Ricard Cayuela interviewed by Peru Erroteta
Social psychologist. Newspaper contributor. Entrepreneur. He has been a professor at different universities and vice-dean of the Official College of Psychology of Catalonia. He is a member of Federalistes d’Esquerres, and militates to overcome the neoliberal system we have, “which is obsolete”.
Could the procés be interpreted as an obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Studying the psychology of the masses, it can be seen that sometimes has happened, especially through an instigator, someone raising an idea and people stopping thinking for themselves; they embrace the idea of that charismatic leader and, from there, they are capable of doing the greatest barbarities one can imagine. For example, in Guyana, many years ago, there was a character that induced a thousand people to be poisoned. Here is something else, but there are about two million people who suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which, through a well-studied strategy, is fed like pigeons. And the pigeons keep eating. They suffer a first disappointment, but they overcome it.
In any case, this disorder is not exclusive to Catalonia and has many historical precedents …
To bring something closer. The Jocker movie, released while Barcelona was on fire, tells the story of a guy who, when he feels restless, gets an absolutely compulsive laugh, which prevents him from stopping. Those in front of him consider him crazy. And when he becomes a leader who also kills, it turns out that people rebel against the imposed system, and start to burn the city. There is a parallel with what we are living here. We also have a Jocker, which is in Waterloo or out there …
But as history repeats itself only in the form of a miserable farce, in the words of Marx, then, are we facing a comedy?
Before the Nazis ended up burning people, there was a popular movement. Surely nobody thought at first that it would end as it ended. That is where we are. It is from the forms that events are acquiring when we really have reason to worry. Not forgetting that there are almost 60% percent of citizens here that I call the “silence of the lambs”. We are open-mouthed people, we see what happens, but we are not organized, we have no money, no political religion. The others are pulling because, among other things, they handle money that is ours, a lot of money …
Jonathan Littell masterfully narrates, in Las benévolas, how good people can end up becoming an executioner, in the heat of circumstances. The “Procés” boasts about being a good people’s thing. Is that a guarantee of something?
We Catalans have three pronounced characteristics: we are or want to be different, we are unique and we are victims. In this field, an instigator comes out, throws a seed and two million people appear in the forest. It is also said that for forty years there is an indoctrination in schools that, perhaps not with the magnitude with which it is said, has existed for sure. The proof is that, in deep Catalonia, the movement is especially overwhelming. This mass sociological phenomenon is surprising to me in the year 2019, which even now is leading to violence that does not seem to be inspired by good people. Surely there are many of these who are beginning to be surprised, to doubt, but there is a defense mechanism, which comes to say that we are not responsible for what happens. The bad ones are the others, the State. They blame infiltrators, anti-systems … They are defending themselves against something they do.
What role do feelings, emotions, play in this state of affairs?
This being different, unique and victims makes people believe that by being independent we can have a much better country; that we will be happy and everything will be fine. Nobody has in mind that what cannot be is that you don’t take others into account. The pro-independence movement is exclusive. The pro-independence sector is something that must be taken into account, but as a variable of the political debate, not in a totalitarian plan. It is a psychological incoherence to ask for peace and democracy and not be able to see that we already have freedom and democracy already and, in addition, they take it away from us. I work in nonverbal behavior in the School of Psychology and I have looked at the faces of hate that appeared in those who told Josep Bou off, in the demonstration against the Princess of Girona prizes. A lady, who doesn’t know him at all, and shouts and spits at him. Overcoming this implies a self-criticism, especially in what refers to supremacism, which is perhaps the worst evil of nationalisms.
Does a religious sense underlie these attitudes?
I do not know to what extent this sectarian phenomenon may have to do with salvation, proclaimed by religions and, in our specific case, with Catholicism, but of course, it is associated with the identity of the group, which has a force that can raze to the ground.
Is the “Procés” drifting towards an identity discourse, in frank contradiction to the pragmatism that it initially displayed?
Yes, this is something very typical of nationalisms. Sometimes, usually when they feel stronger, they mask their deep self with values, ideas, approaches, say, socially accepted. But, in the long run, they end up falling into identity, almost as their only reason for being. And in that drift they resort to myths, to interested historical reading, to differential facts … To whatever it takes to justify that “single people”. Catalonia is, from its origins, a paradigm of diversity. Blending, fusion, is its own reason for being, and it makes absolutely no sense that the neighbor is a guy to be killed if he is not among your kindred. This produces terror. And it is tremendous to note that addicts to this move have reached an end that is difficult to reverse. Recognizing that they were wrong would mean falling into a deep melancholy. It is a flight to do not know where.
At this point, where is the valve that could contribute to lowering the pressure?
In mass psychology, a formula to modulate is that the instigator disappears. The moment the instigators who are feeding the pigeons disappear, things will change. Dead the dog, the rabies is gone.
It is very unpleasant to live in splintered societies, such as the one that is currently emerging in Catalonia. Beyond politics, what must be done to be able to return to live normally among different people?
I have Walloon relatives in Belgium, who have come to learn Flemish to be able to move around the country. The moment the friend refuses to accept others, because he believes that his personality can be seriously harmed, little can be done. But, if the instigator disappears and we have a democracy in Catalonia again, maybe we could try to get closer.
What responsibility do the media have when it comes to raising the bonfire?
All persons in the Catalan establishment that have been put by the pro-independentists in charge of institutions, associations …, are increasingly scantier. They are not bright. The counselors from before seemed to know what they were saying. The level has fallen, and now the philology is the one that monopolizes the positions. If you put a director from your own likes on TV3 or on the radio and you pay him a big salary you already have the explanation of what is happening. This is one of the most striking antidemocratic barbaric deed. In the October 1 referendum, nobody talked about the No. The televisions only propagated what they were interested in to obtain the expected result. But, in any consultation, getting more than 89% in favor of an option is considered pure and simply the product of a dictatorship. They were not able to keep up manners.
Are we perhaps facing an occurrence of Pepe Gotera and Otilio, home bungling?
We have seen, for example, a pro-independence judge saying that the budgets were concealed. That is, it is a fudge, but there is also a machine in operation. There are things that the bona gent (good people) does not do. And there is money. When people realize that the only objective of the instigators of the “Procés” was to register “the farm” in public records, hopefully the thing remits. Those who continue to direct all this are the nationalists of the “Junts pel Si”, who for 25 years have been in the “pal de paller“. And it is also increasingly scary to see characters like Forcadell embracing Otegui or Carles Sastre.