What the Spanish Do Right
Spain’s beauty and community culture have lessons to offer the U.S .
In Pamplona, men fell like Skittles in the midst of the seething crowd sprinting down the street while the bulls chased after them.
At the bottom of the Spanish news channel providing the footage were emblazoned the words !Viva San Fermin!–Long live Saint Fermin!–in whose honor the crazy tradition of the Running of the Bulls occurs each July (this year’s event was particularly spirited after the Covid fun police cancelled the last two).
Everyone–the running men and the broadcasters–seemed like they were having a great time. It was a bizarre, irreverent, and very uplifting sight that I have never seen before. This was the opposite of what the West, especially the U.S. has been promoting these days: safetyism and risk-aversion theft. It left many fearful and rageful.
Since being driven by lockdowns into an 11-month Camino odyssey around the Iberian Peninsula, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to get to know the Spanish better. Comparisons have been drawn when I’ve returned to the U.S. It is obvious that the Spanish do a lot right. This has many lessons to offer the U.S. as well as other wealthy countries such my home country, U.K.
It is evident at two levels, the physical and personal. The beauty of the United States is unmatched by Spain’s diverse and beautiful landscape. The most striking difference between the two is at the physical level. This can be seen in how the Spanish live and manage their cities. Even in busy cities, there is this clear application and abundance of beauty and style.
You will find potted plants, hanging baskets and flowers on your balconies or outside of front doors. Every bar is unique because of its beautiful design and weaving traditions. The staff are professional and polite, even in areas that appeal to a more edgy crowd. There is no emotional manipulation like in U.S bars where surly bartenders make you feel as though they did your best by serving you bland and overpriced beer.
Spanish streets tend to be clean and free from the stench of urine or marijuana that is becoming more prominent in U.S. towns. These striking statues are bold and unaffected. It’s not like Spanish cities lack a rebellious side. Although there is an alternative scene and radical crowd, their nonconformism appears to be infused with real alternative style and well-thought-through principles.
As Pat Buchanan pointed out in his column “Symptoms Of a Dying Nation”, it was Edmund Burke, who stated that one should love one’s nation. Spain is a land of loveliness. It’s so beautiful that even non-Spaniards can fall in love. It is not a pleasant place to be in the U.S., especially New York City and San Francisco. The absence of love has been replaced with nihilism, narcissism and caterwauling.
Then, you can add your personal touch. A table of Down-syndrome sufferers was sitting across from me at a Seville bar, laughing as they drank canas of beer. Locals also came to visit the table and had a chat. Another trip to Seville saw an elegantly dressed woman pass the table, carrying a pram, from which a young girl with Down syndrome smiled at me and gave her a friendly wave.
Arresting images. It’s not something I see often, and I’m not sure if it’s you but there aren’t many Down-synthetic adults interacting so easily with others in U.S. cities or elsewhere. I also don’t see very young Down syndrome children these days.
It is also striking to see how Spanish people include everyone in outdoor events. The elderly aren’t sent to nursing homes or kept as much as they can in their community. It is common to see elderly walking down the streets with their adult children supporting them. While I don’t think Americans make less effort to take care of their elderly, it isn’t my intention. There is an obvious gap.
This disparity includes young girls and boys walking together down the street, usually holding hands. The patriarchy has already conditioned the boy to be protective of his younger brother, shockingly. Assisting their mothers, girls push prams that have baby siblings inside them. These scenes are rare in modern metropolises in America and Northern Europe.
One reason that Spanish cities are alive with vibrancy–involving all socio-economic groups–is the fact that eating out and drinking in Spain is easy for everyone, regardless of their income. This is a fundamental law of economics. It’s a simple law of economics: If you price it right, they will come. There will be an atmosphere of community.
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When you pay your bill in Spain for a bar or restaurant, you think: That’s a fair price. I got my money worth. This is an old-fashioned model of business where both the customer and proprietor exit the exchange with only what they have received. You get a few glasses of wine, and in some Spanish cities you can also enjoy tapas. This is a far different experience than the typical American bar/restaurant experience. You feel somewhat deprived, and the high prices must be weighed against other bills or debts. This is where economics and human psychology meet. The hardening American heart will be evident as the economic woes begin to take its toll.
“So long as your standard of living is rising, you can watch and listen to the world’s concerns with a degree of equanimity,” Douglas Murray notes in an article for the Spectator.
“But if the reverse happens, and you feel that you are on the financial slide,”
Spain’s climate has many advantages. Its long history and beautiful architecture have left them some of their outdoor culture. The U.S. is becoming a more dire alternative to Spain’s sense of happiness and joy as the gap grows, however.