Andreu Claret, 19 October 2021
Journalist and writer. Editorial Committee of El Periódico
Image: Ferran Nadeu
Catalonia has become a social and cultural archipelago and governing it is not an easy task. I do not affirm that to renounce the criticism of a ruling class, political and business, responsible for the irrelevance that we have achieved. I say this because making an accurate X-ray of the society in which we live should be the first step in formulating any political project. When Barcelona endorsed the proposal for an Olympic Games aimed at modernizing the city and the territory, Catalan society was different. There was still a bourgeoisie heir to those captains of industry of Jaume Vicens Vives, and a working class, coming mainly from the rest of Spain, that had earned a place in the institutions defending freedom and the statute of autonomy. Catalan society was recognizable using the parameters that served to understand postwar European societies. 30 years later, this is no longer the case.
There are no two Catalonias, how it is usually concluded when talking about the ‘procés’. There are as many as identities and interests that have emerged from the prodigious transformation that Catalan society has undergone since the beginning of the century. And among all of them they constitute an archipelago of social, identity and cultural islands, which are ignored, difficult to interpret and even more difficult to govern. The ‘procés’ was an attempt to group the islands of half an archipelago into one continent and the truth is that it made many people subject everything to the apparently available utopia that express independence entailed. The tectonic movement that grouped such diverse social, cultural and political identities into two blocks did not last long and the archipelago once again showed its diversity. We are in it.
What materials are these islands made of? Those of those born in Catalonia and those of those born abroad? It is an insufficient answer, although the origin weighs its own in political convictions and cultural behaviors. Take a commuter train that crosses the Vallès to see how the countryside changes as the landscape changes. And look at the wagon to confirm that we live in an increasingly diverse society. Not just because of origin, or religion. Tattoos reveal an infinite world of affinities and dreams that do not fit very well with the pounding idea of a single town or of two Catalonias. Nothing is further from a session of the Catalan parliament than the passengers of a suburban car (despite the rejuvenation of the deputies, the almost absolute parity and the presence of lordships from immigration).
The growing diversity of Catalonia does not fit into a yes or a no. Governing it requires, first of all, to know it, understand it, in order to configure a common project that can no longer be that of 30 years ago. The Catalonia of industrial and bourgeois textile workers died at the beginning of the democratic transition. Today’s is more like two islands inhabited by those who live without hardships (the smallest in the archipelago) and those who have a hard time reaching the end of the month or the uncertain end of their life (the largest). There are nuances, of course. There is a Catalonia of the rich among the rich, and another that comes out every year in surveys on those bordering on absolute poverty. There are extremes, but the difference between those who have and those who don’t is increasingly marked. As much as those who have nothing have a mobile that allows them to travel to the universe of others.
The task of the rulers is to integrate this diversity into a project made of values, but also of opportunities. Values will be of little use, no matter how republican they may be, if there are no gateways between the islands that allow people to live, work, share and progress. It is not just a question of recollecting the wounds caused by the polarization of recent years. It is necessary to heal deeper fractures, which have their origin in inequality, marginalization, the estrangement of leaders, be they political or business, whose popularity is at a minimum. Without reestablishing this trust, without seeking a new social pact, the culture of no will always prevail and it will be difficult to strive the consensus that demands difficult times like the current ones.