Awake, for morning in the bowl of night has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight.
And, lo, has caught the sultan’s turret in a noose of light!
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’
Cosas de España/Galiza
A book called Spain: The Trials and Triumphs of a Modern European Country has just been published. There’s a review of it below.
Spain’s lawyers have ended their 2-month strike, after gaining a €450 a month increase in pay. This had left 300,000 cases paralysed nationally and 10,000 here in Galicia. As if Spanish justice wasn’t slow enough already.
Talking of speed of action . . . . Final approval has been given for the expansion of the small industrial park I pass through 4 times a day. I had thought the process had taken a mere 17 years but it turns out to have been 21. But now we can look forward to shopping at Decathlon there and, possibly, enjoying a Big Mac and ‘fries’.
I recently cited some foreigner’s comment on Galicia that what surprised him/her most was the cult of death here. Right on cue comes one of the South American priests brought in to fill local gaps, who made exactly the same comment. And he’s steeped in Roman Catholicism – a religion centred on pain and death!
This is a For Sale sign on one of the properties in the street full of bars I’ve mentioned recently:-
From the look of it, it’s been there quite a while, at floor flat level. Given the ground floor developments, I suspect it’ll be there quite a while longer. Unless it’s going for a song. As opposed to nocturnal techno-booming.
Talking of signs . . . I passed one this morning outside the offices of Imprenta Ydeas, a firm specialising in Desygn, Pryntying & Marketyng. Which struck me as a tad ironic, as there’s no Y in the local language, Gallego.
Will Brits ever become as revolting as the French and, so, more revolting than they’ve traditionally been? Very possibly, in London at least. Where the mayor’s ULEZ(Ultra Low Emission Zone) scheme is being met by more than verbal resistance. This is said to reflect major, multi-level popular opposition to the extension of the scheme to the outer suburbs. This includes covering cameras, disconnecting wires, even removing cameras, and walking around with a car number plate strapped to one’s back,on prams or on push-chairs – the intention being to cause havoc with the administrative system and choking it via the extra sightings. And then there’s the practice of cloning number plates to avoid incurring the charges. Impressive.
The Scottish Nationalist Party has chosen as its new leader a Moslem chap who’s a secessionist fanatic. In the view of one (right-wing)columnist, the SNP is a top-down, dogmatically Leftist, monolithic and cronyist organisation – a reputation, he says, that has been has been reinforced by the election of Humza Yousaf as First Minister. This development is clearly seen by those within and without Scotland who disfavour secession from the UK as one which will leave secession further away than ever. Time will tell. Meanwhile, Catalan Nats will probably see it as positive, given Yousaf’s agenda. But they are dreamers as well.
A WSJ survey on the priorities that helped define the national character has revealed that religion is now regarded as important by only 39% of the populace, compared with 62% in 1998. Patriotism has fallen even further, from 70% to 38%. And today’s numbers are even lower among the young. Said one of the pollsters: “These differences are so dramatic it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America. Perhaps the toll of our political division, Covid and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values.” More here on this.
The Way of the World/Quote of The Day
If you think children now aren’t sexualised the way Brooke Shields was, you aren’t paying attention/
So, what to do about it? How can safeguarding be maximised?
I recently cited the American phrase ‘to reach out to’, meaning ‘to contact’. Here’s this morning’s example, from an obvious spammer: I’m reaching out from the Financial Assistance Department, where I have been assigned to assist with your recent application for hardship assistance.
Did you know?
When Argentina’s Carlos Tevez moved to Shanhai Shenhua, his salary was €690,000 a week, making him the highest- paid footballer in the world. Doubtless he was worth every penny. As are the machinists in the factories used by Adidas, Zara, Nike, Levy. etc., etc.
Finally . . .
Private Eye has an item in every issue called “Dumb Britain”. This consists of answers given by Brits in one of the various general knowledge quizzes shown on TV. Occasionally, I’m forced to laugh out loud. For example : Question: What Latin word meaning “of the king” follows Lyme to give the name of a Dorset seaside town? Answer: Scale
For new readers:- If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.
Spain: The Trials and Triumphs of a Modern European Country. By Michael Reid.
A rigorous, even-handed history of modern Spain which considers the problems afflicting the country
The past 15 years have been tumultuous for many European countries. In the case of Spain, the period has been marked by recessions and debt crises between 2008 and 2014, a shakedown in the party system, the tarnishing of numerous institutions (including the monarchy), the eruption of populist movements on the far left and right, the revolt of the Catalan nationalists, the global pandemic and an upsurge in the politics of intransigence and polarisation. The raison d’être of Michael Reid’s new book, “Spain: The Trials and Triumphs of a Modern European Country”, is not just to identify the problems that transfix Spain today, but also to suggest a constructive way forward.
In so doing, he tackles a host of issues, ranging from immigration, the environment and the abandonment of rural areas to women’s rights and the family, the decline of bullfighting, the crisis of Catholicism, the media and corruption. The upshot is a lively, highly informative and nuanced portrait of contemporary Spain. It fills a huge void in English-language books on the country; future writers will be much indebted to it.
The greatest political tremor to hit Spain since the global financial crisis of 2007-09 has been the bid for independence of Catalan nationalists. During the transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1970s, and in the decades thereafter, Catalans were overwhelmingly supportive of regional devolution. All that changed with the mauling of the Catalan statute—which gave the territory greater autonomy and defined it as a “nation”—by the constitutional court in 2010. Together with the economic downturn, the court’s actions led to a vertiginous rise in support for Catalan independence.
As the author points out, foreigners have tended to romanticise the Catalan struggle, but the separatists have proved “rigid and intolerant”, even “racist”. The Catalan conundrum is inextricably linked to one of the principal unresolved issues of the transition: the regional autonomous communities. Though they have achieved a great deal—overseeing education and social services, for example—they have nonetheless promoted parochialism and division at the expense of national commonalities and unity. For Mr Reid, the panacea is federalism, but the question remains as to how political opposition to such a solution, particularly on the right, would be overcome.
His discussion of other key issues, such as the economy, “historical memory”, the judiciary, the rejuvenation of the Basque Country and education, is distinguished by the same even-handed yet empathetic approach. Mr Reid is especially good on the faults and foibles of the political system, above all the staggering lack of accountability and the notorious “closed lists”, which allow party bosses to decide on the candidates for a general election, thereby stifling internal debate and dissent.
Central to Mr Reid’s portrayal of contemporary Spain is the contrast between the “golden age” between 1975 and 2000 and the period from 2000 to 2018, by which time the “shadows had all but obscured the sun”. In your reviewer’s opinion, this is greatly overdrawn. Mr Reid tends to idealise the transition, as indicated by the claim that it was characterised by “little violence” when there were 665 politically motivated deaths between 1975 and 1982. In reality these years were marked by would-be coups, a recession, abrupt political lurches and terrorist atrocities. Similarly, the major achievements of the socialist governments of 1982-96 should not mask their endemic corruption, the “dirty war” against eta(the armed Basque separatist group) and persistent high unemployment.
Mr Reid contends that the coup d’état perpetrated 100 years ago by Miguel Primo de Rivera, a general, “ought to serve as a warning to Spain’s political class”. This is far-fetched stuff, not just because state and society were vastly different back then, but also because the army had been usurping civilian power for years. Urged on by the authoritarian Alfonso XIII, the army influenced policy and pushed through reforms favourable to its interests. No such threat exists today.
This writer does not share Mr Reid’s gloomy prognosis that “if the country cannot find a path of political renewal, the permanence of its achievements will be in doubt”, as the constitutionalists far outweigh the anti-constitutionalists and the extreme left and right appear to be in decline. The labour law of 2022, which reduces the number of part-time jobs and provides greater security, shows that significant reform is possible after all. Still, as Mr Reid contends, such triumphs are bound to be followed by further trials.