In English Voices From Spain

Atavistic Reflections

Photo by Talgat Baizrahmanov on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish: “Reflejos atávicos”. Manuel Arias Maldonado. El Mundo.

19th May 2018

In his shocking profile of the new president of the Catalan government, the German journalist Thomas Urban has provided a valuable service of conceptual clarification. According to what we can read in the pages of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Torra’s “alleged Catalan chauvinism” has no foundation beyond some tweets taken out of context. He even deleted them! In fact, Urban argues, the trajectory of the man that took oath and coquettishly ommited all reference to Spanish constitution and the Crown belongs to someone who is not “a rightist nor a leftist, but above all, a Catalan”.

From this extraordinary clarification we can deduce that there is only one way to be Catalan. Or, alternately, that only those who put their identity ahead of citizens are true Catalans. Because this is what this is really about: the claim that only the ethnic group, or the culture taken as a segregation of the ethnic group, is a legitimate foundation of the political community. In fact, this long-standing principle of romantic lineage has driven the Catalan process since the beginning, noticed or not by those who advocated for it with bizarre arguments —ranging from the building of a Denmark sur-mer to the continuation of anti-Francoist struggle. Torra’s presidency only has made explicit the implicit —the post-modern coup is living its pre-modern moment. Or, if we resort to Schmitt, it is clearly degrading itself into an existential conflict between friends and enemies.

It makes some sense. In the absence of a sufficient social majority, the simplest operation to achieve independence consists in re-design the demos, where only the members of the Catalan organic community are included. So the external border with Spain is already an internal border within Catalonia as well. Nosaltres sols, only us: on one side, the real Catalans, on the other, the Spaniards. This is a dangerous tribal drift that, as anyone who has stared at the black sun of history knows, threatens with the unleashing of a potentially unrepairable civil conflict.

Is Torra also an opportunity? If the supremacist-tinged narcissism displayed in the abundant writings by the president disgusts to some part of the sovereignist movement or to his travel companions, now is the time to say it openly. In this story, narrative shifts that can be used to redirect the current emotional streams are scarce —if we miss them, we will not be able to begin to repair what has been broken. Unfortunately, it is much.

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