Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 27.1.18

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.

  • At least one Spaniard took exception in the national media to The Times article I recently cited on how to become Spanish. His reaction is printed below, in both Spanish and (improved) Googlish. His opening salvo - totally correct - is that There's no doubt that the British envy us. They love Spain, they love our rhythm of life and they love our traditions. Despite this, there is always someone who tries to use typical English humour, full of irony and insults, to mess with Spain and the Spanish. I doubt that Sr Sanchez was really angry but, if so, it might well be that, like most Spaniards, being unfamiliar with other cultures, he doesn't really understand why foreigners - not  just the English - make these observations. Specifically, since the Spanish - when they're not being self-critical - see themselves as a noble people, they're angered and hurt when it's pointed out that some of the things they do are considered impolite - even very rude - in other cultures. That said, whenever foreigners like me who live here are asked what's the best thing about Spain, we invariably answer 'The Spanish people'. So they must be doing something right. 
  • Sanchez claims that the writer of the article - Chris  Haslam - doesn't know Spain well. I beg to differ. I suspect he does and that he also knows, like me, that the way to interest and amuse readers is not to go on about how wonderful Spain and the Spanish are - there are countless laudatory guides for this - but to write about what intrigues, amuses, impresses and irritates the writer. While regularly stressing that, despite all that, he/she loves living here. As I'm sure Haslam does.
  • The other factor at play here is that, sad to say and frequently admitted by the Spanish, they suffer from an inferiority complex. Which, by and large, the British don't. Meaning they can live with mockery/criticisms, even taking pride in them. Witness the positive reaction to How to be an Alien, which astonished its Hungarian author, George Mikes. Who'd feared being lynched after his first edition. For comments like this one: Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot-water bottles.
  • By the way 1: When I showed the Sanchez article to the owner of my regular bar last night, she vehemently endorsed the observations on her fellow Spaniards. 
  • BTW 2: Even Spanish-speaking South Americans are shocked at the 'robustness' of Spanish discourse. 
The EU
  • Who would have thought that: The French are the world’s biggest consumers and producers of 'Nutella', despite it being largely composed of sugar and palm oil?
  • Given that he's a compulsive liar and a superlative-obsessive, the important question arises: What percentage discount should we routinely apply to Fart's statements? Possibly it depends on what he's talking/rambling about. Me, I'd start with 100%
  • Some discount examples:-
  • Fart at Davos 
- He talked about the voices of the forgotten - a constant theme here among the "super-haves" who are coming to a creeping realisation that the system has to change if faith in the capitalist system is to endure. 
- America, Mr Trump said, did not want a trade war, it wanted fair trade. Which may come as a surprise to countries like South Korea, smarting this week following the imposition of tariffs on US imports of solar panels and washing machines.
-  Larry Fink, the CEO of investment company BlackRock: America is still a trading nation, one which gains far more economically from globalisation - world trade - than it does from protectionist measures. And that brute economic truth means that Mr Trump has to play a different tune here - to the business leaders and investors who decide where to place their cash - than maybe to the left-behind voters of the US rust belt. Today, economic reality softened the president.

Nutters Corner
  • Here's another fantastically disingenuous comment from President Fart, who boasted in the 90s that the press slavishly printed every one of the many false stories he gave them: As a businessman I was always treated really well by the press… and it wasn't until I became a politician that I realised how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be.
  • A pastor who coiled venomous snakes round the arms and necks of his congregation has been killed by a viper he preached with. As his father was.
The Culture/Gender Wars
  • Exactly what form these take depends, of course, in which culture you're living. For example, whenever a Spanish woman puts a hand on my arm, hand or thigh when talking to me, I enjoy telling her that, in the UK, I'd be able to sue her for sexual harassment.
  • The other thing is that the experience of working with women on, say a Cadbury conveyor belt, might educate you to the fact that it's not only men who can talk and behave like men. Similarly, being a young waiter at a hen party.
  • An older (I guess) feminist has a go at younger feminists in the second article below
Social Media
  • An interesting intervention by George Soros. I hope he's right.
  • A Galician woman has come second in a Best Sandwich competition in Madrid: Her offering comprises:- Garlic Dublin prawns, Iberian bacon and fried eggs. Hardly nouvelle cuisine, then.
  • The retaining wall around the first hostel that camino pilgrims come to in Pontevedra is as high as the one opposite my gate. So probably equally illegal. One thing's for sure: it's falling down. Said pilgrims are well advised to cross the road at this point.
  • Galician companies are reported to be paying 30% more for their energy than their German counterparts/competitors. I guess it makes sense to someone.
  • Have you noticed that this post is replete with Hungarians called George?
  • Possibly some useful advice on protecting your computer from Meltdown and Spectre.
Today's Cartoon

From The Times again:-


1. El diario británico ‘The Times’ se burla de todos los españoles: Rafael Sánchez

El diario británico ‘The Times’ se burla de todos los españoles

No hay ninguna duda de que los británicos nos envidian. Les encanta España, les encanta nuestro ritmo de vida y les encanta nuestras tradiciones.

Pese a ello, siempre hay alguno que trata de usar el típico humor inglés, lleno de ironía e insultos maquillados con humor para meterse con España y los españoles.

En este caso ha sido el diario ‘The Times’, el encargado de publicar un artículo escrito por Chris Haslam, en el que este periodista no duda en llenar su artículo de tópicos españoles, dejando claro que de España conoce más bien poco.

En el artículo, Chris Haslam asegura que los primeros pasos para convertirse en español es “aprender el idioma, ponerse moreno y saber diferenciar las tapas de los pintxos“, aunque reconoce que “queda mucho para que puedas hacerte pasar por otra persona que no sea un guiri”.

Continúa llamándonos maleducados, afirmando: “Primero, olvídate de las nociones de educación, discreción y corrección anglosajonas. Ser español significa entrar en un bar, empezar a besar y a abrazar a extraños, gritarle ‘oye’ al camarero y tirar al suelo todo lo que no puedas comer o beber.Menos los vasos. Eso es demasiado. Pero puedes tirar los ‘por favor’ y los ‘gracias’. Son muy innecesarios”.
“También tienes que desbloquear esa boca sucia. El español hablado, o más bien gritado, está lleno de obscenidades de asombrosa inventiva y conciencia anatómica, y no importa a quien le estés hablando”, escribe.

Además, destaca que todos los españoles son impuntuales: “Llegar 30 minutos tarde a cualquier lado está considerado, de hecho, bastante pronto y grosero”.

“Tienes que aprender a cómo comer. Empezar el día desayunando una tostada de sobrasada y un cortado, y no pedir mantequilla. Este es el país del aceite de oliva. Deja cualquier cosa que estés haciendo a las once de la mañana y tomate una cerveza y un bocadillo. Eso te debería bastar hasta la hora de comer, a las 14h. Vas a tomarte un menú del día de tres platos, y te llevará entre dos y tres horas. Luego échate una siesta”, sigue diciendo.

“Siguiente, tapas. Siempre podrás identificar a los británicos. Ellos son los que entran a un abarrotado bar de tapas y no pueden creerse que haya mesas libres. Eso es porque los españoles ven con desagrado las mesas. Las tapas se comen en la barra, mientras gritas al camarero y lanzas cosas al suelo. Menos los vasos no lo olvides”.

Sobre la cena, este redactor, afirma: “La hora de cenar es a las diez de la noche. Empieza con una cerveza o un vino tinto helado, porque los cócteles son para después de cenar, y asegúrate de comerte todo lo que pides. No te pases con las propinas, estate indeciso sobre los toros y, finalmente, lleva siempre tu teléfono al cuarto de baño. Esto es para: A: Para revisar los mensajes de tu amante. B: Porque todos los sensores de luz de los baños de la Península Ibérica se apagan a los cuatro segundos”.

The British Times newspaper mocks the Spanish

There is no doubt that the British envy us. They love Spain, they love our rhythm of life and they love our traditions.

Despite this, there is always someone who tries to use typical English [i. e. British] humour, full of irony and insults, to mess with Spain and the Spanish.

In this case it has been the newspaper 'The Times', which published an article written by Chris Haslam, in which this journalist does not hesitate to fill his article with Spanish topics, making it clear that he knows Spain very little.

In the article, Chris Haslam says that the first steps to becoming Spanish is to "learn the language, get brown and know how to differentiate tapas from pintxos", although he admits that "there is a lot more to do before you to pass for someone other than a guiri. "

He continues calling us rude, stating: "First, forget the notions of education[good manners], discretion and Anglo-Saxon correctness. Being Spanish means going into a bar, starting kissing and hugging strangers, yelling 'Oiga! to the waiter and throwing everything you can't eat or drink on the floor. Minus the glasses. That's excessive. But you can forget 'please' and the 'thank you'. They are very unnecessary".

"You also have to unlock your dirty mouth. Spoken, or rather shouted, spanish is full of obscenities of amazing inventiveness and anatomical awareness, and it does not matter who you are talking to", he writes.

In addition, he emphasizes that all Spaniards are unpunctual: "Arriving 30 minutes late is everywhere considered quite early and rude, in fact".

"You have to learn how to eat. Start the day having a slice of toast with sobrasada and a piece of cold meat, and don't ask for butter. This is the country of olive oil. Leave whatever you're doing at eleven o'clock in the morning and have a beer and a sandwich. That should be enough until lunchtime, at 2pm. You are going to have a three-course day menu, and it will take you two to three hours. Then take a nap", he continues.

"Next, tapas. You can always identify the British. They are the ones who enter a crowded tapas bar and can't believe there are tables free. That's because the Spaniards look on tables with displeasure. Tapas are eaten at the bar, while you yell at the waiter and throw things on the floor. But not glasses, don't forget".

About dinner, the writer says: "Dinner time is at ten o'clock at night. Start with a beer or an iced red wine, because cocktails are for after dinner, and make sure you eat everything you ask for. Don't tip, be uncertain about bullfighting and, finally, always take your phone to the bathroom. This is: A: To check your lover's messages. And B: Because all the sensors in toilets on the Iberian Peninsula turn off the lights after 4 seconds".

2. Older feminists aren't lobotomised - today's young women should show respect: Joanna Williams

Recent surveys have shown that younger women are far more likely to perceive themselves as victims of sexual harassment 

Women in revealing black dresses, matching underwear and high heeled shoes, waiting on rich and famous men at a secretive annual fundraiser has, for over three decades, passed without note. Not any more. This week, an exposé decries the sexual harassment the hostesses apparently had to endure. 

The story of the Presidents Club Charity Dinner seems to confirm what #MeToo campaigners have been telling us for the past three months: vulnerable women need protecting from sexually predatory men. There is no room in this tale of woe for women who enjoyed the glamour and excitement of the evening and wanted to make some money. In the eyes of today’s feminists, men have fun while women suffer in silence. 

Once, feminism had more confidence in the ability of women to handle themselves. “I want the woman on a train who feels a man's hand where it shouldn't be … to be able to say quite clearly, ‘Stop!’” claimed Germaine Greer this week. Not for the first time, her views have been met by outrage. The idea that women can be strong enough to challenge unwanted advances horrifies a younger generation of feminists who argue men, not women, should change their behaviour. 

With the #MeToo movement, we are moving away from sexually liberated women able to say yes - or no - to men’s advances towards the rehabilitation of the guileless woman who swoons at the prospect of an unwanted kiss and trembles at a misplaced hand. Men, as Margaret Atwood has pointed out are now, “guilty because accused,” while women are cast into the role of perpetual victim. 

Voices criticising #MeToo are beginning to grow. “A hand-on-the-knee 15 years ago is not serious enough,” claims Miriam Margolyes, “it’s obvious what’s assault and what isn’t.” Catherine Deneuve signed a letter condemning a new puritanism and defending sexual freedom: “Rape is a crime, but flirting, even persistently or cack-handedly, is not.” 

For the most part, these critics are from a different generation than today’s young activists. Feminists who cut their teeth in the 1960s are now chastised for not listening to the voices of “survivors”. Old women, the young tell us, are “fake” feminists, “has-beens” suffering from “internalised misogyny” which has left them “lobotomised to the point of no return.” The young stake out the moral high ground with claims of sensitivity yet perceive no problem with ageism. There is no insult too degrading it can’t be hurled at a second-wave feminist. 

This ugly intergenerational conflict represents more than just differences in priorities and tactics. Recent surveys have shown that younger women are far more likely to perceive themselves as victims of sexual harassment. A recent YouGov poll showed two thirds of 18-24 year old women thought wolf whistling was always or usually sexual harassment compared to just 15% of women aged 55 or over. Almost a third of young women think that winking is a form of sexual harassment. 

Younger women argue they are more sensitive to abuse because they have grown up expecting equality. Rather than putting-up and shutting-up they are emboldened to speak out. An alternative explanation is that the constant repetition of stories about the gender pay gap and everyday sexism, along with a refusal to celebrate the success of women in education and employment, has taught young women to see themselves as victims. A cosseted generation has come to find victimhood attractive; it brings with it a platform and moral sanctitude. Today's young feminists breathe life back into outdated attitudes towards sex, at the heart of which is the innocent woman forever saying no. 

But today’s young feminists need to hold off insulting the women who fought for the freedom and equality they now take for granted. In 1971 Catherine Deneuve put her name to another public letter. “I declare that I am one of them. I declare that I have had an abortion,” signed Deneuve, at a time when abortion was illegal in France and doing so could have led to her imprisonment. The signatories were derided as a “sluts” but they no doubt helped bring about a shift in French attitudes towards abortion. Almost half a century later it is feminists who are calling Deneuve a slut. 

An older generation of feminists can remember a time when women did not have the freedom and equality they enjoy today: a world without access to contraception and abortion, without equal pay, with marriage bars, dress codes, chaperones and curfews. Each new liberty was hard won. They deserve respect, not derision, from today’s young women. 

Older feminists recall expectations on them to be chaste and entirely passive in sexual relationships. Their role was to say no and tame male instincts. The freedom to say yes to sex, to have agency and desires, was so momentous that winking, knee-touching and unwanted kisses barely registered. Risk-taking was better than imprisonment by social convention. 

Today's young feminists breathe life back into outdated attitudes towards sex, at the heart of which is the innocent woman forever saying no. Hostessing at secret all-male dinners might not be everyone’s preferred career choice but the freedom for women to take on this job, without chaperones or curfews, is surely worth defending.

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