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Read For Yourself

Recently I was watching C-Span Book TV ‘s coverage of author Robert Richardson at the 2013 Key West Literary Seminar.  As I was suffering from a rather potent bout of insomnia, the thought of listening to some old hippies rattle on about how they do not like the mess they have made of our society seemed to be the best way to put me to sleep under the circumstances.  Much of Mr. Richardson’s presentation was what one would expect., in that  we were condemned to a random rattling off of quotations from other writers, with a single adjective attached to each indicating his approval.  This sort of presentation is of course designed not so much to enlighten, as to impress the audience with the amount of books the lecturer has read.

During his presentation, Mr. Richardson recounted the passage in Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” in which one of the brothers justifies his quasi-atheistic views, doubtless as a foil for the author himself or at least some of his thought process, since if you have read other works by Dostoevsky you know that he was something of a mixed bag when it comes to his opinions on religion.  A story is recounted about an 8-year-old boy who is quite literally hounded to death, with a gruesome punishment for a minor misdeed, before the eyes of his own mother.  If God allows such things to happen, the story concludes, then the recounter of the tale was not interested in having anything to do with him.

That attitude, according to Mr. Richardson, aptly reflects his own views on the subject as well.  The rather obvious rejoinder to this of course, at least for the Christian, is that Mr. Richardson’s argument is something of a cop-out, since God Himself was brutally and unjustly killed before the eyes of His Mother on Calvary.  It also assumes that the concept of free will is something which must be imposed or lifted at will, as if God is playing a chess match with human playing pieces.  Be that as it may, such a simplistic and rather narcissistic understanding of the Divine is regrettably not uncommon among the so-called intelligentsia who dominate our universities, publishing houses, and media outlets.

For forty years or so we have witnessed the build-up of an intellectual establishment built not on universal truths, let alone intellect, but rather on relative opinions, and Mr. Richardson is merely one cog in that infernal machine.  We have seen the effect of the worship of Priapus instead of God, for example, in the enormous amount of sexually transmitted disease that runs rampant through our society which, as a very wise theology teacher of my acquaintance pointed out the other evening, no one seems to talk about.  The supposed freedom granted by the Sexual Revolution has in fact enslaved us to, among other things, the pharmaceutical industry.  This chasing after temporary personal pleasure in lieu of preparing for eternity, following millennia of human intellectual endeavors to instill virtues of self-control and self-sacrifice, has had a devastating impact on our world.

Yet there is something to be said for the example of those like Mr. Richardson, who stand at podiums and preach their gospels of nothingness, and that is the fact that they do actually read.  They may largely be reading a lot of garbage bound between two covers and presented as books, but nevertheless they do undertake the effort to continue to work on the exercise of their minds  through the exploration of writing.  Of course, part of the reason many otherwise educated younger people do not read today, is precisely because they had professors like Mr. Richardson in college.  If you are burdened with a teacher who turns you off to the world of literature by insisting that everything is about oppression and sex, there can be no better barrier to raise to the concept of reading as a form of ongoing education and the formation of ideas.

Fortunately, there are remedies to the situation.  I have always found that one of the best ways to critically evaluate a work of fiction, biography, and so on which you cannot bring yourself to agree with, is to always keep in mind the question of whether the author actually understands the truth he is rejecting.  I do not have to agree with a writer’s point of view in order to be able to find merit or even truth in his work.  This is not an easy task, of course, yet if you know what you believe, then you can be at the ready when you perceive that a scrivener or a professor is trying to convince you that they are right, and you are merely ignorant.  (How one establishes what is right and what is wrong when everything is supposedly relative is another matter entirely.)

By no means am I suggesting that you go off and read the collected works of Engels and Marx, unless of course you are a glutton for punishment, or for that matter wish to fully know thy enemy.  After all, without having at least some idea of what the devil looks like, when he tells you there is no such thing as personal accountability for example, you will be hard-pressed to recognize him when he presents himself in one of his countless guises.  Just as the lawyer in the courtroom needs to be able to anticipate his opponent’s argument in order to be able to successfully defeat it, it is insufficient to say that simply because part of what an author believes or concludes is incorrect, that it is therefore impossible to gain anything from his work.’

It is often unpleasant to read the work of those who are still fighting the culture wars that led our society into the morass in which it wallows in at present.  However to back away and give those digging us in, ever deeper, into such muck is not helpful either.  One may be able to refute Mr. Richardson – and indeed Dostoevsky – without having read any of their work, but it would be a difficult endeavor to sustain over a long period.

Thus while it is certainly inadvisable to take your views on the question of eternal life from those who write novels, or indeed biographies of existentialists, it is important to at least be somewhat familiar with such thinkers, however misguided they may be.  It is through a systematic emphasis on the dumbing down of Western society, paradoxically as access to higher education has never been more widespread, that we have found ourselves in a culture that is rather shallow, materialistic, and interested largely in the seeking of personal pleasure, much like the ancient pagan societies we emerged out of.  The fight to make us into a fat, lazy, and ignorant society which can be easily controlled and placated has very nearly been achieved.

In order to take back this battle then,  you cannot rely solely on your wits: you must work. And by work, I mean you must read.  Read all of the writers you love and admire, yes, but also take the time to read those whom you are suspicious of, and do so with a critical eye as to why you find them so untrustworthy.  It is entirely possible to examine what the world is trying to sell you as truth, without actually buying into its message in the process.  And unlike Mr. Richardson, I would posit that reading someone like Emerson does not require that you actually throw yourself head-first into Walden Pond.

3ages (800x600)
“The Three Ages of Man” by Giorgione (c. 1500-1501)
Pitti, Florence


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When It’s Not Only A Game

The fact that it is now baseball season in the United States means little or nothing to me, however heretical that view is considered to be in this country.  To be fair, I do not worship at the altar of baseball any more than I do those of most other athletic endeavors. That being said, this is one of those rare occasions when you will be able to read a sports-related post from me, in response to a deplorable event which took place over the weekend.

I suspect most of my readers are unaware of the fact that the annual event known as “The Boat Race”, between students from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, took place this past Saturday.  Every year two teams of rowers set out to race each other along the Thames, in a competition that has been held in London since 1856.  It was an event I attended when I lived on the other side of the pond, since I had a number of friends who had rowed for Oxford, though truth be told I was not particularly interested in it apart from the social aspect.

On Saturday I happened to catch the race on television, which I watched more out of nostalgia than anything else.  It was a very close race indeed, for much of the course, when probably about 2/3 of the way through the race suddenly came to a halt.  Someone was swimming in The Thames, and came very close to one of the boats.  Had it not been for the swift action of the teams, he could have been injured, or killed.

It turns out that this individual was – not surprisingly – a leftist protester, who was decrying the elitism of the event by employing the sort of anti-social behavior which of late we have come to expect, and for some inexplicable reason to tolerate.  It is also not surprising that, like most of these sorts of protesters, it turns out this individual is something of a joke, having attended the prestigious and pricey London School of Economics, and is moreover an active member of the Royal Society of Arts.  My friend Tim Stanley, a Cambridge alumnus with whom I was furiously texting about the event as it unfolded, shared some of his thoughts about the matter on his blog post for The Telegraph.

As a Yankee rather than a Brit, and as a non-athlete, I cannot speak with authority as to what took place, even though it was pretty obvious that even when the race resumed, this disruption ruined the event and it ended terribly. However as a human being, I can certainly share a thought or two, and particularly as someone who in general has little or no interest in athletic competition whatsoever, yet recognizes its value.  No doubt some of my readers will find what follows to be judgemental, and if you are one of them then I welcome you to leave comments saying as much, so that we can discuss the matter further.

Putting aside for the moment the very serious, physical danger that this person put both himself and the crews on the river in as a result of his actions, in which he and others could have been killed or injured, his stated intent is irrelevant, and I will not consider it herein. If you wish to read why he claims he did what he did, you are welcome to read it elsewhere, and then dismiss it for the utter rubbish it is.

The real reason he did this, whatever protestations one might lodge to the contrary, was that this person wanted to engage in the very same selfishness which he paradoxically claims to be protesting against. If he found the event, its sponsors, and participants, to be elitist, what has he made himself by becoming a media personality and drawing attention to himself? For surely he is no longer a humble man of the people – or at least, the people who hold degrees from LSE and are members of exclusive clubs.

The ones I could not help feeling sorry in all of this were the athletes.  They had trained for this event for months leading up to the competition. They sacrificed sleep, rest, food that one would actually like to eat, and suffered all sorts of physical injuries and mental and emotional stress, in order to get ready for the race.  As someone who is decidedly not an athlete in any way, I cannot even begin to imagine the disappointment of how what had been a well-matched, exciting competition that had started out with a bang, ended in a whimper.

The point of participating in a team sport, of course, is that it is an exercise in not only trying to get your body as healthy as possible, but also to learn how to work with others – indeed, sometimes individuals very different from you – in order to achieve a common goal.  It is no accident that the lessons athletes have the opportunity to learn in being part of a team are helpful in all aspects of life. This includes venues such as one’s profession, representative government, community activities, and the like.

The idea of tempering individualism through teamwork, helping to work toward a collective goal, directly leads to the creation of civilization and culture. The individual and the team have to work in balance with one another, or everything falls apart. Too much individualism, and you get anarchy; too little, and you get communism. Roman aqueducts, Gothic cathedrals, or modern suspension bridges may have had a single designer behind them, but they were not built by that one man acting independently, any more than Mozart could have performed all of the instruments in one of his symphonies simultaneously, or Steinbeck could have written, printed, and distributed all of his novels by himself.

This is not to say that the lone protester cannot be a voice for change or a symbol of what is good, in the face of unrelenting evil. One need only look at people such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer or St. Maximilian Kolbe to see that this is the case. Yet here, all that the protester in question has done is to ruin something that was perfectly good: an athletic competition between two schools. No one was forcing him to watch it, or to purchase anything in order to be able to watch it. He could have peacefully sat and viewed the race on the river bank, on television, or ignored it altogether, as he wished. There was nothing compulsory about this event.

Instead, this person chose to act out of selfishness, to ruin a once-in-a-lifetime event for groups of young people who had no quarrel with him, and who were not doing anything evil. By acting as he did, this man proved himself to be, in truth, nothing more than a child; he is no different from one who kicks over another’s sand castle at the beach, just for the sake of drawing attention to himself, while simultaneously intentionally seeking to hurt the other. He is, unfortunately, all too representative of the society that produced him, and which continues to believe that behaving like an arse is somehow going to change the world, when in fact all it does is make those of us who do not behave in this way the more resolute not to follow his example, nor listen to his views.

So in the end, albeit paradoxically, one has to say it: good for you, Thames swimmer. You have no doubt helped the cause of law and order, conservatism, and disdain for so-called “progressive” causes more than any letter to the editor which you might have published in The Guardian, or some similar birdcage liner publication. For that, at least, we can be grateful to you, even if it is no comfort to the student athletes at Oxford and Cambridge who suffered as a result of your selfishness and immaturity.

Poster for the 1923 Boat Race by Charles Paine
London Transport Museum

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Beating Them At Their Own Game

For many years much of the news out of Spain, at least as reported by the allegedly “mainstream” media, has been rather bad.  The most recent evidence of this was last summer, in the laughably awful media coverage of World Youth Day in Madrid.  Yet rather than throw up our hands and ask, “What can we do?”, a new story out today from Spain should give us not only cause to hope that all is not lost in that country, but also provide us with a good lesson on how to use new media to our advantage.

It was a real pleasure this morning to read that, for the second year in a row, city authorities in Madrid have denied a group of atheists, anarchists, and other leftists a permit to march in protest of the Church on Holy Thursday. In rendering their decision the authorities issued a press release which states, in part [translation mine]:

The date, time, and place chosen by the organizers, although in principle having a legitimate purpose, in reality is being sought for a demonstration on a day of special significance for Catholics, in the same place and time when many religious ceremonies will be held, and which indicates, at the very least, a clear intent of provocation.

For those of my readers who are not Catholic, or who have not been in Spain during Holy Week, a little explanation is in order. It is a very ancient tradition in Spain for the major towns and cities to hold religious processions during Holy Week, i.e. the period from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. This is the holiest time of the year for Christians, as we remember the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

However these processions are not simply parades, like one might have for a sporting event or secular holiday. Most of these very special processions feature gigantic parade floats decorated with hundreds of flowers and candles, and bearing life-sized crucifixes, tableaux showing scenes from the Bible, or figures of the Virgin Mary and other Christian saints. The processional groups accompanying these floats, which are usually the property of individual churches across each city, are huge, and include such people as clerics, musicians, local dignitaries, and so on. For example, Spanish actor Antonio Banderas has, for many years, participated in the Holy Week processions in his home city of Málaga, in southern Spain. Thousands of people attend these processions, or watch them on television, and those on Holy Thursday, when Catholics commemorate the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist, take place on one of the most important days of this very important week.

As the authorities correctly held, the only reason why a group of leftists would want to hold an anti-Catholic protest march in downtown Madrid on Holy Thursday, in the middle of the sort of atmosphere I have just described, would be to try to pick a fight with those participating in or watching the religious processions. I am obviously very pleased that the local government had the sense to see sense on this point. However it should come as no surprise to anyone that the “mainstream” media in Spain has been wringing its hands and whinging about this decision all morning.

In tone, the reporting on this has been similar to Pope Benedict’s recent visits to Spain, when the media deliberately ignored or under-reported on the tremendous numbers of people who came to cheer the head of the Catholic Church. In 2010 such gatherings happened in Santiago de Compostela, home of one of the most important historical religious sites in Christendom, as might have been expected. However it happened again in ultra-hip Barcelona, which has a long history of anti-clericism, when the Pope came to dedicate the famous Sagrada Familia basilica, and it happened again the following year in the supposedly swinging capital of Madrid during World Youth Day. The result was reporting that so downplayed the numbers supporting the Pope, and so played up the tiny number of those protesting his visit, that the media frankly covered themselves in shame by being unable to hide their bias against Catholicism.

Of course, Catholics in Spain are not alone in experiencing this kind of biased reporting: it happens to any group which large news organizations do not like. For example, apparently the presence of around half a million people at the March for Life in Washington earlier this year, peacefully protesting against legalized infanticide, did not deserve mainstream media coverage. We can complain about it, as I certainly did, but the reality is that this type of reporting is not going to change, at least not anytime soon. So how we do we beat them at their own game?

The answer, it seems to me, is in fact what you are doing right now: making use of new media. If the role of the so-called mainstream media is to question authority, then I would suggest that one important role for new media content providers is to question the mainstream media. Where needed, it is now possible to produce media content that dismisses mainstream media coverage of events and issues that matter to us, as being biased and fundamentally untrustworthy.  Through the use of blogging for example, in both macro and micro format, anyone can be a reporter or commentator.

Yet that reporting via new media platforms will not have any real impact if those who read it do not take on the task of sharing that content with others. Therefore if you care about an issue, and feel as though the mainstream media is misreporting, burying, or otherwise ignoring that issue, even if you yourself are not a new media content producer, you have an important role to play. By sharing that content with others, you can help to get the word out that, among other things, maybe The New York Times or The BBC is not the best place to get your news on the Catholic Church.

Combining the tools available to us through new media with the wider outreach possible through social media can provide greater encouragement to those who find themselves questioning news reporting on issues that matter to them. And as bizarre as it might seem to state, the type of biased reporting which we are questioning – or at least I am – in fact provides a wonderful opportunity to draw attention to that bias. We live in an age where we are no longer bound to accept, due to a lack of alternatives and as a kind of secular gospel, what we are told to think about an event, or a subject, or a policy, by the mainstream media outlets. Therefore, let us use their content, as untrustworthy as it often is, to create our own.

Part of a Holy Week procession passing through central Madrid

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St. Luke and the Smashed Statue

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, the Gospel writer and good friend of people like St. Paul and the Blessed Virgin Mary, who among other things is honored as the patron saint of artists. It is also a good opportunity for us to reflect on the importance of art to Catholics, particularly in light of what happened over the weekend with the scandalous destruction of a statue of the Virgin Mary by members of the Occupy Wall Street movement. As has been reported elsewhere, though of course not in the so-called mainstream media, the group broke into a church in Rome, smashed the doors of the sacristy, and desecrated a crucifix. They then carried a statue of Our Lady out into the street, smashed it into the pavement, and then jumped on it to smash it even further.

Those who have visited my ongoing web project Catholic Barcelona where I am cataloguing the interesting churches, chapels, and other Catholic sites in Barcelona – a project currently on hold as I await my next trip to that city in December – know that such actions infuriate me both as a Catholic and as a lover of art. People of the same political persuasions as today’s current batch of “protesters” escalated their movements into a virulent form of anti-clericalism in Spain in the 1930′s, and did tremendous damage to the Christian fabric of Barcelona in particular. One need only see what was done to sites such as the formerly magnificent Jesuit church on the Ramblas to begin to imagine what artistic losses we have suffered as a result of such actions.

Interestingly enough, in the late 19th century a number of Catalan cultural figures were seeking to bring together like minds to try to integrate their artistic careers with the Christian faith and combat such secularism, and decided to seek the patronage of St. Luke. In 1893 they formed The Artistic Circle of St. Luke, and sponsored lectures, exhibitions, courses, and the creation of a study archive for their members and the benefit of the public. The group thrived during the same period that Barcelona was undergoing a phenomenal artistic and cultural renaissance, with the work of architects like Gaudí, painters like Miró, writers like the Folch i Torres brothers, and political cartoonists like my own great-grandfather – all of whom were members of the Circle. Because of their Catholic association, the Circle of St. Luke was forcibly closed for several years by the leftists beginning in 1936, as part of their efforts to stamp out the Christian faith in Barcelona.  Although they later reopened, they have gradually lost some of their focus, and have become today something less than what they once were, i.e. cultural figures who sought the patronage of the patron saint of artists and the integration of their Catholic faith with their artistic output.

Those of my readers who are not Catholics may not have a full understanding as to why the iconoclasm displayed by the individuals shown in the Occupy Rome vandalism is so appalling to those of us of the Catholic faith. From an artistic point of view, the particular statue that was destroyed in the attack was not of any great intrinsic significance. The image is a fairly standard, mass-produced one, probably made of molded and painted plaster, that one could purchase from a religious supply house. It is not as though the protesters broke into one of the great Roman churches and smashed a sculptural masterpiece by Michelangelo or Bernini.

Nor, must it be said, do Catholics need art in order to be able to worship God, which is a common misconception. The Church recognizes that, for many people, an image is a tool can help focus one’s prayer life. Yet the images themselves are neither worshiped nor necessary, as such images are in pagan or animist religions. After all, the same religion that built the lavishly decorated Jesuit churches in Rome – full of statues, pictures, and so on – also built the stark, minimalist churches of the Cistercians and Trappists, where there is little or no decoration at all.

The Catholic view of such artistic objects is that they are the equivalent of family portraits and photographs, which most of us display proudly in our homes to remind us of our departed loved ones, whom we hope to meet again in the next life. We do not worship the photo of grandpa on the bookshelf in the family room, nor the portrait of a great-great-aunt that hangs in the upstairs hallway. These things are simply reminders of our connections to these people, and they work as visual stimuli to cause us to remember them and to think about them, and probably more frequently than we otherwise would, if these images were not on display before us.

Similarly, while I was not fortunate enough to have met someone like St. Dominic, the great 12th century Spanish religious founder and preacher, I can have a statue or picture of him on my desk as a reminder.  The image of him, as imagined by an artist, helps me to recall his life, his preaching, and the work he did for Christ. And with that reminder, hopefully I will also be reminded that I should try to follow his example of obedience to God’s Will, and to speak out on behalf of the Faith when given the opportunity to do so.  Should the statue be broken or the picture destroyed I will regret its loss, of course, but it is not by any means necessary that I should have one.

Whether through acts of blasphemy, scandal, or the like, the destruction of an artistic image of Jesus, or one of the saints like the Virgin Mary, cannot destroy God or His Church. Catholics do not need images to worship God, or honor the men and women who have served Him, any more than, in a secular context, we Americans need things like gravestones, memorial plaques, the Lincoln Memorial, or Mount Rushmore. In the end, the destruction of this particular image by leftists in Rome only hurts those who actually destroyed it, for unless they repent of their malice they will someday have to answer for what they have done.

For those of us who are Catholics, perhaps we should ask St. Luke, as the patron of artists, to encourage this parish community in Rome to come together after this act of destruction, and see whether someone can get them a replacement statue for the parish church, so that the parishioners will once again be able to reflect on the life of the Blessed Virgin – someone whose life story so captivated the interest of St. Luke himself – and pray for the conversion of those who sought to harm God by such shocking, but ultimately futile efforts.

Detail of “St. Luke” by El Greco (c. 1605)
Cathedral of Santa Maria de Toledo, Spain


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Senility at the Cinema

Those who know me personally are very much aware of the fact that I rarely go to the movies, and it is extremely difficult to persuade me to see a film I have either not read about or have no interest in seeing.  This is not to say that I do not enjoy watching films – quite the contrary – but rather there is so much garbage foisted upon our screens, and so little in the way of accomplished art, that I prefer to wait until a film gathers a significant amount of well-written reviews, and then rent it so that I can enjoy and study it in the privacy of my own home.  And with my interest and extended family in Spain, the reader could be forgiven for thinking that I prefer films from that country.

Unfortunately, many of the Spanish films that have made it to these shores over the past few decades have been rubbish.  With a few notable exceptions, they mainly feature celebrations of moral relativism and depravity, or weave revisionist tales of the Spanish Civil War, where everyone on the left is some sort of martyr and everyone on the right – and particularly the Church – is evil incarnate.  Of course, how an atheist/relativist can make a logical determination as to what is good and what is evil is another question entirely, but we will leave that incongruity as it stands.

So I was rather surprised today to learn from an interview with the elderly, leftist Spanish film director Vicente Aranda that the reason contemporary Spanish cinema is so repulsively bad is because of Spanish conservatives. Yes, you read that correctly.  Despite the fact that virtually every major film coming out of Spain since the 1970′s has featured themes such as explicit sex and violence, mocking of the Church and traditional values, and the like, Aranda believes that  “the Spanish right refuses to see Spanish cinema”, that there are no Spanish intellectuals on the right, and therefore “the most important historical issue in the country, the Civil War, cannot be touched because the right thinks that a film about this issue is always leftist.”

Before we turn to these assertions, let us start with a bit of background on Aranda himself, who is what old-school conservative Catalans would call a “xarnego”. Despite living in Barcelona for most of his life, Aranda himself is not a Catalan, but a non-Catalan peasant from another part of Spain.  As you might expect, his family supported the left during the Spanish Civil War, and he briefly emigrated to Venezuela for several years due to the climate under the Franco regime that followed.

Aranda’s first film was, tellingly, about a young man from small-town Spain, who moves to Barcelona to try to enter the urban haute-bourgeoisie.  He ultimately fails, and moves to Paris, where supposedly he will be happier than with the stuck-up well-to-do in Barcelona. As my grandfather would say, “¿No quieres? No puedes.”

Although Aranda had a late start as a film director, he soon found his niche in the 1970′s as a purveyor of smut for the leftist intelligentsia, including “Clara es el Precio”, about a middle-class housewife who becomes a porn actress, “Cambio de Sexo”, about a boy who wants to have a sex change, and “La Muchacha de las Bragas de Oro”, about a right-wing writer who is seduced by his niece into committing incest.  He continued to gain in notoriety through the 1980′s and 90′s, but his more recent films, including 2007′s “Canciones de Amor en Lolita’s Club”, about twins having trysts with the same prostitute, and 2009′s “Luna Caliente”, about a man who rapes the daughter of his friend in the period of the late Franco regime, have been flops at the box office.

Aranda’s assertion that there are no intellectuals on the right in Spain is hardly worth consideration, for I doubt he could tell an intellectual from a dilettante if one bit him on the posterior.  What is truly laughable is his assertion that it is impossible to make films about the Spanish Civil War, because Spanish conservatives will not go see them.  No doubt they will not, but that is only because there is a complete lack of balance to treatment of the subject in contemporary Spanish cinema.

I am not sure what sort of cave Aranda lives in, but there have been many, many Spanish films about the Spanish Civil War made by Spanish directors in the post-Franco period, which I personally have seen over the past 20 years or so. And in every single example I have seen to date, the film in question has a leftist point of view, from “¡Ay Carmela!” and “Libertarias”, to “Las 13 Rosas” and “Los Girasoles Ciegos”. There is, in fact, a surfeit of films about what happened to Spain before, during, and after the Civil War, and all of them favor, either explicitly or implicitly, the left’s side of the story. Aranda’s assertion that it is impossible to make films about this period is ludicrous, and not borne out by the facts.

While Aranda is no doubt correct in stating that your average, conservative, church-going Spaniard does not want to see films such as the ones he himself tends to make, this is probably because such a person does not want to have to wash out their brain with bleach and a scrub brush after seeing the filth which Aranda typically puts on the screen. However, the fact that Aranda himself is increasingly proving to be a failure as a director cannot be laid at the feet of conservatives who do not want to see his films. If the new, moral relativist Spain, which Aranda and those of his ilk helped to bring about does not want to patronize his work, perhaps it is because, like most men of his age, Aranda has lost his powers.

Unlike many conservatives, I do not necessarily eschew seeing a film that has a point of view very different from my own. However, I do feel that I am perhaps a bit more intellectually prepared for what I am to be shown, even if I am still shocked by the depravity that often passes for art in the present climate. Yet what I absolutely cannot stand is the assertion that if such art is not attracting an audience, that the problem is the audience, rather than the artist himself. It seems to me that if Aranda is dissatisfied with the state of Spanish cinema, that he has only himself to blame for turning it into the unwatchable, sideshow freak of an art form that it is today – and perhaps it is high time for him to pack up and head off to the retirement home, where he belongs.

Interior of the historic Cinema Coliseum in Barcelona


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