December 30, 2008
As I am writing Israel is in its fourth day of devastation on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian dead are conservatively calculated at 360 by the Spanish media, while Israel’s are at four. Palestinian injured are close to 2000, but I don’t have a figure for Israel. Women, children and innocent civilians are predominant in both casualty lists. Palestinian, or Hamas, armaments are home-made missiles with a range of between 10 and 15 km, while the Israeli army is equipped with the very latest in American and French death technology: the equivalent of using a sling shot against someone carrying an Uzi. International aid boats trying to reach the Strip have been rammed by Israeli patrol boats, while medical facilities there have been decimated by years of Israeli embargos and sanctions.
Comparisons may be odious but it is inevitable to mention the Holocaust yet again. The State of Israel was founded before six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis but it was largely populated, with great difficulty thanks to the British, by refugees from that horrifying period of only 70 years ago. Many of them have died since then, in battle or of old age, yet the Nazi death camps, or the Warsaw Ghetto, are surely part of Israel’s collective memory. Much of what one reads from Israel says things like ‘It will never happen again’. Really?
The full Biblical quotation much in vogue on both sides of the everlasting Palestinian-Israeli conflict reads as follows (Exodus Ch. 21, curiously part of the tenets of both the Hebrew and the Islamic cultures, which are not that different from each other):
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.
Even so, I prefer the Mahatma’s quotation that heads this article.
So why does Israel insist on creating its own holocaust? For starters, their good friend George W. Bush is headed for ignominy next month, to be replaced by someone who’s middle name is Hussein. Coincidence? I doubt it. The American Jewish lobby, powerful and Machiavellian, is unlikely to be in the best of odours with Obama after all, though we probably shouldn’t read too much into that, either. The American Christian lobby, equally powerful and Machiavellian, probably doesn’t like the idea much either (this is Bible land, remember) – nor would the American Cuban lobby, equally etc, be too pleased, for they have a vested interest in right-wing politics, too.
Secondly, the Gaza Strip has always been a problem for Israel. It is just a strip of land that sticks in their gullet but happens to be populated by Palestinians thrown out of Israel. Its false border with Israel was designed as a buffer zone between it and Egypt. Naturally, it is a hotbed of fanaticism, with Hamas, the de facto government, at the head throwing stones and short-range missiles. Wouldn’t it be neat and tidy if the Israeli border could be straightened out to reach the sea just about there, though? Wouldn’t it be neat and tidy to just get rid of Hamas altogether no matter the cost in innocent lives?
I have absolutely no pity for terrorism or terrorists of any stripe or denomination. I do have pity for the countless millions who suffer any form of it, be it called down upon them by the state or a fanatical faction. I have lived under the former but have mercifully managed to avoid the latter by a hairsbreadth. In a fairly long life I have come to believe that, indeed, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. With both my eyes thankfully still in my head, I can’t help looking askance at what is happening in the Gaza Strip right now.
(c) Alexander Bewick 2008
December 15, 2008
I don’t do it often but when I do, I have to admit to a certain frisson, which could be simply a matter of age, though that is what they want me to do. I’m not talking about sex. Well, I am, but on television and in the press. Spanish press and television, for that is what I see more frequently. This picture comes straight from last Sunday’s El País, and there’s more below.
This time of year brings out two of the most expensive genres of the advertising world: toys, including the expensive electronic types, and perfumes. The former doesn’t use sex very much unless you count the fact that a lot of dolls seem to come complete with genitals and the ability to pee and more at will. And, naturally, advertising for dolls is aimed at little girls, despite protestations from the more ‘advanced’ feminists who’d rather they played with lorries.
The latter, however, is all about sex. Perfume has always been about sex and the attraction of the opposite. Historically, though, it was first used, in Europe at least, to cover body odours I’d rather not imagine much less deal with. Cleopatra may be another story more in keeping with the theme of this article. Mind you, she had to attract the likes of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, with whom she had one and three children respectively. Perfume as empire builder – no wonder perfume is a potent armament. (Would that the Bush empire had sprayed perfume instead of bombs all over the Middle East…)
Back to today and sex in the media. Perfume advertising aimed at either sex -and sometimes what looks like a third- comes up on screen three times a year: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas. It can be broadly classified as Macho, Muy Macho and I’m Not Too Sure. This applies to perfumes for men and women alike. There are brands that are created for both sexes, others that have a same-name bottle for each. The bottles themselves are another thing: phallic for men and -what’s the opposite of phallic?- for women. Well of course!
I know that sex is a powerful advertising tool: I have been an advertising copywriter for decades, though I never worked on any perfume ads (I wonder why?). Indeed, I have no objection to sex, nor even to Christmas. It’s just that the two seem a bit incongruous together. I don’t object to a little nooky at Christmas time, either; it’s ‘family time’ after all. But I propose that perfume ads become a little more Christmassy and maybe a little less sexual. Or am I just an old fart?
Below are some more samples of what I mean, including a couple of TV commercials that have been placed at this time of year (click on the images to enlarge, if you must, but be warned that some of them may be unsuitable for children – unless they’re going to give you perfume this year, of course): Read the rest of this entry »
December 7, 2008
I came across a past copy of the Daily Express, not a paper I read often even online. Above the main headline you will see: “EXCLUSIVE: Secret squad preparing us to join euro.” I know what the political inclination of the Express is, so its alarmist tone doesn’t surprise me in the least. On Page 2 is a long article headlined, “X43m is spent on unit plotting to join euro.” (The X should be a pound sign but I haven’t got one readily available on my keyboard. Sorry.) There is even a box for a poll that asks, “Is joining the euro a disaster for Britain?” and phone numbers marked Yes or No – costing at least 25p (or €0.31) per call. The article is full of words and phrases like ‘secretive’, ‘lavished on the project’, ‘will fuel fears’, ‘propaganda’, and so on. Subsequent articles and comments in that paper are much the same (see one here: “Spectre of rule by Europe, etc.”), and that isn’t the only such rag perpetrating the myth.
As anyone living in Spain on a fixed income in pounds will tell you, the exchange rate right now is crap and although I might not be an economist, I can predict that things are unlikely to get any better. Indeed, I figure we’re headed for a 1 to 1 exchange rate and an opportunity for Britain to at last join the euro zone. (Alarums from Express readers.)
What’s wrong with that? As almost any related Express article will tell you, rule by Brussels is anathema. Yet the UK is ruled by the EU already – or why are there constant complaints about it? A favourable exchange rate would surely mean that more British goods would be sold around the world, specially in Europe. And millions of travellers to the continent, that far off place just across the Channel, wouldn’t have to deal with the ‘complicated’ business of changing currencies everywhere. And let’s not even mention pensions for expat residents this side of the water, many of whom can no longer afford to live here in the style to which they’d become accustomed and most certainly couldn’t afford to live the same way in the UK either.
The first glass of wine I ever had in Spain a million years ago cost 2 pesetas (or €0.01) and it came with a tapa of delicious olives. My first wage packet in London, about a year before I took wine and tapas in Spain, was not quite X20 (or about €25 at today’s exchange rate) and wine in the pubs around Fleet Street where I worked was prohibitive, Rioja even more so and the cheap Cyprus variety undrinkable. Things have changed, of course, but in Spain we work in order to live, while in Britain it appears they live in order to work – if they’re not scamming the overloaded benefit system, that is. Not even Brussels can change those attitudes.
(c) Alexander Bewick 2008
December 5, 2008
Call me old-fashioned, a wrinkly, past it – anything you like, but for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would want to look like this. Okay, the illustration is perhaps a little exaggerated, but the fashion for mutilating one’s body has been going on for too long. The way I see it is that self-mutilation can only be a reflection of someone’s self-esteem and a pretty low one at that.
Pop psychology aside, we are most of us born with reasonably good looking bodies, unmutilated and pristine. Why do we un-do what we’re given by Mother Nature so readily?
When I was young, six hundred years ago, tattoos were pretty much reserved for certain servicemen -not women- and an earring in the right lobe (or was it the left?) indicated to others a certain sexual orientation. I remember someone who was refused a well-paid job that he was more than qualified to do because he had a tiny tattoo just visible under the cuff of his shirt – discriminatory perhaps, but the job involved meeting the public. Would you like to be served by someone looking like him above?
These days, boys and grown men wear earrings in either or both ears, on their eyebrows, in their tongues, lips and genitals. The thought of it hurts – excuse me while I curl up for a second…
Is this fashion, depressingly on the increase, not a clear indication of youth with too little to do and too much money with which to do it? It’s not cheap by any means.
(c) Alexander Bewick 2008