In English Voices From Spain

Imaginary grievances and glowing wounds

Photo by Cassi Josh on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish: «Agravio inventado y herida luminosa». Ignacio Vidal-Folch. Crónica global.

26th July 2018

Throughout the years, nationalist clerics and poets have compared Catalan society to all sorts of things: to an oppressed colony; to Rosa Parks challenging American racism; to Nelson Mandela combating apartheid; to Ulysses, sailing towards Ithaca; to Gandhi confronting the British Empire; to Israel, surrounded by Arab countries; to Kosovo, mistreated by Serbia; to Syrian refugees, “because we too know what it’s like to be persecuted”. The poetasters of the prosperous bourgeoisie speak of “pillaging”, of secular intolerance, of “invisibility”, of “cultural genocide”.

These unlikely notions were cringe-worthy, particularly in the eyes of foreigners visiting us. Because the prosperity and freedom our privileged region enjoys are too obvious, clear to see in cities, fields, infrastructures, customs, institutions and public spending, refuting such obscene comparisons with people who do suffer terrible injustice and whose status as victims is being stolen just to dress it up in a yellow t-shirt. It takes either no shame or absolute ignorance to claim that Catalonia is a country that is occupied, mistreated, humiliated or not recognized.

Since the grievances are non-existent, so far the language of the nationalists has tried to use the crass analogies mentioned in the first paragraph to create an originary wound capable of justifying any selfish and disloyal act as a legitimate response by an oppressed people to the aggression inflicted upon them: an aggression to their dignity, their economy or their sacrosanct language.

Hence the appeal to “the sentence against the Catalan statute”; a statute and a sentence that no one cared about in the least until the nationalist clerics chose to scream bloody murder to make them a touchstone or big bang of hostility, or the latest aftershock of the original sin that intolerant Spain has from time immemorial been committing against poor little Catalonia.

Appeals to “the sentence against the statute” have been very useful in recent years in order to make the national right, especially the People’s Party (PP), responsible for all the tricks, crimes, poker bluffs and pranks the Nationalist Movement has been allowed to incur in; and useful also to allow the regional left, especially the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC), to join the chorus of damsels in distress and make amends for its hybrid nature and the impure origin of many of its voters: the beastly, broken people that so disgust the thoroughbred intellectual –the “great intellectual of unquestionable stature”, according to Catalan channel TV3– who currently presides the regional government, “the Spanish Le Pen” in Pedro Sánchez’s definition.

(It’s interesting, by the way, how difficult it is for the leadership of the PSC to understand what’s going on. Last Sunday, senator José Montilla–the same man who in 2010 led a demonstration against “the sentence against the statute” and was forced to flee from it to keep from being lynched, the same man who stepped out of the senate chambers in order not to vote in favour of the implementation of article 155 [of the Spanish constitution, suspending home rule]–abandoned his prolonged absence to grant this paper an interview in which he sighingly longed to once again reach agreements with the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), like he had in the yearned-for days of his charmed three-party alliance, and blamed the PP for the nationalist coup).

With the phase of the secessionist process that culminated in the regional parliament’s insurrection in October 2017, squelched with the arrest of a few ringleaders, the flight of others and the suspension of home rule, the “sentence against the statute” has been milked for all its worth, for the new government has already announced its intention to overrule it in one way or another.

The vote of no confidence agreed on by nationalists and socialists against Mariano Rajoy, who bit the bullet and broke up the political leg of the coup (not so the civil leg, which remains active) despite visible reticence and discomfort, opens up a new phase in the factory of false grievances.
While waiting for the concessions that the new government has already announced, the narcissist wound to point

to is no longer the sentence against the statute, but rather the police actions of the day of the illegal referendum and the televised speech by the King (a speech we applauded because it reminded us of the one his father gave in 1981 to save democracy and the rule of law. The King’s speech had the immediate effect of eliciting a huge sigh of relief from Catalonia and stopping capital flight).

To “broaden the bases” of secessionism, the best thing would no doubt have been someone’s death, for spilled blood is the best stimulant for passive-aggressive would-be victims. As the former regional Secretary of Communication Jose Martí Blanch acknowledges in his book Com vam guanyar el procés i vam perdre la República (How we won the secessionist process and lost the Republic), “we knew on 1 October the police would charge, and in certain secessionist circles this was not just taken for granted but also desired”. Of course, we already knew this–we had read in the speeches and between the lines of its star columnists the thirst for violence and the idea that it would be convenient for some poor sucker to die in a quarrel so that he could be proclaimed martyr. A corpse always helps to turn a farce into a real, respectable tragedy.

Lacking the wounded and dead that the insurgents so secretly and shamefully longed for, from now on the blows dealt to the good people sent to the polls in passive resistance, plus the King’s restrained and wonderfully articulate speech, are the new invented grievances, the glowing self-inflicted wounds to pick at restlessly so that they can never heal.

Readers are advised to summon all their patience, stock up on painkillers, maintain a zen attitude and read good books.

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