Friday, March 4, 2011

I Don't Give a **** About Spain

A sort of minor philosopher, the kind the press calls an intellectual because he dresses up his political observations in long words and obscure, contradictory concepts (I do him something of an injustice, but you know what I mean) caused a stir a few years ago by saying something like that. He spoilt it by clarifying that what he was interested in was the State. I don't care about either, and this is why.

Spain is a historical, geographical, political and cultural entity, which has been great for its power in the world, its wealth, its art, and is now great as an example of a democratic transition to a free and stable society in a world which would often rather not believe that such goals are attainable.* These aspects of the many Spains that there have been in the world and in time are worth appreciating, and I appreciate them. Nevertheless, I say that I don't give a whatever about Spain.

What matters to us individually, and what should matter to us collectively, and what the leaders of towns an dcountries should seek (they´ll always exist, in one form or another),  is freedom, prosperity and general welbeimng. happiness is our own business, but health depends to a great extent on the economy, which depends a great deal on politics. It's true that freedom is not something everyone knows how to use well, there are many who are irresponsible with it, or frightened of it, but the absolute minimum we should expect of any government which aspires to acceptablility is to recognise that we feel and think and believe and, to some extent, that we do, whatever we want.

Spain, the State, democracy, the EU, any ideology or system of government, are good or bad in so far as they let us have freedom, prosperity and health. If they don't, they are worthless. Fidel Castro justifies the existence of the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution, his ideological police, a political police that doesn't even bother to be secret, whose function is to terrorise the people by random acts of violence, because the revolution is good for Cubans and so must be defended at all costs. So he impoverishes, imprisons and brutalises the people for their own good. Such incoherence is no surprise in such evil scum as Castro and Kim Jong-Il, but we expect a little better of our own leaders, be they left or right.

And at times we are disappointed. (They disappoint me much of the time, it's trye, but that they should disappoint me in this is especially disappointing). The EU considers it necessary to remind its staff that their job is to work for the good of the Union and its citizens, and not for themselves. It's no bad thing to remind them of theat, and our own civil servants as well, but the words in bold are disturbing, however natural they may sound. The EU should have no other function than to benefit those of us who form part of it. When its existence becomes an end in itself we are all likely to lose.

The same with Spain. If Cataluña (for example) were to go its own way, the rest of u swould be no less free, nor would it change the role of 'Spain' in defending the circumstances in which we can live well. Spain has been many things, and the condition of its inhabitants has never depended on geography or the constitutional order. The current Constitution, although it seems to serve us well, is not the only way in which that end could be attained, and it is not good to become obsessed with defending every last detail of it.

To criminalise political ideas in order to protect an ideology is to fail to understand freedom. It's very easy to use the force of law against Batasuna, instead of defeating their ideas openly by free debate, or even accepting them if they represent majority opinion, but where does it lead? As well as Batasuna, I would be delighted to criminalise the Communist Party, and others would do away with the Popular Party, or nationalise the Bernabeu to grow marihuana or organic vegetables. But if there is a Spain I care about as a concept, a Spain that I would miss, it is the Spain which defends the right to be different, to hold and express social and political opinions, and to accept or reject those of others, to do what you want peacefully without having to justify oneself constantly or defend oneself from those who want to forbid actions and ideas they don't like.

This is the Spain that is worth defending. But that Spain, which is this one, is not an ideology; we have made it ourselves, and we make it every day. We have no fixed limits or borders, we are not defined in documents signed by presidents or kings in expensive and selfimportant ceremonies. We change all the time, in many ways, and it doesn't matter. Nothing is lost. What matters still remains.

*Who knows what will happen in the Arab countries that are busy revolying against the tyrants who control them? The lazy, racist left takes for granted that 'muslims aren't ready for democracy'. They said the same of Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Chile, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania etc, and all of them (that is, both the people and the political leaders, working together and for the good of everyone, wonder of wonders, but it can happen) showed that the desire for freedom was linked to a desire for tolerance and a co-operation which allowed the creation of a free and stable society to be the main goal. Other nations have had the chance, and have failed. We shall see what happens.


Vincent said...

I like your piece and the feelings which have inspired it, even though ideologically (or some such adverb) we would be at loggerheads. Still we might vote for the same candidate in an election.

Sure, to take your footnote, we really can't tell what will happen as an outcome of the Arab unrest. I think there will be many outcomes, and hope for good ones.

I am convinced by your point that Spain should be tolerant of its dissident minorities. But then you express approval of criminalising a Communist Party, which strikes me as bizarre. In general I'm ideologically opposed to the creation of new criminal offences, but then I don't live in Spain. Plus, as I've mentioned before, I am not so opposed as you to Castro's Cuba.

Have you seen Milos Forman's film "Goya's Ghosts"? You might enjoy it - a sprawling film with wonderful colour and emotion covering the Spanish Inquisition and the Napoleonic Wars, as they affected Spain.

CIngram said...

No, no. If we're going to start banning things, then my personal instinct would be to start with the Communist Party and work up steam from there. Others would start from somewhere else and soon there would be nothing left to ban and we'd all be far worse off and probably end up shooting each other. But I don't want anyone to start banning things. It is in all our interests to create an acceptance of tolerance of other people's ideas as the norm, because we never know when we will be part of the unpopular minority which needs the majority that disagrees with it to recognise its right to exist.

So I accept the Communist Party and dispute their doctrines, I accept Batasuna and condemn the violence that is used by others in the pursuit of its aims (there is some overlap, in that some members of the party are terrorists and others give them support which makes terrorism easier. It's not a simple matter to distinguish between them, but the basic point stands).