Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
Note: If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here. But bear in mind I haven't updated it for some years now.
Life in Spain:-
- The Spanish, it's claimed have the highest interest (65%) of any EU population in having a referendum on leaving the EU. On the other hand, they have one of the lowest rates of interest (13%) in actually doing do. At first blush, this seems rather inconsistent. But, of course, if you know almost no one wants it, there's no risk in having a vote. See here for more on this.
- As I regularly say, there's a large gap between Spain's much lauded macro economic performance of 3%pa GDP growth and what's happening down on the street. Here in Galicia, for example, the average income of our youth (18-35) is not only down from €11,300pa in 2011 to €9,900 in 2015 - probably less now - but it has also been overtaken by that of pensioners, who moved from €10,900 to €12,000 in the same 5 years. Or 21% more than the young folk. This is what (Berlin-driven) 'internal devaluation'/austerity has done here, and probably throughout Spain as well. Meanwhile, the rich have got richer and the politicians have got ever more corrupt. As if reducing wages weren't bad enough, most young employees face permanent 'precariousness', as beneficiaries of zero-hours contract. As elsewhere, the young and the poor are the ones paying the price for the introduction of a common currency without a true fiscal union.
- See here for yet another article praising Spain for its top-level performance. though it's noted that: Real average wages are about where they were a decade ago. Unemployment is still close to 3.5m (or 17%)
- Which reminds me . . . Spain is threatening to block the latest ECB bail-out of basket-case Greece. See here for the rationale. And here's the NYT on this development.
Here's Don Quijones on the latest developments in the Italian banking crisis. The ECB, it seems, is prepared to throw unlimited amounts of (new) money at the problem. DQ makes these comments about the Spanish situation:-
- Banco Popular was liquidity challenged but passed all parts of the ECB’s 2016 stress test, which shows you how ineffectual these tests are.
- Even days before Popular’s collapse, Spain’s Economy Minister repeatedly reassured investors that the bank was perfectly safe and solvent. All the while government agencies - including Spain’s social security fund, and regional government authorities - were emptying the deposits they held with the bank as fast as they could. The total is unknown but it certainly ran into billions of euros.
- Even in Spain, which already restructured its banking sector years ago at a total cost to taxpayers of around €300 billion (including government guarantees), it didn’t take long for contagion to spread. The most affected bank was Liberbank whose shares collapsed by a third in the three days.
The EU: The survey cited above suggests that the desire to ‘take back control’ that drove Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last year is widely shared across the 28-member bloc. The majority of the EU public - without wanting a version of Brexit - nonetheless want want their governments to have more control over trade and immigration policy. Doesn't seem very likely at the moment but who knows? The EU is in constant crisis/survival mode and might yet effect the major reforms that everyone says are necessary. If Berlin finally agrees to them. Personally, I think it'll be decades before the cautious Germans are prepared to take on the debts of the 'lazy' southerners.
On a happier note . . . I've been recommending Galicia's white godello wine for some years now. And it's red mencia. But this is the first reference I've seen to the former in the UK media. It's laudatory, of course. And this is justifiable. But it surely reflects the fact that the writer was treated to the trip and the tastings. Whereas I am not . . . I think I mentioned the lovely town of Valdeorras del Bierzo a few weeks ago.
The Spanish language:- As a regular - but gratis - translator of menus, I had occasion this week to learn these distinctions:-
Raisins: uvas pasas/pasas
Prunes: ciruelas pasas; ciruelas secas
Greengages: ciruelas claudias; ciruelas verdales
Damsons: ciruelas damascenas
If you want a good example of Donald Trump's [choose your own noun], take a look at this NYT report on how he stole a family crest and then changed the word Integrity on it to Trump. Says it all really. And you certainly couldn't make it up.
Finally . . . Facebook continues to recommend stuff in which I have zilch interest. Hot on the heels of groups that want Jeremy Corbyn as British Prime Minister have come items in Galician/Galego. This is presumably because I wrote an email about Galician chat-up lines a couple of days ago. The interesting question is . . . How does FB know about this? Eerie.
Today's cartoon . . .
Reign of Idiots By Chris Hedges
The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.
There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.
The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.
Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.
This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet’s wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.
The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state.
Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war: "A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."
Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us.
All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.
Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored.
Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.