In 1965, the Barcelonian newspaper El Noticiero Universal commissioned fifteen articles from the philosopher Julian Marías on Catalonia, which became a book called Consideration of Catalonia. Marías does a remarkable exercise in Francoism: seeing Spain from Catalonia.
He observes that Catalonia feel distanced from Madrid, or Castile (as if every Spaniard can be Castilian), even though many Spanish regions are also “distanced” from the capital. And, above all, even though many regions within Catalonia feel also far from Barcelona, or from other Catalonias, as shows Valero Sanmartí in his satire Los del Sud us matarem a tots (We the southerners will kill you all). If Spain is more than Madrid and Castile, a sort of poor and undeveloped wasteland according to the Catalan nationalist mythology, Catalonia is of course more than un sol poble, more than a one people.
Catalan nationalism has been for decades trying to put an end to Catalan multiculturalism and plurality, despite their leaders always have considered themselves as liberal (the PDeCAT is still part, inexplicably, of ALDE, the European liberals). Nothing more non-liberal that the speech of the people in opposition to citizenship, and there is nothing more anti Catalan that deliberately forgetting about the real Catalonia.
Marías makes a case in his book for a kind of sentimental or cultural federalism, where the regions of Spain are “well delineated, united, elastic, without any deadweight of archaism, useless trinkets, parochialism or bell-tower spirit; without making things easier to the eternal cave-dwellers that hide crouching in our land”. The philosopher thinks that it is not possible to be only Spanish and not being also a little Andalusian, Castilian, Catalan, Aragonese, Basque… There are no homogeneous, sealed, compact cultures or identities. As the philosopher Amartya Sen notes in Identity and Violence, “the illusion of unique identity is much more divisive that the universe of plural diverse classifications that are characteristic of the world we actually live in”. To speak of a one nation, a one people, a one homeland is to prove that there is “an other” whom we ignore. The existing gap between independentism and anti independentism is a construct and, the more Puigdemont talks about people’s unity, the larger gets that gap.
The homogeneous image of a one people is anti democratic and denies reality; democracy can only exist if there is conflict, diversity, plurality. The opposite means authoritarianism, totalitarianism. To Catalan radical pro-independence movement, the concept of democracy is a tool, and is malleable. It only exists as long as it serves to advance its divisive agenda.
Julián Marías’ lessons on pluralism are useful not only to the Spanish territorial crisis, but also to globalization, European integration, migration, refugee crisis. Recognising “an other” is always recognising oneself.