SANTIAGO MORENO – January 5, 2021
Nationalism is a faith that unites people, territory, and language in a mystical way. Enric Prat de la Riba said this when he said that “the Catalanist religion has its homeland as its God”. And he was not wrong. Independence is based on an exacerbation of feelings and emotions that compact a group and give a certain meaning to the lives of individuals by making them participants in a superior idea that is above themselves and for which it is worth suffering and even sacrificing.
Beliefs based on myths. Myths based on defeats, such as that of September 11, on people who have suffered for their ideas to the point of martyrdom, such as Lluís Companys. As the historian Francisco Javier Calpístegui reminds us, “the morality of defeat is a necessary element to achieve the ultimate goal, which is none other than the recovery of what is judged to be the most positive of the good old days”. Moreover, defeats are better rooted in the collective imagination than victories.
Myths are used to recreate the past. A historical framework is modelled that justifies the present political discourse. Reality is secondary; the only thing that matters is the dogma that shapes the mind and provides absolute truths in times of uncertainty. The conviction of being on the right side of history, the permanent mobilisation to save a country or a culture always threatened by external forces. Nothing brings cohesion more than the fear of a real or fictitious enemy.
This leads to self-deception, to post-truth, to fake news, to the conscious consumption of false news, because what really matters is not knowing what the world around believers is but having arguments to throw in the face of the adversary, whether they are true or not. To support the reason, the only possible reason. A reason so great that it is above reality. To be right is important, because it places the one who is right on a higher plane than the unbelievers and the sceptics.
Landing in politics, this religious feeling that nationalism has become is an unbeatable device. It is not about governing; it is about power and those who hold it are above good and evil. They are ineffable. Any criticism is an attack on the people, and only serves to further unite an already hypermobilized group and to criminalise those who utter it, however loaded with arguments they may be. We saw this in the Banca Catalana case. We are seeing it with the process.
One example is the political prisoners or those who have fled, who have become part of the independence martyrology to the point of turning their residences and their cells into places of pilgrimage, to which people come to take long walks carrying urns on their shoulders and carrying relics back, like a blade of grass from the Puigdemont garden in Waterloo, or who meet every afternoon in front of the Lledoners prison to greet megaphone in hand.
In the heat of the myths, rituals were born to remember the outrage of defeat and to perpetuate themselves in time in the form of commitment to the cause. And this is not a minor fact. Rituals promote communion with a system and point out those that are alien or simply lukewarm. They polarize society and bring the mental framework built by mythology into the physical realm. Sometimes, like the demonstrations of September 11, in a festive way, others, like the disturbing torchlight marches that have been proliferating in Catalonia, in the form of a more or less subtle threat.
And along with all this, there are symbols that make it clear that those who wear them belong and, by contrast, those who do not. Symbols that are always on the side – never integrating – that is why the flag is cornered in favour of the estelada. The yellow ribbons appear and, also, yellow crosses on beaches and squares that the believers protect, sometimes even while proclamations are launched from the church steeples. The apostles, bearers of the good news, take centre stage, giving shape to the discourse and indicating the precept of the day from media pulpits.
It is difficult to fight against such transcendence. That is why independence wins elections time and time again. That is why it always ends up forming a government. Because beyond the hatred they profess, those who share the faith are condemned to an agreement that excludes the pagans if they do not want to carry the stigma of heresy.