Monday, March 29, 2010

Seeing past the left and the right

If a writer gets unjustly sent to a forced-labour camp or a government persecutes homosexuals anyone with a voice, a pen (or nowadays a computer) should condemn it.

And these crimes against basic human rights should be condemned publicly whether they were done by leftist governments or right-wing governments.

This seems to me to be the reasoning put by Spanish writer Antonio Muñoz Molina and I find it difficult to argue with.

Also quoted in a different editorial the usually left-leaning El Pais newspaper he sets out a number of relevant examples of Western European intellectuals failing in their moral duty, maintaining that:

A regime, a guerilla movement, need only proclaim that it is on the left — then it is treated with every kind of indulgence by French and Spanish columnists who don’t have to live with it; or with the romantic sympathy of well-intentioned, earnest people in England and Scandinavia, who are capable of shedding tears over a starving stray cat, but can be hard as flint at the sight of human blood on the TV screen.

If we don’t insist on complete intellectual honesty and we make excuses for someone because of their supposed political positioning we are allowing the kind of cowardly doublethink that George Orwell described so well in Animal Farm.

Justice is a game

At this moment in Spain there are 96 Africans in prison for selling pirated CD’s on the street.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Barcelona: Let there be light!...(when it's needed)

"Think of all the electricity that's wasted by city lights that stay on when no one needs them. To solve this problem, one Barcelona neighbourhood is using a system of Endesa LED lights, controlled wirelessly, to provide light exactly when, and where, it's needed. It keeps the streets safe while saving the city money."

Video: click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Barcelona bookseller jailed for selling Nazi literature

Denying the Holocaust is not a crime in Spain, but as a Pedro Varela re-discovered this week, the sale of writing that argues for Jewish genocide will still get you time in prison.

Varela, who owns a bookshop in Catalonia’s capital, is already notorious for being the first person to be jailed for similar crimes in Spain following the reform of the Penal Code in 1996. On that occasion, he received a five-year sentence, reduced to six months on appeal to the Supreme Court.

This time, Judge Estela Pérez Franco was able to bring the full weight of the law to bear on Varela, ordering the confiscation of all the books implicated in the crime and other neo-Nazi materials including a bust of Hitler, an iron swastika and military paraphernalia.

Handing down the sentence, Franco said Varela’s literature “blames the world’s ills on the Jews; claims that black people are inferior; says that the best way to respect races is segregation and that mixing races will bring about the end of civilization.”

This case comes after a recent rise in anti-Semitism in Spain, as I wrote about in a previous blog here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Listening to the "Lives of Others"

An excellent English translation of a newspaper article about the people who work in Spain as surveillance officers involved in interpreting and transcribing illegal activity by foreigners.