If ever there was a time for Catalans to fall on their knees and pray fervently to their patron saint, it would be on this 23rd of April, the day of Sant Jordi, because we’re going to need all the support we can get to make it to year’s end. 300 years ago Catalans were fighting an all-out war against the Bourbon pretender, and this year we conmemorate the tricentennial of the fall of Barcelona with something akin to a non-binding referendum regarding Catalonia’s status as a state. Not quite the revolting peasant scenario, but enough to make the central gummint in Madrid sound the five-bell alarm and rally the forces of Mordor to battle. The Catalans cannot be allowed to vote even in a non-binding way regarding their political system for one simple reason: a majority will vote for independence from Spain, come what may. And with the gummint’s ham-fisted management of the issue in midst of the larger crisis context, that majority is growing day by day, getting all geared up for the promised vote next November.
The day of Sant Jordi itself will be, as always, festive and cheerful, Spring showers permitting, full of books and roses and sweets in every city, town and village of Catalonia. But at the same time it will be a celebration of an identity that has survived three centuries of subjugation and cultural genocide by the crown of Castille and its enablers. An identity that sees itself at odds with a Spain that exhibits classic wife-abuser psychopathy, insulting and threatening Catalans on one hand and not letting them pack up and leave on the other.
Back in the 14th Century the Catalan Almogavers, redolent of garlic and sardines, terrorized the Mediterranean and struck fear in the hearts of their foes. According to Wikipedia, in some regions of Greece, a popular saying included: may the revenge of the Catalans fall on you. In Bulgaria, the expressions “Catalan” and “Son of Catalan” mean “wicked man, soulless, torturer”.
So there’s no use playing coy and pretending like we didn’t get in our spot of rape and pillage when the getting was good. Of course the Almogavers were little more than roaming mercenaries with a taste for blood and loot, and were hardly representative of Catalans in general, but their crimes have stayed associated to the territory from whence they came, along with the karmic debt.
Indeed, except for the Catalan Revolt aka War of the Reapers in the mid-17th Century, the last couple of times Catalans have gone to war they have fought bravely but ultimately capitulated to larger forces, 300 years ago in the War of Seccession and 75 years ago in the Civil War, with each loss followed by mass executions that far outnumbered the dead on the battlefield.
So, a lesson has been learned about the realpolitik of sovereignity of a small territory wedged between larger nation-states (hello, Ukraine!), and much hope has been invested in the past three decades of democracy –the platonic ideal, not so much the practical democrazy– as a slower but surer path to independence as part of a modern, united Europe. While it is true that great part of this hope has been dashed by a feudal sham of a democracy mismanaged by the same extractive elite as always, which deep down still consider Spain an empire and Catalonia a vassal nation, the inertia of the Catalan people power movement continues to grow, pushed by the establishment for their own political purposes on one hand and by the widespread indignation of common folk sick and tired of corruption, thievery and politics on the other.
What the establishment both in Madrid and Barcelona wants is to defuse the people power movement before it actually manages to change things. This blog has said it before and will say it again: all this Catalan independence noise is a red herring, a distraction, empty calories for grazers and flag-wavers agreed on and implemented by the Spanish AND Catalan gummints to keep the herd busy while it is sheared, cut and bled in the name of austerity.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Catalonia doesn’t have legitimate arguments for independence, just like pretty much any territory anywhere, but what is being offered is pure political theatre in which the parties agree to disagree in public to create the illusion of movement and purpose where there is nothing but perception management, spin and division.
The question Catalans have been “promised” is not yet THE question, but more of a poll to see what kind of statehood, if any, is the choice of a majority of citizens of Catalonia. As Wikipedia explains:
On 12 December 2013, the Government of Catalonia announced that the date for the referendum on independence will be set for Sunday 9 November 2014 and that it will contain a question with two sections: “Do you want Catalonia to become a State?” and “In case of an affirmative response, do you want this State to be independent?”.
This two-step question is designed to offer 3 possible answers, in line with the main political options on the table: 1. No State, 2. Yes State, Not Independent, and 3. Yes Independent State. Option number 2, the so-called “federalist option”, is not really a contender, among other reasons because Spain is not divided in states but autonomous communities, and because in the end it is the same as option number 1 under a different name. But so that nobody can say this option wasn’t included, there it is.
Last month polls put option 3 at 60% of the vote, and while the Catalan nationalists are out in force getting the word out in every hamlet and burg in the territory, the truth is that ironically the best motivator is the Spanish gummint itself, with its fire-and-brimstone patronizing discourse telling Catalans they’ll never be allowed to vote, which is motivating them beyond even the nationalists dreams.
As a student of the “doctrine of living without princes”, I am loathe to vote in favor of the state in any way, shape or form. As a die-hard detractor of the Crown, however, I cannot forego the opportunity to vote for the Republic… because that is what independence really is for Catalonia: the end of the 300-year Bourbon stranglehold on this territory. The long-awaited third coming, this time lucky?
This is the REAL reason the Spanish gummint doesn’t want us to vote. They know full well the significance of this 300th anniversary and fear that a Catalan republic would rally the general Spanish republican cause and bring down the monarchy again. To their advantage, Catalan-baiting is a widespread pastime in Spain, one their electorate gets all hot and bothered with, like gay marriage, abortion, immigration and other emotion-based buzzwords. To their disadvantage, there is a limit to how much pressure Madrid can bring to bear on Brussels to keep a lid on the Catalan issue while Scotland and Venice open the can of worms, not to mention Crimea with their speed-of-light divorce from Ukraine.
We’ve made it this far, no point stopping now. On this 23rd of April 2014, I call on the patron saint of Catalonia to lead his people in times of deceit, trickery and opportunism to a better place than this, not the same joint under new management. Keep praying!
Art credit streets-of-barcelona.com/gallery/holidays/diada-de-sant-jordi-st-georges-day/