Friday, 20 July 2007

Spanish censorship alive and well (II)

Well, one things we know for sure: we cannot say that Spanish/Catalan politics are boring. Definitely not boring.

Yesterday, the Catalan chairman of the PP (Josep Piqué) and secretary (Francesc Vendrell) resigned. Huge coverage in the press:
Avui (Catalan)
Vilaweb (Catalan, with links to other media)
El Periodico (Catalan, Spanish)
El País (Spanish)
El Punt (Catalan)
Resignation letter from Piqué (Spanish)
For your translations, you can use the on-line translator in the Generalitat website or Translendium.

This event has huge significance for Catalan and Spanish politics as it signals a radicalisation (yes, I know, even more than until now…) of the discourse of the Partido Popular. This could have disastrous consequences for the party in Catalonia, where it is already a marginal force. They may attract a sector of the electorate which feels alienated by the “moderation” of the recently deposed leadership, but the new extremist line will alienate the most moderate sector of their electorate which will go, undoubtably, to CiU or to a lesser extent to the PSC-PSOE.

But just as we were coming to terms with the internal coup in the Partido Popular in Catalonia (the hardliners in Madrid are now in charge), another massive story breaks out: a judge in Madrid has decreed a prohibition order (secuestration) on satirical magazine El Jueves. The media is full of this, it is a massive story. It is unbelievable, an episode of Francoist censorship in the 21st century, but then again, this is Spain! As regular reader Roger wrote a few days ago, Spain is more like Turkey and less like a Western democracy.

A judge in Madrid has decreed, following a request from the Prosecution Service, that the latest edition of satirical magazine El Jueves contains a cartoon that is defamatory and libelious towards the Príncipe Felipe and his wife and the Monarchy. The official document is available in Vilaweb, via this link (PDF file in Spanish). Believe or not, this action has been instigated by the Prosecution Service (Fiscalía) and Judge del Olmo, known for his Spanish nationalism, has followed the Fiscal instructions without hesitation. Freedom of expression? This is Spain my friend!

A satirical magazine (similar to Viz in the UK), which has published hundreds of cartoons about the Monarchy before, gets a sequestration order, with Spanish Police raiding newsagents and bookshops. Yet, media outlets which promulgate hatred and bile everyday, like radio network Cadena COPE and Libertad Digital are allowed to regurgitate their anti-Catalan, anti-Basque extremism, their fascist message of hatred against anyone who does not agree with them, and get away scot-free.

As I have mentioned several times (one, two, three and four) in this blog, in Spain you can be an extremist and enjoy freedom of expression to the limit –as long as you are on the side of the Spanish State. In practice it means that Batasuna are banned but all the openly fascist parties like Falange, Democracia Nacional, are allowed.

I wonder how long it will take the international press to report on this shocking event. Spanish democracy? Don’t make me laugh! (and five) .

Well, the BBC has been first! (Friday night)
The Times and The Guardian has been second (Saturday editions)
Other media: France 24, and International Herald Tribune. (By the way, according to the IHT, Franco was still in power in 1977....)

The cartoon is available below; the text goes something like this and it follows the Government's announcement of granting a benefit of €2,500 for every new child:

While shagging Letizia from behind, Príncipe Felipe says:
- “Do you realise? If you fall pregnant… this is going to be the most similar thing to a full day’s work I have done in my life!!”

There must be a better translation, it does not read well in English, does it?

If you want to see the cartoon, several websites have started scanning and uploading the whole magazine into the Web, before the Spanish State makes it an illegal publication. There are rumours that some people are already selling it on eBay.

Here is my contribution to freedom of expression...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


This is an article dedicated to my friends with whom I shared the last weekend in June. It was a fantastic occasion, and I hope we all meet up again. It is also for the groom’s friends who had to put up with a couple of drunk numpties at the back of a coach shouting extremist anti-Catalan abuse.
It is a bilingual article, first English version, then version in Catalan.

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I have been quite busy over the last few weeks, which explains the lack of postings. Late in June, I went to a wedding in Reus, a city near Tarragona, and that weekend is going to be the conduit for this post.

The groom is a Catalan lad. He met his wife in Glasgow, Scotland, while on Erasmus. A group of guys, all friends of the groom went to the wedding. We are all from different areas of Spain. We all met in Glasgow while working for a doomed internet bank. Some travelled from the UK, others from the south of Spain. We all have differing political views, but we are all good friends and it was a wonderful occasion to meet up again.

But this weekend reunion with my friends also made me realise that there is no hope of Spain ever becoming a modern western, civilised, truly democratic, respectful of its cultural and linguistic diversity, at-ease-with-itself, multilingual and multinational state. Never has happened and never will. Many Spaniards favour an expression that roughly translates thus: “Nationalism is an illness that is cured travelling” (El nacionalismo se cura viajando). What they don’t realise is that their nationalism has no cure. It is embedded in the Spanish psyche, inherent to the existence of the Spanish state in its present form since the Wars of Succession 1700-1715. It does not matter if a Spaniard is well educated and has travelled around Europe. Spanish nationalism is very persistent.

For most of my dear friends, Catalan language is a nuisance, not something to be cherished or protected by the Spanish State. In Spain, in Spanish, end of story. For them, anyone speaking Catalan in public is a show of defiance, an example that something has not been “resolved” in Spain. The mere existence of Catalan language in the same terms as Spanish in some aspects of public life in Catalonia irks them and fills them with animosity.

When one suggests that if Spain were like Switzerland or Canada language would not be an issue, they protest: “Canada, Belgium, Switzerland… bla, bla, bla, Spain is Spain cojones”. And that is the problem: Spain will never change. Spain will never accept Catalan culture and nationhood as an equal part of the Spanish State cultural framework. It never has, it never will.

On the way back from the wedding, the groom’s friends sang some songs. The same songs people sing at every wedding. The same cheery, silly, embarrassing, apolitical, childish songs everyone sings at weddings throughout the world.

However, some of the songs, God forbid!, were in Catalan. Fuelled by alcohol, my esteemed friends’ true feelings came to the fore. A stream of abuse started, snide abusive remarks were made and the true extent of their disliking of anything Catalan became apparent. It is a great credit to the groom’s friends, to whom this post is dedicated, that there was not any confrontation despite the constant and unnecessary provocation. More so when you consider we were all pretty drunk. As for myself, I was sleeping for most the journey, trying to forget about the excruciating pain in my stomach. Only when I woke up and heard my friends embarrassing themselves, I realised what we, as Catalans, are against. Not even successful, educated, travelled people will accept Catalan as equal to Spanish in public life. For them, Catalan is a “family language”, a folkloric, slightly irritating historical legacy that is a thorn on Spain’s side. It is as if for some Spaniards the sound of Catalan being spoken pierces, literally, their ears.

The next day, when we were all sober and I was up for a good debate, we talked about politics. Nationalist Spaniards have a great arsenal of quotations, metaphors and paradigms to use when advancing their case. Fair enough, they have over 300 years of practising, developing their own national discourse, and the full support of their public and private TV stations and radio networks, and dozens of newspapers. We, tiny Catalans, with two TV stations controlled by the PSC-PSOE, and a handful of newspapers and radio stations, cannot compete in equal terms against Spain’s nationalist rhetoric.

My favourite one is when they use the artificial carve-up of Spain into 17 Autonomous Communities (administrative regions) to level down Catalonia to the same status as Murcia or La Rioja. By doing that they try to portray Catalonia as irritating and selfish. Or when they use the metaphor of the block of flats, and arguing that Catalonia is akin to the neighbour from hell; the one that wants to change the rules for everyone. (Perhaps we want our own key to open the door?) Language is obviously a favourite, and bilingualism is the greatest thing to happen to mankind… as long as it is confined to Catalonia, and more specifically to Catalan speakers. I always wonder… if bilingualism is so good, surely the Spanish State would make more of an effort to ensure EVERYONE in Spain was bilingual in two of the official languages of the Spanish State? Canada or Switzerland spring to mind.

And yes, you find the odd Spaniard who understands, the one that does not succumb to Spanish nationalism, the one who sees languages as mere tools of communication and not a political weapon. But they are the tiny, silent minority. For every Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón, there are 1000 Fraga, or Bono, or Acebes or Aznar. For every Spanish democrat, as understood in the true sense of the word, there are 1000 Spanish nationalists. And I keep saying this to my friends and they keep ignoring me: if Spain was like Switzerland, if Spain was a neighbourhood and not a prison, to keep the metaphor going, a pro-independence party like ERC would not be the third party in Catalonia. The truth, my dear Spanish friends, is that the PP, the main representative of Spanish nationalism, is a marginal party in Catalonia, and most people regard the PP for what they are: a bunch of unreconstructed Francoist who would not hesitate to send the Army to Catalonia to crush the wish of the people. Again. Like their forefathers did.

I am sorry, my own parents are immigrants from the south of Spain, but this enforced union has not worked, it is not working and will never work. We should follow separate paths as nations, each freely to choose its own destiny. Spain is Spain and will never change, and Catalonia is Catalonia and probably it will never change. We should part amicably. We should be free of each other. Catalonia tried to change Spain and some still do, like CiU. It is a mistake. Catalonia should leave Spain behind and join the club of the free nations in Europe. We should be friends and good neighbours. Nothing more, nothing less.

This post is for all of the groom’s friends that were inside that coach. And also to the ones that were not there but have probably heard about the disrespectful, abusive and quasi-fascist chants coming from the back of the coach: there is no hope for Catalonia in Spain. No Hope. Nope. The only hope for Catalonia is to become an independent state in the EU. Sovereignty and Independence. Via democratic means. Dialogue, negotiation, debate, “federalism” do not work. Spain does not want to become a federalist state like Germany or Switzerland or Belgium or Canada. Catalonia should not try to change Spain again.

Remember your history lessons at High School. The Lliga Regionalista tried to “reform” Spain, but it did not work; then it was the pre-Civil War ERC, with Macia and Companys, who tried to “engage” with Spain; and after the end of Franco’s 40 year dictatorship, it was CiU who tried to “explain” it to Spain. They achieved nothing. It has been over 100 years of different Catalan moderate parties trying to make Spain more like the rest of Europe. It has not worked, it is not working. Look at the PSOE or PP: as the great Josep Pla said: “nothing is more alike to a right-wing Spaniard than a left-wing Spaniard”.

It will never work. Let’s give up on Spain. Let’s secure Catalonia’s future in Europe as a free nation.
Sense esperança

He estat bastant ocupat durant les darreres setmanes, la qual cosa explica la manca d’articles. Cap a finals de juny, vaig anar a un casament a Reus, una ciutat prop de Tarragona, i aquell cap de setmana serà el fil conductor d’aquest article.

El nuvi és un noi català. Un grup de xicots, tots amics del nuvi vàrem anar al casament. Som tots de diferents àrees de l’Estat espanyol. Tots nosaltres ens varem trobar a Glasgow mentre treballàvem per un internet bank condemnat al fracàs. Alguns viatjàvem des de el Regne Unit, altres des del sud d'Espanya. Tots nosaltres tenim diferent idees polítiques, però tots som bons amics i va ser una ocasió meravellosa trobar-se una altra vegada.

Però aquest cap de setmana de reunió amb els meus amics també ha fet adonar-me que no hi ha cap esperança que Espanya mai es transformi en un estat occidental modern, civilitzat, veritablement democràtic, respectuós de la seva diversitat cultural i lingüística, sense por de si mateix, multilingüe i multinacional. Mai no ha passat i mai no passarà. Molts espanyols afavoreixen una expressió que aproximadament es tradueix així: "El nacionalisme és una malaltia que és curat viatjant" (El nacionalismo se cura viajando). Allò què no s’adonen és que el seu propi nacionalisme no té remei. Està arrelat en la psique espanyola, inherent a la pròpia existència de l'estat espanyol en la seva forma present des de les Guerres de Successió 1700-1715. No importa si un espanyol té una bona educació i ha viatjat per Europa. El nacionalisme espanyol és molt persistent.

Per a la majoria dels meus estimats amics d'altres zones d'Espanya, la llengua catalana és una nosa, no quelcom que ha de ser celebrat o protegit per l'Estat Espanyol. A Espanya, en espanyol, i s’ha acabat. Per a ells, que hom parli català en públic és una demostració de desafiament, un exemple que alguna cosa no s’ha "arreglat" a Espanya. La mera existència de llengua catalana en els mateixos termes que la llengua castellana en alguns aspectes de vida pública a Cataluny els fastigueja i els deixa farcits d'animositat.

Quan hom suggereix que si Espanya fos com Suïssa o el Canadà la llengua no seria un assumpte a debatir, protesten: "Canadà, Bèlgica, Suïssa... bla, bla, bla, Espanya en espanyol, collons". I aquest és el problema: Espanya mai no canviarà. Espanya mai no acceptarà la cultura catalana i el nostre sentiment nacional com a una part igual del marc cultural de l’Estat espanyol. Mai no ho ha fet, i mai no ho farà.

Durant la tornada del casament, els amics del nuvi cantaven algunes cançons. Les mateixes cançons que es canten a tots els casaments. Cançons igual d’alegres, ximples, avergonyidores, apolítiques, infantils que tothom canta a casaments arreu del món.

Tanmateix, algunes de les cançons, Déu meu del cor!, eren en català. Encesos per l’alcohol, els veritables sentiments dels meus apreciats amics van sortir a la llum. Un riu d’insults començà, els comentaris injuriosos i sarcàstics es feien en veu alta, i el veritable abast de la seva antipatia per tot el que sigui català es tornà aparent. Diu molt dels amics del nuvi, a qui aquest article va dedicat, que no va haver-hi cap confrontació malgrat la provocació constant i innecessària. Més si tenim en compte que anàvem tots una mica bufats. Pel que fa a un servidor, vaig estar dormint duant la major part del trajecte de tornada, intentant oblidar el dolor insuportable al meu estómac. Només quan em vaig despertar i vaig escoltar els meus amics deixant-se en ridícul, vaig adonar-me'n contra què, com a catalans, estem lluitant. Ni tan sols gent reeixida, educada, brillant, que ha viatjat una mica pel Món, acceptarà el català igual que el castellà a la vida pública. Per a ells, el català és una "llengua familiar", un llegat històric folklòric una mica irritant, i que és una espina per a Espanya. És com si per a alguns espanyols el so de la llengua catalana foradès, literalment, les seves oïdes.

Al dia següent, quan tothom estava seré i jo tenia ganes per a un bon debat, vàrem parlar de política. Els nacionalistes espanyols tenen un gran arsenal de citacions, metàfores i paradigmes per a utilitzar en la seva causa. No és d’estranyar, tenen prop de 300 anys de pràctica, desenvolupant el seu propi discurs nacional, i el ple suport de les seves cadenes de TV públiques i privades, cadenes de ràdio, i dotzenes de diaris. Nosaltres, els pobrets catalans, amb dues estacions de TV controlades pel PSC-PSOE, i un grapat de diaris i emissores de ràdio, no poden competir en igualtat de condicions contra la retòrica espanyolista.

La meva tàctica preferida és quan utilitzen l'artificial divisió administrativa de l’Estat Espanyol en 17 Comunitats Autònomes per provar de rebaixar Catalunya al mateix nivell que Múrcia or La Rioja. Fent això proven de representar una Catalunya malficiosa i egoista. O quan utilitzen la metàfora del bloc de pisos, i argumenten que Catalunya és com el veí que no deixa de tocar els collons a tothom; el que vol canviar les regles per a tothom. (Potser nosaltres volem la nostra pròpia clau per obrir la porta?) La llengua és òbviament el tema favorit, i el bilingüisme és la cosa més gran per a la humanitat... sempre que es limiti a Catalunya, i més específicament a catalano-parlants. Sempre em pregunto... si el bilingüisme és tan bo, segurament l'Estat espanyol esmerçaria més esforços per a assegurar-se que TOTHOM a Espanya fos bilingüe en dues de les llengües oficials l’Estat Espanyol? El Canadà o Suïssa em venen al cap.

I sí, a voltes trobes l'espanyol que entén, el que no sucumbeix a nacionalisme espanyol unitarista, aquell que veu llengües com a simples eines de comunicació i no una arma política. Però són la minoria minúscula, silenciosa. Per cada Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón, hi ha 1000 Fraga, o Bono, o Acebes o Aznar. Per cada demòcrata espanyol, entès en el sentit veritable de la paraula, hi ha 1000 nacionalistes espanyols. I continuo dient això als meus amics i em continuen ignorant: si Espanya fos com Suïssa, si Espanya fos un veïnat i no una presó, per a anar jugant amb les metàfores, una partit independentista com ERC no seria el tercer partit a Catalunya. La veritat, estimats amics espanyols, és que el PP, el representant principal de nacionalisme espanyol, és un partit insignificant a Catalunya, i la majoria de la gent considera el PP com el que són: un grapat de nostàlgics neo-Franquistes,que no dubtarien a enviar l’exèrcit espanyol contra la gent a Catalunya per aixafar la voluntat popular del nostre país. Una altra vegada. Com els seus pares i avis.

Em sap greu, adés els meus pares són immigrants del sud d’Espanya, però aquesta unió per la força no ha funcionat, no està funcionant i mai no funcionarà. Hauríem de seguir camins separats com a nacions, cadascuna lliure per a escollir el seu propi destí. Espanya és Espanya i mai no canviarà, i Catalunya és Catalunya i probablement mai no canviarà. Ens hauríem de separar amigablement. Hauríem de ser lliures l’un de l’altre. Catalunya ha provat de canviar Espanya i alguns encara ho estan intentant, com CiU. És un greu error. Catalunya hauria de deixar enrere Espanya i unir-se al club de les nacions lliures d’Europa. Hauríem de ser amics i bons veïns. Res més, res menys.

Aquest article és per a tots els amics del nuvi que eren dins d’aquell autocar. I també a aquells que no eren allà però probablement han sentit parlar dels cants irrespectuosos, injuriosos i quasi feixistes que venien del darrere de l’autocar: no hi ha cap esperança per a Catalunya dins d’Espanya. Cap Esperança. Res de res. Com diuen en anglès, "fuck all". La única esperança per a Catalunya és convertir-se en un estat independent dintre de la UE. Sobirania i independència. Democràticament. Diàleg, negociació, debat, "federalisme" no funcionen. Espanya no vol convertir-se en un estat federal com Alemanya o Suïssa o Bèlgica o el Canadà. Catalunya no hauria d’intentar canviar Espanya una altra vegada.

Recordeu les lliçons d'història a l’Institut. La Lliga Regionalista va intentar "reformar" Espanya, però no funcionà; després va ser la ERC de la República, amb Macia i Companys, que intentaven “treballar amb” Espanya; i després de 40 anys de dictadura franquista, ha estat CiU qui ha intentat “fer pedagogia” a Espanya. Cap no ha aconseguit res. Han estat més de 100 anys de diferents partits catalans, moderats tots ells, que han intentat fer Espanya més com la resta d’Europa. No ha funcionat, no està funcionant. Mireu el PSOE o PP: com el gran Josep Pla deia: "el que més s’assembla a un espanyol de dretes, és un espanyol d’esquerres.”

Mai no funcionarà. Deixem estar Espanya. Anem a assegurar-nos el futur de Catalunya a la Europa de les nacions lliures.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Whatever next?

I am watching Question Time, tonight, Thursday 5th July. I cannot believe my ears. Davina McCall, host of the UK version of Big Brother, has morphed into a political pundit. What next?

The debate has started around the topic of the terrorist threat from the fundamentalist Islam, and the interventions of some members of the audience show their delusion and lack of knowledge.

As much as I despise the New Labour government that took this country into an illegal and ill-advised war in Iraq, I do not share the view this country’s foreign policy is somehow responsible for our becoming a terrorist target.

The crazymen who tried to kill as many innocent civilians as possible last weekend in London and Glasgow do not care about the UK’s foreign policy or anything else for that matter, not even their own lives. Whatever this government does in terms of foreign policy, the nutters will continue to blow themselves up trying to kill as many innocent civilians as possible. End of story.

I used to have a lot of sympathy for Palestine, I used to despise the West’s foreign policy in the Middle East. I still do. It has been a shambles and a disgrace. I attended the big demonstrations against the illegal war in Iraq, and I still attend the anti-Trident (Trident is a UK government sponsored system of nuclear weapons of mass destruction based in the Clyde, near Glasgow) rallies. But the nutters will not hesitate to kill me, you and all of us just because of the simple fact we are infidels. It is that simple.

There is a numptie talking, telling off a young guy. What he said is spot on, but she ticked him off because his language was aggressive. Well, at least he makes his point of view known by debating in a TV programme, rather than blowing himself up in Harvey Nichols. I was once on the Left, but not anymore. It has taken a while, the best part of about 10 years. But the discourse of the so-called ‘Left’ and its apostles is as irrational as we hear from the ‘neo-cons’. Softly-softly approach with the subhumans who support Jihad will not get us anywhere. Islam will have to sort out this problem internally.

Thank goodness the debate is about to end. What a waste of time.