Monday, August 12, 2013

Mariano's Island In The Sun

Stephanie Banister is (was) a candidate in the Australian election. Innocence or ignorance of youth might explain Ms. Banister's loose grip on geography. More likely was the ignorance of the lunatic right. Ms. Banister, 27, is a member of the One Nation Party. She thinks that Islam is a country, a gaffe that has contributed to her withdrawing her candidacy for a seat in Queensland, a state once dominated by Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who appeared to believe that Queensland was part of apartheid South Africa and who could have taught even Spain's politicians a thing or two about corruption.

Ms. Banister can at least console herself that she is not alone. She is the distant cousin of other rightist, global geographical ignoramuses, Sarah Palin and George W. Or maybe she thinks she isn't so distant and believes that Queensland has in fact been relocated to redneck America (not of course that there is anywhere that is officially redneck America in geographical terms). Given her knowledge, Ms. Banister probably wouldn't be able to tell you where Mallorca is. Again, though, she wouldn't be alone. Nor can the prime minister of Spain.

While politicians of varying colours fret about the imposition of TIL, the integrated treatment of languages, they might prefer to improve the educational system by adopting GIL, the integrated treatment of geography, and make Mariano sit his Spanish geography 101. "Now, Mariano, see this thing in the Mediterranean. It's an island and it begins with an M. Not these other ones - Menorca or Malta - this one. What's its name?" "Erm, Palma."

Heralding as he does from Galicia, a part of Spain that is about as far away as you can get from Mallorca, premier Rajoy might be excused his little "lapse" but, hang on, Mariano's a football fan, admittedly not an ultra with Galicia's Deportivo but one of Real Madrid's prawn-sandwiches brigade, so, and if only because of La Liga (before relegation), he should be aware that it is Real Mallorca and not Real Palma. 

Rajoy's little lapse occurred during a press briefing following his chinwag with the King at the Marivent last week. "The island of Palma", he said, thus confirming what many believe, which is that Palma is all that matters in Mallorca. Gaffe it was, but was it attributable to a toponymic slip or does Mariano simply have no comprehension of geography?

It is possible that he doesn't and that he took to heart his introduction at the UN's Rio+20 conference last summer as the first minister of the Solomon Islands as well as the subsequent invitation from the head of those islands' visitor-bureau general manager of an official residence on the islands. Ah but, does he know where the Solomon Islands are? South of Mallorca maybe. No, sorry, south of the island of Palma.

It is equally possible that Mariano had been confused and unnerved by an item on the agenda with Juan Carlos, the small matter of smokescreen affairs of state relating to Gibraltar. Perhaps he had confused a lump of rock that isn't an island with a larger lump of rock that is and had thought that he was in fact on Gibraltar. Not having a clue where he was, all he had to go by was a piece of promotional literature for "passion for Palma de Mallorca" shoved into his hand by Mateo Isern. Ah, Palma, the island of Palma. Or is it La Palma? That's an island as well. Isn't it? Now, where's that?

Rajoy observers can testify to the prime minister being unnerved every time he comes within muttering distance of a microphone boom. He was unnerved during his press briefing because he is always nervous. He tries to cover this up by being belligerent but he ends up sounding surly. He knew what questions would arise: Gibraltar, financing for the Balearics and the B-question. The financing is "complicated", as many things are for Mariano; it is one of his stock responses. The Barcenas question received a curt "no". As an exercise in PR, the briefing was as charmless as a monosyllabic Kevin Pietersen being taken to task for whatever his latest grievance with the press is.

Rajoy should lighten up, crack a few gags. He could take a lesson from David Warner, who has achieved what would have seemed impossible, namely endearing himself to a British cricket-loving audience and a cricket-writing media. But then, Warner isn't from Queensland, so he may know something about geography like he knows something about working his audience. Mariano doesn't and he doesn't even know where he is. 

Any comments to please.

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