Anton Costas – Friday, 11/01/2019 – 20:59
Images Leonard Beard
“The lesson of ‘Brexit’ is the need to address the social anger that exists in many deindustrialized regions, who feel unprotected, where fundamental public services are lacking or where immigration creates controversy”. It is the reflection of Michel Barnier, head of the European negotiators of the ‘Brexit’, expressed in an interview this week. It is a reflection with a lot of meaning and political significance.
That anger is what has led many Britons to want to break ties with other Europeans. But, for Barnier, that breakup virus also nests in other countries and regions of the European Union.
The problem with societies inspired by social
anger is that they support angry leaders. Immature and hostile people, who tend
to lose patience soon. People who are primitive in their reactions and with
exclusive opinions and preferences that try to impose on others. Two examples
of choleric leaders are Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump in
the United States.
Perhaps Gustave Flaubert, one of the great novelists of nineteenth-century French realism, along with Stendhal and Balzac, and the most demanding when it came to finding the exact style and word (“le mot juste”), was thinking of these choleric societies when in one of the letters to his niece he spoke of the “rage de volouir conclure”, the rage of wanting to conclude that sometimes inspires societies. For Flaubert that rage is one of the most dire and sterile manias in which humanity can fall.
I don’t know if Barnier was thinking of Catalonia when he made the reflection that I quoted at the beginning about the social anger and the virus of the breakup that nests in many parts of European society. But he probably was. Although I am not sure that the reasons for that Catalan anger are only those he mentions.
In any case, it is clear that a part of Catalan society is inspired by that social anger that Barnier speaks of. An anger that is accompanied by the anger of wanting to conclude Flaubert speaks about. One of the most disastrous derivations of this anger is the climate of violence and conflict that is emerging in Catalonia. Although it is not what most of those who protest peacefully want, it can generate a culture of prolonged violence and conflict.
This possibility leads me to ask a question: what is the transformation taking place in a society that lives a prolonged situation of violence and conflict?
This last week I had the opportunity to participate in Bilbao in an interesting day on peace economy organized by Gernika Gogoratuz, Center for Peace Research, and in which other civil organizations working in the field of human rights and peace were present.
Although it was not the central issue of the day, the issue of the transformation that took place in Basque society during the period of violence and conflict emerged. Contrary to what happened in other places, where violence and conflict were associated with the increase in social inequalities, it seems that in the Basque case these socioeconomic indicators did not worsen during that period.
If so, I imagine that it had to do with the fact that the Basque government and the provincial councils did not promote social anger. On the contrary, they endeavored to manage fundamental public services efficiently and equally. And they opted for a culture of peace and for an economic model of complex operation linked with the culture of the country.
The problem in Catalonia is that the Government of the Generalitat itself stimulates the anger of a part of society, and that it has resigned from its responsibility to manage public services and the economy well and, at the same time, promote a peace culture. If things do not change, which I hope will happen, that anger can lead to irreversible social and economic transformations: increasing inequalities, loss of an advanced operative culture and deterioration of well-being.
The rage of wanting to conclude that today inspires a part of society and one of the Catalan social and political leaders may be, as Flaubert said, the most fatal and sterile of manias a society can experience.