There is a Schiller couplet that says: “Germany? Where is that country? There is no way to find it. Where the Germany of the wise begins, that of the politicians ends”. It belongs to the collection of the Xenias, written indistinctly by Schiller and Goethe. It does not matter now the authorship. Nor does it matter much here the detail that in the last years of the 18th century the word gelehrt was resorted to – which properly means wise, or scholar, or very anachronistically “intellectual” -, and not to the one that well into the 19th century instead will be imposed, sometimes with jingoistic stridency: Kultur. It does matter a little bit more the fact that the word xenia, with which the two giants of German classicism decided to give a title to this collection of couplets, alludes in ancient Greek, among other things, to the gifts exchanged by diplomatic emissaries from other cities. The fact that the poet Marcial titled with that same word Book XIII of his epigrams, the ones composed to accompany the gifts that were exchanged at the Saturnalia festivals, gives the philological excuse, since those of Goethe and Schiller are often poisoned gifts.
The fact is that every time I have come across this couplet in recent times – and there have been quite a few, for reasons that are not relevant now -, in addition to the sharp separation between culture and politics, this image of the unfindable country has impressed me. The idea of an uncertain and divided country, or of two adjoining but very different realities, has made me return again and again to what that old German couplet evokes. Catalonia (or Spain)? And where is that country? I don’t know how to find it. Where the offense of some ends, the indignation of others begins”.
So, pending the judgment of the Supreme Court, any balance and analysis made of these years, any projections on the future – our future as a community, as a society capable of a decent and reliable civil coexistence -, whether we think historically or as living spasmodically at the mercy of the impressions of the day, stumble upon the devastating logic of that old couplet: “Hey, but what place are we talking about? About what community? What wishes? Which mental worlds?
Catalanism ended by becoming an antique, and nationalism overflowed when it fell due to exaggeration
Oh, the desires… Oh, the mental worlds… That public notary and politician from Sagunto, an independentist from the first hour, was very precise, when having played his cards badly, and already retiring from the table in full proces, he sentenced: “Bah. They want it, but they don’t want it”. Although it reminds us of the fox that declared the grapes that it could not reach still unripe, few phrases better define the madness and infatuation that we have suffered these years. And for that very reason, because deep down they feared their own wishes and did not even take themselves seriously, they now experience the reaction of the State with sore bewilderment. They wanted to set up State structures, but they did not know what a State is. Their self-made and unshakable victimhood, their biased and partisan idea of authority, made them feel empowered to exert a sense of loyalty so uniquely liquid, or volatile, that it was not long before they betrayed each other. And now, perplexed, scared and resentful, they are no longer able to even recognize their own handwriting in the notebooks where they wrote down the stages of their fantasizing, nor do they assume anything more than the part of play, bluffing and provocation – a bit childish, seen what has been seen – that has led them to that trial.
That is why they cannot not consider their situation as a “chilling” sign (in Catalan, the obligatory word here is esgarrifós) of how “fearful” a State (“rancid”, of course, never missing that adjective) can feel itself in the face of the democratic “freshness” of a “free” society. Of course: they did not hesitate with the tweet of the 155 silver coins, nor at the time of harassing their president when the man was about to give up and call elections, as they have not doubted now confronted with the possibility of using a minority to put Barcelona at the service of its own mental representation of reality. “Barcelona? Hey, where is that city? I don’t know how to see it. Because where my votes end, those of others begin, for which I don’t give a damn, by the way”. The embarrassing effort of that spokeswoman for the Generalitat to convince herself in public that 15 councilors are more than 26, or the variable arithmetic that cynically and selflessly confuses supporters of independence with those in favor of an agreed exit and with consultation, is a sign of the idea of democracy that these victims of history have produced for their own consumption.
They wanted to set up State structures, but they did not know what a State is
Now we know — in case anyone doubted it — that the destiny of nationalism was to lead to independence, unless the hegemonic control of power allowed it the luxury of living in a parallel reality without losing its head. And now we also know, although we are not always able to say it, that it is almost impossible to think of a Catalanism that is not a little or nothing attenuated, or gentle, or naive, form of nationalism. Seen with the centripetal anxieties of the State, the tancredism of President Rajoy has had extraordinary historical consequences. Catalanism ended by becoming an antique, and nationalism overflowed when it fell into the abyss of its own exaggeration. There is no reliable and serious political interlocutor in Catalonia, and the most important thing: that s/he is representative of Catalan society as a whole. Nor does it seem foreseeable that there will be one in some time. But do not forget that in the classic formula of Catalanism, culture and politics were inseparable. “Catalonia? Where is that? Here, precisely here: where culture and politics come together”. The history of this union has not always gone well for the culture, too protected and controlled by the interests of power, too dependent on media and institutional patronage.
But the interesting thing about the current moment is that perhaps at last it can be said: “Catalonia? I don’t see well this country you are talking about. Where politics ends, culture begins”. And although a culture without politics can degenerate into musealizing and folklore — especially in the hands of uneducated politics — it is also true that historically we are faced with the opportunity to forget about the gloomy game of local politics and its poor conception of the world. Politics can finally be rethought from the culture, yes, with its poisoned gifts and its labor of love not entirely lost, with its unstoppable freedom, with its creativity incompatible with party life.
What could emerge from this world freed from its old commitments and ghosts will no longer be called Catalanism. It will be simply politics. High politics capable of reading reality beyond the routine of blocks, stuck in their trenches, gripped by their fears, resentments and calculations. A policy that allows us to say: “Do you see this country? Let’s invent a new loyalty to be able to continue living in it without spoiling it through where low passions run. That what begins here, continues there”. It will take time to see it, it is likely. But we will see it, or we will end up hopelessly blind.