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Camino Blog 3 – Finally Here

There are occasions – yesterday afternoon for one – when I proselytize Europe.  I mean I find someone who has never been and get on my horse about how they should go.  My Uber driver on the way to Atlanta airport.
“It’s different, really different.”  I tell him.  “It’s clear that this [picture me grandly waving at all of North America] is not the world.”
Well, in some material ways, it’s less different that it was when I toured as a callow youth.  But, in some interesting ways, it’s actually more different from America than it was then.

One great similarity is the ascendency of English as the lingua Franca of the world.  Interesting phrase – conveys the fact that, at one time, French was the language of sophisticated internationalism.  Now, English signs are everywhere and mangled translations accompany every public announcement.  Most people here can do a better job of making themselves clear in English than I can in “Spanish” even with my extensive 24 hour study of the language on the way over.
And the prevalence of American popular culture is blanketing the conscious of formerly proud national cultures.  That’s the export that has replaced manufacturing – computer stuff, movies and pop songs…
I sat in a cafe during my enforced 4 hour layover in the Madrid train station.  Across the way – a Burger King proudly proclaimed “flame BBQ for you since 1954”. Seemed doubly out of whack with the heart of Spain – I mean both the outlet and the message.  But that’s okay…

On to the difference!  Cause in my cafe, there was some dandy bullfighting on TV!  I’m sorry but I’m totally consumed with bullfighting.  And what a fight I saw, including all the pathos, elegance, taste of tragedy, courageous daring and sad eventuality that ritual can contain.
A corrida – hey, I honestly thought they had done away with the pursuit, that it had been banned by the animal people – consisting of 3 bullfighters dispatching 2 bulls each was shown on national TV.
Sure parts of the spectacle can be tough to watch.  But this afternoon, between head bobs as the jet lag took hold, there was an epic – one of the best fights I’ve ever witnessed.
Yes, the bull comes out full of spirit.  And yes, there is a little running and capework in front of this snorter.  Then come the picadors, to artfully place their long darts in the shoulder, slowing it down. A little more capework with picadors running behind protective barriers.  And then the gratuitous goring by the horsebound guys – hard to take.  But, in the spectacle [it’s not a sport…] this seems necessary to the main event.
The matador, the arrogant balletic star in his suit of lights takes over.  With close capework, I mean close, he profoundly dares the bull and slips aside to just dodge the anticipated charge.  Until this chap…
A reaction shot of an anxious female beholder holding her breath with mouth stopped by hand.  Then…
I guess the bull zagged when he thought it was going to zig.  In a heart stopping moment, the star was hoist, flipped right over the bull’s horns, then bleeding in the sawdust.
The picadors, acting like rodeo clowns [now there’s a sport] to protect their man, divert the bull and raise the matador.  Two clear piercings – blood coming through below the shoulders of his outfit.  In a consummate resurrection, he actually collected himself and came back to complete the bull in most elegant fashion.  Needless to say, the crowd went wild.
He was awarded two ears – the highest commendation, as he gritted and staggered around the ring collecting laud.  And, in a grand gesture of honouring, he kissed his palm and patted the haunch of the animal as the now dead bull was hauled past him by draft horses.  AND he returned for his second bull, blood stains and all…
So, we’re not in Kansas…..

Now I’m clipping along at a handsome 189 km/hour on the train from Madrid to Leon.

Last time I was here 8 years ago, we heard about the grand investment being made.  Spain never had fast trains like France and others.  But with the help of the EEC, they put on a hell of an infrastructure push and the result is super smooth, lightning trains extending over the whole country.   I mean they really went for it – tunnels under every hill, welded rails, new right of way, fast rolling stock.  So, for those who’ve never been on trains here, a city Center no-security airplane-like rocket now connects major urban outlets all over the continent.
The effect is transformative.  Suddenly the country is much more knit together – economically and socially.
Better – and improving – European and Asian infrastructure is a big contrast to North America.  A pet peeve arises when our people don’t spend time paying attention to what’s going on elsewhere in the world.  We think the way we approach the challenges of organizing society and business is the only way it should be done, or can be done!  In our continental self-absorption and smugness, our slow slipping vortex is not registering.
Our rotting highways, overtaxed airways, slow internet – we’re so immersed in our world, we have no idea how out of step we are.  I keep hearing from folks who visit China that they are not just impressed with the audacity of what has been achieved there, but embarrassed that we show so poorly next to their burgeoning society.  Likewise here.  Europeans have a different notion of the role of government – they actually believe it is a legitimate vehicle to get things done.  And China and Singapore – well, government is a real factor as they pull ahead to set the conditions in which they can own the future.  They orchestrate collective futures!
Our government is an invalid, irrelevant theatre of legalism and adversarial short term reaction with an extra cherry on top:  absurd focus on sideshow issues that don’t matter.  We haven’t had leaders who want to push to catch us up for decades!
Hey, we just hit 205!  I’ll be in Leon before you know it.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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