memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Saramago & Censorship

CHARLES DARWIN

CHARLES DARWIN

I read somewhere that during the time of Portuguese dictator, Antonio Salazar, The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin was banned.

BANNED BOOKS

BANNED BOOKS

Several Portuguese intellectuals have showed how the various forms of censorship have hindered the cultural development of Portugal with the cultural elite becoming something of an aristocracy, disconnected from the rest of the population.

This is evident by the prevalence of a gap between popular culture and high culture, with the arraiais (popular gathering with light music and ball dancing), pimba music (based on double-entendre or straightforward sexual slang) and racho folclórico (folk and ethnological dancing and music groups) on one side, and literature, drama and classical music on the other.

I stepped from one side of the divide to the other.

Portugal has become one of the countries in Europe with the lowest attendances of theatre and the lowest rates of book-reading.

So during my years here, in this place,

Physically I have taken one step forward

Spiritually I have taken one step sideways

But culturally I have I have taken one step backward

Of course, philosophically, none of this should matter

But it matters to me

It matters to me

JOSÉ SARAMAGO

JOSÉ SARAMAGO

In 1992 the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Souza Lara, who had final say on applications from Portugal, prevented José Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ from participating in the European Literary Award, positing that the work, rather than being representative of Portugal, was divisive for the Portuguese people.

As a result and in protest against what he saw as an act of censorship by the Portuguese government, Saramago moved to Spain, taking permanent residency in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

ISLANDS OF LANZAROTE

ISLANDS OF LANZAROTE

In 1996 José Saramago won the most prestigious award in the world for a writer – the Nobel Prize for Literature.

OOPS!

The reaction of the Portuguese government was muted and ambivalent. On the one hand the (very natural) desire to vaunt the achievement of a Portuguese citizen was offset by the writer’s evident hostility to the culture of his native shores to the extent of becoming a permanent resident of a Spanish island.

Out of kilter

The rich are getting richer

The poor are getting poorer

Something is out of kilter

Remember remember

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Dateline London 5th November 1605

COUNTER-TERRORIST SQUAD FOILS PLOT TO BOMB PARLIAMENT

In the early hours of this morning units of the special anti-terrorist squad rounded up and arrested three men suspected to be connected in a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The three, Thomas Wintour, Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby are believed to belong to the notorious Al Guido network – Papist extremists with links to Al Vaticano in Rome. The police are searching their homes and more arrests are expected.

Our special Westminster correspondent takes up the story:

… Wintour introduced Fawkes to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters secured the lease to an undercroft beneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder they had stockpiled there. Prompted by the receipt of an anonymous letter, the authorities searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and found Fawkes guarding the explosives …

A government spokesman declared that the war on terrorism was not over and the public should maintain their vigilance …

Waiting for Sandy

The city braces itself

Battens down

And waits

Fearing the tide surge

When Sandy hits

He worries

His campaign flounders in

Wall Street awash

His concern is visible.

 

Meanwhile safe in Ohio

They make hay

While the sun shines

He urges them with repulsive lips

He nets them into expeditionary war

He can’t believe his luck

Another ignoramus

In the White House

 

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight

Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene

I’ll see you in my dreams

 

Sometimes I live in the country

Sometimes I live in town

Sometimes I have a great notion

To jump into the river and drown

 

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight

Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene

I’ll see you in my dream

(American folksong)

PORTRAIT of IRENE – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

Letter from Portugal

Picture the scene: it’s the 5th October 2012, a public holiday to commemorate Portugal’s metamorphosis from a tired old Kingdom into a brave new Republic in 1911.

It’s a sunny day and the populace is gathered in front of the balcony on which the President, Sr. Anibal Cavaco Silva plus entourage is waiting for the raising of the proud standard of the Republic – The Portuguese Flag.

Slowly it rises but hang on a minute, something’s wrong! The flag is upside down, the wrong way up or reversed!

Oops! What a blunder! What a gaffe! (Someone’s going to lose their job tomorrow).

The symbolism of this little incident was not lost on anyone. The reversed flag is (literally) emblematic of the Portugal’s reversed fortunes which are mired in financial, political and social crisis.

But still, hey, things are not all black are they?

For the National Assembly felt prosperous enough to be able to vote for five new top-of-the-range Audi cars for the ruling party’s ministers.

WOW

The fact that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a billionaire and a prominent member of the Mormon Church and who increased his fortune by setting up a company which preyed on smaller companies, took them over and then broke them up (Greed is good! proclaimed Michael Douglas In the best Wall Street tradition) gives the Mormon Church a slightly unsavoury air.

You scratch my back

And I’ll help you with your tax returns

Proselytizing zealots

Determined thick-skinned young men

In ties and white

Drip-dry shirts

Perform feats of ubiquity

Barnsley, Avignon and Bruges

Popping out from behind a rock

In the Sahara desert

Accosting me as I lounge on a bench

In Espinho’s street 19

 

Is this your boy?

Yes

Oh wow, how old is he?

Eight

Oh wow, what’s the little fella’s name?

William

Oh wow, and are you British?

English actually

Wow!

JOSEPH SMITH Jr.

 

The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) was founded by the visionary prophet Joseph Smith Jr. in Upstate New York toward the beginning of the 19th century. Initially outlawed, he and his band of followers wandered through various states seeking Zion or the New Jerusalem in order to build their Tabernacle/Temple, a latter-day Moses leading his tribe to the Promised Land of milk and honey.

After Smith’s death in 1844 the Mormons followed Brigham Young to a salt lake in what would become the Utah Territory.

In the early days of the Church polygamy (plural wives) was practised – Mitt Romney’s great grandfather had three wives and consequently literally hundreds of descendants, one of whom might very well become the next president of the United States of America.

God bless America

(God help the rest of us)

 While we’re on that subject, do you realize that they are Christian extremists in the heartlands of America who hold the whimsical belief that God (the Divine Creator) has singled out their country for special favour.

(During medieval times examples of this delusion are legion. At the battle of Agincourt (1415) both sides, the English and the French, were firmly convinced that God was on their side).

At what exact point of that continent’s million-year-history God made this choice is not clear. Presumably not before the 18th century – obviously God can’t have meant the indigenous Indian tribes who had been roaming those Great Plains from time immemorial … look what happened to them!

What is slightly scary about such people is the way they fly in the face of accepted science and indeed general knowledge.

And why not choose Ethiopia, Malaysia or Tibet? What’s wrong with Argentina, New Zealand or Croatia?

In short, God bless the Ukraine!

(As well as America, of course).

CRAZY CAT – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

LUCKY CAT

Crisis, what crisis?

The Domino Effect

 

Back in 2010, the euro-zone members and the International Monetary Fund agreed to a 100 billion euro bailout package to help Greece.  In return for this, the Greek government planned tax increases and deep cuts in pensions and public service pay.  It is reported that Greece has not implemented the planned changes. Therefore, the need for obligatory terms is under greater demand.

Because of the falling euro and as a result of the financial crisis the other weak members of the euro-zone were faced with the inability to repay their debts.  In November of 2010, the EU and IMF agreed to an 85 billion euro bailout package to the Republic of Ireland, followed by a May 2011 bailout of 78 billion to Portugal.  In July of 2011, a second bailout package of 109 billion euros was agreed to for Greece.

Due to increased fear that any of these countries could default on their public debts, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain were been given the unfortunate acronym of PIIGS.

Oh crumbs

Oh crickey

Oh cripes

That crisis!

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