Saturday, June 01, 2013

What Civilization Means to Me

“I found myself in the visitors' bar at Granada jail – a shiny, modern building sticking up, incongruously, out of fields of olive trees twenty miles from the city...A British photographer had asked to come along. 'Wherever I go [in Spain] they have a bar,' he said. And he was right. That morning we had had breakfast – freshly squeezed orange juice and thick, toasted rolls drowned in a garlic-flavoured olive oil and tomato pulp – at the bar in the Renault dealership in Seville. There are said to be more than 138,000 bars in Spain. This is as many as the rest of Western Europe put together. The prison was doing its bit to keep the numbers up.” - Giles Tremlett, Ghosts of Spain (Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 160.

If, as Dostoyevsky once wrote, one may judge a civilization by its prisons – and by its pubs – then modern Spain is many centuries ahead of the United States.

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