Monday, April 29, 2013

"The freedom of the fox in the chicken run:" (A metaphor for Europe?)

"The great welfare states as they now exist in some of the countries of Western Europe are also built upon an economic lie...

When those preaching the free market are in fact using their power simply to protect their interests – or, in the case of the real intellectual naifs, to protect the interests of the already powerful – then the only freedom we might talk about is the freedom of the fox in the chicken run."

Nicholas Bradbury made his literary debut this year with the novel "Market Farm", a reworking of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" for the free market era. He talks here [at EuroZine] about influences for his satirical take on the current financial crisis and potential grounds for hope for the future.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Catalan outdoes “the majority language” in Spain's Wikipedia entries

Groups of enthusiasts in Catalunya have ensured something truly remarkable.

A study by Mark Graham (@geoplace), researcher at Oxford University...shows that 35,000 [*Wikipedia] articles have been created in Spanish territory with coordinates in Catalan, [compared to only] 19,000 in Spanish.

In other words, there are currently more entries for the whole of Spain in Catalan than in Castillian Spanish.

Also quite impressive is the fact that the Catalan language is ranked “first place in an index compiled by the Wikimedia Foundation, which measures the quality of the thousand most important articles.

The Catalan version of Wikipedia...has become central to the activism around the language...Àlex Hinojo, project manager at Wikimediacat and creator of@CatalanMuseums, says:
Many people say they edit because it's fun, they can provide more information about a topic…and they are building a country. Catalan-speaking civil society always maintains a certain activism in favour of its language, just as it does with other topics.

Note: To my mind, *Wikipedia is a sometimes unreliable source of information and can only be completely trusted when an article's sources are credible.

WikiMarathon at Drassanes Reials (Barcelona), on Wikipedia's 12th anniversary. March 2013. Photo by @Kippelboy.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Flamenco flashmob protests inside banks

As the above video shows (also here with Englsih subtitles) flamenco music and dance is well-suited to a dignified but demonstrative form of public demomstration.

The anti-capitalist group flo6x8 has been organising these events across Andalucia since last year.

More on this phenomenon here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Barcelona resident makes “Third-culture” film

 Where is Home?” asks Aga Alegria in her new documentary about kids and adults who have grown up “living on the edge of many different culturesor “who have a sense of belonging everywhere and nowhere, and for whom the search for "home" is often a lifelong struggle and discovery.”

In an interview at InterNations producer/director Alegria talks about the movie, which was filmed in Spain as well as Canada, Trinidad & Tobago and Germany.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"The Day That Keeps On Giving" (My latest article in Catalonia Today magazine)

[Photo: Jasar - Granollers]
A man slices a dragon's head off (saving a princess) and he then gives her a rose that is made from the dragon's blood. The End?

No, just the beginning really. The human desire for legends of this sort is legendary but there is a lot more to every April 23, Sant Jordi's Day, than a mythical story.

One-off festival days are only one way to understand a nation's culture and they can sometimes give misleading impressions of a country and it's people's beliefs. Catalonia is not populated by gullible fools who believe in fire-breathing monsters. But Sant Jordi, supposed slayer of the beast, is the nominal “patron saints” of Catalonia (as well as the Aragon region.) Children in schools, including my son, have learnt about him for centuries and this day has evolved into a full-blown commercial event – one that has come to be important for millions of Catalan's and also for some of the people who did not originally start their lives here.

Sant Jordi's Day, or the dia dels enamorats,” as it is often called, can be literally translated as lover's day, and love in all it's many forms is the reason for the gift-buying then gift-giving that forms a major part of the celebration. Typically, a man presents his girl-friend, wife or mother with a blood-red rose, but they can be bought in yellow and even blue and black and are usually wrapped in plastic along with the Catalan flag and a strand of wheat.

Women (as custom also dictates) will give the main men in their lives a book, though some partners are now starting to buck tradition and sometimes reverse the presents for each other. Overall, it's certainly a less-personal ritual, though a lot simpler, than the agonising and searching that Valentine's Day can bring.

The idea of combining roses with books was started in the 1920's by a Valencian man named Vicente Clavel who was then living in Barcelona.He noticed that both William Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same day as Sant Jordi was reputed to have finally dreamt the last dream of his former glories.

I asked a number of foreign-born residents of Catalonia for their opinions on Sant Jordi's Day and got a range of responses.

American Mitsi Ito and British-born Zoë Valls both like to join the thousands of locals and enjoy the atmosphere walking up and down the capital's Rambla Catalunya and the Ramblas. Ryan Chandler, editor of Barcelona Ink literary magazine told me “Before, it just meant books for my family and a rose for my wife. Now I seem to spend it looking for stalls which are selling Barcelona INK. I still buy the books though, and the rose seems to have got [more up-market!] In the UK there isn't anything similar although I think they have tried to revive Saint Georges Day by organizing maypole dancing and Morris dancers.”

The emphasis on literature is important to many people. Audrey Reeder, the Headteacher of the Olive Tree School in Sant Pere de Ribes says that Sant Jordi's Day “means celebrating books, which are the mark of a civilized society. Legends and myths such as Saint George and the Dragon are vital in the development of a child’s imagination - and, of course, the rose is a symbol of so many things: beauty, passion, timelessness.” It is her favourite of all the Catalan celebrations but the nationalistic aspect of the day's celebrations does not interest her at all. “Nationalism for me is quite the reverse of civilization!” she says.

A number of others argued that Sant Jordi's Day should be a public holiday, while Italian David de Vidi thinks the day is about “cutting the distance between the sexes” and would like to see the day kept “natural and spontaneous, with no sponsors.” More typically though, it is what people do to mark the occasion that is the focus of their comments.

Simply enjoying the atmosphere is a focus for German teacher Cornelia Kraft. “I usually celebrate this day with a nice lunch and a stroll through the streets afterwards.” Mathilde Arthaud, ayoung French woman, tells me that she and her partner choose to have a nice dinner and exchange the standard Sant Jordi gifts. “Apart from that I love going into town, looking at all the rose shops on the street and taking the opportunity to buy some books for myself. I may also buy a rose for a special girl friend of mine,” she says.

So while Sant Jordi's Day is steeped in tradition and ritual, Catalonia's newest residents have certainly found their own ways to mark the occasion.

[An edited version of this article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, April 2013.]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Has a "European Spring" started?

Press conference in front of the office of the EU in Madrid. Photo from Desmontando Mentiras.

Last month,  "European citizens organized a week of protests against the austerity measures imposed on the countries of the European Union as a strategy for ending the economic crisis. Known as the European Counter Summit, it is [a] response to the European Summit in which European leaders gathered, and an occasion to make the voices heard of those citizens who defend a “Europe for the people and not for the markets“.

In Brussels, the protesters have chosen to bring their discontent to the European Council, while in Spain the Counter Summit week...culminated with a protest in the center of Madrid on Saturday, March 16."

More from Elena Arrontes' article at Global Voices Online here.