Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’
Cosas de España/Galiza
1. Bad news retrospectively.
2. Bad news prospectively.
Albert Solà . . . Just a common man or a prince from the wrong side of the blanket?
There’s a lot more English spoken on the streets and terraces of Madrid compared with Pontevedra. Meaning I have to be careful about making injudicious remarks out loud to my daughter.
On Friday – before the regulation eased – I was surprised how many people in Dos de Mayo square weren’t wearing masks. Yesterday, I was surprised how many people were still wearing them, despite the restriction having ended. This might well have been older folk.
Something that didn’t surprise was the 3 or 4 youths riding their e-scooters round the plaza at 15-20kph, weaving in and out of the kids playing there. This is illegal but, of course, inconvenient rules are to be ignored in Spain. I doubt anyone else there even noticed this, never mind thought about it and regarded it as reckless.
Are things there really this bad? Decadent Britain is sleepwalking into a vortex of permanent decline. Lockdown has precipitated a pernicious cultural revolution that will make us poorer and less free? See the full article below.
This crime was new to me.
The Way of the World/Social media
As if teaching in the UK wasn’t tough enough already . . . Teachers have become “incredibly anxious” because they are constantly braced for their pupils to pounce on any micro-aggression. Teachers face a “righteous generation looking for their teachers to trip up.
TheTimes has an automatic censoring system for comments on its articles. Readers have used these descriptions to identify forbidden words that will cause your comment to be cancelled:-
– ‘list’ preceded by a word that means the darkest colour.
– A large linear earthwork, roughly tracing the border between England and Wales, and constructed by Offa. [Dyke]
– The first name of Lupin, the amateur gentleman thief created by the writer Maurice Leblanc. [Arsène ]
– An alternative name for a donkey.
– Boris Johnson’s initials.
Quote of the Day
Before Prince Philip adopted his maternal grandparents’ surname of Mountbatten, his family name was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. This should have become the name of the British ruling house but, as one writer observed, “it sounded too much like Borussia Mönchengladbach’s back 4 to be passed off as typically British.”
Finally . . .
I replaced my lost baseball cap yesterday, in Decathlon. Albeit somewhat flimsier that the €23 cap bought in a hat shop in Pontevedra, it did only cost me €2.99.
Note: If you’ve arrived here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try this.
Decadent Britain is sleepwalking into a vortex of permanent decline. Lockdown has precipitated a pernicious cultural revolution that will make us poorer and less free: Allister Heath. The Telegraph.
What has happened to Britain? Why does it feel as if, almost uniquely, we will never quite recover from Covid? The pandemic is almost over, and yet it has changed Britain far more profoundly than countries with different political traditions.
I will mourn the liberal-conservative Britain of yore, beloved of those who didn’t like being told what to do: the Government felt obliged to sacrifice it in the panic that followed Covid. Harsh restrictions and social distancing saved tens of thousands of lives, but they also precipitated a far-reaching cultural revolution that will make Britain permanently less free, prosperous and civilised. Lockdown’s catastrophic collateral damage, combined with a series of pre-existing errors such as Boris Johnson’s spending spree, his net zero agenda and the housing shortage, mean Britain faces years of social and economic decline, tax rises and inflation. The Tories may be riding high in the polls today, but they will soon have to grapple with some nightmarish challenges.
All societies impose taboos – prohibitions the origins of which are not always understood but which help define a community. Britain’s included an aversion to ID cards, a belief that the state had no right to tell us what to think or wear, and that it was none of officials’ business whom we chose to consort with.
Yet such traditional restraints on power are fragile. Once they are widely broken, they cannot be reinstigated: we have turned from a society where none of us knew our NHS numbers (or even that we had one) to a country which relishes the idea of “Vos Papiers, S’il Vous Plaît!”. Until Covid, it would have been unthinkable for a government to shut airports: now it’s just another tool to fight disease. We have normalised the abnormal. This applies equally to economics: if printing money works for Covid, why not for HS2? If higher benefits buy votes during a pandemic, why not all the time? Decline and fall takes many forms.
The next steps are obvious: there will be a push for digital IDs, with health and financial data connected; for state bodies to be granted the right to track us, using our phone signals (to facilitate contact tracing); travel bans will be imposed at the first sign of any new virus; and furlough and mass state intervention will be the norm during every downturn. There will be work from home orders, remote schooling and lockdowns come the next bad flu season, all to “save the NHS”, and the national debt will eventually reach Italian or Japanese levels. There will be no tax reform or supply-side tax cuts.
The Overton Window of the politically possible will have shifted in a statist, authoritarian direction, and the public will plead for more. Infuriatingly, the Government’s structural incompetence and the general uselessness of the Civil Service won’t be fixed, even though doing so would be the natural lesson to learn from our Covid failings.
In many ways, we have become more continental: instead of assuming that anything that isn’t explicitly forbidden is permitted, the Covid mindset is to ask what is allowed. Our taxes and spending levels will go up, paradoxically for Brexit Britain. For centuries, England has been an individualistic nation, embracing property rights, geographic mobility and the nuclear family; this is one reason why the Industrial Revolution happened here and why London is such a tolerant and dynamic city today. Greater collectivism will come with many downsides: herd-following societies aren’t conducive to entrepreneurialism, scientific innovation or risk-taking.
The end of sound money and the prospect of higher inflation will also damage the UK economy’s reputation, and impoverish millions. Ditto the return of envy and class warfare: Covid restrictions have helped entrench a zero-sum vision of society. The apparent hypocrisy that it is possible to attend a football match or G7 meeting but not a school prize-giving is proving corrosive: if not everybody benefits, why should anyone, many ask?
One side-effect of Covid is that risk is seen as an unmitigated evil. In a free society, doctors advise and patients choose; in today’s medical-state, people are deemed too stupid to make their own decisions. Freedom is subordinated to the new quasi-religious imperative to “protect” the NHS. But as with all false idols, worshipping it can lead to disaster – in this case, worse healthcare than other nations.
Johnson’s erstwhile libertarianism, his lack of judgmentalism, his opposition to sin taxes: it’s all gone, replaced by ever greater amounts of social control. And once the principle of eliminating health risk is conceded, why not environmental risk? If we shut down to save the NHS, why not ground planes to save the climate? Is that also not an emergency? No wonder some greens aren’t keen on returning to the old normal.
One risk we don’t care about – other than that of a public finance implosion – is what is happening to our children. Starting in the 1990s, the establishment began to realise the scale of the calamity that had befallen schools as a result of the nihilistic reforms of the 1960s. Tories and Labour strove to raise standards, with league tables introduced in 1992, Tony Blair’s specialist schools and academies, and Michael Gove’s shake-up. The unions were crushed; the primacy of phonics reestablished; and there was a renewed emphasis on discipline, uniforms, parental choice and traditional values.
All of that now lies in tatters. Children have been dramatically deprioritised; exams have been devalued, grade inflation is back and the message is that schooling is a second-tier consideration in Britain. It is a cultural ruination, one of the fastest regressions of modern times.
Not everything is going wrong: the Government is waging a surprisingly successful war on woke. Brexit is going well, with trade deals galore, a home-grown immigration system and plenty of promise. Excellent reforms are being made to the constitution and to human rights law. But Covid has proved a disaster for Britain, cancelling many of the good things Johnson was planning, while exacerbating the impact of his bad tendencies. Unless the Government gets a grip, what ought to be a time of renaissance will instead be remembered as just another period of crippling, debilitating national decline.