Previous posts in this discussion:
PostThoughts on Collective Apologies, Collective Guilt (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/21/19 4:41 am)
José Ignacio Soler (JIS) stated on April 19th that "Mexican President López Obrador has requested a public apology for Spain's 'criminal acts' against the indigenous people of America during the Conquest, more than 500 hundred years ago...Those events raise the question of whether there is any common sense supporting such claims about events that occurred in the far past."
There is some truth to such words. Indeed it would be pointless for anyone to request an apology from the Mongolian people about the misdeeds of Genghis Khan. Same thing for most Roman Conquerors.
Ángel Viñas (April 20th) stated it is a Christian duty to honor the dead and that "under the Polish pope, the Catholic Church didn't lose a minute to launch a massive undertaking in order to honor its dead during the [Spanish Civil War], taking care to beatify a number of them [perpetrators]."
Of course there was little Christianity during the Mongol invasions and most of the Roman Empire, so we can't expect human behavior accordingly. That teaches us that the important factor here is not elapsed time but the human ethics and morals at the time of the offense. In other words, in the old days Mongolian massacres were ethically and morally par for the course, just more devastatingly impressive and on the "wrong" side. But the destruction of the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, and other native Americans happened in Christianity's name. Ditto for the destruction created by Napoleon's, Mussolini's, and Franco's aggressions. Also respectively, Russian and Chinese communists need to apologize for Stalin and Mao's crimes against their own peoples (Khrushchev already apologized for Stalin's). Nazis also need to apologize (if they had enough humanity in their racist ideology) for murdering innocent people, starting WWII and all the horrible destruction they created for mankind.
JE comments: Haven't the Germans apologized more than any people in history? Japan has a far weaker record (no more than half-hearted apologies issued to the enslaved "comfort women," for example). Why not apply the yardstick of erring on the side of excess when it comes to collective atonement?
AMLO and the "Apology"
(Carmen Negrin, France
04/22/19 3:50 AM)
I would just like to say that first and mainly, it doesn't take much to say "I am sorry," even for a President or King in the name of his country.
It seems to me that Juan Carlos already did so very discreetly while in Peru or Bolivia, for the 500-year anniversary of the encounter. I recall talking to his daughter Cristina about this while she was theoretically doing an internship in UNESCO. Her father did not expect that after 500 years, wounds would be still be so open.
And second, this is precisely the point. If the wounds are still open, an apology is more then recommended. And more then that, the causes should be looked at.
In the case of Mexico, racism is still very present. The supposedly new race, which was to be the result of a mixture of the conquered and of the conquerors did occur, but not to the extent to surpass racism and thus resentment.
But other then that, it is always easy to unite people against a common enemy, even a dead one. Especially if your wife is a specialist in the field!
JE comments: AMLO's wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez, wrote her Master's thesis on Bernal Díaz del Castillo's Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España, the most important primary source on the Spanish conquest of Mexico. (Bernal Díaz was one of Cortés's footsoldiers, and wrote his lengthy account nearly half a century later as an old man.)
Fun fact: Gutiérrez refuses to be known as "First Lady," claiming it is a meaningless title.
Collective Guilt and Collective Apologies: Spain
(Jordi Molins, Spain
04/22/19 12:45 PM)
A typical argument against apologies for events that happened before any person currently alive was born is that nobody should be responsible for actions performed by somebody else.
However, classical liberals understand that sometimes freedoms are collective. For example, a classical liberal could agree on the prohibition of certain polluting activities.
The analogy with "collective apologies" is that if a country strongly refuses to apologise, even though it would make sense to do so, at least in a soft and amicable way, probably this means the current people of that country feel strongly and positively related to the historical "criminals." As a consequence, it could make sense to "assign responsibilities" to the current people of that country.
Germany, for example, is the prototypical case in which a society deals well with its past. Spain (understood as the Spanish "Deep State"), on the contrary, rejects confronting its past in relation to: 1) the American invasion, 2) Franco dictatorship, and 3) Catalonia.
The only reasonable possibility for such a stubborn position is that Spain considers itself a direct heir of the criminals committing those crimes and, as a consequence, apologising for those actions would be equivalent to attacking themselves. If Spain were emotionally detached from those crimes, as they publicly claim, it would be very easy to apologise for them.
JE comments: That's a different way to look at it. The counterargument would be that it's insincere to apologize for something you didn't do. And from the victims' perspective, it's meaningless to receive an apology for someone who did not commit the offense--at least symbolically.
To change the subject, Jordi Molins' family is fully one-half Ukrainian (wife and the maternal half of his son). Any thoughts on the Zelensky election?
Burning Puigdemont in Effigy
(Jordi Molins, Spain
04/23/19 5:56 AM)
John Eipper wrote, in relation to the proposal, in some cases, for a country to apologize for crimes that took place before any currently living person was born: "The counterargument would be that it's insincere to apologize for something you didn't do."
I agree with John, if the country has made significant efforts to distance itself from those crimes. Germany is the prototypical example of such good behaviour.
For Spain, I suggest watching the following video, where citizens of Coripe, a town close to Seville, burn and shoot a doll representing the exiled Catalan President Puigdemont. By the way, the Coripe Mayor is a Socialist.
A similar example was the "¡A por ellos!" [Go get them!] when Spaniards greeted the Spanish police going to Catalonia during the 2017 October referendum, which resulted in hundreds of injured Catalan citizens, and Catalan politicians in jail and exile.
When watching these videos, I do not see a country that has overcome its nefarious past. On the contrary, the "Transición," so many times glorified, was just a way to fossilize the defeat of Justice.
The future of a country cannot be based on the defeat of Justice, but on the contrary, it has to start from a clean slate. Current events (American apologies, pro-Francoism, Catalonia) clearly show the slate is not, and never was, clean at all.
The Spanish Deep State manufactured an artificial story about Spain being a newly created country after 1978. Everything before that year should be forgotten.
And it should be emphasized (since usually this fact is never uttered) that who should forget are the previous losers, since clearly the pro-Francoists had little to complain about.
However, since the criminals were above Justice (and this is the Original Sin of the current Spain), the Deep State was able to emotionally define what Spain means.
Time has passed, and this unpunished ideology is appearing everywhere: America, Franco, Catalonia. It is intellectually untenable anymore to consider that the current Spain is not the direct heir of that Spain.
JE comments: That's a shocking video (first link), especially the Easter timing. Puigdemont is being likened to Judas Iscariot. And what about the shotguns? They have to be firing some very weak rounds, as you would never shoot a normal 12-gauge against a wall at point-blank range. Just ask Dick Cheney.
WAIS has never done a full discussion on burning in effigy. The Coripe case involves the verb "abatir," as in to bring down prey. The British are fond of torching the "Guy" (Fawkes) on November 5th. Americans have no tradition of burning symbolic individuals, just a flag or possibly a brassiere. There's much more to be said on this topic.
Burnings in Effigy
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
04/24/19 3:09 AM)
On my way to Gernika, where I'm going to share a prize with Paul Preston and Xabier Irujo, I have no time to reply to Jordi Molins's post (April 23rd) complaining about the burning of a puppet representing Mr Puigdemont. This is, of course, deplorable and I also deplore it.
However, facts have to be seen in context. According to generally reliable sources (EL País, El Mundo for instance) Catalonia herself is not immune to those kinds of deplorable incidents. Way back it was the Spanish king who suffered such treatment:
However repulsive these acts may seem to some, the fact is that they are covered by the freedom of expression guaranteed by both Spain and the European Justice in Strasbourg, to which Spain as a member of the European Union and the Council of Europe obviously submits.
Looking rapidly around I also found a piece of news about the burning of President Donald Trump in the UK.
Very deplorable, indeed, but things are what they are.
JE comments: Is there a correlation between burning in effigy and genuine violence? The counterargument might be that such displays act as a "safety valve" for public rage, rather like the Medieval carnival, which actually reinforced social order by allowing the people to misbehave once each year. (This is a point made by the famous Soviet literary theoretician Mikhail Bakhtin.)
The Trump burning (last link above) was carried out in conjunction with Guy Fawkes day. Torching the "Guy" in the UK is a social event, no more harmless than a high school bonfire would be in these parts.
Tell us about the Gernika event, Ángel! A huge congratulations to you and Sir Paul.
Mikhail Bakhtin and Carnival Culture
(John Heelan, UK
04/25/19 4:06 AM)
JE commented on 24 April: "Such displays [burnings in effigy] act as a 'safety valve' for public rage, rather like the Medieval carnival, which actually reinforced social order by allowing the people to misbehave once each year. (This is a point made by the famous Soviet literary theoretician Mikhail Bakhtin.)"
At risk of disappearing once more into the trackless paths of literary theory (again!), I have written on this social anomaly several times. The counterpoint is that the short-term freedom is balanced by a return to the imposition of strict control and perhaps subsequent punishment for carnivalesque transgressions as imposed by the Spanish Roman Catholic Church in the days following Ash Wednesday, symbolic in its own right (rite?) via confession and penance.
Bakhtin actually points out in Rabelais and His World that the official feasts of the Middle Ages, whether feudal, ecclesiastic or sponsored by the state, did not lead people out of the existing world order and created no second life. On the contrary. they sanctioned the existing pattern of things and reinforced it. The official feast looked back at the past and used the past to consecrate the present. (from Literary Theory--An Anthology (by Rivkin and Ryan).
JE comments: The WAIS library has two copies of Bakhtin's Rabelais. Has this ever happened to other WAISers--you discover you own a second copy of the same book and don't know why? Ball-point pens also excel at spontaneous reproduction.
Bakhtin's "safety valve" hypothesis has myriad applications. People need to blow off steam, so if you want them to behave during most of the year, you have to give them a controlled place, well, to vent. Organized sports work in the same way.
The Ballpoint Paradox
(David Duggan, USA
04/27/19 4:48 AM)
I'd love to find where those ballpoint pens engage in spontaneous reproduction. (See John E's response to John Heelan, April 25th.)
From my experience, they get sucked into a black hole of nothingness, worthy of Sartre or at least a picture on Facebook.
JE comments: I never go to class without a ballpoint in my pants pocket, and I often arrive home with two or three. Have we found yet another articulation of the unheimlich? Beats me, but this one from David Duggan gets filed under "philosophy."
Explaining the Ballpoint Paradox
(John Heelan, UK
04/28/19 7:27 AM)
JE commented on 27 April: "I never go to class without a
ballpoint in my pants pocket, and I often arrive home with two or three.
Have we found yet another articulation of the unheimlich?
might think that theft has a part to play! On the other hand, perhaps
Baron Bic discovered a method of virginal reproduction that might challenge
Another hypothesis: Ballpoints always seem to share the shirt pocket (bed?) of many US citizens, so perhaps there is some unseen hanky-panky happening, caused by the body heat?
JE comments: Or the Ghost of Laszlo Biro? How many of you knew that Argentina celebrates Inventors' Day on September 29th, Biro's birthday? (Hungary, the nation of Biro's birth, can also make a claim to be the home of the ballpoint pen.)
- More on Ballpoints, the Uncanny, and Odd Socks (Enrique Torner, USA 04/29/19 3:05 AM)
John E's repeated uncanny experience of leaving home for school with one ballpoint pen and coming home with two or three finally explained my reverse experience: I keep losing my ballpoint pens! Now I know where all of them ended up. John, send them back to me!
Now, seriously speaking, at our home, there are several items that keep mysteriously disappearing: ballpoint pens, pencils, paper clips, rulers, rubber bands, coins, and a non-office item called socks. The solution to this baffling mystery came out some years ago, when we had to move our beloved living-room couch: underneath it, a massive, filthy treasure of pencils, pens, and every item I previously mentioned, except for the socks. All of those items had fallen through the seams of the sofa, between the cushions.
Regarding the socks, only one of each pair disappears, never two of them. Those widowed socks accumulate on a table reserved for folding laundry. Every time we wash laundry, and one sock of a kind appears, we play the matching game, and search for its twin. Sometimes, a happy reunion will happen, but many other times, a new solitary sock will join the other widowed socks. You wouldn't believe the amount of solitary socks that have accumulated over the years. However, they never lose hope, and continue waiting for a miraculous reunion with their lost sibling, or mate.
Every once in a while, one of us becomes desperate, frustrated by the continuous sock disappearance, and will start a furious community sock hunt, and recruit the whole family to look for lost socks. We search under beds, inside closets, behind and under furniture, in bedrooms, bathrooms, the basement, and every other possible nook. The search might last for half an hour, maybe one hour, depending on the initial successes. Usually, a few socks will reappear from the most unusual places, reducing the huge pile of solitary, sad socks. However, many of them will remain widowed, or without its twin, surrounded by a multitude of strangers, though never losing hope of, one day, getting reunited with their lost twin, or mate.
If anybody has any idea of how to put together these broken families, please let me know. One of those long enduring world mysteries might be finally solved.
JE comments: WAIS HQ has the corner of one drawer for widowed socks. The present count is five; I just checked. Enrique, one way I've found to reduce the carnage is to buy three or four pairs of the same color/style. Then you never have more than one left without a mate. (This does sound promiscuous, like spouse-swapping, but you can't hurt the feelings of a sock.)
- Burnings in Effigy Throughout Spain, Catalonia (Francisco Rodriguez Jimenez, Spain 04/24/19 3:27 AM)
Regrettably, the situation described by Jordi Molins (23 April) is much more complex than showing some pathetic episodes such as what happened in that small village in Seville. It goes without saying: I strongly condemn these acts of intransigence and intolerance! Absurd and obscene!
Yet, am curious to know Jordi's opinion about some other fires.
Out of the many, see for instance:
From a very different (and politically antagonistic) media source:
and/or an act of denial of freedom of speech:
JE comments: So glad to hear from Francisco Rodríguez-Jiménez. Francisco, does the "Catalonia Question" remain a burning (perdón) topic in Salamanca intellectual circles, or is it yesterday's news? And how is the Sánchez government handling the matter of Catalonian separatism?
- Burning Puigdemont in Effigy: Do the Andalusians have a Legitimate Grievance? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 04/24/19 9:12 AM)
I could not be more astonished by the latest post from Jordi Molins (April 23rd). He mentions the event in which some citizens of Coripe (Seville, Spain) burned and shot a mannequin of the fugitive ex-president Puigdemont, as an example of the Spain's insufficient efforts to distance itself from its "past crimes." And Jordi cites another example of people from Cádiz (again Andalucía) shouting for the police to "go get them," in reference to Catalonia's participation in the illegal referendum.
I don't think it would be productive to respond to these examples. However I feel it is necessary, for the sake of truth and fairness, to mention some facts that might justify the motivations of the people (Andalucians) to participate in those apparently very offensive events.
It is a well-known fact, and I have given much evidence in previous posts on the Catalonian issue, that Catalonians show xenophobia and racism against fellow Spaniards, and particularly the Andalusians--I would be very pleased to cite these examples again if necessary. So why it should such spontaneous public demonstrations be a surprise, after years of Catalonian hatred and supremacist racism expressed by Catalonians against them?
JE comments: Coripe (pop. 1436) does sound like the kind of Andalusian town the Catalonians would make fun of--a real "Quinto Pino" or Hicksville. So does subaltern resentment explain at least in part the aggression against a Puigdemont effigy? The Wikipedia entry on Coripe notes that its only claim to fame is the ritual "execution" of Puigdemont on April 21st--three days ago. Maybe the natives just wanted some attention.
- Burning Judas Iscariot Effigy in Poland (Edward Jajko, USA 04/24/19 3:09 PM)
WAIS has been discussing burnings-in-effigy, and naturally the focus of attention is Spain, with a complementary nod to Guy Fawkes.
Let me, with some embarrassment, orient attention to a b-i-e that took place in Poland, on Good Friday, April 19. In the small town of Pruchnik, in the southeastern Podkarpacie area, an effigy of Judas Iscariot was hanged, beaten on and otherwise assaulted, dragged through the streets, cut up, burned, and thrown in the river. The Church has condemned this as a reversion to paganism. Nationally, there is embarrassment and shame. Earlier press accounts (Gazeta Wyborcza) said that the Judas--Judasz in Polish--was given exaggerated Jewish facial features and sidelocks, peyot. But it has been determined that the demonstrators, if that is the right word, acted within the law. But they involved and encouraged children, and there is great chagrin about it all.
See "Sąd nad Judaszem. Policja ustaliła sprawcę podpalenia kukły. To 45-latek z gminy Pruchnik"
JE comments: Pruchnik gets this year's honors for World's Most Politically Incorrect Town. This big question: what do you do when ancient or pseudo-ancient pageantry is patently offensive to modern sensibilities? The examples are many: the Netherlands' "Black Pete" and the "Negritos" dance in Peru are just two that come to mind. We could probably assemble a long list.
Poland's Greatest Exports...
(Paul Levine, Denmark
04/25/19 4:39 AM)
Poland's two great exports: Chopin and anti-Semitism.
JE comments: Paul, you overlooked Aldona! She's the best export ever, although Chopin is no slouch.
Seriously now, I've been a "Polandologist" for years, and still cannot wrap my mind around its reputation for anti-Semitism. First, because every Pole I know is a philo-Semite, including my father-in-law, who studies Poland's Jewish history as a pastime. Yet then we see cases such as the Pruchnik (pop. 3519) "celebration" of burning a stereotypically Jewish Judas. It's easy to compare Pruchnik with its counterpart in Andalusia, Coripe, and dismiss these places as benighted backwaters. But Poland's present government is feeding the basest nationalist sentiments, which include anti-Semitism.
Remember Obama's "Polish death camps"? In the popular imagination, Poland seems to be blamed more for the Holocaust than Germany itself.
Does the Pruchnik Incident "Prove" Poland's Anti-Semitism? No
(Tom Hashimoto, UK
04/26/19 2:56 AM)
Sorry, but Pruchnik (Poland) is a very tiny village, perhaps with very little access to higher education or balanced media outlets. Do you take a case of some village in the US as representative of New York or San Francisco, or the US as a whole? Once Mr. Trump was elected, much of America has tried to deny that he is representative of what America stands for. Why can't Poland do the same?
I don't deny anti-Semitism exists in any part of Europe--but I seriously doubt if those who participated in the Pruchnik incident have strong ideological belief. They are uneducated and insensitive, and if opportunity arises they take discriminatory actions. We punish them. We educate them. These discriminatory actions do not belong to Poland.
What the incident highlights is the asymmetric level of education and slow enlightenment in rural Poland. What Paul Levine's comment illustrates is a hasty overgeneralisation and the over-rated belief in the explanatory capacity of any ideologies/trends.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, I suggest reading it through a lens of rural-urban dynamics rather than nation-to-nation dynamics.
JE comments: With the Coripe (Spain) and Pruchnik (Poland) incidents, WAIS has stumbled upon a quandary: when do you dismiss people in The Sticks as benighted bumpkins, and when do you see them as Heartlanders who represent the true national character? To use Tom Hashimoto's analogy, most folks in these parts believe San Francisco and New York do not stand for America.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz recently said, "Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk." This profoundly stupid statement nonetheless begs the question, why did Katz single out Poland? And consider the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have Polish ancestry.
- Poland's Exports? Daj Nam Spokoj (Edward Jajko, USA 04/26/19 3:32 AM)
I hesitated in bringing the burning in effigy of a figure of Judas in the southeast Poland town of Pruchnik to the attention of a WAIS that was concentrating on burnings in effigy in Spain, because I feared provoking exactly the type of schoolyard retort that Paul Levine gave us on April 25th.
I refer WAISers to my lengthy posting on who did what in WWII; look it up. Since Paul mentions music, here's a few other Polish exports: Piotr Beczała; Mariusz Kwiecień; Tomasz Konieczny (whom Paul can hear in Götterdämmerung this Saturday); Ewa Podleś. I won't bother adding further to the long list. Or mentioning the composers, pianists, violinists, conductors.
What about King Jan Sobieski, who saved Western Civilization?
How about Maria Skłodowska Curie?
Not to mention Karoł Wojtyła. Or Solidarność, which gave rise to sweeping and total political and social change in the former Eastern Bloc.
Or my parents, whose older son, the first member of the whole family to be born in the US, rose to become a brigadier general in the Air Force and, as a civil servant, the chief military intelligence officer in the Pentagon, and lies buried in Arlington; and whose younger son had curatorial responsibility for the Yale Judaica Collection for 11 1/2 years and is an occasional tutor of Biblical Hebrew. And a Polish-American Roman Catholic.
Daj nam spokój.
JE comments: "Give us a break." (Ed, we'll be in the Old Country for two weeks starting May 28th. I must brush up on my profoundly rusty Polish. Although can something rust if it never really existed to begin with?)
Among Ed Jajko's several posts on Poles during WWII and the Holocaust, I draw WAISer attention to this excellent essay from 2012. Please, give the Poles a break:
- Poland's Exports? Daj Nam Spokoj (Edward Jajko, USA 04/26/19 3:32 AM)
- Does the Pruchnik Incident "Prove" Poland's Anti-Semitism? No (Tom Hashimoto, UK 04/26/19 2:56 AM)
- More on Ballpoints, the Uncanny, and Odd Socks (Enrique Torner, USA 04/29/19 3:05 AM)
- Explaining the Ballpoint Paradox (John Heelan, UK 04/28/19 7:27 AM)
- The Ballpoint Paradox (David Duggan, USA 04/27/19 4:48 AM)
- Mikhail Bakhtin and Carnival Culture (John Heelan, UK 04/25/19 4:06 AM)
- Burnings in Effigy (Angel Vinas, Belgium 04/24/19 3:09 AM)
- Burning Puigdemont in Effigy (Jordi Molins, Spain 04/23/19 5:56 AM)
- Collective Guilt and Collective Apologies: Spain (Jordi Molins, Spain 04/22/19 12:45 PM)