Monday, October 31, 2016

The search for Truth?

Sir Francis Bacon

There is something invigoratingly refreshing (as well as totally humiliating!) about discovering that your use of one of your favourite quotations has been inaccurate.
            I cannot pretend to have read Francis Bacon’s Essays, Civil and Moral in full.  Indeed apart from the opening sentence of Essay I, Of Truth I don’t think that I have read any more of them, unless I have unconsciously read them as isolated quotations.
            To test the point I have just made I have traipsed upstairs to get a couple of my dictionaries of quotations: Encarta Book of Quotations (2000) London, Bloomsbury and Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (1996) Edinburgh, Chambers.  If you read through the selected quotations drawn from the Essays (1625) you realise just how much and how far Bacon’s thoughts have penetrated our everyday lives.  Sometimes the wording is somewhat different in their modern form, but his witty, perceptive and profound understanding has found its way into common wisdom.
            My own favourite of his thoughts, here written correctly with the verbs in their original form rather than my own choice is something which has troubled and stimulated me in equal proportions:

         What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

The question (which you note Pilate ironically states rather than asks, he neither wants nor expects an answer) is perennially relevant and we too often follow ‘jesting Pilate’ and live in our refusal to face the demands of what Bacon goes on to describe as the “difficulty and labor which men take in finding out of truth” and the lure of the preference for its opposite is because, “a mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure” it shuns the “naked and open day-light” of truth because “that doeth not show the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candle-lights.”
Although Bacon’s prose is perhaps too dense for a modern reader, it is worth persevering with because it puts you in contact with a liberal understanding of the human condition.  
I have made myself a promise to read more of the Essays because I see a connection with the prose of someone like Sir Thomas Browne, 

a writer I have always enjoyed reading – and another person whose writings may not be universally well known, but whose thoughts have made their way into our intellectual expression.  
You have to like a writer who can think up, for title of whose second (?) most famous work, Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial, and it has pictures!  

Both Bacon and also Browne are easily, and productively, searchable on the Internet 
If you have not read them before, you might well be surprised to find out how familiar their thought is to you.

Obviously, the quotation from Bacon has been going through my mind as I look at the situations in Spain, Britain and the USA.  
Truth seems to have become an even more slippery concept in modern political life than usual.  Brexit was conducted with “candle-lights” so dim that Truth appeared to be living in some other debate; truth, honesty, integrity and all other positive virtues are signally lacking from the bunch of chancers who have taken the government in Spain, and Trump has found new depths of duplicity and prejudice that actually manage to throw a glimmer of probity on the mismanagement of Britain and Spain!

I have ever found consolation in Literature.  Thank goodness I have a goodly selection of reading glasses to make my contemplation of so many politicians “poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and disposition, and unpleasing to themselves” as something that can be accommodated within the liberal confines of pages of value!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What price sight!

Resultado de imagen de lens on finger

It all depends on choice.

            When you are not only short sighted, but also long sighted, you are presented with a number of way of responding to your blurred needs:
1               Do nothing and enjoy the blurred world that only really comes into focus when you are up close and personal with what you are looking at.  This approach makes driving, um, challenging and deeply illegal.  It also forces you to be clear about identifying people from shaky outlines, otherwise you are soon tagged as arrogant as you ignore people, or as I prefer to say ‘cut’ them – not through choice but because you have not worked out that they are there in front of you!
2               Use glasses.  This option gives you further levels of choice:
a.     Two pairs of glasses, one for shortsightedness and the other for long distances.
b.     Bi focal glasses that; with a tilt of the head give you (in theory) the best of both worlds in one pair of glasses.
Neither gets away from the fact that you have to wear glasses to achieve some semblance of sighted normality.  Which I hate, have hated and will always hate.
3               Use contact lenses – which also give you a couple of options:
a.     Bi focal contact lenses.  I put these in the same mythical category as Conservatives for Social Justice and Equality and Trumpist Feminism – they exist but they have no absolute reality.  I have tried these lenses and they did not work in a spectacular way.
b.     Lenses for each eye doing a different thing.  In this use of contact lenses you have one lens for reading and the lens in the other eye for distance.  Apparently ‘the brain sorts it out’.  Or not in my case.  In my case I had poor sight in both forms.
c.      Have lenses for short sight or lenses for long sight and use glasses for the one which is not catered for.

I have decided to go with the last option.  I now have lenses to give me good distance vision and I use glasses to read and for close work.
From my consumerist perspective I have been able to indulge my love of spending by buying various forms of reading glasses.  The ones provided by my optician are of the broken-magnetic type which snap together when needed and otherwise life in their dependant parts around my neck.  This is a good gimmick but they are still glasses and I dislike wearing them, but on balance they are some sort of solution.
And as for laser treatment?  I would have to have my eyes sculpted for distance and always have to wear glasses for reading, whereas now, if I choose not to wear lenses or glasses I can always read close up!

And, as I have said before, one set of my reading glasses has little lights built in on both lens frames!  

When the fury about Brexit and the current political situation in Spain gets too much, I can think about the gadgets attached to the next pair of reading glasses to keep me calm.  Or something.

Still don't believe they've allowed it!


Toni is now suffering his own version of Brexigret, as the horrible realization of the action of the so-called ‘socialist’ (sic.) party of PSOE has, by abstaining, facilitated another four years of the systemically corrupt PP (Conservative) party in Spain.
            Neither Toni nor I believe (for a single, solitary second) that either the Cs or PSOE are going to ‘hold PP to account’ because of their own selfish self-interest.  PP may be a minority government, but they can always threaten another General Election which would almost certainly see a reduction in the seats of both Cs and also PSOE.  And since neither Cs nor PSOE have been noted for their dedication to anything other than the continued existence of their respective parties and their illusions of power, it is hardly likely after their prostitution to PP that they will suddenly find a new belief that they might actually have been elected to consider the wellbeing of the country rather than their worthless selves.
            Cs – the sluts of Spanish politics – have shown themselves equally ready to accept the attentions of the ‘socialists’ in the form of PSOE and to vote with the repressive conservatives of PP.  As long as they have a whiff of power Cs will be rubbing themselves around you!  They have mouthed their support for greater transparency and dealing with corruption; it will be interesting to see how far they press their ‘tricks’ in PP to follow their stated policy which apparently makes them a viable and more wholesome alternative to the
            PSOE have wound themselves in logistical circles to justify their support for a government to which they had previously said, “No is NO!”  If another member of that traitorous party uses some unconvincing variant on the, “it is for the benefit of the Spanish people” mantra one more time, I really will throw up.
            PSOE is also terrified of another election, when the “benefit of the Spanish people” might actually result in even more of those so-called ‘socialists’ being turfed out.  So PP can do whatever the hell they like because all they have to do is threaten another election and the Cs and PSOE will scuttle into line.

I have taken my depression with the political situations in Spain and the UK to justify my drinking a bottle of Cava with my meal: a brut nature by Heretat El Padruell.  As any fule kno, Cava is a product of Catalonia, a region of Spain that I confidently expect to see much further down the road to independence as the prospect of four more years of the odious PP in charge sinks in and the reality of an astonishingly corrupt central government calling the odds hits home!

The sun has been shining.  I have swum my metric mile.  The Cava has gone down a treat.  Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

People behaving badly

Even though I knew that it was going to happen, I am still sick to my stomach that the leader of a systemically corrupt party that blatantly parades its criminality has been re-elected to continue its grasping misgovernment of Spain for another four years. 
It is in place, not because it won a majority of the votes in the country, but rather because of an unholy alliance between its worthless self and the New Right in form of the laughingly termed Citizens’ Party, the Cs.  Even this combination of the right was insufficient to give it a majority and so it has relied on the Socialists to implode and give it a numerical majority in the parliamentary vote by abstaining.
I should point out that there were 15 members of the ‘socialist’ party of PSOE who had enough self-respect to ignore the questionable shenanigans which led to the resignation of the leader and his replacement with some sort of committee which then negotiated some sort of shameful submission via strategic abstention which has created this worthless minority government.
This is a holiday period when the eating of horsechestnuts, the drinking of sweet white wine and the consumption of pine nut encrusted cakes is obligatory.  The happiness of a convivial family occasion was soured by the shameful spectacle of a group of ‘left-wing’ elected representatives signally failing to do their duty or even to be true to the basic tenets of their political affiliation.
 There is nothing worse than listening to a group of politicians who are clearly far more interested in their own political survival than anything to do with the well being of the country that they have been elected to serve. 
It is painfully clear, and has become even more so as the months have passed and the left failed to make the alliances that would have secured a progressive government, that the ‘socialists’ are far more worried about a government that might reveal the depths of their own incompetence and corruption, or even worse, might force an election in which even more of their number might find themselves without a cosy place in parliament, than any concern they might have about the quality of government they were allowing to form itself after their abnegation of responsibility.  (You have to say that last sentence all in one breath and through gritted teeth!)
PSOE cannot afford to have an election before the four years of this government’s allotted span has been passed and they might have had time to lick their wounds and present a more wholesome picture of themselves towards a doubting electorate.  If they ‘try and hold the government to account’ all PP have to do is threaten an election, and PSOE will scuttle back into supine acquiescence to the Conservative government’s will, terrified of the consequences of their past actions being put to a frankly cynical electorate.
I have absolutely no confidence that PSOE will push forward a reforming parliament and every confidence that they will continue to show the moral cowardice that has resulted in a minority PP regime, again.
As far as I am concerned, the real and moral opposition to the sick triple alliance of PP, Cs and PSOE (with 15 honourable exceptions) is Podemos.  And I further hope that they will take the initiative and show up the paucity of political will that characterises PSOE.  It will also be an opportunity for Cs to put up or shut up after all their talk of transparency and fighting corruption.
I have set the bar so low with the present government that they will have to do very little indeed to gain some grudging approbation from me: allow all the court cases which have seen swathes of PP in court to answer charges; allow the court case against the Infanta and her grasping husband; let all the other PP corruption cases work their way unfettered through the courts; expel corrupt PP politicians and allow past PP politicians to be charged with the crimes with which they have been accused; remove the totally unfair exemptions for certain people from the rigour of the justice system; bring in new transparency laws – that will do for starters.  I might add that getting rid of a seditious minister should be something of a priority, but this government doesn’t think so.  Which, of course, doesn’t really bode well for what they are going to do now and in the future.

Writing about anything else on an evening when so sad an act of political and moral cowardice has been slowly acted out on our television would be inappropriate.  But, as there is every likelihood that we will have to live with the consequences for four long years, there will plenty of time to dredge what positive I can from what looks like a truly depressing political situation and to find solace in other more positive aspects of Spanish and Catalan life.