A Catalan’s View On Catalonia
As you may have already heard, Catalonia has been struggling against the oppressive Spanish government after an episode of violence where its democratic institutions were usurped by Madrid’s authoritarian power, thus breaking with the democratic tradition of the country… or has it?
The Catalan issue, or, as we call it, “the process”, has been internationally covered by media outlets in different ways. Many violent attacks by police have been reported by the media worldwide. But as always happens with political issues, the reality is much more complex than what we’ve been told.
Political pressure, strong decentralisation and delegating decision-making of its autonomous communities to the local governments, together with many years of nationalist parties in the government have turned our country into something that can be difficult to recognise for the locals.
The lost years
It’s a Spanish tradition to feel antipathy towards ourselves. “He who speaks evil of Spain… Spanish he is,” once famously said our poet Joaquim Bartrina. We call this “Cainism” from the Biblical figure of Cain, and it’s so ingrained in our psyche that one hardly questions historical issues, such as former president of Catalonia’s fascist past Lluis Companys, who presided over Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, established concentration camps for purged fellow comrades and political opponents, and executed politicians for their advocacy of Catholicism. Yet Spain is, as Otto von Bismarck reportedly said, “the strongest country in the world: Century after century trying to destroy herself and still no success.” Until now.
Since the Spanish political transition to democracy, and up until nowadays, nationalist Catalan parties have created an anti-Spanish environment across Catalonia. There was a time before this, when Catalonia became a prosperous region due to our own industrial revolution, in which other Spanish people were welcomed to work and raise their families here. However, once the transition decentralized the Spanish government, empowering new coercive local institutions, the Catalan government started promoting laws such as the law for “language normalization”. This law stated that any store should also be written in Catalan on the posters or banners outside or any text on the inside which didn’t help to enhance a tolerant environment. The law was suspended by Spanish Law because it violates the Constitution and equality under the law. It also violates and restricts liberty.
Language normalisation policies against businesses didn’t last. They provoked huge fines from the local government against those who already had their shops marked in Spanish, and had to be cancelled after some time under Spanish law because of the principle of non-discrimination. But government sponsored “Catalan normalisation” didn’t stop.
Spanish language has been taken away from Catalan schools as a common language, and now all classes should be taken in Catalan except Spanish or English. In many schools, parents have been struggling against, school directors, local Government and other parents’ pressure and discrimination to acquire bilingual education since English has more weekly spoken hours than Spanish, which is an official language in the country. I remember the time when we were in secondary school, there was some trouble about taking Mathematics in English because it would take week hours from spoken Catalan lessons. We called it “linguistic immersion” in Catalan. Behold once more the weight of authoritarian Spain and its language policies against Catalans.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Not so long ago, the Catalan government tried to enforce Catalan in personal and professional communications within the public sector, including hospitals and schools. The Supreme Court nullified these policies, but social pressure and the fear of losing your job still compels many citizens to employ Catalan at work against their will.
Moreover, there is something very strange going on in Catalonia. If you would like to get a residency permit, you ought to speak Catalan or take a 48 hour lesson in this language. If you don’t, the regional foreign Office will provide an unfavourable report to the main foreign office pleading “linguistic ignorance”, regardless of whether you are a native Spanish speaker or not. These unfavourable reports escalated to 70% between 2014 and 2015 over the total of them.
It seems that the only ones suffering from discrimination are those who wish to speak Spanish in Catalonia, which make up most of the population. Likewise, those who think of themselves as Spanish rather than only Catalan, are forced to hide their opinions, afraid as they rightfully are of social pressure, government negligence, and violent reactions from pro-independence groups and individuals.
But is it morally right?
A friend once told me that the past doesn’t matter. What really matters is what people want nowadays. And in the last regional elections we’ve seen that, for the first time since democracy returned to Spain, a non-sece
ssionist party –Ciudadanos– has won. Even if we sum up the votes of the secessionist and non-secessionist parties, we have to accept the victory of the non-secessionists. But the electoral law gives more importance to less populated regions, handing over most of the Parliament to the secessionists. In spite of this, the representatives of the pro-independence parties –PDeCAT and ERC– admitted that the support for independence was insufficient. ERC’s Josep Tardá said that “we are not independent yet because there isn’t a majority of Catalans who want it.”. Hence here we are, at this point, as result of our politicians’ decisions.
But what if they had 51% support? Would that justify declaring the independence of the whole region? Would that legitimate their spending at our expense? Would that be sufficient to enslave 49% under 51%’s utopia? The laws approved to facilitate the secession of Catalonia from Spain and the draft of a new Constitution for the region conceive of the new state of Catalonia as one, and the state will be committed to maintain its territories, which means that Catalonia would become an indivisible state by force, which is exactly what pro-independence caucus has been condemning Spain for. When Catalonia has the right to secede from Spain, but smaller areas in Catalonia are deprived from the same right, clearly, we’re dealing with a double standard.
Written by David Pérez Recio & César Guarde-Paz
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