April 2, 2023

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If it becomes absolute, the national feeling enslaves us, confronts us and destroys us

TREVA I PAU COLLECTIVE (Truce and Peace Collective)

Dear friends:

If a fact is common throughout the world today, it is the increase in national feeling and nationalism: in India, the Government of Modi favors a Hindu nationalism as an element of social cohesion in the face of general discontent, with direct implications for Muslim, Buddhist and Christian minorities. In Russia, Putin manages to increase the self-esteem of the population with a reissue of the Imperial sentiment. In China, Xi makes all Chinese citizens feel united by maintaining a strong national identity that those who do not share can learn in those re-education centers specially designed for the Uighur minority. In the United States, advertising slogans say it all: “America first,” and full stop. In all European countries political parties have appeared that in one way or another capture votes for their defense of national identity.

 If it becomes absolute, the national feeling enslaves us, confronts us and destroys us

Spain is no exception. Just look at the speech of many of the parties represented in Parliament. We are aware that your first reaction is to say that you are not ‘Spanishist’. You consider that you are not nationalists as some Catalans can be. That ‘Spanishism’ in any case is not nationalism; it is patriotism. And that you don’t like us to match or compare you with others. We must tell you that it is the same reaction that our French, American friends … and also our own Catalan friends have. Because something similar happens in Catalonia, where many ‘independentists’ deny their nationalism.

To our understanding, there is nothing pejorative in being a patriot, having a national identity or feeling French, Scottish or Bulgarian nationalist, if we refer to the feeling of identity or belonging to a social group, usually linked to a territory. National sentiment, which refers to a nation. (The RAE defines – among other meanings – nation as: “3. A group of people of the same origin and who generally speak the same language and have a common tradition”, and nationalism as “the fervent feeling” associated with that identity).

The feeling of national identity (belonging to a reference group) is anthropologically normal, common, and we would dare to say that it is necessary to articulate societies. The national feeling gives us roots, a certain sense of life, creates a we that makes us willing to be more supportive and support each other more.

So why do we write you this open letter? Because we, your Catalan co-citizens, have seen and experienced an evolution in that feeling that we want to warn you about. In Catalonia we have gone from the aforementioned positive national sentiment to a strongly negative one. We have gone from that feeling that gives us identity, that creates a we that makes greater solidarity possible; which is affirmative; that demands the exercise of certain civic virtues; consistent with the reality of a complex society and world; in which identities intersect … to a national feeling that separates us and marks us as different; that does not allow shared identities (ridiculing the ones who feel themselves as Catalan and Spanish), which limits solidarity to that first we, who sees in the nearest other a threat, a different being with whom he shares little or nothing. It is exclusive and needs to stigmatize. You will tell us that we exaggerate. It is true: between one feeling and another there are many intermediate grades where most of the Catalans stand. But after all, today we are closer than yesterday to negative polarity. And it is necessary to say that, at the limit, the negative national sentiment has led Europe and the world to greater barbarism. We all need a degree of self-esteem. It is positive. But in its negative version it is the exaggerated pride, which leads to contempt for others and such narcissism that does not allow us to see one’s own faults, but to see instead in the other the origin of all evils.

Many will say that evil is in nationalism itself or in national sentiment. Not so, as we have said, it is a natural and necessary feeling for the person to be a person. But like all feelings and convictions, if it becomes absolute and becomes a quasi-god, it enslaves us, confronts us and destroys us.

Therefore,’Spanishist’ friends, we encourage you to take care of your feeling of national identity so that it can be articulated, shared, to facilitate coexistence: inclusive feelings. A beautiful reflection of Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe sums it up best: “You have to find a way to accept something from the other, however little it may be; otherwise, you will never become complete” Based on a national feeling of this kind it is possible to build a great human community.

Do not believe that in the face of the emergence of a nationalism of separation in Catalonia the answer is to accentuate ‘Spanishism’, confusing unity with uniformity. A pit is not overcome by building a wall. That only increases the problem. The answer to the pit are bridges. Which is where we are.




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