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OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Funny times

Calls for the Spanish king to abdicate because he likes to shoot animals are proof that neurosis is now the norm

In the New York Times Thursday supplement I read a good definition of our times in an article on the decline of neurosis. A psychiatrist, Barbara Milrod, said that "We are living in funny times, and if you think that things make sense, it is probably because you aren't right in the head." Another, Peter Stearns, said: "I think that some of the qualities we used to attribute to neurotics have simply become normal. We are so accustomed to people having irrational fears and obsessions, that the category has become obsolete."

In other words, if everyone is neurotic or hysterical, then nobody is perceived as such. Or only the sane, who deviate from the norm, seem maladjusted. If everyone habitually lied, the word liar would cease to have meaning, and whoever told the truth would be viewed as antisocial and subversive. I don't think we are far from that. Neurosis has faded out of view because of the sheer superabundance of neurotics. Anger and insults are so common as to practically escape our notice. People in Spain seem to keep the shotgun of disproportion and outrage perpetually loaded, just in case somebody happens to step over their private red line. What used to be called a neurotic was known for according tremendous importance to what was entirely lacking in it, and was thus perpetually walking barefoot over hot coals. The king's visit to Botswana has brought a storm of sound and fury from these people - formerly neurotics and hysterics, only now their reactions are seen as normal.

There are many activities that I would just as soon did not exist; but I do not foam at the mouth because they have not been abolished

When it became known that Juan Carlos had gone to Botswana to shoot elephants, and that it was not the first time, several of my columnist colleagues, mainly female, started yelling that it was time the king stepped down or to abolish the monarchy. Talk show talkers, commentators, writers of letters to the editor joined in the chorus.

I have never hunted, nor do I take particular pleasure in the conversation of people who talk about hunting. They might save their lead, for all I care. Even less congenial is the thought of people who travel long distances for the satisfaction of shooting down big game of kinds not to be found in Spain. But I do not consider that my personal opinion ought to prevail over that of others to the extent of having these things prohibited, or of having those who like them punished or expelled. There are many activities that I would just as soon did not exist; but I manage not to foam at the mouth because they have not yet been abolished. Shooting a buffalo or an elephant (which, indeed, are protected or actually bred on these reserves for the purpose of safaris, as bulls are for the bullfight) is one thing. But what about the death penalty that exists in many countries? I see none of my colleagues calling on Obama to resign, because no enlightened man could preside over a country where some young men, on reaching adulthood, are executed for crimes they committed as minors.

In view of the king's objectionable hobby (shooting large animals), all other considerations are disregarded. Suddenly this king is no good any more, or we don't want a monarchy at all. I am not a monarchist, but I would be very hard put to see what was funny about it if our head of state were José María Aznar, Esperanza Aguirre or José Bono (political figures who might easily be chosen for the role). Yes, the king's safari leaves a bad taste. But it is vastly disproportionate, and a thing of neurotics and hysterics, to say that this makes him unfit or invalidates the institution he represents - in which he has not performed badly.

But in this country everyone has his (metaphorical) shotgun perpetually loaded, just in case a trophy piece, preferably big game, comes within range. Yes, we are living in funny times. What's worst about it is that, in Spain, people feel that they are in their element.

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