Santi Vila, 20 September 2023
Juan Carlos Hidalgo / Efe
The important thing is not to be right, what matters is to win, as Xavier Antich has been telling his faithful these days, evidently not as a philosopher but as an activist. One listens to the pro-independence speeches in vogue and it is clear that there is no longer any trace of the ethical demands that justified the movement over the past decade. Because, although we were certainly imbued with a certain elitism, the Catalan nationalists of the time believed we were morally superior to our adversaries because of our honesty, and above all because we justified our patriotism solely for the purpose of guaranteeing a better future for our fellow citizens.
Epic, ethical and aesthetic, Pérez Rubalcaba envied the sovereignty movement of those years. Epic was the human chain that linked El Pertús with Les Cases d’Alcanar, in 2013, as aesthetic was the jovial, intergenerational and plural character of its demonstrators. Because comparisons are odious, I will spare you the description, not even the aesthetic one, of what we have seen these days.
And the fact is that agonising pragmatism and sectarianism seem to permeate the strategy of all parties, whether in government or in opposition, when it comes to defending their own agenda, regardless of the general interest. The panorama is so Dantesque that even the good news, of which there is some, leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the citizen of good faith.
Thus, Francina Armengol’s announcement that this will be the legislature of the incorporation of multilingualism in Congress can only be greeted with joy by those of us who are convinced that diversity is a value, not a problem. But the little Spaniard who came into the world will surely be reminded sooner rather than later of the endless excuses and refusals that just a few months ago reputable, solvent and not at all suspicious of uniformism were put forward to prevent its implementation. I am thinking of Meritxell Batet or even Ana Pastor in the previous legislature. Just a few months ago, the rules of procedure of the Congress were blunt and inflexible. Now, when the need is pressing, in a matter of days the issue has been channelled. This is regrettable.
There is no pedagogy, no desire to convince; only shameless vote-trading, a desire to win.
The same thing happened with the pardons and everything seems to indicate that the same could happen with the possible amnesty for the rest of those involved in the ‘procés’. The reasonableness of the agreed measures matters little, let alone their ethical justification. If this were the purpose, it could be argued that the president of the Second Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, Manuel Marchena, in his ruling on those accused of the ‘procès’, made it clear that it was his duty to seek the judicial truth, just as surely as politics should have been able to prevent those events from reaching the courts. Even so, I fear that no ordinary citizen is going to be invited to reflect on the goodness of the measures that are negotiated and are likely to be taken. There is no pedagogy, no desire to convince. Just shameless vote-trading, a desire to win.
History does not repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. Too many similarities between the degradation of liberal democracy a century ago and ours should invite our public servants, not to renounce their legitimate ambitions and aspirations for change, but to be much more respectful of the institutional framework that sustains our coexistence. Because democracy means being able to throw out those who govern you, but it also means respecting the rule of law. Because the excesses of capitalism, individualism and materialism of the happy twenties of the last century ended with the absolute collapse of society, the economy and the liberal institutions of the time, overwhelmed by the siren songs of fascism, Nazism, communism or, as happened in Spain, simply -authoritarianism. Countries such as France also succumbed to the discredit of their parliaments and parties, although voices such as those of Mounier, Maulnier or Robert Aron warned that not everything is valid in the party struggle or for the free market.
Here and now, apparently deprived of intellectuals and politicians of their stature, we can only rely on the calm reflection of good people. For perhaps the only thing that matters is winning, yes, but this is only right when, as Lincoln, Kennedy or Churchill once believed, one is convinced of defending a great cause. With all due respect… this is not the case!