Johann Hari of the Independent has written a fascinating article about his trip on the National Review's annual readership cruise. What he discovers is that the readers and writers of one of America's top conservative publications are willing to say things 'behind closed doors' which would shock mainstream opinion. From flippant suggestions that peace protesters should be sent 'to the gas chamber', to excitement at the prospect of Paris becoming part of a new caliphate (within a decade, mark you), this article is essential reading.
Those of you who understand the title will no doubt join in my sadness that the Rev has died. If it's really true (and it seems to be), then this is a sad day. Farewell, sweet prince.
One of the big points for debate here is language. Here – as in many other places around the world – language often seems inextricably linked to culture, politics and identity. The issue of Catalan versus Castilian Spanish is probably the most abused and over-discussed issue in Catalonia. I'm not really interested in prolonging this pretty irritating debate but I would like to try to clarify a couple of the key sticking-points.
First, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) – the Catalan Republican Left – and their language policy. ERC are the fourth biggest party in Catalonia (and third partner in the regional government, la Generalitat) and their policy is pretty much totally dictated by nationalism. Culture and language, of course, play a major role in their strategy. And from time to time, they propose policies or laws which are frankly unbelievable. Take, for example, the proposal that it should be illegal for teachers to speak in any language but Catalan while they're on school premises. That's a ridiculous policy which regularly earns the well deserved moniker 'fascist'. It is clear that their policy is directed against speakers of Castilian Spanish and thus anyone who is 'non-Catalan'.
As far as I see, ERC consists of several different movements. I have some sympathy for the 'republican/left' element of the party because I'm a left-winger and would rather live in a republic than a kingdom. Unfortunately, the dominant front in ERC is extremely nationalist and sometimes verges on the racist. I get the impression that they probably wouldn't much like me as a member, because I use the odd Spanish word when speaking Catalan. I'm not from here, remember.
The crazier of ERC's policies are reminiscent of laws passed by Francisco Franco's fascist dictatorship in Spain. Under the Generalissimo, the country was reinvented as the home of Catholicism, empire and homogeneity. Of course, this was revisionism gone mad. Spain has always been an amalgamation of different kingdoms, peoples and cultures. Passing laws to cancel that out has never worked.
This is another sticking point. If you read other English-language blogs from Catalonia, you might get the impression that the story of Catalan being banned under Franco was made up by Catalan nationalists. This is completely untrue. Certain bloggers seem to have a perverse interest in undermining the history of Catalan, Catalonia and the repression during the Franco years. Make no mistake: under Franco, hundreds of laws and judgments were passed which effectively outlawed the use of the Catalan language. At best, the blogs which promulgate this myth are disingenuous. I reckon that they're aiming for an audience-pleasing tone of contrariety, which is, after all, the natural tone for successful blogs. Doesn't make it true, though.
It's that time of year again. Two weeks of holiday carved out of the second half of July could only mean one thing round here: we're off to the Benicassim festival (FIB) for the 3rd year running. For those who haven't been, Benicassim is a rock festival like no other. It combines the usual noise, large cups of beer and haze of marijuana smoke with an attractive beach town, lots of sunshine and all the other benefits of a traditional Spanish beach holiday. In the evening (until 6 am), we'll enjoy performances by Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Wilco, Herman Düne, and Cansei de Ser Sexy – and during the day, we'll sunbathe and swim. Quite simply, it's the highlight of the year… and yet none of my Barcelona friends ever go. Losers.
The main downside to FIB is the heat. While it's great to have a festival by the beach, the temperatures in Castellón in the last fortnight of July are hot, hot, hot. Last year, I nearly died while erecting our tent. Without the help of my stalwart amigos, I may well have undergone a complete mental and physical collapse. So this year, we're doing things differently. We've got an apartment on the beach with a pool and a parking space. No more tents for us. I'm not sure which part I'm looking forward to more: hearing the Stooges play Search And Destroy or relaxing in the shade the next day.
Update: some photos of the festival are now available on my Flickr. More coming soon. http://flickr.com/photos/thebadrash
More of this, please! I never liked the fact that Labour were pushing this legislation. 'Super casinos' have not been proven to bring genuine regeneration to deprived areas. Indeed, some police reports warned that construction of such casinos would spark crime-waves and open the door [further?] to organised crime in inner city areas. It was also noted that many of the jobs on offer in 'super casinos' would be almost exclusively of low-pay/low-skilled jobs, not really the solution for promoting urban regeneration.
Balding thigh-rubber, Peter Stringfellow has just spoken out on More4 News – in support of 'super casinos'. Who needs a better argument against them?
It's a scene I've watched dozens of times, so yesterday I decided to record it for posterity.
Blogging has been erratic of late. My real job is going well. There have been a lot of recent events (London & Glasgow attacks, Yemen attacks etc) which I have strong feelings about but on which I've not had time to talk.
There is a column at The Guardian which is causing some controversy. The writer argues that to ignore British foreign policy while trying to understand Islamist fanaticism is a mistake. I sort of half agree with him. The way I see it is that our foreign policy has had an effect on a lot of the young men who have joined Islamist groups. But that doesn't mean that Islamism wouldn't exist without Western influence in the Middle East. Sayyid Qutb developed his warped ideas about us in the 1950s.
And still, understanding that Islamism exists without Western military action, it's stunning to think that people believe that our foreign policy has nothing to do with terrorism.
A world without Saddam Hussein is a better world. And yet, the way in which the war was prosecuted seems to have given both a breeding ground and fodder to the Islamists. This is, it must be admitted, a huge strategic failure. Iraq, like it or not, has become both recruiting ground and recruiting poster.
Islamism is clearly the enemy of socialism and democracy. But that doesn't qualify any and all action by Western governments as acceptable. It is right that we criticise our governments when we feel that they have made mistakes or overstepped the mark. Those commentators who try to smother criticism are missing the point. Debate is what makes us strong.
thebadrash.com will be on intermittent holiday between now and the beginning of September.