you were served. Not now. Now you have to hand over the letter and wait for the clerk to type everything into his/her computer and then give you an A4 print-out, in place of the previous carbon copy. Needless to say, if you're a guiri with only one surnamethere are queries and then mistakes that have to be corrected. All-in-all, a less efficient and slower process than before. But, hey, it's progress.
The EU
  • Here's Don Quijones on current developments in Brussels, where they're gearing up for tough negotiations with London over the Brexit. And polishing up their weapons: The EU’s efforts to stamp out tax havens, in particular those connected to the City of London, would be laudable if it weren’t for the inconvenient little fact that three of the world’s 10 worst corporate tax havens identified by Oxfam are in the EU: The Netherlands (3rd), Ireland (6th) and Luxembourg (7th), most of whose tax-avoidance structures were put in place during EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s 18-year reign as Luxembourg’s prime minister. More on this duplicity here. One wonders how the Dutch get away with it.
  • Nambia/Namibia responds brilliantly to President Fart. 
  • Below is an article from a Times journalist on the possibly farthest right element of the alt-right section of US society. Chastening reading.
The English Language
  • My first experience of this new(to me at least) verb: There’s a real tendency to demagogue the issue.
    Obscenely Rich Nutters Corner
    • Here's televangelist Kevin Copeland on his purchase of a private jet: First, the Holy Spirit confirmed to Brother Copeland that the Gulfstream V was the plane the Lord had set aside for Kevin Copeland Ministries. Right away discussions began, and Brother Copeland developed a wonderful personal relationship with the seller, Christian businessman and movie-maker Tyler Perry. Soon a contract was signed, a cash deposit was paid, and the aircraft was brought to Dallas for a very thorough pre-buy inspection process, which has wrapped up in November. And praise God, it was actually during THANKSGIVING week that the purchase was completed, the title was signed, and thanks to the CX Team, the cash was in the bank to mark it paid in full! Hallelujah, it’s done! This crook then went on to ask for $2.5m dollars to properly fit it out for his religious mission on earth. And probably got it from some of the most gullible people who inhabit it.
    Social Media
    • A quote from the article below: In his brilliant, recent 'How Not To Be A Boy', Robert Webb described political social media as the intelligentsia’s equivalent of the pub in which angry men go to fight of an evening, never quite appreciating that they’re no different from any other brawling yob.
    • 2021 is a Jacobeo year in Santiago de Compostela, when camino 'pilgrim' numbers are expected to soar. Get your hotel bookings now. And avoid the French Way, if you can. Unless you like crowds. Finally, queue very early for the noon pilgrims' Mass. Or you won't get in. And don't try to take your rucksack in, or you'll end up at the back of the line. No charge.
    • The province has had its share of Spain's booming tourist numbers. And I was interested to see these are classified into Cultural and Del sol. The former spend an average of €68-102 a day but the latter only 28-70. Of course, as Lenox Napier regularly says, despite the fact we both bring and spend more money, we turistas residenciales are very largely ignored. I guess it's because we're not so likely to go somewhere else if badly done by. And so can be taken for granted. I guess it makes sense, if money is all you're interested in.
    • It's official . . . Our young (18-35) drivers are the 4th worst in Spain. One reason, I guess, why our insurance premiums are the highest in the country. Not to mention our petrol. And our tolls. And the incidence of motoring fines . . .
    • Should you want to read this blog on Google Plus, here's where to find me/it. One of them is not me.
    Today's Cartoon


    The alt-right still wears the same old brown shirts: Hugo Rifkind

    A Twitter debate with a member of the US alt-right has cleared up the question of whether they really are neo-Nazis

    Generally, speaking it’s a waste of your life bickering with Nazis on Twitter in the middle of the night, but I do it too much, anyway. What can I say? Some men have train sets.

    Sometimes, though, it’s useful. A few years ago, a bunch of more erratic anti-semites saw the green shirt I used to wear in my Twitter profile photo and decided that it must be my uniform from my time in the Israeli Defence Force. Obviously I wasn’t actually in the IDF — I’m from Edinburgh and the shirt was from Topman— but the whole thing was a lot of fun. I engaged and took the piss. The exchange went moderately viral and the whole thing felt broadly worthwhile. Yes, they were all mad. Still, this is what pure antisemitism looks like; the reflexive expectation that even thoroughly Anglofied Jews like me must have true loyalties elsewhere. I was glad to give other people a chance to see it.

    Yesterday was a bit different. A few days earlier, I’d tweeted, rudely — stupidly, really — about the latest Ukip racism scandal, of Henry Bolton and his girlfriend Jo Marney, who had been texting racist slurs about Meghan Markle. How or why this came to the attention of the American far right I have no idea, but it did. And, after a spot of idle back and forth (it was evening, I’ve just moved house, the Sky box isn’t working yet) a man called Evan McLaren weighed in. “Hugo,” he said. “You should consider speaking with us. We’d love to chat.” And that was when things got interesting.

    I googled him. He’s the executive director of something that calls itself the National Policy Institute, an American white supremacist think tank best known for being the home of Richard Spencer, that chubby neo-Nazi who is always getting punched on demonstrations. The guys who marched through Charlottesville last year chanting “Jew Will Not Replace Us” before one of their allies rammed counter-protesters with a car, killing one of them? That was these guys. So I knew who he was, but I wanted to see how he’d describe himself. Partly because, although we’ve got Netflix, I’d watched all the good stuff already.

    At this point, I didn’t think this was an exchange many people would see. Lack of good telly aside, I am genuinely interested in understanding how people with views I find abhorrent think. As an opinion columnist, everything is research. He said that he was an “identitarian” and worked “promoting the heritage, interests, and future of European-decended (sic) peoples”. I asked if I was one of those. All my ancestors are from bits of Europe, after all. He explained not. “We are referring to non-semitic European peoples” he said. So I asked what he thought should be done with the semitic ones. Specifically, and well aware I was speaking to a neo-Nazi, I asked if he thought I should be exiled (like my grandmother), killed (like her siblings), or merely jailed (like my grandfather). Whereupon he said he preferred the first option.

    I shan’t relay the whole exchange that followed. You can read it here. The general dynamic, though, was of me trying to unpick how, if at all, he differed from the Nazis who killed my mothers’ family and him illustrating that he didn’t, really. I don’t think that is too strong. Mr McLaren is sceptical about the Holocaust, to the extent that tweets in our exchange won’t show up if you read it in Germany, where Holocaust denial is illegal. He sees the presence of my father’s family in the UK since 1895 as no reason for me not to be deported from here, back to where he feels I belong, which I’m pretty sure isn’t Edinburgh. Press hard on what, if anything makes him not a Nazi, his best effort was that he wasn’t a 1930s German and he didn’t believe in reclaiming the Danzig corridor. In other words, there is no aspect of Nazi philosophy he was prepared to say wasn’t for him. Think about that for a while.

    Our exchange went viral after I eventually retweeted it. So far it has garnered thousands of retweets and likes and a few articles elsewhere, which is why, unexpectedly, I’m taking a break from my normal Wednesday gig (TV column; I still manage to watch a lot) to write about it now. What was really going on? Well, several things. For me, I was learning, and showing, what this small but important subset of the US right actually thinks. The alt-right still considers itself Donald Trump’s praetorian guard. He refused to disavow it after Charlottesville (“violence on many sides, many sides” he said) and the US far right, and the British far right, too, will still cry “snowflake!” at the suggestion that they, or their fellow travellers, are in anyway similar to the brownshirts or blackshirts of the 1930s. There can’t be any doubt after this. It wasn’t a pose, a “Heil Trump!” to scare the liberals. This was considered, extended and real. These guys are Nazis. They just are.

    Quite a few people have asked how I stayed polite and calm. That’s gratifying, but I didn’t really. After my opening kill/exil/jail gambit I accused him of wishing harm to my half-Jewish children (their other half, unlike him, is German) and at one point in our discussion I posted a form filled out by a relative of mine after the war, which is the only record of Ryszard, a boy who was killed in “actions against children” in the Warsaw ghetto at the age of nine, and thus never got a chance to be my uncle. For me, that’s not really what calm looks like. What I didn’t do, though, was swear, or abuse, or simply quit. And I had my reasons.

    These people have a strategy. Given the numbers, I have no doubt that they would be spreading their politics with crowbars and beatings and broken glass, just as their political forebears did. Charlottesville showed us that. Not usually having them, though, they put on suits and ties and feign reasonableness, in the hope that their opponents are the ones who end up shrieking. At times, Mr McLaren actually managed to sound vexed at the hostility that I, a Jew, was showing to his plans to get rid of me. Possibly this was genuine, and there’s something missing there. More likely, though, it was what the kids call “gaslighting” — the trick of making your opponents feel like they are losing their minds.

    Perhaps I’m just not a very easy person to gaslight. I know who I am. What’s more, this was Twitter, and I know Twitter. Over however many stupid years I have spent on that stupid website, I have learned when to stamp and when to swear and when to painstakingly feed the bigots ever more rope. In his brilliant, recent How Not To Be A Boy, Robert Webb described political social media as the intelligentsia’s equivalent of the pub in which angry men go to fight of an evening, never quite appreciating that they’re no different from any other brawling yob. He was right, and it shook me. I ought to be better at holding it in check. Although when an actual out-and-proud Nazi comes swinging into your pub, I must say, you don’t half appreciate the hours you’ve put in learning just how to knock the bastard flat.


    Sierra said...

    Correos - on a positive note - had to return a package to Amazon today - prompt reading of the bar-codes - receipt printedb- no NIE, no signatures - under two minutes.

    Find Correos Express is the best of the various couriers Amazon use

    Perry said...

    Obscenely Rich Nutters Corner

    Televangelist profits from long dead prophet who purchased a Gulftream V for him.
    'Jesus bought this': Delighted televangelist Kenneth Copeland giggles with glee.

    The gullible are always with us. RC church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day. It has no currency in the bad place.

    Colin Davies said...

    I think you can get a plenary indulgence for doing the camino in 2021, and putting more money in various coffers.

    Perry said...

    "Doing the camino in 2021".

    I'll be pushing up daisies well before then & in any case; there's nary a thing after death.
    The belief in the supernatural started with the first human who realised that death is personal. Prior to that thought, death seemed to happen to others & the sudden realisation that all died prompted the (I paraphrase here) question "Is that it?", swiftly followed by "No, that can't be right. There has to be something else" & so, the hereafter was invented as a panicked & fearful explanation of the unknown. Something like "I know! When I die, my essence, my insideness (new word), my being me, goes on. Yeah, that's what happens. I'm saved! I shall live with the Green Man".

    Consequently, humans have chosen to worshippmany gods over the aeons. Time has whittled them down to one in the Abrahamic religions. I select the logical choice of one fewer. It really makes sense.

    Colin Davies said...

    Yes, it's all about rartional/irrational fear. No more so than with the sin and guilt-laden Catholicism in which I was raised. But from which I escaped around 18, having tussled with unsatisfactory answers ('We don't know. It's a miracle') for some time. Sadly, other members of my family went in the opposite direction. Except for the one who fled to Judaism . . .

    Of course, when you leave a religion/sect behind, it gets more and more ludicrous over the years.

    But I still like to visit churches and cathedral and to stay until anger at the expoitation of the poor by a staggeringly rich and corrupt institution overwhelms me. And that's ignoring the sexual abuse.

    I like to think I would have preceded both Wycliff and Luther . . . .

    Perry said...

    Lo & behold, I give you Pillars of the Earth.

    Perry said...


    This should be right up your street. If you loathe the cant, self-righteousness, and stupidity of the regressive left, then you’ll love this train wreck of an interview. It’s the most satisfying piece of poetic justice since the Comet came unstuck in that tunnel in Atlas Shrugged. So says James.