If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have noticed that I have not been writing about Catalan/Spanish politics for a while. Frankly, it is quite depressing.
After a few years in government, we can safely say that ERC has not made much of a difference. If anything, because expectations were high, because the need for change is so desperate, the disappointment has been greater. ERC, a party I have voted for many years has been a huge flop. Finally, we have what we always aspired to: a “pro-independence” party that is as incompetent and inept as the others, part of the establishment. It is no surprise that their vote is decreasing. People with a well-defined political ethos and fighting what it is an uphill battle do not like being taken for mugs. Now, those who support independence, if they can be bothered to vote at all, will have to vote ERC but without pride, averting the gaze, ignoring the mediocrity that permeates at all levels of the party machine. Some people always saw this as the panacea of the pro-independence movement: a party that is like the rest. For most of us though, it is a slap in the face.
I never thought I would ever write this but here it goes: at least with Pujol in charge there was a measure of respect, an intention to try to improve things, even if it was in cowardly small steps. At least there was a vision, a purpose. With the current lot in charge of the capital’s council and the government in Catalonia, there seems to be no higher purpose, other than self-preservation of political careers and perks (particularly for ERC and IC-V), and the pursuit of pro-Spanish policies and the consequent lowering of cultural, business, social and political clout of Catalonia (this last point is the PSC-PSOE's job, and they are having a good crack at it).
The asphyxiating control of the mass media by the PSOE in Catalonia is overwhelming: TVE, Radio 4, TV3, El Periodico, El Pais, Cadena SER, COM Radio. Other media that they do not control are overtly unionist and pro-Spanish: La Vanguardia, El Mundo, the private TV channels, COPE radio network.
The de-Catalanisation and lowering of standards inTV3 and Catalunya Radio, audience leaders a few years ago, is a well documented fact and part of PSOE’s plan to discredit what are pillar institutions in the (Catalan) national conscience. ERC is being complicit in all of this and their influence in government is nowhere to be seen or felt.
These days, I mainly read the Diàleg pages in Avui, which should be translated into English in a summary weekly edition, VilaWeb and a few isolated articles here and there. The rest is an intellectual and journalistic desert.
Sadly, what I wrote in a previous post is happening quicker than I imagined. Catalonia is a fading nation, a nation that is less so every day, overwhelmed by the power mechanisms and tactics of the Spanish state, yes; but also victim of its own cowardice, insecurity, collaborationism and self-hate. Victim of history through centuries of political and cultural repression, defeated in war several times, and subjected to a demographic reversal unparalleled in post-war Europe -except for Stalin’s madness in eastern Europe. But above all, a nation whose establishment is complicitly silent in its own subordination. A nation ruled by sepoys who will never face up to those who keep them as second-class citizens.
I thought about all this and I was trying to put it into words for this blog but, predictably as ever, more intelligent minds than mine have already done it. I share their article with you in a quick translation.
Victor Alexandre is one of the very few intellectuals who has the courage and the vision to chronicle Catalonia’s demise, but also offers ways to get out of the moral cesspit the country is immersed in these days.
Alas, there are few like him. Self-protection is the main driver of the Catalan establishment, and few dare to speak out so as not to upset their master.
Victor Alexandre uses an analogy with the opera Antigona, and equates Ismene’s silence to that of most Catalan politicians and intellectuals.
There are versions of this article in Catalan, Spanish and Basque.
For a review of Catalan theatre, read this monograph from the Anglo Catalan Society.
Antigona by Jordi Coca can be purchased here.
(any errors please let me know and I will edit the translated text)
The Decadence of Catalonia by Victor Alexandre
It is hard to admit it, but it is true: Catalonia is in decadence. Politically handcuffed, economically asphyxiated and culturally subordinated, Catalonia is a Pirandellian nation, awaiting an author who will take care of the existential shipwreck it suffers. We have come to a point where we don’t know who we are, and whoever doesn’t have conscience of their own identity does not have conscience of their rights.
We believed that there was some wisdom in our old idiom (“Qui dia passa any empeny”) but there is only individualism and abdication of responsibility. It was Batista i Roca who said that Catalans are egoists, with domestic ideals, and lacking in spirit of command. One would say that we have so little faith in ourselves, and so much fear to lose our little share of material wealth which we enjoy that the smallest gesture of affirmation on the part of one of ours seems to us a reprievable provocation. That’s why it is inadvertent to us the lethal candidness which implies constructing an axiom of the old idiom “carrying on” (“anar passant)” when we remain captive.
Catalonia, like Tebes under the reign of Creon a Antígona, is gripped by fear, and the fear makes her vulnerable and submissive. Here, likewise, power also buys the silence of grateful thinkers and pushes us to make us believe that conformism, meekness and resignation are genuinely Catalan values that are worth keeping. Here, like in the play, Tiresias-like people excel as the paradigm of prestigious intellectual defeated by cowardice, and there are also some Ismenes-like folk, fearful and dutiful model citizens.
The first one, who could exert his influence against oppression, ends up keeping out from it; and the second one, who could rebel against it, asks for prudence, measure and moderation.
“Beg”, suggests Ismene, “we shall look for the path that is easier for us”. Ismene, like many Catalans, believes that it is necessary to make pedagogy with the tyrant, believing that that it is necessary to explain oneself to him so that the kind words soften his attitude like syrup softens the throat. He says that he loves Anígona, indeed, but he abandons her, and through his prudence becomes a traitor. He doesn’t want to listen to his sister when she says:
“Don’t you see the fearful eyes of those who are closest to him? If you beg
in front of him, you will make him still harder, stronger, and you present to
him the chance to show to the city that he, Creont, does not stop for anything
and anybody. He wants to demonstrate his power in front of us, he wants us to be
docile like the dogs he caresses when he likes. If you and I do not speak out,
Exquisite, this Antígona of Jordi Coca who, shortly before dying, addresses herself to Tiresias reproaching:
"You have also kept silence. […] What’s up, are you also fearful?[…] Those like
you who could help us, soon become little and coward. You keep telling us
no change is possible because things are as they are… So many lies in
say and what you don’t…!”
“Now he, Creont, believes he himself is the city. And you believe yourself thatAlas, Catalonia is rich in Tiresias and scarce of Antígones, because dignity is a word that the managers of the day-to-day –those to whom Lluís Llach asked not to kill off the dream- have changed its meaning upside down until making it a fault.
you are a wise man because in front of him you measure more than necessary what you say… I am killed by his decree and by your silence”.
In their hands, dignity has become an imbecile’s pathology. But Catalonia’s decadence is mostly due to their work, because it is them whom with their silence, with their fear masquerading as prudence and with their submission concealed as realism, have left this country in a cul-de-sac. Lluís Llach sang “they will tell us we need to wait” in 1978 without expecting that some of those who applauded him would make of this waiting game their profession. And it is ironic, and pretty sad, that thirty years later we still need to sing “it is not like this, friends, not like this” and lament the “commerce that is being done with our rights, rights that we have, that cannot be done and undone, new cellbars under the guise of law”.
You have to be quite insensitive not to realise the decadence of Catalonia. It is enough to witness the progressive degradation of the language in the media which with the collaboration or the acquiescence of some linguists is being transformed into a patois named “Catanyol”. Thus, almost without realising, we will have to admit that Catalan language, like energy, has not disappeared but has been transformed into a dialect of Spanish. But Catalonia’s decadence is not only linguistic. Our decadence is also political, economical and social. Catalan politics has been turned into Spanish politics, our income per capita continues to decrease spectacularly to the level of Melilla and our infrastructures are obsolete because of the fiscal robbery. And the worst of it all is the psychological impact that this state of affairs has over ourselves. There is a great feeling of frustration and people look around confused asking where are the leaders that were going to return its dignity to this old European nation. But there are no leaders.
Antígona at least faced up to Creont telling him:
“I accuse you of turning this city into a dead city, without voice or will”.
Catalonia, alas, can’t accuse anybody because the Creonts that are in charge are more canny than Sofocle’s Creont.
Nevertheless, I am an optimist and agree with Jaume Vicens i Vives when he said that Catalonia’s life is an act of continuous reaffirmation and that its motive is its wish to exist. I accept that the current confusion seems to contradict this statement, but it is necessary to understand that the country is going through a process of political growing-up and this confusion is part of it. After that, luckly, there will be no way back and our subordination to Spain will be just a sad memory. We should not then lose sight of our youth, happyly free from the pathological fear of their parents, as it will be them who will teach us that the only way to change an adverse reality is to thing about a better one.
Antígona dies, yes, but it is a young man who tries to save her, and his presence symbolises hope. Thus she declares to Creont when she utters:
“Man also dies when ceases to be a man and does everything because of fear.
[…] I disobeyed you, I have opposed your edict […] and I declare it here,
before this now silent man, that he will live longer than you or I, so that
what has been said lives beyond us”.
Then if we want that this process of political growing-up goes quick, we have to ensure that our media delivers a message within a Catalan-focused framework, because the message impacts the thinking, the thinking deliniates the actions, and actions define history.