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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 26 November 2020
26 November 2020 @ 10:40

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'*  

 Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain

This year, divorce rates have fallen, while domestic violence cases have risen. I guess one can see through this apparent inconsistency.

This might only be in Spain:-

Generación T (de la Transición): 1943-63

Generación X: 1964-1981

Generación Y (Millenials): 1982-96

Generación Z: 1996-2010

With all the cafés and bars closed - and no public facilities available - where do you go when you're caught short? The museum, if open? The nearest centro comercial, possibly 15m walk away or more?

María's Riding the Wave - Days 11&12  

The UK

Yesterday I made a successful internet application for a passport renewal. But it took 8 attempts at a digital foto before the government site accepted one - 5 by me and 3 by the neighbour whose help I enlisted. Reasons given:- Not enough natural light; Too many shades of colour behind my head; Not enough space around my head; and: Not enough kilobytes. I mailed it midday by registered letter(certificado) and was astonished that the Correos clerk didn't ask for my NIE/TIE, explaining this would only be necessary if I wanted an invoice, not just a tique.

The USA  

Myth busting here.

Given where Trump seemed to get his ideas from, it could've got/gotten a lot worse during the next 4 years,  . . A former Olympic gymnastics champion rumoured to be in a relationship with President Putin is paid £7.7m pa as head of a pro-Kremlin media group. Ms Kabaeva previously hosted a TV chat show but is not known to have had any experience in media management.

The Way of the World

The idea that defined the West now threatens us . . . Individualism  was a formula that worked for the West for a few centuries. The future may look very different. See the article below.

Finally . . .

The world's best footballers:-

Neymar 1.75m

George Best 1.75m

Pele 1.73m

Messi 1.70m

Maradona 1.65m

Cf. Average height for UK males 2019 1.75m(5'9)

I'm only 1.73m. To think, what I could have been . . .

This is what makes football special; you don't need to be be tall or physically powerful to play it. Or even excel at it.

P. S. Ronaldo 1.85m. Lanky bastard.

BTW . . . Maradona’s downfall was caused by a combined addiction to drugs, drink, eating and sex. Bit of a glutton, then. Or perhaps he just couldn't make up his mind.

THE ARTICLE

Idea that defined the West now threatens us:  James Marriott, TheTimes

There’s an endearingly ambitious academic discipline called cliodynamics which aims to predict the rise and fall of civilisations using mathematical modelling. Cliodynamics has been in the news this year because its most famous proponent, Peter Turchin, a biologist previously famous for studying the population dynamics of pine beetles, made a series of predictions a decade ago that an “age of discord” was due to begin in 2020.

Joseph Henrich is a Harvard anthropologist whose new book The Weirdest People in the World identifies one big theme in western civilisation: individualism. Henrich argues that the unusually individualistic psychology of westerners makes them radically different to most other societies in the world. This might sound trite but Henrich makes a convincing argument showing how, over centuries, individualism freed westerners from the restrictions of social networks based on kinship, such as tribes and families. We became more mobile, better at exchanging ideas and more adept at co-operating in large non-familial organisations such as guilds, scientific societies and nation states. These changes fuelled innovation and growth, propelling the West to its economic, technological and military ascendancy.

Henrich doesn’t speculate about how the West’s individualism is shaping modern history. But if you buy his idea that individualism defines western civilisation then it’s not hard to speculate that the individualism which once propelled us to global dominance is the same force now fracturing our society.

A battery of social experiments illustrates the extraordinary individualism of the modern West. When asked by researchers to complete the phrase “I am”, westerners opted for words that described their personal attributes and achievements (“I am smart”, “I am a lawyer”, etc). Others, by contrast, referred to their family relationships and social roles (“I am a brother”, “I am a friend”). In another experiment participants were told to draw a diagram showing their relationships to their friends. Non-westerners usually drew everyone the same size whereas the citizens of western societies depicted themselves as bigger than their friends. (“Americans,” a researcher noted, “tend to draw themselves very large.”) If that stuff sounds hokey, think of the psychological gulf which separates American politicians debating questions of “liberty” and “freedom” from Chinese leaders devising policies to promote “the harmonious society”.

Criticisms of individualism are common across the political spectrum. Left-wing writers point to the damage caused by unrestrained economic individualism. On the right, commentators lament the decline of the family. Donald Trump highlights the danger of extreme narcissism. In his long refusal to concede the US election result, Trump placed his own ego above the democratic conventions that bind American society. But the social forces swirling beneath Trump are more dangerous. The emergence of an extreme intellectual individualism is one of the most significant dangers of our era.

Henrich shows how, in the 15th century, the advent of printing presses accelerated individualism by enabling men and women to interpret scripture for themselves rather than rely on the teachings of religious gatekeepers. This tendency towards intellectual self-determination is a theme in the history of western culture and one that reached its dangerously logical conclusion in the postmodern philosophy of the 1970s which taught that the truth is relative, and everyone’s interpretation of reality is as valid as anyone else’s. This thinking lies at the heart of our modern culture wars, which are defined not just by clashing opinions but clashing definitions of reality itself.

Those culture wars, of course, have been exacerbated by the advent of the internet, an information revolution at least as psychologically significant as the invention of printing. Where the printing press democratised the interpretation of information, the internet offers us the opportunity not just to interpret information but to mould it however we want. The conspiracy theorist who claims to have “worked things out for myself” is the ultimate intellectual narcissist. But we are all implicated: social media companies flatter us with algorithmically curated timelines which reflect our own views back at us. This is not just individualism but a form of infantile narcissism which allows us to perceive reality as nothing more than an extension of ourselves.

If you’re looking for a way to understand the turbulence our society is going through, then Henrich’s take on individualism is the most compelling I’ve read this year. With western individualism in crisis, it’s hard not to notice that the rising power in the world is China, a much less individualistic society. Individualism does not guarantee geopolitical dominance. It was a formula that worked for the West for a few centuries. The future may look very different.

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

   



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