Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

The European Project

September 19, 2018

The Beginning of the End of the Royals running Europe started with an upstart French officer named Napolean and a musician from the German outback named Beethoven.

The End of the Beginning of the End came when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, the event that ignited the First Big War.

Archduk4

The End of the Royals running Europe came when the appointed Generals, elected Presidents and Prime Ministers of a war-crippled Europe assembled in Versailles, France, in 1919.  The secular Leaders began trying to pull the pieces of Europe back together again, to reset Euro Civilization on a new Democratic/Republican game-plan.

StreetValncia

Since that time, the Europeans have had a rough time of pulling themselves together as a political entity. To begin with, the rubble-heaps of post-WWII Europe ended up  in a new polarity of two distant controlling hegemonies—the US and the USSR. These two emergent political empires  were centered  far outside of the fanciful entity we know as Old Europe, which existed in previous history as a continental area governed mostly from these ancient Capitols:  Athens, Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and—a most honorable mention—Geneva.

I call Geneva  honorable  because it is the City  on that grand network most associated with a very important concept: Peace.

The Peace of Europe had been, for 1900 years, an elusive State of Affairs, which somehow managed to survive as a glimmer of hope in the Heart and Soul of a quasi-mythical Europa.

Europe is very old, but contemporary Europeans have taken on a venerable Project to form a European Union. Exactly what that is, is a matter of political evolution, politics, compromise, and of course, Money.

This EU is a logical step forward, because the formerly long-hoped-for Peace of Europe has been flourishing since Allied victory was won at great cost of blood sweat and tears, in 1945. By the grace of God and Man, Europe has been at peace with itself since that time, 73 years.

But the next step beyond the Peace of Europe– European Union– is a prospect as elusive as finding the Holy Grail, or Valhalla, or Arcadia, or Elysian Fields of Camelot or Heaven itself.

But its political success is nowhere as easy as the Prospect for Unity that we Americans had back in the day. We had a vast, undeveloped continent as a frontier, which was populated originally by primitive tribes who were unorganized and unprepared to deal with our transplanted European development Mindset.

Most of us Americans had ancestors who wandered via Ships across the Atlantic to—as it turned out— find and construct a New World. Our forebears were confronted only by those undeveloped tribes who were already here, and a bunch of competing, mostly-poor immigrants like ourselves from different mostly-Euro traditions.

We certainly had some problems along the way, getting it all together as the United States of America. We even had a goddam Civil War trying to get it all worked out but we managed to get through that and keep the Union going, and expanding all the way to the Pacific shore.

Yes, we certainly had some problems getting it together, but our USA has been, relatively speaking, a light-duty Project compared to what the Europeans have been dealing with since the Collapse of the Old Roman Empire.

We New Worlders had advantages. We did not have, you see, all that  2000-year-old institutionalized sociological, economic and ethnic baggage that the Europeans have had and still have that keeps them caught up in differing National Purposes and Visions.

Presently, between the Teutonic bean-counters and the Mediterranean lay-backs, Europe just cannot get it together to decide how all the Expenses of governance and economic maintenance can be Paid-off.

Now we Americans don’t necessarily pay our Public Deficits either, but at least we are United in our rhetorical affirmation of equality and justice and Credit for All.  So we just keep running up the Tab and nobody gives a dam, because we have been, for a awhile, the, you know, new kid on the block and king of the hill and all that and we can get away with it.

Whereas the Euros are presently arguing about Who is going to pay the bills—the Teutonic bean-counters or the Mediterranean lay-backs.

We Americans cast a trans-Atlantic glance at them and express our deepest concern and well-wishes for a continuing Progress toward the elusive European Union and we say wholeheartedly:

Good Luck with that!

Now here’s the good news.There is a bright lining that envelopes this present Cloud of Complex Cooperation in Europa.

French President Emmanuel Macron has now proposed a new plan whereby the burdens of EU Debt, Expense, Governance and Administration of the EU are Dealt-With according to (as my American online ignoramus self-satisfied cyber-awareness would understand it) gradations of Participation, Responsibility and WhothehellCares-Responsibility in the EntitiesUnited of Europa.

These levels of Participation will be most heavily taken Seriously and Attended-To by those State/entities that are closest to the Center of Power and Influence. The peripheral Nations/States will be garnished according to their relative positions in the  outgoing Concentric Circles of Europe.

These Circles are most likely actually Parabolas. Because the actual Working Center of Europe consists not of one Point, but rather, Two Points, where the real Movers and Shakers (Bankers) of Europe run their Industrial/Financial Empires.

The Two Points are Berlin and Paris. There is a Third Centric point between them: Brussels, which is the errand by for Paris and London.

So we see that, with  Monsieur Macron’s proposed plan for the widening Circles of Influence, Europe has great Hope for the Future.

It may be a plan worthy of implementation. The Europeans have achieved Success in the Development of an essential condition: Peace.

Now it’s just the Money that’s hanging them up.

This American believes that the pesky Arguing about Who pays the Bills is actually Progress, because it is qualitatively better than Bombing each other! So they must have gotten something right, beginning back in ’45.  They have indeed  come a long way since Sarajevo in 1914.

TrainBarc

One more thing, very important. This American notices that, in spite of all the different member nations with different languages and politics and values, their system of Trains and Metros puts ours to shame. With just a mention given to their impressive High-Speed, Efficiency and Clockwork Precision, the most endearing characteristic of the Euro rail is Ease and Comfort. Taking a Euro train trip from one city to another is a much easier and far more comfortable Prospect than doing the yankee airport runaround, with sardine-contortion seating and  limited passage in the aisles when you may have to pee. Most important of all–the train seats are comfortable, roomy, easy to get in- and out-of, and less pricey than planes.

Maybe we can teach them something about Debts Pretension, while they teach us something about Running the Trains.

EuroTrain

Smoke 

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Two Towers

September 14, 2018

Two Spanish towers stand as symbolic descriptors of that country’s  monarchy.

It only takes a glance to catch a glimpse of the difference between the two historical ages in which these two were constructed.

One ancient tower, pictured below, was built  on the Mediterranean coast, at Valencia, between 1441-1460 AD.

The new one, to be seen further below, was constructed in Madrid in 1992.

They are very different. A comparison between the two indicates, I think, a major difference between Spain’s early monarchy five centuries ago, and the constitutional monarchy that functions today.

When I look at the older tower, which I snapped on photo this morning,  the picture summons in my mind mythical images of a medieval kingdom ruled by kings and protected by an order of loyal knights. In this case, the kingdom was Aragon, in was in eastern Spain, 15th century. The nominal ruler at the time was King Alfonso V.

Because medieval royals moved around Europe like  corporate CEO’s who jet around the world today, Alfonso wasn’t very involved in the Spanish parts of his domains; he was  preoccupied with Italia and papist politics.

So Alfonso’s brother, prince John, held down the fort (literally) over in the outback Spanish hinterlands.

The task  then fell to John, or some of his people, to govern and protect the good people of Aragon. In the main cuidad, the port of Valencia, they built walls around the city, and towers for monitoring the distant horizons.  Here’s the tower, obviously still standing, that I snapped this morning.

ValnciaTowr

Doesn’t it absolutely look like the elevated station of a classic medieval fortification wall? Could it be jutting up into the blue sky of at Aragorn instead of Aragon?  We see here that Prince John literally “held down the fort” while his big brother was schmoozing with the Italian movers and shakers of their day and their papist pals.

Prince John did  acquire, however, a significant role in history. He was the the father of a Ferdinand. That’s the Ferdinand of Ferdinand and Isabella, who commissioned Christopher Columbus to sail for India. Chris never did make it India; but he did bump into  another place. . . America.

And the rest is history.

When King Ferdinand of Aragon married Queen Isabella of Castile–that was the beginning of the nation we know to be Spain.

Fast-forward 532 years from  Prince John’s constructed wall/Tower to defend Valencia in 1460 AD. By 1992, when my second example of a tower is built, the people of Spain have done significant rearrangement of this governmental arrangement  called monarchy. They have democratically kicked out one 20th-century king, Alphonso XIII, in 1931. They replaced his monarchy with a leftist Republic that lasted only until 1939. Then the military Generalissimo Franco summoned a bunch of old-fashioned Catolico, conservative, reactionary and fascist soldiers; he drove them up from Morocco, took hold of Espanya by winning the civil war of 1936-39; he chased away most of the republicans, socialists, communists and any other liberal-minded upstarts who thought they could rearrange Spain according to egalitarian ideals and modern ideas.

Franco ruled, king-like, as a Falangist dictator, from 1939 onward, and managed to hang onto power in spite of all his nazi and Italiano fascisti allies going down in death and disgrace in 1945 after the Big War.

He ruled until he croaked in 1975. But before he died, Franco twisted arms in the corridors of Spanish power to prevent his people from voting in another experiment with democracy.

They must restore the monarchy, insisted the Generalissimo.  But  they should not crown the royal son who would have been  presumptive heir—no, not Don Juan, 3rd son of the late and last King  Alphonso who they turned away in ’31  Rather, Franco insisted Spain should crown Don Juan’s son, Juan Carlos, whose inclinations appeared to be more authoritarian than Don Juan’s.

Nevertheless, after Franco had passed into the great beyond in ’75, the new king Juan Carlos responded with approval for the democratic reforms necessary to bring Spain into modern governance. He instituted reforms that would relegate the monarchy toward  more ceremonial duties, a la Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and several other nations. Today Alfonso’s great-grandson, Juan Carlos’ son Felipe VI, is the king of Spain.

In Madrid, 1992, Spain built a museum to display the modern art of their country. King Felipe’s mother, Sofia—herself of royal Spanish blood as well as being Juan Carlos’ wife and queen—gave her name to the completed project of the new art museum.

A sleek, transparent glass elevator shaft on the Museum’s exterior stands out as a bold work of architectural art, in and of itself. It’s name is prominently etched along the entire vertical length of the structure.

GlassTowr

This shiny Tower, which conducts elevators, expresses the innovative thrust by which Spain has ascended into the modern world.

So we notice two incredibly different towers in Spain: one made of stone, appearing very heavy, very old, and fortress-like  impenetrable. The other is constructed of glass, gleaming brightly in 2018 sunshine, appearing light and fragile.  This second one also has a name–Reina Sofia, which was not only the Spanish queen’s means; it also means Queen Wisdom.

What remains to be seen is the future of Spain’s monarchy-retaining democracy. Is it fortified and impenetrable, or light and fragile, like a smart phone you don’t want to drop.

That question is really a manner of consideration for all democratic governments. We shall see what the world does to all our democracies during the next half-millenium. Let’s hope they are still functional 500 years from now, whether kings and queens are still part of the structure, or not.

My thought is it would be wise to keep democracy intact and functional, whether or not  kings and queens are still part of the arrangements.

Smoke

Spain

September 13, 2018

Espana.

es Passionata.

For five hundred Moor years

than the Iberian Catolica peninsula

could ever have estanded

to be Islamically commanded,

they endured Ummayed demands

until Aragon King Ferdinand

came conquestering and demanding

with Castile Queen Isabella, remanding,

to fortify their  Catolica position

with a a goddam Inquisition,

stringing up dissidents in their Inquisition power

thereby crushing the bloom of heretical flower.

But with Isabella’s demise mad king Ferd devised

that child Queen Juana should be misused:

She therefore became abused and confused,

being married off to a Hapsburg prince

so that Empire hegemony could commence,

thrusting power over in-between freakin’ France

so Spain would achieve victory in their great Power prance.

Thereby Poor Juana had not a chance

her youthful passion to enhance,

being named an infernal loco heretic.

Therefore history defined her role as lunatic.

While Jews were being unlisted,

dissidents still resisted

although many heretics persisted

while being so unjustly inquisited.

 

That was then but this is now.

Spain still bleeds; that was how

it happened long ago  

when Ferd took on the  holy Roman Catolico

Hapsburg Empire show.

Down through history from page to page

As monarchs wage their contests age to age

Spanish blood flows through impetuous action;

it then bleeds out as Spanish soul passion,

moving los manos y voces to music and song

to celebrate what’s right and lament what is wrong.

Flamenc2

Through the ages, ask the sages

what is right, what is wrong?

Who knows? The priest, the pope?

The poet? the socialist?—who offers hope?

Remember only: life is grand

despite our ruins beneath the sand.

So offer up a sacrifice of song

in notes so potent and passion strong,

while over in the sacrificial ring

a different living sacrifice they bring.

Matador leads. Bull bleeds.

Bullfight

Newfound blood in ongoing sacrifice

echoes ancient cross of crucified Christ.

Priest leads. Jesus bleeds.

The Faithful chant Apostles’ creed..

Sister Maria prays with beads.

But Falanga franco used catolico creeds

while dispatching policia on steeds.

Still saints were interceding

Flamenco singers pleading

Spain is forever bleeding

suffering behavor

even as the Savior.

SagradaGosp

In ’36 Las Artistas pled while Spain bled red.

Still the flamencos emoted, saints devoted,

peasants toted. poets wroted.

democrats noted. republicans voted.

Socialistas revolutionary

v. Royalistas  reactionary.

What else is new, not from the past?

So you might have asked .

Here’s what: Thermite bombs in 1937:

Hitler’s luftwaffe over Spanish village  heaven.

Spain bleeds through Guernica saints.

Pablo reads; Picasso paints.

Dali droops. El toro drips

The crowd whoops; the leather rips.

El  Guitarist heals. Flamenco dancer reels.

Flamenc1

As the eternal note of sadness peals,

La musica heals when dancer reels.

Spain handles the pain.

It falls mainly on the plain

people in Spain.

Smoke

Barcelona v. Berlin in 1936

September 9, 2018

When it comes to European civilization, Greece is where the  legacy originated about 2500 years ago.

Among the many enduring contributions  by which the early Greeks set Europe into cultural motion, I find two, in particular, that have demonstrated incredible longevity:

Democracy, and Olympics.

Those early Greeks were incredibly active in their sporting competitions, and also in their zeal to launch the world’s most notable experiment in governance by “the people.”

Their idea of Democracy was later amended by the Romans as a form of governance known as Republic, which was perhaps a more practical working out of the egalitarian concept, because groups of citizens could, by vote, select representatives to do the actual decision-making.

Many centuries later, the notion of democracy ascended on a fresh new wind of modern life. Most notably in the 1700’s, certain forward-thinking individuals in America and central Europe used the ancient democratic ideal as a basis for updating and improving human governance. The working out of it has been, over the last two or three centuries, somewhat messy and unsure, but the idea of government by the people for the people is still widely considered to be the best and fairest framework for doing collectively whatever it is that we humans are trying to do to improve our situation here on earth.

A lot could be said here but I’ll just toss up an example of how the idea of democracy continues to capture Euro imagination. Here’s a photo I snapped a few days ago while walking through a public square in Barcelona.

Democracia

As we can see here, democracy seems to be a readily attractive notion, worthy of public mention. However, the prospect of promoting democracy has not always been easy here in Espanya. Spain has had a rough history in which Democracy and Authoritarian governments have bloodily contested each other.

Following their rejection of a King in 1931, the Spanish people fought a civil war, 1936-39; it began in a political competition between zealous advocates of these two opposing models of governance.

But during those tumultuous years, the people of Spain were not the only nation who were grappling with such controversies. A few European borders away, the people of Germany were in a similar contest.

After the Germans suffered the defeat of World War I, they had a massive reconstruction project going on, as they were striving to re-assemble not only their physical nation and its infrastructure, but also their way of governing themselves.

During the 1920’s and ’30’s, both the Germans and the Spanish  wrestled with themselves to establish a democratic Republic. Both attempts ended in failure.

When the Nazis took over Germany in 1933, they ditched the Weimar Republic and degenerated into Third Reich bellicosity. Also in the 1930’s, the people of Spain ousted their King and declared a new Republic. But in 1936, the Franco-led Falangists attacked their own people. By 1939, they had driven the Republicans out of office.

Meanwhile, back at the crunch, there was an athletic contention going on between these two violence-torn countries–Germany and Spain. This  competition gets back to the other great contribution that I mentioned earlier from ancient Greece:

the Olympics.

At the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in 1931, Spain had proposed that the 1936 Olympics take place in Barcelona. But, by a process of democratic voting among the member nations, the IOC awarded the hosting to Berlin.

That was an ill-fated turn of events. Germany was at that time being taken over by the Nazi Third Reich. Hitler and his Nazi thugs were striving to use the Olympics as a showcase of their supposed bullshit Aryan supremacy.

Down in Republican Spain, the leftist government caught wind of what the Nazis were up to. They smelled a rat in Europe. So they launched an attempt to conduct an alternate Olympics, which they thought would express more appropriately the sporting competition of  classic  events.

BarcOlyPop

But the so-called Olimpiada Popular in Barcelona never happened. As it turned out, the Spanish people were having a war among themselves in 1936 instead of inviting the world in for some friendly sports.

Later, during and after the Second World War,  the civilized world  awakened to the disastrous truth of what Nazi Germany had been doing behind the scenes while they had been hosting their facade of pseudo-Olympic propaganda back in ’36.

Spanish Catalunya Barcelona did, however, ultimately have its day in the Olympic sun. That came 56 years later, in 1992.

A few days ago, here and now 2018, we visited that Olympic site in Barcelona where the competitive events were conducted in ’92;  quite an impressive sight it still is:

BarcOlymp

My hope is that both ancient institutions—Democracy and Olympics will survive and thrive in this century we live in now—the 21st.

 Smoke

A Christian yankee in Pope Catolicas Court

September 5, 2018

How likely is it that  a Catholic-born, born-again Christian good ole boy from Carolina would ever wander into such a grotto of overgrown Catholicism as this?

SagradaEntrata

It did happen, today, in Barcelona. September 5, 2018.

Who’d’ve thunk it?

The Audioguide at Sagrada Familia Basilica requested that the listening visitor enter with respect.

Respect for what?

The incredibly modern-artistic classic-fantastic ecclesiastic  structure devoted to Christ and the Holy Family—Joseph and Mary—from which Jesus Yeshua HaMeschiah immaculate-conceptionally came?

Yes. As a Christian I entered respectfully, along with, presumably, all the other thousands of gawking, phone-clicking touristas and believers who darkened the door of Sagrada Familia Basilica today in Barcelona.

Respect for the Christ child who had been born to Mary back in the day of the Incarnation of the Word-made-Flesh person of Jesus Christ?

Yes, I entered respectfully.

Respect for the traditions of the the Catholic Church?

Not so much, having rejected that tradition in my born-again youth. Nevertheless, who am I, as a born-again child of God, to judge the spiritual legitimacy of this high-church, pope-revering institutional “etched in stone” architectural representation— possibly even faith-enhancing experience— of deep religious faith that I encounter and enter into here?

Gosh, guys, thanks for letting us in here. What a cool building! 

Meanwhile, back at the Cross. . .

SagradaCrux

Yep. I know that part. He died for my sins. Let’s not forget.

And of course, ascended into heaven and sits at the right  hand of the Father.

Yep, we can agree on that part. You gotta  believe it.

That’s the real clincher anyway, don’t ya think? The real tie-breaker.

I mean, who else in the history of the human race has made that claim and gotten away with it?

Like I said, you gotta believe.

And I, like, think I’m finding some common ground here.

Belief in the Resurrected Son of God.

Pretty amazing idea, really, if you think about it. You’d have to be crazy or Catholic or Christian to believe it.

And here you have it—“etched in stone” as the Audioguide lady voice says it . . .the story of how it happened that the Son of God Son of Man was crucified and then raised from the dead.

SagradaGospl

King of Soul 

The Deep

May 26, 2018

As we grow older in this world, we gain a deeper understanding of  what is going on here. But it can be discouraging. In many ways, what we find is not pretty, and it makes no sense.

The disconnect between the way the world is and the way we think it should be becomes an existential crisis for those of us who are sensitive to such issues.

Attached to this dilemma we find a long historical trail of people attempting to deal with the problem. Along that path we find tragedy, depression, pathos, melancholia, despair, existential crisis, schizophrenia and a myriad of other assorted travesties.

But there’s a favorable output that sometimes arises through this conundrum. It’s called art.

And music, and literature.

I’ll not get into the specifics of it; but we discern, threaded through our long, strung-out history, an overwhelming human opus of emotional and soulful profundity. It  has been woven through the sad, dysfunctional and tragic tapestry of our apocryphal struggle for meaning. It has been sounded forth and sculpted continuously even as our very survival is perpetually  called into question.

The depth of this existential crisis is expressed by the poet when he desperately cried out:

“O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan,

and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls unto deep at the sound of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me.”

From the mountaintops of human awareness, and from the turbulence of many wanderous shore epiphanies, we homo sapiens somehow manage to  bring forth as offerings a cornucopia of creative endeavors; they are birthed in desperation, and they are often borne in desperate attempts to somehow attain hope.

You catch a hearing of that struggle to which I allude, in this music, composed in Spain in 1939 by Jaoquin Rodrigo:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9RS4biqyAc

You can catch a glimpse of it in Picasso’s mural, composed in Spain in 1937, after the Luftwaffe bombing of Guernica:

  GuernicaPic

But in my exploration of these matters, the most profound expression of the pathos curse is manifested in the life of one person who, by his laborious struggle, imparted the purest and most enduring message of love ever etched upon the parchment of human history; but his great gift was rejected through our judgmental travesty: a sentence of crucifixion.

ChristCruc

Yet out of that most extreme humiliation there arose an even greater opus of creative, persistent love : resurrection.

If you can even believe it.

Smoke