Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 7.3.18

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.

  • Cataluña: I think we knew this was coming.
  • Nearer to Madrid, there's a right old tussle taking place for right-wing voters, with the utterly discredited PP party being increasingly bested by the cynically opportunistic Ciudadanos party.
  • Italy isn't the only EU country with an immigrant problem, of course. Here's something on Spain's persistent challenge and Madrid's much-criticised response.
  • Here's The Local's latest list for this week – 8 secret museums in Madrid.
Life in Spain
  • Vincent Werner in his book It's Not How It is, claims that everything in Spain takes longer than in, say, Holland. He cites the example of something taking a week that would have taken just a day in his home country. Well, today I will go to Vigo – 30km away – to get my signature and identity confirmed by, of course, a friend of a friend. This would take me 5 minutes with any high-street solicitor(lawyer) in the UK but will have taken me 3 weeks here in Spain and will have involved abortive attempts with 3 lawyers and 2 notaries, one of whose offices I visited 6 times. As for the explanation for this, I really have no idea. Perhaps what Werner describes as innate conservatism and risk-aversion. A fear of doing – or at least a reluctance to do – something they've never done before. Especially in Pontevedra, a city of bureaucrats. So unlike the commercial hive of Vigo, where it's possible to find someone with common sense.
  • But, anyway, here's a Warner-like paragraph on Spain: Worries over Spain are not exactly new. The food may be scrumptious, the cities glorious and the people warm, but Spain's huge public debt, has been a persistent threat to the euro. And while the country’s economy has belatedly recovered, it continues to suffer from dismal productivity. A recent survey found the quality of life in Spain was among the highest in Europe. Yet, there’s a big gap in living standards between north and south. Corruption is more widespread than in comparable Western European countries. Spanish bureaucracy is legendarily obstructive. The courts are slow. And Spain now has more powerful indigenous organized crime syndicates than almost any other EU country. How did what was once Europe’s greatest empire get to this point? The more perspicacious of you will have realised this isn't about Spain at all. But it could well be. In fact, it's the (slightly tweaked) preface to the list I cited a day or so ago, of the 12 men who've ruined Italy. However, it really is Werner's view that Spain's deficiencies are worse than those of Italy. And that, while it might not represent the risk to the EU that Italy currently does, it will do in the future unless it reforms itself.
Talking of that fine institution . . .

The EU
  • I bet few of us knew that 'rule-abiding' Germany is the EU's leading rule-breaker. Well, I should say equal first with a rather more obvious candidate for this honour - Spain. Belgium – the home of the EU – comes in at number 3. With France, of course, not very far behind. To a certain degree – says the writer of this article - the new revelations are a deja-vu of 2003, when Germany was the first country to break deficit rules that apply to all 19 euro-zone countries.
  • There are numerous commentaries, of course, on Sunday's election results in Italy. Below is an article by Ambrose Evans Pritchard on the attitudes of the country's new political stars towards the EU in general and Germany in particular. They don't bode well for The Project. I suspect Salvini et al would agree with this comment from another columnist: Brussels should start listening to voters. With populism on the rise across Europe, it’s high time that EU leaders realised their arrogance isn’t working. I wouldn't bet on it. It struck me yesterday that a really smart move would be for the Brussels technocrats to announce that recent events had forced a re-think, that they would be rowing back on their vainglorious plans for a federal superstate and re-designing the EU so that it could accommodate the UK and Italy rather better than the current model does. But I fear that France and Germany – for whom the EU was designed and by whom it has been run – won't contemplate this for a second. Certainly not with Nouveau-Napoleon Macron in charge of France. Instead, the tide of history will wash over them in due course.
  • Meanwhile, there's a growing revolt against a particularly 'arrogant' German being shoe'd into the key bureaucratic post in Brussels. The backlash against MartinSelmayr’s appointment to the European Commission’s top civilservice post turned into open warfare Monday, with journalists accusing senior officials of a cover up.
  • Can you see a pattern emerging?
The Generation Wars

The Culture Wars
  • See below the interesting article by Jordan Patterson on his problems with those in the van of the campaign to force us to use new gender-respecting pronouns. Possibly 31 – or even 60 or 70 – of them.
  • At €9.6m, Pontevedra province's rake in from motoring fines is the 5th largest in Spain - in absolute cash terms – after Madrid, Málaga, Valencia and Sevilla. On a per capita basis, it would surely rank even higher. Not terribly surprising news to me, of course. And now that our police have lightweight, portable radar machines, this year's stealth-tax triumph should be even more magnificent.
  • As frequently noted, this is a country of (very) low ethics. But some companies do their best to be totally above board. My Madrid-based daughter has been taken on by the international ad agency WPP as a translator. With the letter to her came 5 documents, including a guide to the company's highest-level ethics, entitled How We Behave. Another of the documents is about a course on avoiding bribery and corruption. My daughter says the British Council were very much the same. So, at least some operators are trying to do what Mr Werner recommends. Maybe even some Spanish ones.

1. Italy's radical new leaders denounce EU Brexit strategy as foolish dogma: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Leaders of Italy’s triumphant conservative alliance have called for a radical change in the EU’s negotiating stance over Brexit, describing threats to restrict trade and punish Britain as ideological idiocy.

 “Great Britain is a friendly country with a long tradition of trading with Italy,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega party and the man poised to become prime minister if the centre-Right coalition forms the next government. You made a free choice with Brexit and I very much hope that it will be possible to maintain completely open trade with the EU without any penalties,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

The party’s economics chief, Claudio Borghi, said a Lega-led coalition government with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the smaller Brothers of Italy would refuse to rubber stamp the current EU strategy on Brexit.

“There will be no blind trust in what Germany wants. Punishment or anything of the kind would be sheer stupidity. We export more to the UK than we import back and we certainly don’t want to hurt our own client,” said Mr Borghi, an MP for Tuscany.

There is confusion in Rome over which constellation of parties will take power after Sunday’s elections, which delivered a shattering defeat for the post-War political order. Radical populist movements of Left and Right swept the board, leaving a hung parliament caught in a feverish clash of cultural visions.

The neo-anarchist Five Star movement is the biggest single party. It surged to 32.7pc of vote under the boyish millennial Luigi Di Maio, who vows to defend the rights of Italian citizens living in Britain vigorously but is otherwise open to a friendly accord over Brexit.

“We shouldn’t try to punish the British people for choosing Brexit,” he said, deeming it understandable that long-suffering people ignored for so long by the political class should erupt in protest. Five Star’s own stunning victory in Sicily and the South has been likened to the Brexit revolt in the North East of England.

The Five Star founder, Beppe Grillo, is himself an emotional eurosceptic. He long denounced the eurozone as a German bankers’ ramp and a threat to democracy, at one point teaming up with UKIP in the European Parliament. He applauded Brexit as a salutary slap in the face for an arrogant elite. “Mediterranean countries, and Italy first among them, should take the same line towards the EU,” he said.

The party has since toned down its eurosceptic language. It has shelved calls for a euro referendum, though this is still held in reserve as a negotiating tool. Clearly, Five Star is not going to spend political capital defending a Tory Brexit, but nor is it remotely aligned with the power structure of the EU project.

It is unclear in any case whether Five Star can break bread with the defeated rump of the ruling Democrat party (PD) after so much bad blood in the past and form a government. The PD’s outgoing leader Matteo Renzo said it would be a “calamitous and tragic error” for his party to join forces with such a movement. “They are extremists and anti-Europeans, and they have been insulting us for years,” he said.

In the end, Five Star could conceivably forge an unholy alliance with the Lega-led Right, a grand coalition united only by their desire to overthrow the eurozone’s fiscal regime, and to repudiate EU banking and state aid doctrines.

Mr Borghi said they might even find common ground on a parallel currency that slowly breaks the lockhold of the European Central Bank, and a constitutional clause establishing the primacy of Italian law to break the lockhold of the European Court. Such a government would be in permanent conflict with Brussels and Berlin.

Professor Alberto Bagnai, a Lega senator for the Abbruzzi, said Berlin can no longer take Italy for granted as a pliable follower over Europe. “The EU is becoming more and more of a German empire. We are seeing German bureaucrats taking over the key positions in the EU institutions. We can understand why Britain wanted to escape from this prison,” he said.

“We call our movement the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ and it makes no sense at all for the EU to adopt a policy of revenge over Brexit,” he said. “We are already paying a high enough price for sanctions against Russia, which the Germans don’t actually apply themselves despite imposing the policy on us. It is the usual double standard and we are getting rather sick of it,” he said.

The defiant tone reflects a widespread feeling in Italy that Berlin has "gamed" the structure of monetary union in its own interests. Germany bailed out its own banks during the Great Recession but then changed the rules, forcing a draconian "bail-in" regime on Italy. Italian banks had been relatively well-behaved but the were casualties of the long economic slump. The bail-in shock shattered fragile confidence and delayed recovery yet again.

Germany retained dominant control of the policy machinery during the eurozone debt crisis, dictating a regime of extreme fiscal austerity for Italy that went beyond the therapeutic dose and pushed the country into a contractionary spiral. The fiscal straightjacket was criticised by Nobel economists around the world as economic illiteracy.

“We had a government imposed upon us in 2011 (by the EU) that extracted as much money as it could from Italian citizens to contribute to EU bail-out funds. They were using our money to rescue French and German banks. This austerity caused great social injustice and did a lot of damage,” he said.

Having endured this ordeal, Italians are now the most eurosceptic nation in Europe – more than the British by some measures – and many recognize an all-too familiar modus operandi in the Brexit saga as Berlin seeks to retain iron control over the EU policy apparatus.

Italians have their own parallel struggle with the EU in any case. “What worries me as an Italian is that we are stuck in a currency union that is run by irrational people who don’t understand markets and are acting out of pure ideology. They are very dangerous,” said Senator Bagnai.

2. The right to be politically incorrect. Why I refuse to use genderless pronouns: Jordan Peterson

A month ago, I posted three videos to my YouTube channel, as a means of speaking out against our culture’s politically correct insanity. I specifically objected to Bill C-16, a bill that has now passed second reading in the House of Commons, which adds “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of attributes protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, and to similar legislation already in place in Ontario and other provinces.

To say that the videos attracted a lot of attention is to say almost nothing. They produced two demonstrations at the University of Toronto, where I teach psychology, including a free-speech rally where the misbehaviour of social justice warrior counter-demonstrators was caught on cellphone videos that have now been watched by millions of people. They have been the subject of articles written by Canada’s most famous journalists. They have been covered extensively by CBC, CTV and TVO, as well as internationally. My story has been making headlines for more than a month, and the furor is not dying down. After writing me two cautionary letters, and then requesting my silence, the University of Toronto has agreed to host a public debate about the issues I raised.

One of the more controversial things I said in the videos was that I would not use what have come to be known as “preferred pronouns” to refer to people who believe that their gender does not fit neatly into the traditional categories of male and female. The gist of the counter-argument was: “Why won’t the mean professor change the way he speaks, if doing so would spare some vulnerable peoples’ feelings?” (A National Post columnist described me as a “jerk.”) There are a few reasons why I took this stand.

First, I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.

These words are at the vanguard of a radical leftist ideology that is frighteningly similar to Marxism.

I have been studying authoritarianism on the right and the left for 35 years. I wrote a book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, on the topic, which explores how ideologies hijack language and belief. As a result of my studies, I have come to believe that Marxism is a murderous ideology. I believe its practitioners in modern universities should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to promote such vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas, and for indoctrinating their students with these beliefs. I am therefore not going to mouth Marxist words. That would make me a puppet of the radical left, and that is not going to happen. Period.

Second, I am not happy with what is happening in this country in regards to gender — even to discussions about gender. Bill C-16 is predicated on absolute nonsense: sex is a biological fact that is determined by anatomy and chromosomes. Independent of biological sex, there is gender identity (which, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is the personal sense of being “a woman, a man, both, neither or anywhere along the gender spectrum”). Independent of that, there is gender expression (how a person “publicly expresses their gender,” including their fashion choices, such as “dress, hair (and) makeup”). These exist and manifest themselves purely as subjective choices. This is an axiomatic part of the new legislation, by the way, mandating social constructionism as the legally sanctioned scientific doctrine of the land. Look out, evolutionary biologists. The PC police are coming your way.

Let’s examine these claims. First, more than 99 per cent of the population has a gender identity that’s identical to their biological sex. So much for independent variation. Second, there is overwhelming evidence indicating that men and women differ greatly, for biological reasons, in their gender identity, defined most accurately as their personality and interests. Biological sex and gender identity are therefore strongly and causally linked, and no legislation is going to change that. In fact, the differences between men and women are so great, that if you add them up, there is almost no overlap: you can almost completely differentiate (biological) men from (biological) women on the basis of their hypothetically independent gender identities.

Are these just differences in socialization? Well, no, they’re not. The differences are largest in the Scandinavian societies where the most extreme efforts have been made over the last three decades to remove the legal, social and economic distinctions between the sexes. Technically, this is because men and women differ in their psychology for social and biological reasons and, if you remove the social influence, the biological influence becomes stronger. Thus, not only have the attempts made in Scandinavia to eradicate the differences between men and women failed, they’ve backfired. And these aren’t studies of a few hundred people, either: tens of thousands of participants provided personality information and descriptions of their personal interests. But who cares what the science has to say, when there’s ideology at stake?

Finally, it is absurd to insist that each person should have the right to, or could practically, choose their own pronouns. Those who have been complaining about my rigid and parochial viewpoint argue that the word “they” (a possible alternative to he or she) has been used in a singular sense in the English language for centuries. So, the argument goes, why can’t everyone just use “they,” like Shakespeare did? Well, “they” has never been used in the manner indicated by those who advocate for its revised use. It’s been used to indicate the singular in very restricted cases, and certainly not as a simple replacement for “he” or “she.” But let’s give the devil his due, and imagine that I agreed to that. Would the demands stop there? Absolutely not.

Consider the case of New York, which now protects 31 genders, including “gender gifted” (look it up) and “gender fluid” (a boy one day and a girl the next). The Big Apple is prepared to fine businesses up to US$250 million ($335 million) if owners or employees refuse to speak to each other properly. And New York’s list of 31 genders is just a drop in the bucket compared to the number some would like us to use — I found lists online that contain more than 70. And the fact is that for every person whose feelings are respected and whose identity is somehow validated because of the use of such pronouns, there are going to be 20 already mixed-up and unhappy adolescents whose chaos will be multiplied 10-fold because of all these new choices.

Bill C-16 is dangerous legislation. Those who formulated it and who are pushing it and its sister legislation are dangerous people. I’m not going to use their words. Read the Ontario Human Rights Commission website dealing with such things. Formulate your own opinions. Decide for yourself — while you still can.

Jordan Peterson is a tenured research and clinical PhD psychologist who teaches at the University of Toronto. His YouTube channel is titled Jordan Peterson Videos.

Colin Davies, Pontevedra

1 comment:

Perry said...

Well done Colin.

Jordan Peterson video watching is almost a full time occupation for me for now. That & the use of water fasting to target precancerous cells. Start here & watch the series..