26 November 2021: Travel notes; Covid variances; The Spanish judiciary; The suicidal USA; & Other stuff.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Dawn%2BBox%2BDay%2B2015.JPG
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’

Travel Notes (which can be skipped, of course)

‘Yaiza’ turns out to  be a female name, from the Canaries. So, she couldn’t have been the young guy asleep in Pontevedra station. I see that, 2 days after I sent them, she hasn’t yet opened my Wotsap messages. Perhaps something serious has happened to her. Or she’s lost her phone.

After the problem I’d had with the electronic reader at check-in, I then had problems with the reader in my cabin door. The bar-coded key was troublesome from the outset and  eventually gave up the ghost.

You live and learn and ignorance can be expensive. I decided to buy an hour’s worth of internet at the tail end of the boat trip and then dealt with several wotsap and Facebook messages on my laptop. When I got to my cabin, I saw on my phone a message from O2 saying I’d incurred 48 euros worth of roaming charges and they’d cut off the service once I reached €60. This rather shocked me, as I know that the Beta version of wotsap on my laptop can operate via wifi without a phone connection. And, as I’d switched off data roaming on my phone on boarding, I’d assumed everything I was doing was being done on my laptop. But clearly not. I eventually recalled that – as we were sailing along the English coast – I’d thought there might be 4G on my phone, so had switched on data roaming. And neglected to turn it off again. So, it seems, all the messages had also been going – totally unnecessarily – via my phone as well as my laptop. And I guess it didn’t help that my younger daughter called me during my internet session. Though it might be her who pays handsomely for that.

One of the – big for some – negatives of the Galicia, is that it doesn’t have the floorshow/cabaret that previous boats had. Which will seriously disappoint the 2 friends who are coming back with me in January. One of them had enjoyed this facility on a previous 2-way trip and was very much looking forward to seeing a show on both nights of our January voyage.

Over 20 years, I’v developed a wrinkle that allows me to get off the boat and through Immigration quickly, ahead of a 5 hour drive Northwards. But it didn’t work on the Galicia and so it was rather more than an hour after the boat had docked before I left the port. There were 10 booths checking papers – compared with the usual 2 – but passage through them was slow. Or very slow in the case of the camper van in from to me. It’s very frustrating seeing all the other lines moving 10 times quicker than yours. Or perhaps that should be ‘less slow’.   

I forgot to check that my Passport was stamped with an exit visa after I’d left the control booth, so was later pleased to note that it had been. Though it strikes me that it shouldn’t really be necessary, as I don’t have one showing I entered Spain.

Covid

Pick the meat out of this . . . German’s current case rate is more than twice that of its previous peak, whereas Sweden’s is less than half of its. Herd immunity?

Cosas de España/Galiza

Spain is felt to be avoiding Europe’s Covid surge thanks to: 1. Its very high vaccination rate, nearing 90% of those 12 and older;  and 2. Its continued protection measures, like indoor mask mandates. However, the bad  news is that infection rates are nevertheless rising and pessimists warn that: The country could be entering dangerous territory again, with 2 public holidays, company dinners and Christmas on the horizon. 

Spain has is lobbying hard to lead up negotiations on bipartisan agreements with the UK. While optimists might believe this is because they want to ease some of the restrictions on the important British tourists and semi-residents, a more worldly-wise Lenox Napier of Business Over Tapas says the reality is that Spain wants to further its demands on Gibraltar. 

The  Government, as part of its changes in the Law of Democratic Memory, is now preparing to change the name of the Valley of the Fallen back to its original name of the  Valle de Cuelgamuros. Not before time.

HT to Lenox for the Público article machine-translated below from Die Tageszeitung on the Right-leaning tendencies of the Spanish judiciary. 

The UK 

Nice  to read . . . We Brits are self-deprecating – even humble – about our food. We loved that Crystelle [Am Asian Brit] infused British recipes with Goan flavours. In culinary matters, maybe Brits are better Europeans than the remaining EU nations. In Italy, a British (or indeed any non-native) contestant winning a national TV baking contest would cause uproar.  In France it would be a public disgrace.

The USA

In toppling Thomas Jefferson, the woke mob has shown that it wants to destroy America itself To pull down statues of giants who fought courageously for democracy is nothing less than the first step in a national suicide attempt: Andrew Roberts, British historian. See the full article below.

The Way of the World/Social Media

The internet has turned our past into a curse. Forgetting is one of the means by which society heals itself but there is no chance of that online. See the 2nd article below.

On Facebook ghostly birthdays flash by, Twitter accounts of the deceased are “recommended” to me. Then my phone throws up a “memory”, a picture of a late friend, my dad, my mum when she was well. I am furious at the unwanted intrusion, an algorithmic stirring of my emotions. Yet I can’t look away.

Finally  . . .

Up near Allaríz on the A52 beyond Ourense, there’s a (well-signposted) radar machine. The other night, someone went through it at 243kph, or more than twice the permitted max of 120kph. He was, of course, off his head on cocaine. And was wanted for some crime or other down in Andalucia.

This blog can be seen on Twitter and on the Facebook group page – Thoughts from Galicia.  

If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.  

THE ARTICLES

1. A German newspaper’s slams the right-wing judicial system in Spain: “When it comes to conservative politicians, the judiciary is not so strict”.

The German daily Taz has published a devastating article on the judiciary in Spain and its shift to the right. In it, they are blunt and already in the subtitle they throw the first dart: “PP and Vox determine the direction of the courts”.

The newspaper recalls that for years magistrates close to the Popular Party and Vox have held most of the relevant positions in the high courts. And it recalls that, although the left now governs in coalition, this situation has not changed. Furthermore, it echoes the blockade to which the Popular Party has subjected the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) since the motion of censure that brought down Rajoy.

The German newspaper argues that this situation is responsible for the fact that the two states of alarm of the Sánchez government were declared null and void by the Constitutional Court (TC) despite the fact that “even the WHO praised Spain for its fight against the coronavirus pandemic”. And he adds that, to make matters worse, in the coming months, the same court “will have to decide on the abortion law and on whether Catholic schools that segregate by sex should continue to be funded by the state”.

After this, the tone of Taz’s article becomes even more forceful: backtracking to the trial of the leaders of the ‘procés’, he is clear in spitting out that “the Supreme Court saw no problem” in Vox presenting itself as a popular accusation. And he drops the first bombshell: “Instead of working politically on the Catalan referendum, Spain is based on judicial repression. Judges also think little of freedom of expression and artistic freedom”. At this point, he mentions the case of Valtònyc and remarks that in our country “time and again, rappers are sentenced to prison for insulting majesty or glorifying terrorism”.

And, after recalling the judicial process after which Alberto Rodríguez had to give up his seat in Congress and the slap on the wrist by the European Court of Human Rights for the Bateragune case involving Otegi, he adds that “When it comes to high-level conservative politicians or even the ex King Juan Carlos I, the judiciary is not so strict”.

2. The internet has turned our past into a curse: James Marriott

the internet. Our words and gestures fade in memory. Old photographs are lost. But online every dumb picture, every unfinished conversation and every idle feud is preserved as perfectly as one of Funes’s memories. These things go on existing, as vividly, as angrily and as pointlessly as they did when you hit the enter key and closed the Twitter tab in righteous disgust. There is no forgetting, no mercy of slow disappearance. Like Funes, we are condemned to live in the appalling glare of an eternal present. I think this has changed us profoundly.

I read last week of the rediscovery of antisemitic messages sent by the cricketer Azeem Rafiq as a teenager. Without the internet those messages could never have been found. That nasty fragment of the past would have been lost irrevocably. But the internet did not just preserve those messages, I think it changed them too. The immediacy of the internet — the way it preserves stuff, keeps it instantly available, ties it to the same “profile” you still use now — makes even the distant past belong to the present in a way that would have once seemed incomprehensible. For many of Rafiq’s severer critics, there was no difference between the teenager and the man. Online everything exists equally and at once.

In this land of no forgetting you do not exist moment to moment, in possession of that liquid and mutable thing, a human personality. You are instead a kind of archival aggregate of every clever and every fatuous thing you have ever said. Online, we are not so much people as vast, unwieldy filing cabinets waiting to be browsed by our friends or raided by our enemies.

It is from here that so much of the fury of the internet derives. Like Funes, we suffer the heat and pressure of an inexhaustible reality. A journalist I know remarked to me recently that every time you get into serious trouble on Twitter, all the stupid and embarrassing things you have ever done resurface and the site’s users become as angry and horrified by those stupid and embarrassing things as if they had happened yesterday, not ten years ago.

No online enemy offends you in this moment only. A scroll through an antagonist’s profile will inevitably reveal an almost inexhaustible history of contemptuous ideas and views to hate — and to return to regularly. I occasionally (more often than I should) look up cruel things people have said about me on Twitter. And every time I look, I feel hurt, as if the cruel thing was said today, not months in the past.

Features like Facebook’s “on this day” contribute to the atmosphere of chaotic simultaneity. Memories of parties, of funerals, of old lovers arrive without invitation and without reason. The past lurches meaninglessly towards us, as real and vivid as the present.

As the academic Viktor Mayer-Schönberger writes in Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, his interesting book about the internet and memory: “For millennia, human beings have lived in a world of forgetting. Behaviour, societal mechanisms and processes and values have incorporated and reflected that fact.” Forgetting is a blunt moral instrument but for centuries it has afforded an invaluable kind of justice. Reputations heal, old fights burn themselves out. Too much memory is paralysing. Only by forgetting is it possible to advance. The culture war is the characteristic war of the internet age because it is a war of endless remembering: the same battles over race and gender fought year after year, the same scandals interminably revived, the same villains somehow always at the centre of it all.

Incidentally, I have sometimes wondered: does the iconoclasm of statue topplers come at least partly from this new internet-derived idea that there should be no forgetting, that the past exists simultaneously with the present and is there to be trawled for evidence of moral wrong with just the same fervour?

Our modern chaos is the chaos of never forgetting. “My memory, sir, is like a garbage heap,” Funes says. The story’s narrator observes that Funes has almost lost the power of thought, for “to think is to . . . forget differences, to generalise, to abstract” and “in the teeming world of Ireneo Funes there was nothing but particulars, virtually immediate particulars”. The internet is an anarchy of immediate particulars. One ancient stupid tweet defines a person more than any considered and abstracted notion of their whole personality.

Funes was merely condemned never to forget. We are doubly condemned, for we are also condemned never to be forgotten. As Mayer-Schönberger points out, “To be preserved forever” was the legend the KGB stamped on the files of its political prisoners. It was meant as a kind of curse.

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