Cosas de España/Galiza
Doubtless “Lessons were learned” after this . . . Belatedly.
The gift that keeps on giving . . . When things got too hot for him in Spain, the disgraceful/ disgraced ex king, Juan Carlos, exiled himself to Abu Dhabi. But luxury can be boring. So, now he’s demanding that his annual €200,000 state stipend be restored and that he be allowed to live in his family’s palace once he returns. No one familiar with how Spanish justice works will be surprised to read that prosecutors are preparing to shelve all 3 investigations against Juan Carlos, meaning he won’t face any legal proceedings
Not good news from a strangely named pueblecito that I think I saw the sign to a month or so ago, on the Burgos-Palencia road
An interesting-looking book, the title of which – Hacia el Sur/Towards the South – is rather reminiscent of South from Granada by Ms Woolf’s friend, Gerald Brenan. I see she mentioned that her neighbours “sat late and talked loud”. So no change there. .
Cava: Not my poison, even at Xmas/NY, but it might be yours.
Germany’s risk obsession empowers antivaxers. A tendency to distrust new technology shows this is not just a country of rule-loving pedants. See the article below.
The worst cities for expats to work in are Rome, Italy and Milan in Italy; and Johannesburg, South Africa. One wonders why. As regards the Italian cities at least.
The Way of the World/English
Are you up with ‘allyship’, someone’s Word of the Year?
If not . . . The traditional meaning was along the lines of: The relationship of persons, groups or nations associating and cooperating with one another for a common cause or purpose. But today’s meaning is: The role of a person who advocates for inclusion of a “marginalized or politicized group” in solidarity but not as a member the more traditional Allyship is the practice of emphasizing social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalized outgroup.
In case that’s not enough for you, Wiki gives us:- Allyship is part of the anti-oppression or anti-racist conversation, which puts into use social justice theories and ideals. Allyship can exist in terms of racism, ableism, xenophobia, or other types of oppression. Outcomes of allyship considered to be desirable by proponents include greater inclusion in the workplace and empowerment of outgroups. Behaviors that are part of allyship include activism, changing to more inclusive use of language, and combating forms of prejudice against perceived outgroups such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination. Allyship is enacted in a range of areas of public and private life. One may therefore speak of a praxis of allyship among librarians, museum educators, social justice workers, social media users, university faculty, and more. How allyship ought to be enacted in each of these fields is a matter of ongoing discussion and sometimes contention.
I’ve retained all the US spellings because that’s where it all come from, or course. Quite possibly California in particular.
Finally . . .
Doing a Lenox, I leave you with this seasonal ditty from a current favourite of mine . .
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Germany’s risk obsession empowers antivaxers. A tendency to distrust new technology shows this is not just a country of rule-loving pedants: Oliver Moody Berlin correspondent
Sigmund Freud coined the phrase “the narcissism of small differences” to describe the way two societies that have many things in common often tend to fixate on each other’s minor strangenesses instead. It’s a good description of the relationship between modern Britain and Germany, and an especially good description of our respective attitudes towards vaccination.
The two countries have each double-jabbed the same share of their total populations, a shade under 70 per cent, although Britain has administered far more boosters. Yet the small differences behind these numbers are worth dwelling on, not least because they show how much we still have to learn about the Germans.
The first stereotype in need of revision is the idea they are a nation of rule-bound Paragrafeinreiter (“paragraph riders”, or bureaucratic pedants) with a tendency to genuflect in the face of authority. There is indeed no shortage of rules in Germany, nor of everyday vigilantes who are only too happy to enforce them should you commit an unforgivable atrocity such as using power tools on a Sunday morning. The pandemic has been no exception. Polls show a solid majority is firmly behind tougher restrictions and a proposal to require all adults to get vaccinated, on pain of a stiff fine.
But that is not quite the whole picture. About a quarter of the German public consistently regards the state’s coronavirus policies as an overreaction, and in some cases as a case of borderline-totalitarian overreach. By now we know quite a bit about this sizeable minority. Roughly two thirds of them support radical parties that are both feeding on and stirring up this resentment. At the Bundestag election in September, 50 per cent of unvaccinated adults voted for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party, whose leaders have attacked Merkel’s pandemic measures as a “corona-dictatorship”. Another 15 per cent backed dieBasis (the Base), a new party that describes vaccines as “genetic manipulation”.
We also know they are concentrated in southern and eastern areas such as the “free states” of Saxony and Bavaria, which have strong regional identities. Some sociologists have linked this phenomenon to ancient pockets of hostility towards the central government in Berlin. When Bismarck introduced compulsory smallpox vaccination in 1874, it led to riots and a welter of antisemitic conspiracy theories in parts of southern Germany that now have strikingly low levels of immunisation. The second canard is the myth of German efficiency. Earlier this year the state opened up vaccination to all adults while jabs were still in desperately short supply, leading to a stampede on GPs. Stringent data protection rules prevented some states from tracking down older adults for invitations, meaning they had to borrow lists of addresses from the postal service and guess people’s ages based on old-fashioned names such as Manfred or Gunhild.
The third misunderstanding involves German attitudes to science. A great deal of British newsprint has been spent on the popularity of pseudoscientific movements in Germany such as anthroposophy, Steiner schools and homeopathy. Studies suggest at least two thirds of Germans regularly use alternative “natural” remedies such as acupuncture and exotic herbal teas. But these foibles are not necessarily incompatible with accepting modern evidence-based medicine.
What gets less attention is the national approach to risk. There is an institutional tendency to focus on the downsides and uncertainties of new technologies. The so-called precautionary principle was first formulated in Germany in the 1970s and has been zealously applied to innovations such as genetically engineered crops, nuclear energy and, most recently, coronavirus vaccines.
Stiko, the German government’s scientific advisory committee on vaccination, has been preaching this doctrine all year. First it warned against using the AstraZeneca jab on over-65s because of a shortage of data; then it recommended suspending the vaccine for everybody else because of extremely rare side effects. It only got around to endorsing boosters for over-70s on October 7. None of these decisions was indefensible at the time but they have added up to a significant obstacle to getting people vaccinated.
In 1986 the German sociologist Ulrich Beck wrote in a book called The Risk Society that the overwhelming complexity of the modern world’s problems risked undermining trust in “feudalised” expert knowledge and driving perplexed individuals into anti-scientific “evasion rituals, incantations, intuition, suspicions and certainties”.
The pandemic has fulfilled Beck’s prophecy. In September a survey found that Germans were more inclined to question the integrity of scientists than any other nation in the European Union. Eminent German virologists such as Christian Drosten have been pilloried in the tabloid press as “fearmongers” and sinister ideologues.
If these trends continue, there is a danger that the emerging tribal divisions between Germany’s vaccinated and unvaccinated will deepen, with lasting consequences for the country’s politics. The task for the new government under Olaf Scholz is to bring the refuseniks back into the fold rather than allowing them to become radicalised by association with the small but virulent hardcore of antivaxers. There are some problems that no amount of coercion can fix.