Madrid notes

Yesterday for the first time we drove to Madrid (we usually take the train, but track work is interrupting service), about 600 kilometers from Carboneras, which in our Smart For Two means only 45 liters of gasoline, so the shock of the record-high price (over €1.25 a liter for 95 octane) was puny compared to what it means for truckers and fishermen, both of whom are on or about to go on strike in many parts of Spain. The fishermen are caught between two big problems: the high price of gasoil, and the low price that the big buyers are paying for their product (plus that other problem that they prefer to ignore, the declining availability due to over-fishing). They are demanding that the government do something, and want to make consumers suffer (by shortages of goods that are not shipped) so that they will pressure the government, but what the government can do is not much. Fuel taxes in Spain are already much lower than in most of the rest of the European Union, and Spain has little to say about the price of imported oil. Long-run remedies (e.g., converting to other forms of fuel or changing the ways goods are transported) will be very long run and fiercely resisted by those with a stake in the present way of doing things. So the big truckers strike scheduled for tomorrow is just a futile expression of frustration.

Which reminds us of other futile outburst of frustration, where anger and violence have been directed at irrelevant targets. And that brings to mind the show we saw today at the Musel del Prado, Goya in Times of War.

It covers Goya's many genres from 1794 to 1820, but the highlights are the two large, famous canvases of "The 2nd of May, 1808" and "The 3rd of May, 1808," given special attention on the 200th anniversary of those bloody events in Madrid. On the second of May the common people and especially the poor rose up in a furious attack on the troops loyal to the French king, José Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother); on the third, those forces of order responded with brutal reprisals. Goya's paintings cry out against the irrational violence of both days -- wild and uncontrolled in the first scene, cruelly disciplined in the second. They are wonderful, frightening paintings, now meticulously repaired from the damage they suffered when they had to be evacuated from the bombings by Nationalist (and German and Italian) forces during the Spanish Civil War, another example of great destructive rage directed against the wrong targets. On the 2nd of May, killing French soldiers was not going to reduce hunger in Madrid; and the reprisals on the 3rd weren't going to help, either.

Goya knew about the horrors of war, which he portrayed in series of drawings and engravings. Makes us think of Baghdad.

Anyway, all these things are far more serious than the transport strike is likely to be, though who knows -- such deliberate disruptions of normal life can go wildly out of control, escalating to enormous violence.