Sunday, 25 June 2006

Down but not out

Well, there is no doubt about it. The votes have been counted and the ‘Yes’ camp has won. Convincingly. It doesn’t matter that half of the electorate did not bother to turn up and vote. If anything, it shows that only 50% of voters care about the nation/country/region/ they happen to live in.

We can argue endlessly about how the media is controlled by the Spanish Socialists; that the ‘No’ camp has not been given a chance to put their point across; we can argue about the betrayal of CiU and how they sold us to Spain; we can argue about PM Zapatero and how he and his party have lied to us and failed to keep their word… and so on. I could go on forever but it does not matter anymore. The watered-down Estatut has been approved, President Maragall (that egotistical, unreformed drunk) is not up for re-election and that the PSC (Catalan socialists) have been finally taken over, formally, by the PSOE (Spanish socialists). Their candidate at the next Catalan elections will be José Montilla, a Spanish socialist, former mayor of Cornellà, a non-descript suburb south of Barcelona. Many years ago, when I was still living in Catalonia, Cornellà de Llobregat had a thriving town centre, full of shops and life. Now, out-of-town shopping malls are everywhere, the city centre is a wasteland of empty streets and local businesses have all but disappeared. Cornellà could be like any UK High town: multinationals have driven local firms out of business, the High St a ghost of what it was. Sadly, perhaps this is what the Spanish socialists (PSC-PSOE) have now in mind for the rest of the country: squeeze small businesses out of the market, make sure people enjoy the same shopping experience as someone in Madrid or Sevilla, and remove any symbols of a separate local identity, be it in business and commerce, cultural, media or linguistically.

This is a sad state of affairs and no amount of political analysis will help to explain why we have voted for a new Estatut that consolidates our submission, politically, economically and culturally, to Spain.

Spain, slowly but surely, its getting is way after 300 years of oppression. The homeland is divided: País Valencia now a suburb of Madrid, its environment destroyed by overdeveloping, Spain is successfully making sure the local language disappears from even the rural areas, any sign of our shared heritage removed from the history books; then we have the Balearics, Mallorca being a little Britain or Germany colony, again the language being phased out of schools and public life; in Catalunya Nord (Rosselló, the northern counties ruled by France) the language has already all but disappeared, slain by centuries of French Jacobinism. Catalan heritage being now nothing more than a tourist attraction, a curiosity from history.

Is this the future that awaits Catalonia? I am afraid that is what our Spanish masters have in store for us. They will reduce us to a Gaudi-Picasso-Miró-Dalí theme park, a place where, in he past, annoying people insisted in being different, before finally realising their ways and giving up on such a futile battle. We will become, finally, after 300 years, just another province of Spain, just like Andalucia or La Rioja.

It would be too easy to blame Spain for our ills. They have been trying for centuries and they are only doing what is best for them. The problem lies clearly at our door. After centuries of institutionalised Spanish oppression, our ruling classes have become ever more coward and submissive. The migratory waves of the Franco years, and now the immigration from South America, Africa and Europe are taking its toll on the survival of the language and culture, the very thing that glues us together, that keeps the sense of nationhood and identity alive. Being a province of Spain, financially robbed, we do not have the resources to invest in ensuring the survival of our culture. And even when we can, like the recent local TV licensing rights, we choose to reward the powerful Spanish-speaking media groups.

Some people still think that Spain will one day change its ways and become like Canada, where the state looks after both Quebecois/French and English languages. They are deluding themselves, thinking that the enemy that has worked so hard for centuries to ensure that we cease to exist as people, suddenly will see the benefits of multi-lingual education and abandon its pursuit of a Spanish-only speaking Spain, erasing any sense of Basque or Catalan nationhood.

It is a difficult battle; our opponent is powerful and ruthless. They have had the upper hand for the best part of three centuries. We are now weakened, powerless, divided and poor after centuries of robbery.

There will be elections soon, I just hope that the only party that stands for us, the only party that defends our interests has a better polling and becomes crucial, again, to form government. The battle will be formidable: the big media groups will criminalise them, portray them as people unfit for office. The media onslaught will be formidable. But after centuries of persecution, oppression, civil wars, dictatorship, and cultural cleansing, we are still alive and kicking. We are down, badly, but we shall keep on fighting.