Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Hopeless

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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Hopeless

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.
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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.

15 comments:

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

Unfortunately what you say is true.
Spaniards are not ready to understand that Spain’s unity, since 1714, has been purely based on their military supremacy. We were never asked to be part of Spain. We were forced by their authoritarian regimes, with the support of people like the authoritarian French kings, and by people like Franco, Hitler and Mussolini!

Democracy will always lead towards what the citizens want. And Catalans do not have the right to choose for themselves. Democracy is not a friend of the Spanish unity because if we are allowed to choose democratically their project will be in danger. By democratic means Catalonia decided that it wanted to be an independent state already 75 years ago.

I can imagine that the fact that Catalans do not want to be part of Spain hurts them in their pride. And Catalan language is for them a sign of this, I guess. I don’t know.
They cannot get used to the idea that Spain is a failed project. A part of the members of the Spanish state were forced to be part of it without wanting to be part of it.
And this sooner or later will not work. It did not work in Russia, it did not work in the Balkan and it does obviously not work in Spain either.

In Madrid there is no any acceptance of Spain as a multilingual state. They don’t seem to be ready to take everyone into account, to make everything in 4 official languages and be friends with us, to have speakers of the 4 official languages in embassies and consulates, to have passports and ID-cards in 4 languages, to include the 4 languages in the Spanish parliament, etc.

They don’t seem to be open to any change of the post-Franco Spanish model which for us is obsolete.
Therefore my conclusion is the same. Independence is the only way out. We cannot be part of a country that hates us so much.

Ox said...

Guys, I speak German (+ Swabian German), English, French, Spanish and Italian.

I never took any Catalan lesson and I understand it 100% (oral and written) - it's a piece of cake actually...

On the other hand, there are German "dialects" I cannot understand.

Thus, instinctively, Catalan seems to me a dialect too, rather than a language.

I apologize for being so honest with you, dudes. But the "different culture" thing between Catalans and Spaniards seems like a joke to me. Or is it just about creating borders to keep money?

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

You speak so many languages and are so ignorant that do not know the difference between a language and a dialect?
I speak Catalan, Spanish, English, Dutch, German, Italian, French and a bit of Frisian and Swedish. Though, there are dialects of Dutch I do not understand.
Catalan and Spanish cultures are similar, but such as Dutch and German cultures are also opposite in many ways.
It would take me hours to tell you all the differences between Catalan culture and Spanish culture.
If you don’t know the difference between a language and a dialect and you don’t know the difference between Catalan and Spanish culture my advice to you is: Read books? Go to school? Study history?

Alexandre said...

Great article, but I think you idealize Canada way too much. Most English-speaking Canadians don't give a damn about learning French and are actually irritated about the federal government's policy of providing services in French and English across the country (which isn't even respected anyway). English Canadians do not really consider French as the equal of English on the Canadian territory. They believe they were far too magnanimous to allow French to be considered an official language in Canada.

The main difference between Canada and Spain, I believe, is that Canada did not endure regimes like those of Franco or Primo de Rivera, which basically forbade any language other than Castilian. French was never banned in Canada (it was a bad idea to attempt to speak French publicly in Manitoba and Ontario at the turn of the century, but it was never formally forbidden), or at least in Québec. Spain wears the scars of its past: the rhetoric employed by the PP in the way it deals with internal differences is reflective of the aforementioned regimes.

I agree with your conclusion, however. The only viable option for Catalans who care about protecting their language and culture is to build their own state (and also stop subsidizing other less prosperous and less industrious regions of Spain). Spain has never been accomodating with cultural differences and never will.

Anonymous said...

ok

Anonymous said...

Soy Anton (Otonyo de Reus).

Uno de los amigos de Andi y Aurora de Reus y que estava en el autocar de viage.

Pues nada, que me gusta tu comentario y que da mucho que pensar, hablar y racionar.

Solo decir que normalmente no somos como nos mostramos en el autocar, sino que somos peores, jejeje.

Adios y nos vemos en otra Orgásmica-Fiesta.

Anonymous said...

As one who has done the reverse journey i.e. Caledonia to Catalonia, I almost fully agree with the article. It's amazing to have to crawl along crowded Catalan roads until you reach the "frontier" and sudddenly you see where your tax euros have been spent- big wide empty motorways almost everywhere. I don't mind paying to help other parts of the state make progress, but I do object when the Spanish media (sic) lambast the Catalans when they ask to be able to spend some of that money on our own roads and railways.
As for language, my kids speak Catalan, Spanish (from school, TV, etc.) and English (father tongue). They are also studying French at school and one is doing German too. They naturally speak Catalan but if a Spanish speaker comes along and doesn't understand the conversation, they are polite enough to switch. If they are gradually turning anti-Spanish it's a response to the constant anti-Catalan white noise that we can't escape.

Rab said...

Anonymous: thanks for your comment. I think it would be very interesting to read your views regularly as someone who has gone from Caledonia to Catalonia.

What is happening to Catalonia has no precedent in Europe: the great fiscal robbery and rampant Catalonophobia installed in mainstream Spanish society. Yet Catalan society is paralised by the complicity of the establishment media.

I am just back from holidays in Barcelona and will start posting properly again in early October once I finish my master’s project.

Chris B said...

Didn't really mean to be so Anonymous (3 September), but too fast with the clicks... The Caledonia to Catalonia bit usually generates an immediate empathy with Catalans. As a Scot you are expected to understand instantly what being Catalan is all about. And there are many points where we can find parallels and similitudes but then there are yawning differences too. I think that language would be one of these as speaking Catalan is definitely an almost essential trait. I say "almost" because there is also a certain current in Catalaonia of people who use and always have used Spanish - Artur Mas, leader of Convergencia is reputed to use Spanish at home. But I have much more important reasons for not liking Mas and what he represents than that.

Linguistically, there is a very clear pecking order with Catalan and English on the top rung. This does irritate me because that has almost always been translated into "ooohs" and "aaaahs" about how lucky my kids are to grow up assimilating this combination at home.

I also believe that, like it or not, we have to accept that this is part of "the Spanish State" as Catalans call it and that ignoring this and disdaining Spanish is a very narrow minded outlook. However, as I said in the previous comments, a very important sector of Spanish media and pressure groups do make it extremely difficult to make people realise that.
The vitriol heaped on Catalonia by Los Santos and the COPE has to be heard to be believed. So much more vicious than any public anti-Scottish sentiments (as far as I know).

Goriaïnoff said...

I am slightly amazed at some of the comments here. Miquel Marzabal Galano says he could spend hours telling you the differences between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Well, he must be a bit slow. It takes a few minutes. Every region of Spain has its own peculiarities, however, although probably few will admit to it. Spain, like it or not, is a very homogenous country North to South and East to West.

However, you can write volumes on the similarities between Catalonia, and the rest of Spain. Although few nationalists will admit to it. From gastronomy, to religion, to something as simple as their way of life, nothing happens in Barcelona, say, that is extremly distinctive to anything happening in Bilbao, or Oviedo, or Saragossa. Every place in Spain has local saints, local customs, local everything. Just like everywhere else on Earth.

They may dislike it, but there is no apparent Catalan peculiarity.

As for those people who harp on about events in the XVII century, they have little to do with current events and perhaps they should concentrate on reality, not historical ficiton. Yes, Catalonia was bombed during the War of Spanish Succession, but so were other parts of the country. It even lost Gibraltar to Great Britain. Why should Catalonia be special because of that? Look at it today.

Catalonia is Spain's most dynamic region and they enjoy a very high standard of living. If anything, the Spanish Government treats them (and the Basque country) with kid gloves while other parts of the country suffer. For example, Andalucia, a very agricultural region which would kill to have Catalonia´s level of investment from the Government in Madrid.

Not surprisingly, when you stroll down Barcelona's boulevards, you hear both Spanish and Catalan spoken, and no one makes a big deal of it. If anyone does, either way, they are soon put in their place by those around them. If anything, it is a good example of bilingualism.

However, it is also true that the Spanish don't see regional languages as something to be proud of. Unfortunately, it is a Spanish trait to favor your own peculiarity above all else. Most people in Spain refer to themselves as being from the region they come from first and foremost. Some with pride, other just matter-of-factly. If all the languages of Spain are not seen as a good thing, it is the fault of each and every single democratic Government since 1977. Children are not taught about their own country very much. It is a shame. But it explains why some people are very nationalist beyond the call of duty.
As for Spain being a failed project as Miquel Marzabal Galano has suggested, all I can do is laugh. Spain is one of Europe's oldest nations. So much so that even the Romans referred to its inhabitants as Spanish before there was even a Spain.

Everything in Spain works just fine politically speaking, but, of course, it could be improved. For one thing, Spanish television should be able to broadcast in all the country's languages- I'm sure the technology is there. Children should be taugh a basic understanding of the country's other languages, which are by the way, official. I'm not saying the country is perfect, but it has come a long way since Franco.

People in Spain live in one of the world's most advanced and liberal democracies and, if you believe the propaganda, the world's eigth economy. In which other major Catholic country can gay couples marry?

I suppose that, if the majority of the citizens of Catalonia chose one day to break away, the rest of Spain would be sad to see them go, but let them go they would. If this is what the majority wanted. Not just a small, yet very loud, percentile of the population, as is the case today.

Goriaïnoff said...

And as a reply to Rab, I don't know what he means by fiscal robbery. Everyone in Spain pays taxes. People pay taxes, not regions. Not the Autonomous Communities. Catalonia does not pay taxes. The people who live in Catalonia, id est, the Catalans, the Andalucians, the Basques, the British, the French, in short, everyone pays taxes to the Spanish Treasury, at an individual level, not as a political entity.

Rab said...

k#Goiainoff (10 Sept at 12.14)

Your discourse is similar to what we keep hearing from the establishment media: we complain without reason and we all should get on with it.

"Spain, like it or not, is a very homogenous country North to South and East to West."

I am sorry, but this statement is untenable. Homegenous compared to what exactly?
How can it be "very homogenous" if there are 4 different languages? If the Industrial Revolution consolidated in some areas and not others? If unemployment rates are double in the rural south than in the industrialised north? How is that a homogenous country is in permanent tension between its constituent parts? If some areas were under Moor rule for centuries and others were not even Romanised?
I don’t think "homogenous" applies to Spain. At all.

"They may dislike it, but there is no apparent Catalan peculiarity."
Well, apart from the language, culture, work ethic, different perspective and referents in the world, prevalence of SMEs, family-owned businesses, etc, etc.

Catalonia is Spain’s most dynamic region despite of the Spanish government. The current fiscal deficit is running around 12-15% (according to Fundación BBVA) and investment in infrastructure is below the Spanish average, as reported in today’s El Pais. Andalucia gets infrastructure investment in line with the Spanish average.

The Basque Country and Navarra have a fiscal status (concierto fiscal) unique in Spain and their contribution to the Spanish common pool of money is virtually zero, unlike Catalonia, which subsidises the rest of Spain to the tune of about €13bn a year, about 12-15% of our GDP. To compare the fiscal regimes and situations of Euskadi and Catalonia shows how much you have to learn about Spanish politics and public finances.

I agree however with your paragraph about how children in Spanish-speaking Spain are not taught about the other official languages. As you rightly point out, this could be easily solved with the new TDT. Everyone in Spain should be able to tune into Catalan TV, a channel like 3/24 or TV3 should be made available throughout Spain in terrestrial TV. The technology is there but the will of the Spanish state is not. Spanish nationalism is relentless, "beyond the call of duty", I agree.

Your latter paragraphs are somehow delusory.
"People in Spain live in one of the world's most advanced and liberal democracies"
Are you serious? Political parties banned, newspapers closed, children prosecuted, the Army as guarantor of the indivisible unity of the state, the Monarchy a taboo subject, a High Court appointed by politicians, the Prosecution Service completely dominated by the Government, etc, etc.

If Spain were an advanced democracy, my representatives in the Spanish parliament would be allowed to use their own language, or I should be able to interact with the State, and state-owned companies, in my own language. Judges would not sequestrate satirical magazines, army personnel would not speak out on politics, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

"but let them go they would". I wish you were right but when I read Spanish newspapers editorials, radio stations or go to Madrid on business, I get a very different message. Changing Article 8 of the Spanish Constitution would help. Only being in the EU will prevent a bloodbath, don't think they will send the tanks to Barcelona again.

Yes, support for independence in Catalonia is not a majority but the two so-called Catalan nationalist parties have a majority in the Catalan parliament. I would not say "small, yet very loud", rather, a "sizeable active minority" (around 15%) and a silent majority without any support in the mass media.

Rab said...

#2 Goiainoff (10 Sept at 12.19)

Fiscal robbery is the fact that the Spanish state invests less in Catalonia than anywhere else, thus jeopardising future economic growth.

Fiscal robbery is when a fiscal deficit exceeds any common-sense measure. In Germany, they have a federal law that limits fiscal deficit between the lands and the State to 4%. That’s normal. Nothing wrong with fiscal deficit as long as it is reasonable and does not threaten economic growth. The Fundación BBVA has published a very interesting report on the inequalities of public finances in Spain and how Catalonia’s economic stability is being threatened by lack of investment from the Spanish state, and all because of a deliberate policy of starving Catalonia of resources so that Madrid becomes the undisputable hub for all major business conducted in Spain. That is fiscal robbery.

Your statement about "people pay taxes, not regions" shows your lack of knowledge in public finances. Yes, people pay taxes, but infrastructure investment funded by taxes is not redistributed to individual people but to geographical areas. Yes, someone living in Catalonia pays the same taxes as someone living in Madrid, but receives back half the investment in services and other infrastructure. That is how economists in the entire world calculate public finances, and this is the basis (simplified) of the concept of fiscal deficit. If we all pay the same taxes (which we don’t, as the Basques and Navarros pay less), then we should all receive similar services (roughly), don’t you think?

Goriaïnoff said...

" Political parties banned, newspapers closed, children prosecuted, the Army as guarantor of the indivisible unity of the state, the Monarchy a taboo subject, a High Court appointed by politicians, the Prosecution Service completely dominated by the Government, etc, etc.

1- The only political parties banned are those who chose not to denounce terrorism.
2- Which newspapers have been closed?
3- Children prosecuted? For what exactly?
4- So what if the Army warrants the unity of the country?
5- The monarchy is coming under a lot of scrutiny and criticism lately, so I don't know what you mean by taboo.
6- Who would you suggest should appoint High court judges if not the government? Rouco Varela? Isabel Pantoja?
7- As for the prosecution service being dominated by the government, that is highly debatable.

If Spain were an advanced democracy, my representatives in the Spanish parliament would be allowed to use their own language, or I should be able to interact with the State, and state-owned companies, in my own language. Judges would not sequestrate satirical magazines, army personnel would not speak out on politics, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

If Spain were an advanced democracy, my representatives in the Spanish parliament would be allowed to use their own language, or I should be able to interact with the State, and state-owned companies, in my own language. Judges would not sequestrate satirical magazines, army personnel would not speak out on politics, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

Like it or not, Spain is an advanced democracy. Perfect? No. Can it be improved upon? Certainly. But this is true of any democracy, not only Spain.

Your representatives in the Cortes can speak in one of their languages. They can speak in Castilian. That language is common to all Spaniards, so, even if you choose not to speak it, you cannot feign not knowing it, and it being your language too. If it comes out of your mouth, it is your language. Nevertheless, I understand your point. In fact, so does the president of the Cortes who only last year asked a couple of Catalan politicians to address the House in Castilian, and apologised for them not being able to do so in Catalan yet. Yet. Meaning, that one, they recognise the problem, and two, with enough political will, it will change in the future. I think you place little trust in your Government.

As for state-owned companies, yes you should be able to contact them in whatever language you choose, but this is not particular to the Spanish government alone. If I choose to write to the Catalan Generalitat in Basque, chances are they will ask me to do so in a language they understand, preferably Catalan.

As for judges sequestering satirical magazines, you contradict yourself. Is the judicial system under the Government’s control, or isn’t it? In any case, Spain’s Vice president said that that particular clause should be made void and at no point did the Government support the actions of the judge in question. If anything, the whole event served to highlight Spain’s links to the past, but also its willingness to go forward.

Why should Army personnel not speak out about politics? There is freedom of speech in Spain. In any case, every time they have done so, they have been forced to retire or been demoted. It is obvious that the Government does not like the Army speaking out about anything.

The following statement is just ridiculous:

Only being in the EU will prevent a bloodbath, don't think they will send the tanks to Barcelona again..

When was the last time tanks were seen on the streets of Barcelona? 2004? 1989? Get real.

Finally, as I said before, people pay taxes, not regions. Catalonia does not pay taxes, nor does it subsidise the rest of Spain. It makes no sense to read that somehow, all of Spain is keeping Catalonia down, attacking it, forcing it to bankroll the entire country, whilst spending next to nothing on infrastructure etc, and yet somehow, Catalonia manages to have an above average standard of living, great infrastructures (have you been to Galicia? The Canary Islands or Extremadura? They wish they had Catalonia’s infrastructures), and it is the undisputed power house of Spain (though Madrid is a close second). Wow, Catalonia is definitely super region, inferior only to Japan!!

I’m sorry but your analysis just does not compute. I agree that there are problems, and that a lot needs to be done, but you do appear to play a victim. The crime, however, is invisible.

Goriaïnoff said...

" Political parties banned, newspapers closed, children prosecuted, the Army as guarantor of the indivisible unity of the state, the Monarchy a taboo subject, a High Court appointed by politicians, the Prosecution Service completely dominated by the Government, etc, etc.

1- The only political parties banned are those who chose not to denounce terrorism.
2- Which newspapers have been closed?
3- Children prosecuted? For what exactly?
4- So what if the Army warrants the unity of the country?
5- The monarchy is coming under a lot of scrutiny and criticism lately, so I don't know what you mean by taboo.
6- Who would you suggest should appoint High court judges if not the government? Rouco Varela? Isabel Pantoja?
7- As for the prosecution service being dominated by the government, that is highly debatable.

If Spain were an advanced democracy, my representatives in the Spanish parliament would be allowed to use their own language, or I should be able to interact with the State, and state-owned companies, in my own language. Judges would not sequestrate satirical magazines, army personnel would not speak out on politics, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

If Spain were an advanced democracy, my representatives in the Spanish parliament would be allowed to use their own language, or I should be able to interact with the State, and state-owned companies, in my own language. Judges would not sequestrate satirical magazines, army personnel would not speak out on politics, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

Like it or not, Spain is an advanced democracy. Perfect? No. Can it be improved upon? Certainly. But this is true of any democracy, not only Spain.

Your representatives in the Cortes can speak in one of their languages. They can speak in Castilian. That language is common to all Spaniards, so, even if you choose not to speak it, you cannot feign not knowing it, and it being your language too. If it comes out of your mouth, it is your language. Nevertheless, I understand your point. In fact, so does the president of the Cortes who only last year asked a couple of Catalan politicians to address the House in Castilian, and apologised for them not being able to do so in Catalan yet. Yet. Meaning, that one, they recognise the problem, and two, with enough political will, it will change in the future. I think you place little trust in your Government.

As for state-owned companies, yes you should be able to contact them in whatever language you choose, but this is not particular to the Spanish government alone. If I choose to write to the Catalan Generalitat in Basque, chances are they will ask me to do so in a language they understand, preferably Catalan.

As for judges sequestering satirical magazines, you contradict yourself. Is the judicial system under the Government’s control, or isn’t it? In any case, Spain’s Vice president said that that particular clause should be made void and at no point did the Government support the actions of the judge in question. If anything, the whole event served to highlight Spain’s links to the past, but also its willingness to go forward.

Why should Army personnel not speak out about politics? There is freedom of speech in Spain. In any case, every time they have done so, they have been forced to retire or been demoted. It is obvious that the Government does not like the Army speaking out about anything.

The following statement is just ridiculous:

Only being in the EU will prevent a bloodbath, don't think they will send the tanks to Barcelona again..

When was the last time tanks were seen on the streets of Barcelona? 2004? 1989? Get real.

Finally, as I said before, people pay taxes, not regions. Catalonia does not pay taxes, nor does it subsidise the rest of Spain. It makes no sense to read that somehow, all of Spain is keeping Catalonia down, attacking it, forcing it to bankroll the entire country, whilst spending next to nothing on infrastructure etc, and yet somehow, Catalonia manages to have an above average standard of living, great infrastructures (have you been to Galicia? The Canary Islands or Extremadura? They wish they had Catalonia’s infrastructures), and it is the undisputed power house of Spain (though Madrid is a close second). Wow, Catalonia is definitely super region, inferior only to Japan!!

I’m sorry but your analysis just does not compute. I agree that there are problems, and that a lot needs to be done, but you do appear to play a victim. The crime, however, is invisible.