Una Fiesta Nacional

With no small dose of irony, this week sees Spain’s National Day coincide with a constitutional crisis that could lead to its disintegration. While Catalonia contemplates and attempts to negotiate its (suspended) path towards independence, the flag waving nationalists of Castilla will line El Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid to cheer a military parade organised by the Ministry of Defence. This celebration needs updating as a small step towards healing a Spain society that is fracturing.

It is time to rethink the way in which Spain celebrates its nationhood. Spain has its opportunity to celebrate the achievements of their armed forces on their “Dia de las Fuerzas Armadas”. The laser-guided focus on celebrating the hung-over militarism of the Franco regime excludes the sentiments of at least 70% of the Spanish population.

Spain needs to move a way from anachronistic nationalism towards an inclusive celebration of what a great country this is.

Since its inception in 1913, the 12th October has been observed to a greater or lesser degree across Spain and Latin America as the day of the hispanic race; “El dia de la Raza”, “Dia de la Hispanidad”, or “la Fiesta Nacional”. More recently it has been re-cast in many South American countries to recognise the genocidal inflection point that was Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. Many South American countries seem to be abandoning their celebration of “Hispanidad” in favour of celebrating days of Indigenous Resistance or Respect for Cultural Differences.

As a (still) british citizen, I find it strange, we don’t have a day to celebrate our nation like the Spanish, much less one to celebrate our “race”. The Scots show their pride in Rabbie Burns, and the English do pomp, when a royal gets married or a Tory prime minister dies. But we would feel uncomfortable with some kind of military celebration as the centre-piece of being British.

No so in Spain, where the parades continue. Forty years after the death of Franco, and two generations into democracy, the celebration of Spanishness is still stuck on a military parade. Battalions of soldiers representing regiments that marched with Franco in his Coup d’Etat in 1936 goose-step along the Castellana, flown over by military aircraft. The only significant change has been the elimination of the tank battalions, through cost cutting in deference to the economic crisis rather than any significant apreciation of its ridiculousness.

Surely there could be a more accurate and inclusive celebration of Spanish life? Surely we could celebrate the diversity of spanish culture and history. A carnival of floats celebrating the infinite diversity of this fascinating country. Here is a quick starter list:

  • Herds of Iberian pigs, and Mountain Goats.
  • School children Enacting scenes from El Quijote, El Cid.
  • Castels
  • Fine Wines
  • Fallas firework displays
  • Carnivals from Cádiz, Canarias
  • Embutidos
  • Flamenco cantaores and balaores, with their rock, jazz & hip-hop fusions
  • Demonstrations of World beating Sportsmen and Women.
  • Cheeses
  • Pride floats celebrating that Spain was one of the first countries to recogise marriage equality.
  • Celebrations of the cultures of bulls, horses and hunting.

And that is just some of the “traditional” Spanish memes. Space should be made to welcome the contribution and influence made by the immigrants and tourists from across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas who have shaped the way Spain is today and who are shaping the culture as it progresses.

That would be a true Fiesta Nacional.

May the 39th

May your cuts keep cutting. After May the 39th.
May your child be 39th in their class.

May your healthcare be for profit.

May your wages stagnate.

May your soil be poisoned.

May your job move to Frankfurt

Or Puerto Real.
May your biopsy be delayed.

May you dream of lettuce in winter.

May your restaurant stink of Rothmans

May your beaches fly red flags

May their market rule your choices.

May the honey bees be hasbeens

And your rivers black and empty.

May the 39th child never catch her teacher’s eye.

May your Brexit be hard.

May your fruit be tinned.

May your taxes rise.

And your waiting list lengthen.

May your Nitrogen dioxidise

And your wheat be growing thin.
May your saboteurs return to crush you
May your newspaper be a comfort

May your graduates be trapped in debt.

May your waiter have spittle for your soup.

May your missiles be your potency.

And your surgery deregulated.

May your equity be negative.

May your friends be just like you.

May your pension be plundered.

May your aspirations be seen for what they are.

May you exhaust yourself in chasing them.

May you achieve the success you desire for others.

May you learn of the contempt in which you are held by those you admire.

May the 39th.

May be your last chance…

under our feet

Developers in Toledo recently found the remains of what may be a 10th Century cemetery just outside the medieval city walls.  press reports have suggested that the estimated 200 graves may be part of a muslim burial ground dating from the 10th – 12th Centuries.

I joined the curious onlookers this evening to take a look at what is Toledo’s latest archaeological site.

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The bodies appear to be buried in shrouds laying on their sides facing a south easterly direction towards Mecca.

The location of the cemetery is squeezed between the medieval city walls and the remains of the roman circus, an area that has been at continuously inhabited for thousands of years.  The city of Toledo has been inhabited and fought over by the Romans, the Visigoths, a capital city for Muslims, Jews and Christians of the Iberian peninsular.  This area of the city is known to be rich in archeology.

What is striking is how close to the road these graves are.  I had the feeling that you could excavate in pretty much any direction and keep finding graves.

Onimac Day 11: Sun 22nd April : Hormigos – Home: 57km

My final day on the road would be a short one. I packed up my tent, grabbed a quick breakfast in the bar, and headed back towards the main road home. it took me a couple of hours to get to Torrijos along the quiet old National Road, recently bypassed by the construction of a motorway. After passing through Torrijos, my last town before arriving home, I picked up the un-opened section of the new motorway and rolled over smooth black tarmac until I could see my home village of Bargas on the horizon.

first sight of Bargas

I was now back into my home terrain. I regularly cycle around these tracks and know that I am no more than an hour from home. I send the photo through on Facebook and Whatsapp, warning the assembled party that I am on my way, and that the beers should be on ice.

Those last 15 km felt surprisingly emotional. I rambled my way back through the familar lanes behind Bargas, past the local supermarket, the village school and then into the last kilometre across the fields. I could see my house across the fields, with the assmbled bodies of friends and family waiting to greet me.

Home at Last

Ribbons and streamers provided a tickertape welcome, at exactly 2 PM, as promised.

Onimac Day 10: Sat 21st April: Ávila – Hormigos: 105km

Avila is served by 3 main trunk roads. One of them, the N403, could take me back to my home village and destination. Whilst discussing my route with the night doorman at the hotel, I got a buzz of excitement from the fact that he recognisedd the name of my village. “Ah, Bargas”, he said, “you should take the N403, it is the best road to get there, it is wide and good, smooth tarmac.”

I decided against his advice. I was going to try my luck on the small, winding mountain road, and trust that I would not be fighting for road space with trucks and speeding cars.

After an anxious first hour or so, getting lost around the modern suburban ring road, and then competing for road space with quarry trucks that led me through a quarry, the Quiet Mountain Road turned into the quiet moutnain road I had expected. It rose consistently, but managebly. I could feel my legs taking the strian quite happily. Finally I felt able to enjoy the climb. My body respnded to the challenge, my legs were spinning happily, either pushing through the hill on the shallower sections or happily winching my up the steeper sections in a granny gear. The weight of my panniers felt stabilising rather than anchoring.

Clearly my fitness had improved over the last week and half, since struggling over the rolling hills of Galicia.

I passed over the first significant puerto around 10:30 and was able to drop down into the high tree-less moorland of the Community of Madrid, thorugh isolated hilltop villages, I took on bananas in the village shop and a coffee in the bar before heading on to Cebreros and a disappointingly uninspiring lunch in San Martin de Valdeiglesias.

I had assumed that my route would be all downhill after the puertos of the morning, but once I dropped down to 700m the countryside kept rolling up and down. This made for a more tiring afternoon than anticipated, but nonetheless I was now within sight of the finish line.

The campsites I had identified were about 10-15 km out of my way, I would need to cycle 2 sides of a triangle to get to them, so I had called ahead to the campsite and confirmed that they were open and and had availability. I could probably have found a hostal or B&B in Maqueda or Almorox, but having carried the 1-2kg of camping gear with me for 700km, I was keen to justify it.

Once I had pitched my tent in the allotted parcela, I was reminded of the disappointment of many Spanish campsites.

My pitch was under a canopy, more or less like a shaded car parking space in a long line facing other similar pitches. Dotted along the row of pitches were caravans that seemed semi-static. Most seemed not to have moved in years. They had several square meters of green plastic grass laid out, a prefrab shed or two containing a kitchen with gas cooker, fridge-freezer, washing machine, as well as a TV & hifi system. These campsites are not for touring, nor camping, but are generally treated as the weekend and summer retreats of the flat-dwelling folk of Madrid’s satellite towns. A place where the extended family can get together around a barbecue, enjoy an afternoon of whiskey and coke cubatas while their kids burn off their energy in the campsite pool, kicking balls around. Or in the case of my temporary neighbours, by racing mini motorbikes between the canopies.

Luckily my stay coincided with a Madrid-Barça clasico, so I was able to enjoy the match in the campsite bar with a few beers, and thanks to the Madrid victory, I could slip away to my tent with enough alcohol in my system to get off to sleep, leaving my roudier neighours celebrating their superiority in the bar, rather than their caravans.

Trump the Fascist?

The other day I stumbled across a short thread on twitter that possibly shines a light Trump and the motivations of his regime. Perhaps all this talk of Fascism and Nazi-punching is slightly off the mark.

Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and their apologists are not fascists. Fascism contains an element of socialism, at least for the favoured “in-group” sections of society, if not the demonised “Others”.

Trump and Bannon are Anarcho-Capitalists. Their aim is to destroy the power of the state, whether as owner or manager of resources, regulator of markets, redistributor of wealth or independant arbitor of justice. The aim of the Anarcho-Capitalist is to reduce all economic activity “voluntary” contractual transaction.

The Fascism of 20th Century Europe was fashioned from the industrial age in which it developed. The economies of the 1930’s depended upon labour, and so the ultra-nationalisms of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco offered the Quid Pro Quo of government intervention in the economy to provide a more or less comfortable existance for the chosen docile in-groups. It should, but incomprehensively doesn´t, go without saying that Fascist states were various degrees of horrendous for anyone who was Jewish, Gipsy, Communist, African, LBGTQ , Disabled, Slav, or often just accused or suspected of being any variation of the above.

The crucial difference between the old-style Fascists and their descendants is that the 21st Century western economy depends not on labour, but consumers.

The stagnation of wages and the rocketing inequalities within western economies since the financial crisies of 2008 has led to a fundamental questioning of the west’s economic model. Critics of the last 35 years of neoliberal capitalism suggest we are living in a period of “Zombie Capitalism”, desperately consuming the remnants of our natural resources to feed an ever-less efficient and fundamentally discredited system that serves only to funnel wealth to an ever-shrinking group of Oligarchs.

Automation and Artificial Inteligence is on the verge of making another section of society redundant. There are serious economic studies underway investigating fundamental shifts in the way western economies could be structured in a a post-industrial, post-capitalist environment. Pilots are being carried out to provide citizens with a Universal Basic Income. There is a flourishing or re-emergence of Utopian ideas of reduced hour work weeks, the developemnt of sustainable economies based on embracing technology, investing in green energy, and developing low-impact permaculture food production. Ideas that offer the promise of an equitable soft-landing from the last 200 years of unsustainable capitalist over-consumption.

The 21st Century Anarcho-Capitalist, on the other hand sees these interventions as heretical disruptions of the market. In an economy that depends not on workers but consumers, the oligarchy has no use for those who cannot treat themselves to a $5 milky syrup coffee, or afford a monthly subscription to Netflix, or provide for their own Health Insurance, or service their student debt or under-write a decent mobile data plan. This growing underclass whose median net worth is less than $5.00 have no value to the likes of Steve Bannon. The Anarcho-Capitalist solution to the kind of inequality where 50% of the population hold the same wealth as 8 billionaires, is to discard the poorest 40%. To excise them from the economy by abandoning them to their fate of climate-induced disasters, disease, opiate addiction, obesity and gun-crime.