FERNANDO SÁNCHEZ COSTA 30 April 2021
Javier Cercas on Sant Jordi’s Day.E. P.
We need more Cercas
When a citizen decides to stand up to nationalism in Catalonia, he knows what is at stake. One has assumed that he or she may become the target of finger-pointing, harassment and, in some cases, civil death. From time to time, it is worth revisiting the documentary Disidentes, el precio de la discrepancia en Cataluña, presented five years ago by political scientist and documentary filmmaker Fran Jurado, to give a face and a voice to some of the everyday heroes of constitutional values.
It is precisely the fear of the costs of dissent that has caused a large part of civil society in Catalonia to be lethargic or simply lack the courage to speak out against a process of constitutional rupture that has led us to political disaster and economic decadence. It is the fear of dissidence. It is the historical tendency, so Catalan and so Spanish, to camouflage itself and blend in with the social environment of each era. But it is also, unfortunately, the uncivic and lazy outsourcing of one’s own responsibilities to the state, trusting that politicians would solve the problem.
There have been exceptions. We must always recognise the courage of some historical entities that, in the long desert of Pujolism, gave a voice to the silenced Catalonia. There have always been some courageous people, intellectuals, politicians, and businessmen who have put their careers on the line in the Catalan establishment and refused to sign the contract of adhesion of the nationalist regime. One day they will have to be honoured as they should be at the national level, instead of continuing to bow their heads in the face of the nationalist provosts.
Certainly, things have changed a lot. The procés has had an effect that its promoters never imagined. The spiral of silence has begun to break. On 8 October 2017, convened by Societat Civil Catalana, a million citizens took to the streets to oppose the coup and defend democracy, civil rights, and public freedoms against the anarcho-bourgeois insurrection. Catalan constitutionalism keeps its civic structures alive, and its conscience awake.
That is why nothing will ever be the same again. There is another Catalonia, empowered and aware, which will not allow itself to be a mere spectator of the transaction between elites. Among other things, because an important part of the responsibility for what has happened lies precisely with these elites, who either supported the secession attempt or turned a blind eye to the growing national-populist movement.
Undoubtedly, national governments have made important mistakes. But it is worth noting that the main reason why Catalonia today is in serious general decline is a lack of courage. There has been a lack of courage to step forward and oppose the unreason and exclusionary project offered by identity citizens. Basically, we have failed to take the ethical leap that would change our societies: to say in public what we say in private.
Eppur si muove. Something is stirring in the bowels of Catalan society. Last Saturday 10 April, on TV3’s political talk show FAQS, the writer Javier Cercas was strangely invited to talk about his latest book. Cercas defended Spain as a full democracy “although saying so on TV3 could be a provocation”, and pointed out that King Juan Carlos I put a stop to the attempted coup d’état of 23-F.
The writer’s participation on TV3 asserting such “atrocities” could not go unpunished. A few hours later, the nationalist media apparatus went into overdrive. Following a decontextualised video(in which he jokingly referred to the army’s civil emergency unit (UME)) at the 2019 Extremadura Day gala, Cercas was accused by some nationalist sectors of inciting hatred and calling for the intervention of the army against Catalonia. Thousands of insults, threats and accusations by Internet users and politicians have caused the author to announce that he will take legal action against those who defame him.
The case of Javier Cercas is not the first. In recent years, some authors have been breaking the taboo imposed by Catalan Peronism. We owe them a great deal. We need more Cercas. The procés is being endured on the silence of the lambs. Václav Havel promoted Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution on a simple premise: live and tell the truth.
There is also a very simple way to put an end to the nightmare of the procés: talk. Speak out and say in public what is expressed in private. In this way we will achieve the open and tolerant plural society that has been supplanted by this flat, provincial, and heavy labyrinth of the procés. Who would have thought that the magic formula was not outside, but inside each one of us!
Fernando Sánchez Costa is president of Societat Civil Catalana.