Josu de Miguel September 14, 2019
Professor of constitutional law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona
Lawyer of lost causes and university professor, where he teaches public law.
The morning of my last Diada I went for a walk. I traveled the stretch between Cerdanyola and Sant Cugat. While doing so, I thought it would be good to write something similar to what we could colloquially consider the being of Catalonia. I soon came to the conclusion that this was an impossible task, simply because a person with limited sociability and who travels through places without fixed anchors cannot enter in an anthropological mess. I would be lying, though, if I said that in Catalonia there are not dozens of experts in scrutinizing the soul of the nation: I soon noticed that there are dozens of theologians on this subject, with their journalistic chairs, who dedicate themselves daily to try to clarify to the public which are the values that give meaning to the prevailing political religion.
That political religion, you know, is nationalism. On this plane I made an absolute mistake in my life: I left the Basque Country a little tired of Ibarretxe and his plans, and I embarked on a university job on the outskirts of Barcelona, the same day that Montilla was leading a demonstration against the Constitutional Court. I was so eager… About the democratic legitimacy of nationalism you cannot argue, because they immediately attribute you the same condition of what you intend to criticize, following the postulates of Michael Billig or Benedict Anderson. In addition, constitutional pluralism requires me to respect all the ideologies placed on the political board, provided that its deployment is done without contradicting fundamental rights and the democratic principle.
They forgot to denounce that the public power put into circulation the thesis that Catalonia had to separate from Spain
On this level I must clarify that the Catalan mandarinate, composed mainly of professors from a ruined university, has not been at the expected level. Or yes, it did; there are ways to see it. Beyond price was that interview with the best-selling philosopher after the very painful October 1, 2017: “An act of disobedience against the State”. Getting there meant, however, the implementation of a social and political engineering of high flights. Focused on a critical theory of low stew, many forgot to denounce the use by the public power of psycho-political instruments to put into circulation the thesis that it was time for Catalonia to separate from Spain. You had to be very blind or be too dumb to not detect the propaganda paid with taxes with which, during the summer of 2012, the first massive Independence Day was prepared. The third interpretive alternative is left for your consideration.
These days the Institute of Autonomous Studies, once a prestigious institution that was dedicated to studying federal affairs, publishes a report on the fit of Catalonia into Spain. I believe that a report of damages in terms of constitutional state and the principles that preside over it would be more necessary – irrespective of who should do it. I get the impression that everything that has happened since the reform of the Statute was implemented has to do with a slip from representative to plebiscitary democracy. This has been a very interesting process that has gone unnoticed even for the most expert minds in the field. The plebiscitary not only has to do with the decision-making anxieties present in these populist times, but it is mainly articulated with anti-pluralist policies: since 2012 in Catalonia everything revolves around the same theme, there is no organ or position of free designation not occupied by people fond of the general cause.
The capital problem is how to change the agenda, how to overcome a situation that has turned Catalonia into a cinema with always the same movie
Going back over the familiar spiral of silence of Noelle – Neumann would be a sterile exercise. After all, there was never so much ideological offer in the autonomous parliament. The capital problem is how to change the agenda, how to overcome an impasse situation that has turned Catalonia into a ramshackle cinema in which they always put the same film. Some will say that this is solved by the state accepting the independence demands: who could say otherwise. But when this September 11 I took my last train to go to Barcelona, I could see on the faces of the hardworking and honest independence workers a cumulative fatigue of a trip that leads nowhere. On this side, it is true that whoever persistently deceives himself in public matters, little complaint can raise. I am interested, as far as I am concerned, in remembering the resilient life of those who have decided to live outside of politics, who, being the majority, have had to hide their reasons for the sake of continuing to have social or family life.
This week three retirees chatted on the terrace of my hotel. One of them repeated the nationalist slogans: “Spain is a medieval country that does not understand a democratic and peaceful process like the one opened in Catalonia”. While a third was silent and looked at the ground, his interlocutor clarified that he was from Esquerra and a friend of Carod but that he no longer spoke of politics: “My son-in-law is Mosso and Spaniard and we have had some terrible mess at home”.
Since 2012 bitterness envelops everything. The solution for the disaffected and nonbelievers has been to conceal themselves, to leave if they were privileged or to look for a group of friendships where they could let off steam without generating conflict. A politically divided country may have a certain solution: when the division reaches the everyday life, work or your closest social environment, the chances of overcoming the conflict are scarcer. In the Basque Country this overcoming has been done on the back of oblivion and a new hedonism that continues to cause me perplexity.
I do believe that Catalonia has a solution: the younger generations will bring it
A married friend invites me to eat at home. The meeting has a tone of farewell to whom one owes so much. The open balcony allows us to see the thousands of protesters that occupy the streets of Barcelona. The democratic tsunami is here: what a slogan so accurate. Lunch is rich and well-founded and in desserts the cake is shaped like a ‘señera’. The youngest express certain doubts, because in Catalonia the symbols already only seem to represent a part of society. I clarify on the table that the ‘señera’ is a statutory and constitutional flag, so we face the sweet with determination. At the end of the desert one of the children make us start an unforgettable laugh: “This cake tastes of freedom”. Because I do believe that Catalonia has a solution: the younger generations will bring it, when time passes and they are able to overcome this historical moment of painful and useless polarization.