In English Voices From Spain

The deal with nationalism is over

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish: “El pacto con el nacionalismo se ha acabado”. Manel Manchón. Crónica Global.

5th may 2018

It is over. It may linger on for a while, a transition period in which everything is still possible, where the past is yearned for, where some sort of forget is called for, “nothing really happened here, carry on”. But it is over. The irresponsible choice by part of the Catalan society to accelerate the car, when the occupants were not ready and didn’t want to travel that far, has broken a consensus that was heralded as a great achievement of Catalonia as a whole. Journalist Jaume V. Aroca reflected on this issue in an article that is both clear and daring, titled Learning to live with a broken heart.

No one is in sole possession of truth, no one knows what will happen, and it is true that one can always look at factors that invite optimism rather than despair. But the secessionist moment is not aware of what they have encouraged, they don’t know they’ve broken a consensus that, in fact, was greatly beneficial to their own positions. It is a colossal mistake, and someone like Jordi Pujol understands it well. The problem is that all of Catalonia’s Pujols cannot stop nor influence a movement that has absorbed their lies wholeheartedly and that now, and in the short and medium term, will bump against reality, and they won’t like that reality at all.

Turns out there was indeed integration, yes, but it worked mostly in a passive way. That is to say, nationalism set the course and most of society marched on because everything that was being achieved was beneficial for the whole. Many left-wing voters, those who used not to vote in regional elections, had no trouble admitting that Pujolism was positive for Catalonia, even if they didn’t like him one bit, nor ever watched TV3, except to watch some Barça or Madrid matches. Translation? They didn’t harbor any hostility against that nationalism, although they didn’t defend their theses in any active form.

The problem arises now, when a new society, new generations that do not have a memory of what Catalanism was reponsible for, that don’t feel represented by the parties that carried out the Spanish transition to democracy, asks for a new hand of cards. When those young and middle-aged people that feel betrayed by this secessionist movement -formerly dressed as nationalist- that sold them integration and equality of rights, demand a new consensus under different principles: a government for citizens, and end to identity politics, more pragmatism, less rhetoric on the Catalan people and more English.

In short, a new social contract under which a defense of Catalan identity, with the goal of saving it because it was historically harmed, is neither necessary nor essential. And if this happens -and we will see it in the coming years- the blame will lay on this secessionism that tried to rush at full speed, unaware of everything that it had achieved, blind to the fact that a large part of Catalan society was with them, not in an enthusiastic way, but acceptingly indeed, only as long as screws were not turned too tight.

Catalan in schools, without any review of the language immersion policy? We’ll see. Government-funded mass media that project only one view on how Catalan society should be? We’ll see. Public  grants for all sorts of pseudo-cultural entities that also defend only one view of how to be a Catalan? We’ll see. Everything is in play. Everything will be argued. No one will want to yield. That’s when the true conflict will unleash. Did secessionists really want this?

Oriol Bartomeus, a political scientist, explains this in his book El Terratrèmol silenciós [The silent earthquake -TN], where he points out that a new voter is coming. Bartomeus writes “Another significant aspect of this new voter will be his emotional detachment with the current political system, which distances him from the actors of this system, that is, the parties that have dominated the electoral landscape since 1977”. What sets everything in motion is a generational change, and with it a political change. Is it not significant that, circumstances aside, Ciudadanos won the regional election on December 21st? And please, leave your prejudices aside and analyze the data: where do they win, in which neighborhoods, in what kind of socio-economic contexts. And think.

Secessionism is not aware of what it has done. They ignore that a new hand of cards is going to be forced and that, as Jaume V. Aroca said, it will happen “among equals”, the glue that was Catalanism won’t do anymore. Although it should not totally dispensed with.

What an immense mistake, secessionist ladies and gentlemen, although maybe there are may positive elements in what is to arrive. The nationalist paradigm is over, the pact that was signed with it is over.

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