Thursday, August 02, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 2.8.18

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. Garish but informative.

  • It's certainly true that – for a number of reasons – Spain has had been moderate on the issue of immigration. And it's right to say that Spanish society is, overall, a tolerant one. But, as I've said, this could soon be tested. As the same observer said: It’s a fragile tolerance. Click here on this.
  • YCMIU department: An anti-corruption campaigner is charged – after years of investigation – with extortion. For trying to blackmail, inter alia, the royal family.
  • Here's Politico on the new government's plans to remove Franco's body from the Valley of the Fallen, as the first step in making the place something other than a memorial to his murderous fascism.
  • An interesting article on erotic stonework up here in northern Spain. Might be worth having a look at one day.
Life in Spain
  • Here in Spain, drivers are given 12 points on their licence, which can then be progressively forfeited via innumerable offences until it's lost. In the 12 years since the introduction of this system – the opposite from that in most other countries – 23,000 drivers have suffered the loss of their licence, 900 of them so far this year. Guess which province has the highest number of these. Yes, Pontevedra. As to why, I can only guess.
  • This is the original Spanish version of the slightly tarted-up, machine-translated article below on poor consumer orientation here. And maybe elsewhere as well.
  • Here's another comment about Hitler which put me in mind of someone else. The deluded madman is talking to his generals the night before the invasion of Poland that precipitated World War 2: Making no concessions to false modesty, he claimed: "Essentially all depends on me, on my existence, because of my political talents. Furthermore, the fact that probably no one will ever again have the confidence of the whole people as I have. There will probably never again in the future be a man with more authority than I have. My existence is therefore a factor of great value.”
  • As he did with previous administrations – though this time without any cooperation – Bob Woodward will be publishing on 1 September a book entitled. Fear: Trump in the White House. His publisher claims this will reveal the harrowing life inside Donald Trump’s White House and how the president makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. It will, of course, be a humungous best seller - if only because it'll be promoted by the furious tweets of an apoplectic Fart. Some things you can rely on.
  • Meanwhile, some Republicans - it's claimed here – are finally beginning to distance themselves from their appalling leader. Needless to say, 'Independents' fled some time ago.
The UK and Brexit
  • Extreme Remainers are beginning to panic, it says here. Possibly pointlessly.
  • Non-extreme Remainers might just be influenced by this podcast from the philosopher John Gray. Who is even less impressed by the EU's credentials than I am. His opening words: One of the illusions of the Brexit debate is that staying in the European Union is a way of protecting liberal values. Far from it, of course. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Galicia and Pontevedra
  • Whatever happens to Franco's remains, they won't be returning to city of his birth, Ferrol here in Galicia. The local council has not only said it won't allow this to happen but they've also taken back the burial niche 'gifted' to him there in 1967.
  • The Beggars Bus must have reached Pontevedra. 3 more new ones yesterday.
  • The UK has its urban foxes; Galicia has its urban wild boars. 2 of them waltzed through the centre of O Carballiño yesterday. This town was previously famous for the best octopus in Spain, despite being 40 miles from the sea.
Finally . . .

Blogger Trivia:-
  1. The good news: With a little help from my friend Eamon in La Coruña, I finally seem to have re-gained email notification of Comments.
  2. The bad/good news: Checking Google Analyticals yesterday, I noted it had even higher page views for this blog that the higher of the 2 very different numbers on my Blogger 'dashboard'. I established that 95% of these were coming from the city of Boardman in Oregon. Internet research revealed that Amazon and other large companies have 'huge data centers' there. Sure enough, 91% of my hits were coming from and Amazon Technologies Inc. No idea why. Maybe collecting data on me for their on-line Recommendations and ad-selling. But at least I seem to have got rid of the Russian bots. And, now that I've filtered out the Amazon machine 'views', I might finally be getting near to an accurate number.
© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 2.8.18


Mythologies: Hector G, Barnés.

The client is never right anymore: this is how they cheat us and make us feel guilty.

A worrying new discourse points to the consumer as the main culprit for being cheated by making the wrong choices. Meanwhile, the companies are still counting tickets

Crushed against a brass bar and bathed in beer, I manage to turn around and see my partner trying to catch a little fresh air hovering above the dozens of people who, nervous and anxious, are trying to achieve their dream of that summer night: spending 10 euros on a mini[???]. In front of me, three kids are trying to make sure that the mob that has spent four hours being treated badly doesn't devour them. Of course, I'm talking about the Mad Cool, that top-of-the-range European macro-festival project derived from generational drama and cheap Coachella, as has already been reported ad nauseam. As Neil Young sang, who ironically acted in its first edition, "They charge you for one thing, but they give you another.

The feeling of fear, danger and discomfort that I experienced that first day had not been experienced in my 20 years attending concerts and festivals. Throughout the weekend, industry acquaintances, astonished, were pointing in the same direction: it was something easily remedied with a little more investment in resources. The question is, given that the tickets are not exactly a bargain, how is it possible that some festivals guarantee reasonably good comfort conditions in the same context, and others make mistakes that make it impossible to spend a few hours there. And, above all, how is it possible that the local government (which, in this case, has given €700,000 in subsidies and another €90,000 in transport) allow it?

As outrage broke out, an alternative reading by those who had not come, began to emerge on social networks. One persons said, more or less, that it's the people's fault, that they don't learn. The comments ranged from those who suggested that the audience was forgetful and dazzled by a couple of shiny names (Pearl Jam! Massive Attack!, ahem) to those who lamented that people continued to go to mass events and not to small halls (revelation: both can be done at the same time) to those who directly felt that the audience, the whiny hipsters, deserved it. It is already known that to give a little lustre there is nothing like moral superiority, even if it is looking at your finger and not at the moon.

The case of Mad Cool is an extreme case of the perversion of the relationship between client and company, but it sums up some of the worrying trends in modern consumption, reducing them to the absurd. The logic is this: if you are deceived, it is your fault, because you have consumed badly. If you had been right, you would have used your money wisely, but you did not. In such a vision, the only power the citizen has is, as always, to give money. Choose this or that: pay or don't pay. But this reasoning frees companies and local governments from any responsibility to offer a worthwhile product, to focus on the consumer -victim and executioner, guilty and suffering. Meanwhile, the ticket machine never stops.

Another good example is mobile telephony, where companies have already accepted that their goal is not to retain customers through good service, but to accept that they will be sold to the highest bidder as soon as they have a problem. We have reached an era of surrender: since it is difficult to influence the quality of increasingly devalued business services, our only weapon and right is to be consumers (not citizens). If all you want is for the product or service you have purchased is to have a minimum of safety - both for the consumer and for his or her workers - you are either a 'hater' or a gullible person who's been stung. This is the logic of the market taken to the extreme, since the only thing that seems to make a company react is competition. The market, folks.

Of course, we consumers have our share of responsibility when it comes to knowing how a business works. But this has led to a sort of 'victim blaming' of consumption, in which companies can perpetrate all kinds of outrages, wash their hands and claim that, well, the buyer is sovereign and he himself is financing these services with his that money, in a paradoxical vicious circle. It is overwhelming naive to think that a festival company that sells 240,000 tickets is going to be affected by a percentage of the public failing to purchase their ticket next year, like a scratch on the hull of a liner. What is not so naive is that the public authorities are seriously demanding that companies respect the consumer. In the meantime, we are defenceless in the face of their uses and abuses, with the only way out being our consumer associations (Facua, by the way, encourages the festival's public to complain).

The 'premium' era: pay or suffer

In 1965, Ralph Nader published'Unsafe at any speed', a milestone in the history of consumer rights in the United States. In the first chapter of the book, he revealed that the design of the Chevrolet Corvair, one of the most fashionable vehicles, had caused “human" accidents (without the intervention of the car) to skyrocket. The reason was to have favoured visual appeal over safety, and to have overlooked the recommendations of the mechanics, hiding this problem from the buyers. It was a before and after, as for the first time it saw the driver as a consumer and therefore pointed out that manufacturers were responsible for the safety of their vehicles.

Nader, who was interviewed by El Confidencial, became the visible face of the consumer rights movement over the next few decades, holding companies accountable to the society from which they derive their profits. One of the tools through which it was articulated was 'class action', a type of legal action that allowed a group of consumers to sue a company together. It was not just a question of claiming the rights of the client, but a political action that sought to compensate for an asymmetric relationship between companies and consumers, which usually gives a free bar to first comers and then squeezes the later comers, especially in a context of growing monopoly.

The massification of consumption has ended up atomising these claims, and the customer has gone from always being right to never being right. A friend of mine, about what happened last weekend, regretted that we ended up taking as an exception, almost a luxury, what should be normal: some comfort, well-paid workers and not trying to make money from you continuously with additional services. But we live in the 'premium' era, which means that if we want to enjoy the product we have purchased under 'normal' conditions we must pay more. It happens on airplanes, which have sliced their tickets and degraded their product in such a way as to punish those who buy only a basic fare. Also in banks, which start charging for retail transactions. All of this has one thing in common, which is to make the consumer pay again and again.

This has also been transferred to music festivals, the ultimate expression of new consumerism, in the form of expensive VIP areas that give access to the front ranks. A move that resulted in empty areas in front of the stage as people crowded back together, boiling in their fury in the sun, and led to Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age asking security to let the rest of the public into that area. It is a good clue as to what is to come if nothing is done about it and we stop blaming those who are not to blame and promoting utopian boycotts: wild monopolies that squeeze their consumers and employees until they bleed the last euro while the management stand idly by, financing their excesses with taxpayers' money.


Lenox said...

Several links on your page today - i, 2 and 4 in your first section, plus a couple of others, lead me to 'blogger' and more precisely, to the 'posting page' of that service as set up for my blog... Most odd!!
Un abrazo, Lenox

Alfred B. Mittington said...

What, pray tell, is YCMIU ??

Is there not, perhaps, an N missing?

But IF you did it on purpose, as you will surely claim, then what's the joke, pray tell??


Colin Davies said...

You couldn't make it up.

Much the same applies to you . . . .

Eamon said...

CriticAl - If he'd've spelt it all out it would've taken up too much space. Notice my "spelt" instead of "spelled". Get your head around the he'd've. Contractions for foreigners.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Really... Is it THAT hard to give each individual word its deserved initial??

O Tempora! O Mores!

So how would you distinguish, dear people, between You Could Not Make It Up and You Could Make It Up?


Colin Davies said...

If you had dominion over the language you'd know the latter has no common currency. So there is no dichotomy in respect of which it's necessary to avoid confusion by inserting an N.

For which reason it took me a while to figure out WTF you were going on about . . .

I'd hoped you'd gone on a long holiday.

Perry said...

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I'd rather seen Lenin's cadaver removed from the Kremlin first, rather than be agitated about the Spanish dictator's grave. Lenin's life's work led to the slaughter of of millions more people than the adherents to fascist doctrine ever killed. Perhaps like searching for the tomb of the erstwhile conqueror of the world, Genghis Khan?

To really mix up the metaphors, you don't have a dog in the fight & you're barking up the wrong tree. :<)