Monday, February 12, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 12.2.18

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.

  • More on the recently arrested Galician narco
  • An interesting train station I'd like to take a look at one day.
  • This a list from The Times of 20 amazing places in Spain that the British haven't discovered yet. Makes a change from The Local. A bit of a mixture:-
1. Llafranc
2. Segovia and Salamanca [Actually 2 places . . . ]
3. Extremadura [Rather large]
4. Viveiro, Galicia
5. Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country
6. Secret Majorca: The Victoria Peninsula
7. Alcalá de Henares
8. Playa de Mónsul, Andalusia
9. Es Grau, Menorca
10. La Coruna, Galicia
11. Reus
12. Soria
13. Aragón
14. Navarre
15. Toledo
16. Secret Andalusia, away from the coast
17. Ribadesella, Asturias
18. Cíes Islands, Galicia
19. Murcia
20. Binisafúller, Menorca 
  • A couple of my Spanish friends insisted yesterday that the 'centrist' Ciudadanos party is, in certain respects, more right wing than the PP party. Which makes this report seem even odder, even accounting for the strangeness of political bedfellows.
  • Good news?: Plague-carrying rats in 16th-century Spain or a thriller set in a nuclear power station some time in the future. These are glimpses of the lavish Spanish series La Peste (The Plague), which is about the bubonic plague in Seville, and La Zona (The Zone), which might be the next big hits on British television. They are also part of a bold €70 million initiative by Telefónica, the telecoms group, to produce high-quality, original Spanish-language television content, which is attracting interest in Britain, the United States and Europe.
  • The friends I mentioned above - both lawyers - also insisted that Sr Rajoy couldn't be the Prime Minister of Spain as this was an Anglo term not used in Spain. So I went back to Wiki and read this clarifying(?) statement: The President of the Government, sometimes misleadingly[??] called "the Spanish President", is the first minister and is elected by the Congress of Deputies. He is informally but internationally and commonly referred to as the "Prime Minister". 
The English Language
  1. I'm reliably informed – by Private Eye magazine - that a novel which is described as being 'late-style' by its publisher will be 'idiosyncratic to the point of bafflement'.
  2. A word new to me: Woke'/Woke af: Meaning . . . .
The Urban Dictionary: 1. A state of perceived intellectual superiority one gains by reading The Huffington Post. 2. When you are no longer in the dark about the things happening around you. Being well informed. Someone else: Being aware, and "knowing what's going on in the community." To use "woke" accurately in a sentence, one that captures its connotations and nuances, you'd need to reference someone who is thinking for themselves, who sees the ways in which racism, sexism and classism affect how we lives our lives on a daily basis. Or, alternatively, someone who doesn't.

Which is all a natural lead into . . .

The Culture Wars
  • See the article below on the Puritan backlash among the young that was long forecast to happen. Quotes:  In demanding tolerance of minorities, many younger people seem to be remarkably intolerant. . .  There is an odd contradiction between the declared wish to live and let live - “Diversity!”; “Don’t judge!” - and actual behaviour, which is ruthlessly and priggishly judgmental. 
  • Of course, thanks to the PP government's outrageous 'Gag Law', the risk of being done for 'hate speech' is greater here in Spain than elsewhere. Best not to even look at a police officer.
  • Which reminds me . . . The young Spanish man who was fined for upsetting some sensitive Catholics has had his payment crowd-funded. The internet isn't all bad. As we knew.
  • Here are a few points from a female columnist surveying the battle between the differing generations of feminists in the Anglosphere:-
- . . . an era before the Twitter militias who patrol and prowl political correctness took over the internet, and made everything angry, grim and grey.  
- patronising, Puritanical and sharply anti-liberal 
- rank hypocrisy and authoritarian bullying
- while claiming to be pro-women, it looks awfully like they’re actually just pro-controlling women. 

- In thrall to political correctness and falling over themselves to virtue signal.

Social Media
  • Theresa May has expessed some rather pious hopes about Facebook. 
  • Here's a thought – The internet shares at least one thing with war. It provides a vehicle for the very basest of human thoughts and actions. Albeit less mortal as regards the latter. 
  • I passed the new offices of this organisation yesterday and cynically wondered if it was a group of rogues aiming to fleece those with psychological problems. But it seems not. An interesting collection of professional services. Facebook page here.
  • I found myself wondering yesterday if the families of Hitler and Salazar have similar fortunes to those of the Franco issue. Adolf made millions from Mein Kampf, of course. 
  • Incidentally, one of Franco's granddaughters goes by the name of Merry. Happily, I guess.
Today's Cartoon


Censorious millennials are the new Victorians: Matt Ridley

A tendency towards intolerance and denunciation is all the more baffling because it harks back to an illiberal past

I am sure I am not alone in finding the cultural revolution that we are going through difficult to understand. Like a free-living Regency rationalist who has survived to see Victorian prudery, like a moderate critic of Charles I trying to make sense of the Cromwellian dogma, like a once revolutionary Chinese democrat hoping not to be denounced and sent for re-education under Chairman Mao (or John McDonnell), I am an easygoing Seventies libertarian baffled by the aggressive puritanism and intolerance that seems to be everywhere on the march.

I turned 60 last week and expected by now to find myself in periodic, grumpy disapproval of the younger generation’s scorn for tradition, love of change and tolerance of “anything goes”. Instead I find something approaching the opposite. Many people of my generation have mentioned the same experience recently: the terrifying censoriousness of the young, even sometimes their own children, and the eggshell-treading dread of saying the wrong thing in front of them. The young are a bit like our parents were, in fact.

What happened to the liberation of the Sixties and Seventies, when you could start to forget hierarchy and say just about anything to and about anybody? Pictures of young women in make-up, short skirts and high heels walking down the street in Kabul or Tehran in the Seventies are in shocking contrast with the battle that modern Iranian women, dressed mostly in all-concealing black, are bravely fighting to gain the right to remove a headscarf without being arrested.

Is it so different here or are we slipping down the same slope? Pre-Raphaelite paintings that show the top halves of female nudes are temporarily removed from an art gallery’s walls; young girls are forced to wear headscarves in school; darts players and racing drivers may not be accompanied by women in short skirts; women are treated differently from men at universities, as if they were the weaker sex, and saved from seeing upsetting paragraphs in novels; sex is negotiated in advance with the help of chaperones. We have been here before.

In Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s novel of 1928, she portrayed the transition from the 18th century to the Victorian period thus: “Love, birth, and death were all swaddled in a variety of fine phrases. The sexes drew further and further apart. No open conversation was tolerated. Evasions and concealments were sedulously practised on both sides.”

How we laughed at such absurdity in my youth. But even for making the point that some of the new feminism seems “retrograde” in promoting the view that women are fragile, the American academic Katie Roiphe suffered a vicious campaign to have her article in Harper’s magazine banned before publication. “I find the Stalinist tenor of this conversation shocking,” she told The Sunday Times. “The basic assumption of freedom of speech is imperilled in our culture right now.”

The sin of blasphemy is back. There are things you simply cannot say about Islam and increasingly about Christianity, about climate change, about gender, to mention a few from a very long and growing list, without being accused of, and possibly prosecuted for, “hate speech”. Is it hate speech to say that Muhammad “delivers his country to iron and flame; that he cuts the throats of fathers and kidnaps daughters; that he gives to the defeated the choice of his religion or death: this is assuredly nothing any man can excuse”? That was Voltaire, one of my heroes. You may disagree with him but you should, in accordance with his principle, defend his right to say it. In demanding tolerance of minorities, many younger people seem to be remarkably intolerant.

There is an odd contradiction between the declared wish to live and let live — “diversity!”, “don’t judge!” — and the actual behaviour, which is ruthlessly and priggishly judgmental. They never stop drafting acts of uniformity, always in the name of the collective against the individual. The minority of one is the most oppressed minority of all.

Perhaps, being a meat-eating, heterosexual, titled, atheist, climate-sceptic male who thinks communism was evil, gender is partly biological, genetically modified crops are good for the environment, free markets make people nicer and that Britain should leave the European Union, it is just me who finds himself perpetually on the politically incorrect side of arguments, or at least the opposite side from the BBC. But it does feel as though almost everybody, whatever their views, is one step away from public denunciation.

We need a morality, of course, and one that does more to challenge bad behaviour whether in Hollywood or Oxfam, but that does not require being more puritan about speech and thought. I have often wondered how it was that in the past societies suddenly became more censorious, conservative and intolerant, as they did at the start of the Victorian era, but I thought that I was living in a time when none of that could happen, when culture was on a one-way escalator towards liberality.

In the Sixties Francis Crick held a contest for what to do with the college chapels in Cambridge, because in the future nobody would be religious. Imagine that. Of course, we knew what was going on in China — the Cultural Revolution was a political purge dressed up as moral rearmament — but we shuddered at the alien nature of such a thing. Now it seems closer.

The thugs who recently tried to prevent Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking at a university are now a familiar routine on campus. But, as the American journalist Andrew Sullivan warns, the campus is a harbinger for the whole of society: “Workplace codes today read like campus speech codes of a few years ago . . . the goal of our culture now is not the emancipation of the individual from the group, but the permanent definition of the individual by the group. We used to call this bigotry. Now we call it being woke. You see: we are all on campus now.”

Nevertheless, I remain a rational optimist. Like the psychologist Steven Pinker in his new book, I think “the Enlightenment is working”, still. Reason can prevail over dogma, science over superstition, freedom over tyranny, individualism over apartheid. Progress is not dead. Yet. But we have certainly taken a few steps backward towards a darker way of running society. Why? I still don’t have an answer.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

I do not know about Salazar.

I do know something about Adolf. He never took a salary from either his party leadership or his office of Chancellor of Germany. He lived off his proceeds from Mein Kampf. Which were considerable, seeing that every married couple was actually given a copy of the marvellous book, and that over 12 years...

By his last will and testament, Adolf's kin (whom he cared very little for) received only a small pension, ¨enough to guarantee them a 'kleinburgerliches' existence¨, i.e. a petty bourgeois sustenance. I am unsure if they ever received any of that; and I seem to remember that the rest of the estate revolved upon the new West-German state.

If you wish to know more, I will lend you a few books (to the tune of 5000 pages or so...) So you can go and research for yourself.


Colin Davies said...

I do wonder about people who buy books about wealth percolation in the Hitler family.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

So do I.

I stole them from a Nazi.


Perry said...

I followed the railway line to Canfranc on Google maps 3-4 years ago. There are some good views on Streetview.,+Huesca,+Spain/@42.7513062,-0.5138934,81m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0xd579b9c9f81c0a9:0xb497620f41c0cd2b!8m2!3d42.751042!4d-0.5145594?hl=en

It would make a fabulous hotel.

Perry said...

As mentioned earlier, I investigate railways. I traced the line from Oloron-Sainte-Marie to Bedous. It was quite easy to follow, but each time I dropped down at the TER stations labelled along the line, there was little to see. The rails were hidden in grass. It was a puzzle, but then I cottoned on.The Streetviews are from 2014, but since then, the line has been restored & reopened as far as Bedous. By 2020, the line through the Pyrenees should be reopened from Pau to Canfranc. What a rail journey; Zaragoza to Bordeaux!

Colin Davies said...

Thanks for all that, Perry.