Couto Mixto: The 700-Year-Old Independent Galician Microstate

Dani Keral in Traveler.es on what might have been the first democratic territory in Europe (Spanish):

Couto Mixto was something incredible for its time, almost unexplainable. Formed by the towns of Meaus, Santiago and Rubiás [now located in the present-day municipalities of Calvos de Randín and Baltar], the territory of just 30 square kilometers began to be governed independently of both crowns.

In the Couto, no kings of feudal lords ruled, it was the townspeople themselves — the heads of the family — who elected a judge or political chief every three winters, who was assisted by three men from each village, os homes do acordo.

Check out the Wikipedia for more Couto Mixto in English.

A Republic Without the Public

Rob Wijnberg from the Correspondent admonishing the news media to stop treating the United States as if it’s a democracy should be required reading:

It would be a major misconception to assume that the downfall of US democracy started in November 2016, when Trump was elected. In fact, it’s the other way around: the first openly kleptocratic president moving into the White House marked the consummation of its decay, not its initial conception.

Born from theft, built on slavery, held together by self-deception, the United States has grown to become the richest poor country in the history of humankind. It is a country that has violence in its DNA, inequality embedded in its genes, and a completely mythical self-image as its national identity.

It’s a country with the world’s highest GDP, where 40 million people live below the poverty line. The only industrialised nation on the planet without universal healthcare, any real social welfare system or decent retirement provisions. The only free nation where 1 in 40 adults are behind bars and which has more guns in circulation than people living within its borders. The only western economy where the richest three inhabitants hold more wealth than the poorest half of the entire population.

There’s so much here but one of our great faults as a nation is the utterly unearned exceptionalism.

  • Iran is a dangerous theocracy ruled by ayatollahs, but one Supreme Court justice’s passing is the difference between democracy and fascism.
  • West African states are corrupt and driven by cults of personality, but when the the president and congress do it, it’s somehow both abnormal but par for the course because, politics.

And on and on.

We aren’t honest to ourselves about our country. Which is why I think journalism like Slate’s If It Happened There series is important, because it highlights how complicit our media is, intentionally or otherwise, in our myth-making.

Alberto Garzón on the Spanish Right

Tommy Greene and Eoghan Gilmartin interviewed Consumer Affairs minister and Izquierda Unida leader Alberto Garzón for Jacobin on the Spanish Right’s refusal to accept the current governmental coalition:

You have to remember that the right wing in our country does not have democratic origins. It is not like the mainstream right in France or Germany, where there is, at least in part, an anti-fascist tradition. The Spanish right hasn’t looked to isolate the extreme right, as German chancellor Angela Merkel has done. In Spain, the right-wing parties broker power-sharing agreements and govern with the extreme right [at the regional level].

They conceive of Spain as their own patrimony, in which they are the arbiters of who is truly Spanish and who is a patriot or not. Their vision of the country doesn’t allow for a party like ours [Unidas Podemos] to be in government — it’s a kind of coup d’état, in their eyes, that we are governing Spain at present. They’ve called us traitors, criminals, terrorists, assassins — they have raised the level of discursive belligerence in public life to the point whereby its polarizing consequences have seeped into and are felt in almost all sectors of Spanish society. You can see this in the ongoing campaign of harassment against deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias and equality minister Irene Montero [with members of the far-right camped outside their family home for the last three months].

A Fugitive Old King and an ‘Impossible’ Republic

Following Juan Carlos I’s quick exit and self-exile (Portugal, Dominican Republic, perhaps Abu Dhabi?) to prevent more bad publicity for la casa real, some are wondering what the future of the Spanish Crown holds.

My wife has nurtured a strong opposition towards the Spanish royals much longer than I have.

What I did not know, however, was the constitution from 1978, the one written during the transition from the Francoist state into an ostensible democracy, makes it practically impossible to hold a popular referendum on the monarchy and construct a third republic. “Armor-clad,” says Alberto Lardíes of the monarchy. He should know, he wrote a book on the called The Borbon Democracy.

Aitor Hernández-Morales in Politico:

In order to hold a referendum on the monarchy, two-thirds of members of the Spanish Congress and Senate would have to vote in favor of the proposal, and immediately afterward the parliament would have to be dissolved. Two-thirds of the successor Congress and Senate would have to ratify the same motion, and only then would it go before the Spanish public — which would have to vote in its favor to make it successful.

Monarchies are old world systems that need to be abolished entirely. It will be an interesting September, when Spanish republican factions will start mobilizing.

How Starship Troopers Aligns With Our Moment of American Defeat

David Roth in The New Yorker:

For most of “Starship Troopers,” humanity, in every possible facet, gets its ass kicked. A culture that reveres and communicates exclusively through violence—a culture very much like one that responds to peaceful protests with indiscriminate police brutality, or whose pandemic strategy is to “dominate” an unreasoning virus—keeps running up against its own self-imposed limitations. Once again, the present has caught up to Verhoeven’s acid vision of the future. It’s not a realization that anyone in the film can articulate, or seemingly even process, but the failure is plain: society has left itself a single solution to every problem, and it doesn’t work.

Donald Trump didn’t empty American politics of everything but violence; he’s just what was left afterward. He is more an emblem of American defeat than its author. The world of “Starship Troopers” aligns with our moment in its wastefulness and brutality, and most of all in being so helplessly recursive.