Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The words we use" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

Good. Bad. These are two words that have come back into public language recently. 

Unfortunately, they are words which express the extremes of a moral spectrum and have been returned to politics via the snarling mouth of US liar-in-chief Donald Trump.

I have tended to think that using a word like 'good' is a clear one and therefore better than saying something is 'appropriate'. 

We can easily discuss why X, Y or Z is good or bad (and just as importantly, who something is good or bad for) but it is much more difficult to say why something is appropriate. 

That is why it has been a popular word with pre-Trump politicians looking for a sneaky way to justify the unjustifiable.

I remember first hearing the word appropriate when I started out as a secondary school teacher in the mid-1990s. 

Students would often be told that their behaviour was inappropriate and I could see that this word had no meaning for them, apart from being prohibitive. 

It would have been a lot more educational to tell them that they had done something that was disrespectful, dangerous, illogical or even thoughtless.

Of course it could be argued that all this concern with words is just for writers and teachers and is some kind of an academic exercise that has no relevance for the average person. 

After all, they are only words, right? 

I would simply reply: tell that to the Roma rights groups. Only a couple of years ago they felt compelled to protest against a decision by Spain's Royal Language Academy (RAE) to include a definition of a gypsy as a 'swindler' in their new official dictionary. 

Words inform and they can also misinform. Trump and May and Le Pen and Wilders know this all too well.

Others have noted the importance of language across society. Writing in the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Josep Ramoneda argued that "the struggle for power, anywhere, is also the struggle for the control of words. 

The one who imposes his verbal categories on the public mind wins. Example: the word austerity." 

His opinion is that "people are accepting it as something inevitable. Austerity is one of the terms of virtue. From it derives a whole chain of complementary words: sacrifice, rigor, responsibility, etc."

Ignoring all shades of grey in his black and white universe, Donald Trump tells anyone listening what is bad and what is good but he almost never uses the word ‘because’ to explain why things can be categorised so neatly. 

He asserts. He insists. If he and the others like him are to be countered, it will be for the rest of us to do the explaining. 

Through clear imagery and equally simple words.


[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, April 2017.]

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Marine Le Pen Denies French Guilt for Rounding Up Jews"

Photo: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images
  "A casual remark about France’s wartime anti-Jewish actions by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, threatened on Monday to derail her yearslong effort aimed at “un-demonizing” her party just as she is emerging as a strong contender in this month’s presidential election.

The remark was made on Sunday during an interview in which she referred to the most notorious roundup of Jews in France during World War II, when nearly 13,000 were arrested in Paris by the French police on July 16 and 17, 1942, in what is known as the “Vel d’Hiv roundup.”

“France wasn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” she said. “If there was responsibility, it is with those who were in power at the time, it is not with France. France has been mistreated, in people’s minds, for years.”

Ms. Le Pen’s words created a small eruption in an already heated campaign, drawing strong criticism by politicians right, left and center and by Jewish groups, who all saw it as an echo of her party’s anti-Semitic roots."


Read more from source here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chatting with Jim Kent on Barcelona City FM radio

This week I had an extended session chatting (between short tracks) with Jim Kent on the region's only local English language radio station.

An enjoyable time was had by all and the full podcast can be downloaded here.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

"I don't like divisions. They belong to a schizophrenia of thinking"

[Photo: JOSEP LOSADA.]

Romanian writer Mircea Cartarescu makes one of the most compelling arguments in favour of the existence of Europe in an interview with Marcela Topor, the Editor of Catalonia Today magazine...



"I've always been a fervent pro-European. My Europe is one built on an enormous cultural, philosophical and scientific heritage. 

The Judaic-Greek tradition dating back 3,000 years is its spine. 

Descartes is the archetype of the European spirit. His famous quote starts with the word “dubito”, which is the most European word possible, in my opinion. T

he spirit of doubt, which leads to rational thinking, is the best thing that Europe has. This is my ideal Europe: a place of humanism, centred around education and culture...

I don't like divisions. They belong to a schizophrenia of thinking. 
 
The Berlin Wall was the main symbol of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. I dream of a Europe without frontiers, I am also aware that we still have a long way to go until we can hope to achieve this dream. 
 
European countries are not just simple squares on a map, but they have a bloody and traumatic past. The United States of Europe seems something of a utopia right now."
 
Read more from source article at Catalonia Today here.