Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Here's a comment from Francesc-Marc Álvaro in today's Vanguardia: "We must not forget that if anything remains from the Spanish tradition, it is the tendency toward all forms of the picaresque, whose vigor is based on a fundamental law: if you don't take advantage of your neighbor, you're a fool, because he will certainly do the same to you, and do a much better job of it. The modernization of Spain has placed limits on the picaresque, but has not eliminated it. The disguise of the pícaro has changed and his tools have become more sophisticated, but the basic ethic of the general populace is the same as in the Siglo de Oro." As Francis Fukuyama said, there is a fundamental lack of trust in Spanish society, one that does not exist in the States or Britain or Germany. Sure, we Americans try to be careful when we buy things or deal with other people, but we consider ourselves and one another to be basically trustworthy folk (with the conspicuous exceptions of used-car dealers and spammers). Since the Spaniards do not consider anyone outside family and friends as trustworthy, not even their neighbors, they're always ready to believe the worst of everything; this is why they're so prone to believe in conspiracy theories, as they believe that everyone is out to screw everyone else and so even the most transparent-seeming action may hide a sinister ulterior motive. The Spaniards, therefore, generally consider Americans to be innocent, naive, overtrusting, and simplistic; most Americans who have spent time in Spain think of Spaniards as cynical and corrupt. Each group considers the other to be a bunch of hypocrites. Individual Spaniards and Americans often get on very well together; hell, I'm married to one and another is my sometimes collaborator on this blog. As groups, we are not great admirers of one another's societies, though.

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